SUMMARY: The vast majority of those who called or wrote in to a recent al-Jazeera show on the US-Iraqi security agreement believed the agreement was engineered to achieve America ’s interests, not those of Iraq . Many believed the Americans had no intention of leaving Iraq even by the 2011 terms of the agreement.
COMMENT: Two things struck me from this episode. First was that in spite of over 4200 American deaths, tens of thousands permanently injured, and the billions of dollars spent in Iraq, very few Arabs trust us or our intentions. President Bush has been speaking recently about his presidential legacy of “liberating 50 million people”. Not many in this part of the world would agree with his analysis.
The second thing is I believe the opinions expressed by those who called in below are very different from what Americans diplomats hear when they sit with Arab leaders and government officials. Either there is a great gulf between those leaders and their own people, or they don’t tell the American diplomats what they really believe. I’m not sure which of the two options is correct.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The first caller, who was from Norway, began with a poem, “Oh you people of Iraq , remember your history filled with betrayers and betrayals…” Hostess Muna Salman cut him off, reminding her viewers she would not allow them to openly insult Arab people or their leaders, and put on Iadat from Morocco . Iadat wanted Iraqis to unite as quickly as possible to put out the Americans, or else the name of their country would become the United States of America and Iraq . The American influence in Iraq was negative and not positive. Iraqis needed to hold demonstrations and resist before their country became a perpetually occupied territory like Palestine .
Muhammad from Switzerland noted that the American rationale for occupying Iraq constantly shifted. At first it was the weapons of mass destruction, followed by the need for regime change, and most recently Bush’s speech in New York that people needed protection who wanted to change their religion. The real reason was that America needed Iraq as a military and political base, and wanted access to Iraqi oil.
When Muna asked why some people opposed the security agreement even though it gave a timeline for American withdrawal, Muhammad replied there were other reports that America wanted to keep 14 military bases in Iraq for an unlimited amount of time. There was no way that the occupier would choose to liberate the land it was occupying. It was the responsibility of Muslim armies to liberate any Muslim country under occupation whether Iraq , Palestine , or Afghanistan .
Hasan from Saudi Arabia also thought Iraqis needed to unite to immediately expel the American imperialists. The Americans wanted to control not only Iraq but the entire Arab Peninsula , and the only alternative was to put them out. When Muna asked if the agreement of the Iraqi Parliament to accept the security plan could not be seen as unity, Hasan replied that 90 percent of the Iraqi Parliamentarians were only interested in media attention. He was calling on the Iraqi people, not their politicians, to unite and expel the Americans.
Ahmad was convinced that the agreement was advantageous for any American, military or civilian, who wanted to exploit Iraqis because it would exempt them from legal prosecution. He could not understand how any politician could approve it. Majid from Yemen thought the agreement would be thrown into the “dust-bin of history” by the Americans, because they needed Iraq as the “footprint” for their control of the entire region.
Abd al-Fattah from Jordan covered 1400 years of history in one sentence by linking the killing of the Prophet Muhammad’s cousin Ali (which was the beginning of the Shia-Sunni divide) to the execution of Saddam Husayn. The Shia, according to him, could never be trusted.
Adel from Saudi Arabia thought the agreement represented the “betrayal of the great Iraqi people”. At the same time it was a defeat for America , because it would force them out of Iraq . Adel’s problem with the agreement was that it allowed Americans to remain until 2011.
Mahmud, a Syrian living in Oman thought Iraqi politicians quickly pushed the agreement through following the Obama victory to serve their goals of remaining in power. Without the agreement, the new American administration might want to withdraw forces before 2011. The current leaders in Iraq were linked to the occupation and wanted it to continue. But the Iraqi people, in agreement with regional leaders such as Syrian President Bashar al-Asad who opposed the agreement, would cause it to fail. The only countries in the world willing to stand against the Americans were between Afghanistan and the Mediterranean Sea . The Americans had occupied Afghanistan in order to cut Pakistan off from Iran , and had occupied Iraq to cut off the connection between Iran and Syria . They also had made many security and military agreements with other Arab and regional governments to control the oil of the Gulf and the Caspian Sea .
Ahmad from Libya used the common expression “those who arrived on the American tanks” to describe the Iraqi leaders who signed the agreement. They were only American agents whose stay in power was linked to the occupation.
Ahmad Adel from Egypt said the Arabs would claim victory when American forces finally left Iraq , but in fact it would be a victory for the Americans who had succeeded in dividing Iraq into three separate cantons (Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish). People should not rejoice even when the Americans left, because their occupying influence would remain.
Muhsin thought the agreement represented a “change of masks” on the part of the Americans. It was foolish of the Iraqis to trust the Americans, and even more foolish for them to try to persuade other Arabs to trust the Americans. The Iraqi leaders signed the agreement to protect themselves against the resistance, but the resistance would in turn smash any agreement made with the government that “rode in on the backs of American tanks”.
Hostess Muna noted that not a single participant thus far supported the agreement. She read an email from Ridah who quoted the English proverb, “He who pays the piper calls the tune.” There was no way that America , having spent billions on this war, would allow an agreement not in its interests.
