Must U.S. Military Ask 'May I?' After Iraq Becomes Sovereign?

by TChris

The U.S. and its partner-in-occupation, Great Britain, seem to be having a bit of a spat.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, President Bush's chief ally in Iraq, said today that forces of the U.S.-led coalition there will need the "consent" of the new Iraqi government to conduct some military operations after political power is transferred on June 30.

Blair told a news conference in London that "if there's a political decision as to whether you go into a place like Fallujah in a particular way, that has to be done with the consent of the Iraqi government and the final political control remains with the Iraqi government. That's what the transfer of sovereignty means.

The Bush adminsitration isn't inclined to ask anyone's "consent" to do as it pleases with the U.S. military.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, asked later about Blair's comment, phrased the issue differently, saying that "we would take into account whatever" Iraqi officials say "at a political and military level."

Powell added: "Now, ultimately, however, if it comes down to the United States armed forces protecting themselves or in some way accomplishing their mission in a way that might not be in total consonance with what the Iraqi interim government might want to do at a particular moment in time, U.S. forces remain under U.S. command and will do what is necessary to protect themselves."

In other words, as long as a military action can be characterized as necessary to "accomplish a mission," sovereignty won't stand in the way. Although Powell earlier said that the U.S. military will leave Iraq upon request of the interim government, his assurance was promptly contradicted by Lt. Gen. Walter Sharp, who told Congress that only an elected government could kick the U.S. military out of the country.

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