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The Troop Withdrawal Agreement - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Occasionally language is more important than substance in Arab political dealings, and language has been the cause of destruction of many proposed projects in the past. The word ‘peace’ has become an embarrassment to Hamas with regards to Israel, who were reduced to deception in changing this word to ‘long term truce’. We also remember how the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza almost failed because it was described as an Israeli withdrawal. It was certainly an Israeli operation, but it was presented as if it was a new Israeli occupation, so Palestinian parties attacked and criticized and threatened, saying they would prevent Israel’s withdrawal, and due to the strangeness of this issue the Palestinian Authority changed its position, and began calling this incident the ‘liberation of Gaza’, which was celebrated in the media and in public demonstrations.

Today we are faced with a serious debate regarding the proposed changes to the Security Pact concerning the American presence in Iraq. For some who reject this security Pact for honest reasons -which does not include those who reject it for reasons related to Iran- believe that this Security Pact is the equivalent of occupation. I feel that the Iraqi politicians who are motivated to accept this pact have a problem not in the content of the agreement itself, but rather in its proposed language. They have suggested the pact be called the ‘agreement to withdraw US troops from Iraq’ and rather than repeating the date for withdrawal as being 2011- which appears to the ordinary mind as being a long time away- rather the withdrawal should take place in 36 months after things calm down. Yet the agreement and the date remain the same.

Still it is a positive amendment which satisfies the Iraqi psyche, and will help both parties reach a good solution. Good because it guarantees the American withdrawal from Iraqi within a specified time-frame, while also releasing Iraq from the Seventh Chapter of the United Nations compact, and all without a sudden and surprising US troop withdrawal which would cause the collapse of the current regime, and a sectarian civil war which represents the great threat faced by Iraqis in the previous chaotic years.

Why is there this insistence in a binding agreement? The reason is that the American military presence licensed by the United Nation expires at the end of the year, and so it is up to the Americans to renew their position, excuse me, their withdrawal, over the remaining few weeks. If they do withdraw the extremist Sunni and Shiite and foreign organizations will come out of hiding, there will be fighting in the streets, and the political system which the US is currently protecting will collapse, as the new Iraqi troops are insufficient to protect such a big country from attacks from all angles.

After long negotiations the two parties reached a good agreement which ensures a relatively good schedule for withdrawal, while at the same time giving the opportunity in building up the Iraqi army and local armed forces. As for the objectors who are calling for something which is practically impossible, they fall into either two camps. Firstly they are groups backed by Iran, since it is Iran which is officially against this agreement, and leading the media campaign to reject it. The second group is made up of those disenfranchised under the current political system, while feeling the affects of the status quo, like the Shiite Sadr party, and the Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars. For example, calling for judicial inquiry with regards to any exchange of fire in the field of combat, which is a daily occurrence in Iraq, and calling for military tribunals, this is something that is impossible for the American command to accept.

The proposed agreement is far more positive then similar examples of American military presence in places like Japan, Germany, or Qatar. With time running out on America, they can only stay in Iraq if there is an acceptance of their role, and an understanding in the nature of this accord, which is an agreement to withdraw, and not to remain.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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