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Obama’s Iraq Pullout: Virtue Of Necessity – OpEd

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By Daryoush Bavar

On Friday October 21, US president Barack Obama officially announced that the American forces will eventually leave Iraq by the end of 2011.

“Today I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over,” Obama said.

In his statement, the words “as promised” stand out as Obama tries to give the impression that he has made the withdrawal decision in fulfillment of one of his election promises back in 2008.

But he was trying to make a virtue of necessity because according to a security agreement, often known as a Status of Forces Agreement or SOFA, that was signed between Iraq and the US (George W. Bush) on November 17, 2008, Washington was obliged to leave Iraq by 2011 as the bilateral agreement stipulated that “All the United States Forces shall withdraw from all Iraqi territory no later than December 31, 2011.” The agreement had also called for all US combat forces to withdraw from Iraqi cities “no later than June 30, 2009,” which of course Obama failed to abide by.

But was Obama trying in earnest to stick to the SOFA? The answer is definitely ‘no’. It was a decision he made out of despair. The Obama administration was trying hard to pressure the Iraqi leadership into an agreement extending the US military presence in the country beyond the 2011 pullout deadline. Obama’s initial plan was to keep between 10,000-20,000 soldiers on the Iraqi soil indefinitely. But the reluctant Iraqis didn’t have the appetite for this many troops. So the number dwindled to 3,000-5,000 troops for ‘training and security’ purposes.

Negotiations over keeping this residual force dubbed “advice and assist brigades,” broke down after the Obama administration insisted that the soldiers should be granted immunity from the Iraqi law.

“I can say very clearly that any kind of US presence (in Iraq) demands that we protect and provide the appropriate immunity for our soldiers,” The Associated Press quoted US Secretary of State Leon Panetta as saying on October 6 after a two-day Brussels meeting of NATO officials.

Iraqi officials were opposed to any US immunity from local prosecution. The Associated Press explains why, “Many Iraqis harbor bitter feelings against American servicemen after several incidents that have occurred during the rebuilding of Iraq. US troops have allegedly shot at locals at random checkpoints, and a 14-year-old Iraqi girl was allegedly raped and shot to death by troops in 2006. A 2007 shooting incident in Baghdad’s Nissor Square by Blackwater forces that left 17 Iraqis dead cost the immunity of private security contractors.”

These incidents cited by the AP, are only the tip of the iceberg of Iraqis’ anger over the notorious cases of killings and human rights violations involving US troops and private security contractors over the past 9 years. This very public anger made the Iraqi government balked at the idea of renewed immunity for the American soldiers.

Therefore, it was the Iraqis who refused to go along with the Obama Administration’s request to keep US forces in their country beyond December 2011. Had the Iraqi government agreed with the Obama Administration, Washington would still be keeping several thousand troops in Iraq. The major point is that the Iraqi people wanted the US soldiers out of their country.

At the same time, people in the US do not want this occupation to continue. There is a growing public war fatigue in the US, which is manifested in the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement that is angry at a failed economy, corporate greed, the bank bailouts and the money that the US has been spending on its protracted wars abroad.

“Occupy Wall Street is the umbrella to grassroots movements looking for a solution to everything that needs fixing in this country (US), ranging from unemployment, corporate greed, the wars, the national debt – that contribute to 99 percent of the nation scrambling to survive while 1 percent enjoys prosperity,” Topanga Peace Alliance (TPA) founder Julie Levine told the Topanga Messenger.

A Gallup poll (Aug. 11-14) found that the Americans’ disapproval of Obama’s handling of the economy has skyrocketed to an all-time high of 71 percent. And according to a more recent analysis of Gallup’s daily tracking poll (July 20 to October 19) Obama’s job approval rating has slumped to just 41 percent, the lowest since he took office.

With his poll numbers sinking largely because of a weak economy and high unemployment rates, Obama seems to be trying to placate the nascent but growing Occupy Wall Street protests that are gradually evolving into a massive social movement that can sway voters in 2012 presidential election.

A TIME poll taken on October 9 and 10, with a base of 1,001 people, has found that 54% of respondents looked at the Occupy Wall Street movement as favorable while only 27% of them approved of the Tea Party. The figures indicate that twice as many respondents viewed the Occupy Wall Street as the favorable movement.

The Iraq war was a bipartisan product that both the GOP and the Dems are responsible for the deaths and the destruction it has unleashed in not only Iraq but also the US. It was a bipartisan product that was waged by a Republican President who had the support of both the Democrats and the Republicans at the Congress. Later on, the war was continued by a Democratic President who similarly enjoyed the backing of both the Dems and the GOP at the Capitol.

George W. Bush sent US troops to Iraq and Barack Obama tried to keep them there even longer. He could not and now failed negotiations are bringing them home.

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Press TV is a 24-hour English language global news network owned by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). Its headquarters are located in Tehran, Iran. Press TV carries news analysis, documentary talk shows and sports news worldwide with special focus on West Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East.

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