Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki announced Thursday that Iraq had “regained its national sovereignty”. It could in fact be argued that for the first time since the end of the Gulf War, Iraq is again for most purposes an independent country in international law. It was put under Chapter 7 of the United Nations charter in the early 90s, having been found an aggressor against Kuwait. In some ways, its Chapter 7 status was taken advantage of by the Bush administration in its invasion of Iraq. There are still some things Iraq wants from the UN, and the Russian ambassador there has suggested that some Article 7 provisions will last for a while yet. But the main thing standing between Iraq and sovereignty now is anyway not international law but the large foreign troop presence on Iraqi soil. Still, that presence is underpinned by a bilateral treaty concluded by a sovereign Iraqi parliament with the United States. Cont’d . . .
US troops now need warrants for arrests, though they can detain suspects for 24 hours while they seek to justify it to a judge. Thousands of Iraqis imprisoned by the US will have to be released unless valid legal cases can be built against them.
In a move of the utmost symbolism, Iraqi troops are now taking control of the Green Zone, the few acres in downtown Baghdad, surrounded by blast walls, where US military and diplomatic personnel have worked, and where parliament and many Iraqi government offices are located. US military control of this area has often provoked tensions. Once Marines manhandled a member of parliament from the Sadr Movement who was coming in for a vote, provoking widespread criticism. The nerve center of the US in Iraq and of its Iraqi political allies had to be put behind blast walls because otherwise it would have been constantly bombed and sniped at. The area took a great deal of mortar fire as it was, endangering US State Department personnel who were sleeping in flimsy shelters. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has announced his determination to take down the blast walls. Minister of Defense Abdul Qadir al-`Ubaidi pledged to reopen the road between the Green Zone and the Republic Bridge within days, according to al-Hayat.
Bombings and other violence killed 8 in the northern cities of Mosul and Kirkuk or their environs on Thursday.
Basra authorities arrested a leader of the “Army of Heaven” millenarian cult that launched attacks last year this time. It is the beginning of the Islamic new year, and apparently the cult is seeking ways of taking power.
Al-Maliki also announced that there is “no place in Iraq for the terrorist” Mujahidin-e Khalq (MEK) organization. The Iraqi government has taken control of Camp Ashraf, northeast of Baghdad, the terrorist training camp leased by Saddam Hussein to 3500 members of the Iranian MEK cult. The MEK carried out terrorist attacks inside Iran on behalf of Iraq, as well as spying on, and making false allegations about, Iran’s civilian nuclear energy program. MEK have probably been triple agents, sharing information with and pushing disinformation on Saddam, Israel and the US through various channels. They also served Saddam as an SS, repressing Iraqi dissidents. When the US took Iraq in 2003, the Neoconservatives at the Pentagon wanted to adopt the terrorist group for covert operations against Iran and against the Shiite fundamentalist parties in Iraq that had been hosted in exile by Tehran. The Pentagon/ Neoconservative interest in the MEK appears to have been connected to its secret ties to Israel, and prominent members of the American Israel lobby such as Daniel Pipes and Patrick Clawson went to bat for this motley crew of bombers and saboteurs (ironically, they have been prolific in accusing ordinary Americans of being ‘terrorist supporters’ if they declined to ask ‘how high’ whenever Bibi Netanyahu commanded us to jump). The State Department, in contrast, pushed for listing the MEK as a terrorist organization. In the end, as usual in the Bush administration, Washington gave us the worst compromise possible, declaring MEK a terrorist organization and going on using it for espionage and sabotage in Iran as well as against Iraqi Shiites. In 2005 the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the Da`wa Party came to power in elections in Baghdad, the very parties against which MEK had been conspiring, and they have repeatedly tried to get rid of the Mojahedin, but were stopped by the Pentagon. The ‘Islamic Marxist’ guerrillas are likely now to be expelled. Al-Maliki said that they would not be forced to return to Iran, and could go to other destinations of their choice, but could not remain in Iraq.
The British military has handed over the control tower at Basra International Airport to Iraqi authorities. Britain had been using the airport as a military base, but now will withdraw outside it and allow it to function as a civilian, Iraqi facility. This step is a further phase in the British withdrawal from Iraq; the UK once had 40,000 troops in the country, and is now down to about 4,000. They will likely all be out by July 1.
As the foreign troops leave, Iraqis will have to settle their differences themselves. Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani slammed Iraqi Arab leaders for provoking ethnic tensions with Kurds.