23 February 2004

Accord on U.S. troops must wait, leaders say

Iraq's interim leaders said Sunday that they could not negotiate a formal agreement with the U.S. military on maintaining troops in Iraq and that the task must await the next sovereign Iraqi government.

The delay could put the Americans in the position of negotiating an agreement with leaders they did not appoint on such sensitive issues as when the use of force would be allowed.

It also means that another feature of the agreement of Nov. 15, which set out the steps to sovereignty, will not occur on schedule. Other things falling by the wayside are the approval of an interim constitution, which was supposed to occur by next Saturday, and the now abandoned plan to hold caucuses to pick a transitional assembly.

But the Americans have clung to the final date of handing power to a new Iraqi administration: June 30.

The November accord is now a one-legged tripod. What is sacred about the 30 June date? The White House needs to come up with a better explanation of the sanctity of 30 June than denying it's related to the US electoral calendar.

Transferring sovereignty to an unelected government that is unlikely to gain either international recognition or the capacity to make agreements is absurd. especially while the US maintains a monopoly of force within the territory of the said unelected government.

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