U.S., Iraq pledge to work in tandem

/ Source: The Associated Press

Iraq and the United States pledged to coordinate military operations and work together to help safeguard the country’s security after the transfer of sovereignty to the new interim Iraqi government on June 30, according to letters obtained Sunday by The Associated Press.

The exchange of letters between Iraq’s new prime minister Iyad Allawi and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell broadly outlines the relationship between Iraqi and U.S.-led multinational forces after the occupation of Iraq ends.

The letters will be included as annexes to a U.S.-British draft resolution under debate in the Security Council that will endorse the handover of sovereignty and authorize the multinational force to remain in Iraq to help provide security.

Allawi told the U.N. Security Council that his government will retain sole control of the country’s armed forces and work in “full partnership” with the multinational force to coordinate joint military operations and security policy through a variety of new bodies. Powell said U.S.-led troops “will coordinate with Iraqi security forces at all levels.”

Both Allawi and Powell stressed the importance of the U.S.-led force in helping to fight those opposed to Iraq’s political transition.

Draft resolution
U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said after a council meeting late Sunday to discuss the letters that a revised draft — the fourth in two weeks — will be introduced late Monday morning. The council will meet Monday afternoon to hear a briefing by the U.N. envoy to Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi, who helped assemble the interim government.

Negroponte said discussion of the draft will continue “with the idea of voting on it on Tuesday afternoon or Tuesday evening.”

But France, Germany, Algeria and other council members said they want a significant addition to the text: a reference to the new government’s relationship with the multinational force that would give the Iraqis a veto over “sensitive offensive operations.”

While some council members have been calling for the new government to have a veto over major military operations by the multinational force — such as the recent siege of Fallujah — Allawi didn’t specifically ask for such power.

In his letter, Allawi said new security bodies will enable the multinational force and the Iraqi government “to reach agreement on the full range of fundamental security and policy issues, including policy on sensitive offensive operations.”

“Since these are sensitive issues for a number of sovereign governments, including Iraq and the United States, they need to be resolved in the framework of a mutual understanding on our strategic partnership,” he said.

Powell also pledged that the multinational force, or MNF, would work with the Iraqis “to reach agreement on the full range of fundamental security and policy issues, including policy on sensitive offensive operations.”

French support
But France and other council members said they weren’t satisfied with just the letters on this difficult issue, and France proposed an amendment to the resolution spelling out the interim government’s authority over Iraqi forces and stating that its agreement “will be required on sensitive offensive operations.”

A French diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said France will support the resolution if the amendment is included.

Despite that dispute, the issue of how long the multinational force will remain appears to have been resolved.

The latest draft says the interim government will have authority to ask the force to leave. But Allawi indicated in his letter that the force will remain at least until an elected transitional government takes power early next year.

The current draft resolution also calls for U.N. members states and regional and international organizations to provide troops for the multinational force. But France proposed a second amendment Sunday that would require any such assistance to be requested by the interim Iraqi government.

In outlining the new military relationship, Allawi said a new ministerial committee will be formed to set Iraqi security policy, and that the commander of the multinational force and others will be asked to participate “as appropriate.”

Allawi also said Iraqi and multinational forces — at the national, regional and local levels — will consult regularly on their activities, “will share intelligence, and will refer issues up the respective chains of command where necessary.”