New Terms and Limits in Iraq
While George W. Bush's order to invade Iraq made headline news, the several papers I read cast the real outcome somewhere in the back pages.
During the weekend the Iraqi cabinet overwhelmingly approved a proposition that sanctions a U.S. presence in their country for the next three years. Our military forces will have to withdraw from cities and towns next summer. American soldiers and civilians would lose their immunity for off-base crimes. Going into negotiations the Bush Administration hoped to receive a carte blanche that would last until the Iraqis took over their security in an uncertain future. Didn't happen.
Over the past several months the "greatest power" in the world groveled in seeking Baghdad approval for sticking around. Governmental relations have virtually disappeared, making total hypocrisy of the operation's name: Iraqi Freedom. Shiites and Sunnis want to be free from the United States. Most fear us as an occupation force like the British who hung around for 40 years after World War I.
Kurds want Washington to do something first: set up a separate regime for them. It's very hard when they don't have an identity; they are always lumped with their fellow Muslims, the Arabs.
The Kurds have always been the White House's post-invasion strong ally; they suffered persecutions and executions under Saddam Hussein to the greatest degree among their fellow Iraqis.
The sole reason why the Armenians don't have the problem comes from the fact they are Christians; the kingdom of Armenia was the first Christian country in the world before disappearing into the Ottoman Empire. Ironically, not the Turks but the Kurds probably perpetrated the World War I massacre that gives Armenians international sympathy and support. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently brought that tragedy before the U.S. Congress.
While Shiite Nour al-Maliki is better known as the Iraq prime minister, Kurd Jalal al-Taliban is the country's president. Although adopted by Afghan insurgents, his family name means "student" or "seeker," that's all.
Having a Kurd as chief of the government didn't hurt chances of approving the treaty, although president is strictly a ceremonial post. In any event the agreement must now advance to the parliament, which may vote on the issue within the week (Nov. 24). There's a chance for more U.S. restrictions then.
Furthermore, President-elect Barack Obama promised during his campaign he means to bring the last troop home within 18 months of his inauguration.