Global Policy Forum

Delahunt Panel Examines US-Iraq Security Agreement


Bush Administration Refuses Third Request to Advise Congress on Agreement with Iraq

House Committee on Foreign Affairs
February 8, 2008

Congressman Bill Delahunt, Chairman of the Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight, today continued his probe of the Bush administration's proposed U.S-Iraq security agreement. "For the third time in three months, I have invited the Administration to explain the scope of this agreement to the Congress and to the American people. For the third time they have declined to appear," said Delahunt. "The Declaration of Principles suggests an indefinite U.S. presence in Iraq and the American people have a right to be fully and directly informed as to the intentions of this Administration."

A proposed agreement would replace the current United Nations mandate for Iraq, the international legal mechanism setting the framework for the combat activities of multilateral forces in the country, including American troops. In recent days, the administration has indicated it was backing away from a comprehensive agreement envisioned by the Declaration of Principles signed by President Bush on November 26, 2007, but Delahunt and others on his oversight panel remain skeptical. "It is our responsibility as a Congress to get on the record exactly what the Administration's intentions are," Delahunt said. "We've been burned before and as Chairman of this Oversight Committee, I don't intend on letting that happen again."

The panel heard testimony from Colonel Douglas Macgregor, Ph.D., Senior Fellow for the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information, Professor Michael J. Glennon, Esq. from The Fletcher School at Tufts University, , Professor Michael J. Matheson, Esq. from the The George Washington University Law School, Professor Ruth Wedgwood, Esq. from The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, and Professor Oona A. Hathaway, Esq., Associate Professor of Law from Yale Law School

The witnesses testified and reached a consensus on a number of points:

That an agreement implementing the Declaration of Principles would not be a routine Status of Forces Agreement and would absolutely require congressional approval.

It would preferable to extend the current United Nations mandate because the next administration should have the opportunity to craft long-term relations with Iraq.

That negotiating a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq is not needed now, because United States troops are protected by the current UN mandate, of which the Iraqi Ambassador to the United States has indicated would be acceptable. Professor Matheson testified that the Declaration of Principles is an ill considered document that he suspects was not vetted by the State Department's lawyers. He viewed it as no more than just a political tool. Colonel MacGregor questioned the legitimacy of the Iraqi government and said that, "Any elected official contemplating the commitment of US forces to the survival of a government like Iraq's, a government that already confronts powerful armed opposition inside its own borders, should recognize the potential damage that the government's reliance on US military power would cause its legitimacy. The best strategy for the United States is to stay outside of Iraq's internal conflict until that is resolved and a new legitimate Iraqi leadership emerges without direct us military support."

Professor Hathaway said: "The President cannot make an international agreement that exceeds his own Constitutional authority without the agreement of Congress. That's the bottom line…" She further said that a status of forces agreement is not guarantee to come to the defense of another country." Professor Glennon said that the "agreement contemplated by the Declaration of Principles would go beyond the provisions of existing SOFAs in that it would include a security commitment. The agreement would also go beyond the provisions of existing U.S. Security commitments in that it would commit the United States to respond to internal threats to Iraq and may require the automatic use of force." Professor Wegwood testified that it would be advisable for any President to consult with the Congress on an agreement of this nature.

More Information on Iraq
More Information on Multinational Force Mandate Renewal
More Information on Statements Against the War and Occupation of Iraq


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