There are security agreements and military pacts concerning bases, facilities and defense arrangements in many of the Arab countries and their neighbors such as Turkey, yet no one talks about them or criticizes them. But the term of the [draft] US-Iraq Agreement has been reduced from 20 years to three years and the Americans have made many concessions on its clauses. Still the Iraqi government rejected it.
The Americans say that the Iranian side exercised all forms of pressure on the Iraqi leaders to prevent the agreement’s signature. This means that the failure of the draft agreement for the first time clearly shows that the Baghdad government has become much closer to the Iranian regime than had been previously thought. It is a major setback for the United States which gave birth to the Iraqi regime, breastfed it, and bathed it only to see in the end that it refused to grant it three years in a framework agreement for relations, not out of consideration for Iraqi interests but to placate the Iranians.
US President George Bush has long defended the government of Nuri al-Maliki and the person of al-Malki in the face of repeated criticism and the incessant doubts that are raised about him, only to find the truth in the last days of his tenure.
As to the proposed agreement, I imagine that its rejection is a blessing for the two sides. It was going to bring the Americans more trouble than serve them, and it was not going to mean any added value for the Iraqi side except in the mere postponement of the domestic conflict. I know that there is a legal reason behind the pressure for the agreement, given the approach of the end of the international mandate granted to US forces. This will come up next year, either for renewal or for departure from Iraq in a final way. Should the new US president wish to renew the presence of his forces in Iraq, he will manage through the Security Council without need for approval by the Iranians. The Russians and the Chinese most likely will accept the extension of the US military presence in Iraq, as they have in the past, and will agree a second time as part of the traditional bargaining in the Council.
However, the solution in Iraq does not lie in the extension but in leaving the Iraqis to their affairs, whatever risks this option carries for eruption of civil war among the feuding Iraqi sides.
The Iraqis have been through enough trials to know that the option of infighting does not solve differences and that involving everyone in governance is the sole guarantor for a unified, prosperous and stable Iraq. The Iraqis can live without a security pact and without the Americans only if the regime proves that it accommodates all, a matter that needs gambling through the departure of the American. Let us recall that the Americans, not the Iranians, are the ones who downed the iron regime of Saddam, and they are the ones who enabled the Shiites to get their electoral rights and protected them from attacks by the extremist Baathists and Sunnis. It is also the Americans who widened the political system to include the other Iraqi parties, such as the Sunnis, and halted the excesses by the extremist Shiites. After these years of blood, all are supposed to have learnt the lesson that their future lies in their unity, not in seeking protection from the Americans or in calling on the Iranians for help. Otherwise, the extension of the agreement will for all practical purposes mean only a temporary time-freeze pending the end of the truce and resumption of the battles.