Region | Iraq

No permanent American bases, says Iraq minister

Iraq will seek to reach a long-term political agreement that defines its relationship with the US, but will not approve a long-term military agreement that would include permanent American bases in Iraq, an Iraqi minister has said.

  • By Jumana Al Tamimi, GCC & Middle East Editor
  • Published: 22:07 February 19, 2008
  • Gulf News

Dubai: Iraq will seek to reach a long-term political agreement that defines its relationship with the US, but will not approve a long-term military agreement that would include permanent American bases in Iraq, an Iraqi minister has said.

Sharwan Al Waely, Iraqi State Minister for National Security Affairs, also hoped the next round of Iranian-US talks over Iraq, which was scheduled this week, would be held as early as possible after it was postponed for "technical reasons."

"Iraq doesn't want, nor seek, to establish [American] bases inside Iraq," said Al Waely in an exclusive interview with Gulf News during his visit to Dubai to participate in a conference on Iraq's defence and security.

"Iraq is not in favour of a long-term military accord with the US, but with a long-term political accord that would consolidate both countries' interests....This agreement will be subjected to principles that don't include the presence of US troops in Iraq," said the minister.

Future relations

Both Iraq and the US are scheduled to meet in the coming weeks to discuss their future relations. The Bush administration and Nouri Al Maliki's government agreed last November on a set of "principles for friendship and cooperation" that created a foundation for a more formal agreement, which would normalise relations between the two countries.

However, the form of the future Iraqi-US relations is unclear, noted analysts. And the picture has became even more vague with the presidential elections in the US, as some believe the Republicans winning would mean agreement with Iraq on a long-term military presence similar to post-war agreements reached with many other countries, including Japan and Germany. While the victory of the Democrats would not necessary mean the same result, they added.

US administration officials have denied on several occasions the intention to establish permanent bases in Iraq. Some analysts were quoting as saying it would not be in the interest of the US to look like an occupier, as many Arab and Muslim nations view it. But, at the same time, US reports and analysis said plans were already drawn for future bases in Iraq - the US is building a giant mission in Iraq, the biggest in the world.

"In the case of Iraq, it is hard to determine how many forces should stay there because, unlike most other nations with SOFAs (Status of Forces agreements), Iraq is still far from stable," said a recent report by the Christian Science Monitor.

According to Waely, Iraq started crawling towards a state of stable security after the formation of political stability.

He strongly believes that by using the latest technology in monitoring Iraq's borders, Iraq will be able to stop the daily cycle of violence in the country.

"Should our borders be monitored by the [latest] security technology, which checks each vehicle, human and material ..... there will be a noticeable decrease in these [terrorist] attacks," said Waely.

"The US has a big military power on the Iraqi territories... but they can't install [monitoring] equipment on all entrances and exists to Iraq," commented the Iraqi minister, a Shiite, who also enjoys good relations with the Shiite leaderships in Iraq.

The US military announced last week that insurgent attacks in Iraq have dropped more than 60 per cent since a joint US-Iraq crackdown on insurgents began a year ago.

It is widely believed in Iraq that a big segment of the daily deadly attacks are carried out by either people who crossed Iraq's porous borders to fight the American and Iraqi troops, or by groups who are getting support from outside. The US and many parties are accusing Iran of supporting some groups in Iraq and fuelling the attacks, mainly against the Americans.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi minister said the postponement of the fourth round of the US-Iranian talks was because of "technical reasons and regional developments", without elaborating.

"We hope the meeting will take place as soon as possible and it will tackle the nitty-gritty of the core issues because until now the crucial issues and details have not been dealt with" which are related to Iraq.

Also, Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will visit Iraq in March in the first official visit to the country by an Iranian leader since Iran's revolution in 1979.

"This is an important visit," said Waely.

Responding to questions on the controversy over the Iraqi government relations with Iran, the Iraqi minister for National Security Affairs, said: "Iraq seeks good relations with all its neighbours. Iran was the first to bless the Iraqi project [after the overthrown of Saddam's regime].It may be was smarter that the rest," he said.

"There is an Arab vacuum in Iraq now, and we blame our Arab brothers. The Arab presence is very importance.... and we don't want to create fake enemies like the former regime", he said.

Should our borders be monitored by the [latest] security technology, which checks each vehicle, human and material ..... there will be a noticeable decrease in these [terrorist] attacks."

Iraq is not in favour of a long-term military accord with the US, but with a long-term political accord that would consolidate both countries' interests .... This agreement will be subjected to principles that don't include the presence of US troops in Iraq."

Gulf News