Ali, an Iraqi in the UK agreed that the agreement served only American interests in Iraq . America was buying Iraqi oil for three dollars a barrel, stealing Iraq ’s natural resources, and opening American companies that would control Iraqi interests. Having lost 5,000 soldiers, there was no way America would leave Iraq . America needed to at least reassure its people it had achieved cheap Iraqi oil. The election of Obama would make no difference; a black person might be in charge, but American policy was the same. Because of Iran , America would keep its forces in Iraq , Kuwait , and other locations throughout the Gulf region. The American intelligences services governed Iraq .
Karim from Morocco thought it was scandalous that the agreement should discuss “Americans in Iraq ”. The only agreement should be that the Americans leave and repair what they destroyed.
Faizah, a female from Saudi Arabia, had the following comment. “In the old days, the Arabs would make agreements with other countries or with the kufar when they were in a position of strength and able to impose their will in reality. Are the Arab countries in a position of strength today? America is not a charity organization. The goal of America ’s presence in the region is petrol, and they are now even more determined because of the financial crisis. Can Iraq guarantee that America will withdraw in 2011? If they do not, who will be strong enough to force them out and save the Iraqi people?
Faizah continued, “Have the Iraqis even read the agreement? Do they realize it allows the presence of five American bases in Iraq fully controlled by the Americans as if it was the country of America inside Iraq ? Do they know it gives America the right to take preemptive action using the pretext of terrorism? Do they know it allows America to call for the assistance of any foreign force if they see it necessary? The goals of America in the region make it sacrifice itself for the sake of petrol.”
Ahmad was the first Iraqi to call from within Iraq . “Why is all this fuss being made about Iraq ? Are Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and the other Arab countries free from American influence? We do not like America , and we reject this agreement, but what brought America to Iraq ? Wasn’t it the killing and the destruction that came from the Arabs?”
Nabil, a second caller from Iraq , believed the agreement signified a defeat for the Americans. It was a victory for Iraq because it indicated that Shia, Sunnis, and Kurds could reach an agreement together. It was also a victory for the jihadists and resistance fighters throughout the world who wanted the kafirs (the Americans) out of Iraq .
Khalid from Mauritania agreed with earlier callers that America had come only to plunder Iraq and had no intention of leaving. The agreement was worth no more than the paper it was written on, and allowed Americans to do what they wanted with no possibility of being tried or judged by Iraqi courts. Muna corrected him to say the section of the agreement granting immunity to all Americans in Iraq had been amended, and Americans who committed crimes would not be immune from prosecution.
Dr. Shukri added that an agreement of this type could only be valid if it were between two independent parties. An agreement between an occupier and the people occupied was of no value. In reality the agreement was not between Baghdad and Washington , but between the American occupiers and the Iraqi inhabitants of Baghdad ’s Green Zone who had come with the occupation and as part of it. The agreement would fail and the occupation would collapse just as it had in Vietnam .
Thunyan from Saudi Arabia was the first caller who believed the agreement was to the benefit of Iraq . If the Americans left without an agreement, internal violence would break out in Iraq . The first thing to happen would be “a great evil” from Iran , and who would be able to stop Iran ? Media attention and other factors put limits on what the Americans would do, but nobody could put limits on Iran .
When Muna repeated the question of an earlier caller what was the guarantee the Americans would really leave in 2011, Thunyan replied that no occupier lasted forever. The Americans would eventually leave. It used to be said that the sun never set on the British Empire , but look at that empire now.
Akram from Greece thought the agreement should be called the American-American agreement, since it was concluded between an imperialist government and an American colony. Muna countered that others had said the same thing and it was time to more the discussion forward. What did Akram think was the best solution for the Iraqi people?
Akram had a ready answer. “The security agreement does not serve the interests of the Iraqi people in any way. The Iraqis must liberate themselves from the American colonizers by establishing an opposition front that includes all those who oppose America to force the Americans out. This front cannot be based on sectarian or religious divides, because these divisions have caused all of Iraq ’s problems. The Shia, Sunnis, and Kurds must unite to force out the Americans. The Americans want to remain in Iraq to avoid the embarrassment they would face if they left at the present time.”
Kazim was the second participant who thought the agreement was a good idea. “The security agreement,” he wrote in an email, “Is the best thing the elected Iraqi government has given to its people, and is Iraq ’s salvation from civil war and dissolution. Your show today showed the superficiality of most of those who called in and their ridiculous positions.”
Mustafa from Holland had a practical perspective. “The security agreement is a fact,” he wrote, “And it could have been called the agreement of security and reconstruction. The Iraqi politicians should present a study to America containing all the parts of the Iraqi infrastructure and Iraqi organizations that were destroyed by the Americans, and take advantage of the American presence there to have them rebuild Iraq during the remaining years of the agreement.”
Sabah’s email expressed the majority view. “The haters in the Green Zone drew up the agreement of humiliation in accordance with the orders of their bosses in the Black House (a common mocking description of the American White House). This was only the culmination of many other agreements between the American intelligences services and their (Arab) servants.”
Sarah from the UAE also agreed with the majority. “The Americans won’t leave Iraq in 2011 or any other year,” she said. “They will stay for years and years, and the Iraqi people must understand this. I was one of those who cried when Saddam Husayn was hung, and his death affected me greatly. I don’t know if he was a good man or not, but as Muslims his execution had a great effect on us.”
Muna reminded Sarah that the discussion was simply whether the security agreement was good for Iraq or not. Sarah replied there would be no security as long as the Americans remained in Iraq but under the present circumstances there would be no security if the Americans left. The only answer was for all the regional governments including Iran to sit down and reach a workable solution.