An Interview with Mustafa Malik by Afsaneh Ostovar, Press TV, Tehran
A proposed security treaty between the Iraqi government and Washington has drawn strong criticism from the Iraqi nation. Under the treaty, the US would be allowed to set up permanent military bases in the country and US citizens would be granted immunity from legal prosecution. Many critics say the treaty will turn Iraq into a de facto US colony.
The following is an interview with the prominent Washington-based journalist, Mustafa Malik on the issue. He served as a Pakistani diplomat and speech writer for Pakistani Prime Minister and Vice President Nurul Amin.
Mustafa writes for the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, Atlanta Constitution, Miami Herald, St Louis Post-Dispatch and other US newspapers.
Q. The proposed long-term security treaty between the Iraqi government and the US has faced growing criticism inside Iraq. Do you envision any way out of this treaty?
A. I don't, as long as the Iraqi government feels it needs the US military forces for self-preservation. The post-Saddam Hussein governments of Iraq have been the outcome of the US invasion, and they all have been protected by the invading force. If and when the Maliki government feels it can operate from outside the Green Zone, it would seek a way out of a security arrangement with the United States.
Q. With respect to the strong reaction of the Iraqi nation to the controversial treaty why isn't the issue put to a referendum?
A. Because the issue will be defeated by an overwhelming majority of Iraqi Arabs (both Shia and Sunni), who make up nearly four-fifths of the Iraqi population.
Q. Washington statesmen keep blaming some certain elements for the ongoing insecurity and unrest inside the war-torn Iraq. Have they proposed the treaty to quell insurgency and restore stability to the country?
A. What do you mean by "insurgency?" Some of the violence is sectarian and needs to be resolved through an equitable power-sharing arrangement among the Iraqi factions. The Americans shouldn't be drawn into it and can't do much about it. Some of the violence targets the American military occupation of Iraq and probably will fester as long as the American forces remain in Iraq.
Q. Maliki has reassured the Iraqis that no agreement would be sealed with the United States if Iraq's sovereignty is jeopardized, but what the treaty is suggesting, runs counter to the Iraqi government's pledges. What do you make of it?
A. The presence of a foreign military force outside the jurisdiction of Iraqi courts would be an infringement on Iraqi sovereignty. The contradiction in the Iraqi government's positions that you have mentioned reflects the government's desperation to keep the American security umbrella over itself. After all, most of the leaders who have led the various post-Saddam Iraqi governments in Baghdad came in from outside on the backs of American tanks, and they feel they need American protection.
Q. With respect to the US previous agreements with countries like Japan and South Korea which have all enabled it to have a long-term presence in the region, how does this deal serve the military, economic and political interests of the United States?
A. The Americans went into Iraq partly because they wanted to make it the bastion of US military power in the Persian Gulf -- after they had been compelled to abandon their Sultan City airbase. Jay Garner, the first US proconsul in Iraq, publicly said the United States would have bases in Iraq for "decades". I doubt, though, that the Iraqi people would allow permanent US military bases in Iraq.
Q. What are the consequences of this agreement on the people of Iraq and the Middle East?
A. A main consequence of any significant US military presence in Iraq would be further escalation of anti-Americanism and the strengthening of Islamic movements in the region.
Q. Under this treaty US forces would be granted permanent presence in Iraq while the Iraqi civilians have demanded the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. What is the priority here? Why is the Iraqi government falling for this political legerdemain?
A. As I said, the Iraqi government in the Green Zone feels the need for American protection against its own people. During his just-ended visit to Tehran, Mr. Maliki reiterated that the American forces in Iraq would not be allowed to operate against Iraq's neighbors, which clearly means that they could be used only against the Iraqis. I have known Iraq for four decades, and I would be surprised if it remains hospitable to American forces very long.