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Iraqi Parliament's Push for Sovereignty Part 1

{ I broke this into 2 parts to make it easier for Duane to read.}

Truthout discusses Iraq's future and the politics of US influence with two visiting Iraqi Parliamentarians.

Last week, for the first time, two Iraqi members of Parliament (MPs) testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. They spoke bluntly.

"The anarchy and chaos in Iraq is linked to the presence of the occupation, not withdrawal from Iraq," Nadeem Al-Jaberi, an MP and co-founder of the Al-Fadhila party, testified.
Under questioning by Republican Congress members, Al-Jaberi repeatedly renounced the "success of the surge," and added, "What we strive for is establishing a balanced relationship between the two countries. But nothing of this could be made possible until the troops withdraw from Iraq."

In fact, Al-Jaberi told Truthout, not only do most Iraqis strongly oppose the kind of agreement that President Bush hopes to negotiate with Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, which would keep US troops in Iraq on a long-term basis; they see a complete troop withdrawal as a precursor to any diplomatic negotiation.

"The majority of Iraqi MPs, and more than 70 percent of the Iraqi people, are against signing any agreements or treaties with the US while Iraq is under the occupation," Al-Jaberi said.

What does "the occupation" mean? According to Al-Jaberi and Khalaf Al-Ulayyan, an MP and founder of the National Dialogue Council party, it goes beyond the presence of combat troops. Other elements of the US presence - some of which might be considered charitable in a different context - also cement its force as an occupying power, including its plan to leave behind American troops and contractors to train Iraqi soldiers.

This rejection of the use of the US military to train Iraqi troops after withdrawal is "completed" contrasts not only with Bush's plans, but also with many Democrat-supported proposals for redeployment. The two redeployment bills which passed the House last year (both of which were defeated in the Senate) would have withdrawn all troops except for those needed to guard the American embassy, "conduct targeted counterterrorism operations" and train and equip the Iraqi Army.

"Iraqis have enough experience in military training, and we don't need the US to train us," Al-Ulayyan told Truthout. "The problem with the current Iraqi armed forces is not the lack of training, but the lack of loyalty to Iraq."

The MPs hold that a US training presence inhibits the solidification of Iraq's national identity, a necessary step toward strengthening its army.

According to a letter to Congress signed by Iraqi Parliament members representing the majority parties, "The Iraqi Council of Representatives is looking to ratify agreements that end every form of American intervention in Iraq's internal affairs and restore Iraq's independence and sovereignty over its land."

The letter requests not only the removal of all soldiers and military bases, but also of "hired fighters," pointing to another aspect of withdrawal that the Iraqi Parliament has its eye on, although previous drafts of US withdrawal legislation - and much of the presidential debate - have overlooked it: the use of private military contractors in Iraq.

"US mercenaries are viewed by Iraqis as criminal gangs protected by the occupation," Al-Ulayyan told Truthout.

Re: Iraqi Parliament's Push for Sovereignty Part 1

"bump' for Daune