Iraq Security Agreement Proves to Be Nettlesome
The Bush administration intends to negotiate a long-term security agreement with the Iraqi government, but has said it will not need Senate approval because it will not be providing security commitments to Iraq as part of a formal treaty. Rep. Gary L. Ackerman (D-N.Y.) probed this issue in a pointed exchange with David Satterfield, the State Department's Iraq coordinator, at a House hearing yesterday.
Ackerman: Is there any way in the world that [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki] thinks that we are going to defend Iraq if Iraq is attacked?
Satterfield: Mr. Chairman, the secretary of defense, secretary of state, the president, the vice president in all of their conversations with the prime minister and other senior Iraqi officials have been quite clear on what our intent is in Iraq, what our obligations are in Iraq and what they are not. I do not believe such a potential misunderstanding exists.
Ackerman: Has this been explicitly explained to him that, if Iraq is attacked, that we have no obligation to enter into any combat missions?
Satterfield: The secretary of defense has made very clear exactly those points.
Ackerman: And Mr. Maliki is satisfied with that assurance or non-assurance or lack of assurance? . . .
Satterfield: Mr. Chairman, Prime Minister Maliki is strongly supportive, as we understand, for the initiation of negotiations about to begin on exactly the basis which I have described to you.
Ackerman: What will happen if Iraq is attacked?
Satterfield: Mr. Chairman, as would be the case of an attack on any friend and partner of the United States, the administration would have to consider, in consultation with the Congress, what would be the best measures to take in defense of United States' interests in such an eventuality.
Ackerman: If Iraq is attacked, are you stating uncategorically that the administration will take no action . . . until an appropriate course of action is decided, in consultation with the Congress?
Satterfield: Mr. Chairman, the administration will act as any administration would act in defense of U.S. interests.
Ackerman: I'm afraid of that.