Another day brings more bad news about the viability of a negotiated security deal between the United States and Iraq. Both countries are working against a Dec. 31 deadline, when the United Nations mandate that authorizes American troops in Iraq is set to expire.
Some Iraqi lawmakers want changes to the agreement. Sticking points include the jurisdiction over American forces and a timeline for the withdrawal of all American troops.
“The window for any kind of discussions, negotiations is rapidly coming to a close,” State Department spokesman Robert Wood said Thursday.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military has told Baghdad it would shut down military operations and other vital services on Jan. 1 if the deal isn’t passed. Those other vital services, according to McClatchy’s Baghdad bureau, include “activities that support Iraq’s economy, educational sector and other areas.”
This – along with American presidential elections next week and Iraqi provincial elections in January – could drastically change I Corps’ mission when it takes over day-to-day operations in Iraq in the spring.
The corps invited reporters Thursday to watch part of its most important preparation exercise at it gears up for deployment. Some 900 service members from all four branches and two other militaries joined another 1,100 around the world in a round-the-clock, real-time simulation of what I Corps will be doing when it takes over as Multi-National Corps-Iraq.
I had a chance to ask a couple generals about the tenuousness of the security pact. Brig. Gen. John Johnson, the corps deputy commanding general for operations, said the negotiations have been factored into preparations.
"We’re thinking through the implications of it," he said. "As we see bits and pieces of changes – and our exercise has made us think about this, too – we think, what if this and what if that? What are the implications for how we do business and how do we best accomplish the missions that are laid out for us given that construct?"
Brig. Gen. Peter Bayer, the corps chief of staff, elaborated a bit.
"The reality that has been pretty clearly stated by the president that if this agreement is not accepted by the Iraqi government, it really leaves the U.S. military with very limited options in terms of our legal authorization to operate inside Iraq," he said. "So our assumption is that some version of it will pass. And we’ve been trying to fast-forward and template how we effectively operate in that environment."