Saturday, November 29, 2008

31 December 2011: day the last US soldier leaves Iraq - Middle East, World - The Independent

31 December 2011: day the last US soldier leaves Iraq - Middle East, World - The Independent

Remember, this agreement is what Bush is leaving for Obama to deal with:

A landmark agreement: What it means

* The Status of Forces Agreement between Iraq and the US is a plan for the US withdrawal and the rules under which US forces would operate until final withdrawal in three years' time.

* The agreement is very specific about the dates for the US pullout. It says that all US combat forces are to pull out from cities, towns and villages "on a date no later than 30 June 2009". Most important of all it says that "all US forces are to withdraw from all Iraqi territory, water and airspace no later than 31 December 2011".

* The US side wanted to make the withdrawal timeline conditional on the development of Iraqi security forces, but the final agreement drops this.

* It will be impossible for US forces to arrest an Iraqi "unless it is in accordance with an Iraqi decision". US forces will not be able to search premises without "an Iraqi judicial order".

* Some senior Iraqi politicians say Iraqi forces may carry out searches and arrests with a sectarian agenda. Sunni in Baghdad are afraid of being arrested by chiefly Shia Interior Ministry troops and look to US forces to protect them.

* In a reversal of attitudes in the first four years after the occupation it is the Sunni Arabs who now frequently want US troops to stay and the Shia, formerly allied to the US, who want them to go. Fear of a return to Sunni-Shia sectarian warfare which led to mass slaughter in 2006-07 is slow to dissipate.

* US contractors lose their legal immunity. It is possible that Iraq might bring retroactive charges against contractors who killed Iraqis in past incidents. Despite wrangles about the immunity of US troops during the negotiations, it is unlikely they will be prosecuted. Other important concerns include the protection of Iraqi assets abroad, notably state funds in the Federal Bank of New York, from legal action.

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