Al-Arab Al-Yawm's correspondent Ahmad Sabri reports from Baghdad that sources close to the so-called Interim Governing Council of Iraq have told al-Arab al-Yawm in Baghdad that the new US strategy in Iraq which Paul Bremer brought back to the Council members from Washington has not yet been revealed in its entirety.
The reliable sources say that there are clauses in the agreement that are to remain secret until an appropriate time comes for their publication.
The sources revealed that the most important of these secret clauses in the document - which the Council announced after meeting Bremer at the beginning of this week - provide for the establishment of at least six military bases in different parts of Iraq in which American forces will be concentrated on a permanent basis in order to guarantee a continued American and British presence in accordance with the strategy that brought their fleets to these hot waters in the first place.
The sources say that a number of strategic positions have been chosen with precision in various parts of Iraq to be the locations of American and British bases during the second phase of the Anglo-American occupation of Iraq.
The sources revealed the names of these bases and the planned positions for permanent deployment. They are:
- Al-Habbaniyah airbase near the city of al-Fallujah, 65km west of Baghdad, Ash-Sha'biyah airbase in Basra, 600km south of Baghdad,
- 'Ali ibn Abi Taleb airbase on the outskirts of the city of an-Nasiriyah, 400km south of Baghdad,
- al-Walid airbase about 330km north west of Baghdad,
- al-Ghazlani Camp in the city of Mosul, 400km north of Baghdad,
- A permanent deployment of forces in the east of Iraq in what is known as the Hamrin mountain range that extends from Diyala Pronvice, 60km east of Baghdad, and borders on Iran and extends to the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, 260km north of Baghdad.
The sources explained the choice of these locations for permanent Anglo-American deployment by saying that they cover most of the territory of Iraq, and are linked to the Iraqi borders in all four directions, giving them strategic importance in defining the future course of the "new" Iraq. The choice of these locations is also linked to the aim of deterring neighbors of Iraq who might attempt to threaten Iraqi territory in the future.
Observers say that the choice of these positions discloses the American perspective regarding the future of the country. This perspective is that they must, through their presence in Iraq, control the keys to movement in virtually all directions while maintaining a high level of flexibility of action throughout the Arab region as a whole. This geographical deployment will, without doubt, secure those objectives of the occupation forces. In addition, the plan provides for reliance on air bases of the utmost importance in Iraq - a new focal point for American strategy in the "Middle East" region.
Although the American administration is still afraid openly to announce these planned measures that provide for a permanent military deployment in Iraq, leaks in the press indicate that a number of intelligence organizations traveled through Iraqi territory and did field surveys in great detail noting the strong and weak points of dozens of military positions and airbases scattered throughout the country.
According to these leaks, American military and intelligence specialists settled their sights on the six locations and bases mentioned above.
In order for these deployments to be permanent and not subject to any possible political upheavals in Iraq, (acccording to the secret provisions in the agreement between Bremer and the Interim Governing Council) the expanded Governing Council and the government based on that council will at the middle of next year call on the United States and Britain to keep a portion of their forces in Iraq to preserve what has come to be known as security and stability in Iraq.
According to corresponding sources, the subject of American and British forces remaining permanently in Iraq has aroused two opposing responses from within the current so-called Governing Council. The first rejects the idea of an American withdrawal on the grounds that the security and political situation are not suitable for a withdrawal at the present time. Ahmad Chelebi, the President of the Iraqi National Congress, is the chief proponent of this position. Others on the council demand that the American forces accelerate their departure from Iraq and hand control of the country's security over to Iraqi individuals, now that the Americans and British have successfully completed their basic task. Muhsin 'Abd al-Hamid, the General Secretary of the Iraqi Islamic Group, 'Adnan al-Bajah Ji, President of the Group of Independent Democrats, and Jalal at-Talibani, leader of the Kurdistani National Union are in favor of this position.
Some Iraqi sources expect that the Interim Iraqi Government, which is expected to be declared next June, will request, immediately after taking office, some as yet undetermined countries to send military forces to Iraq to take over tasks being done by the American forces now.
Some Iraqi officials and also some American quarters believe that the request will be presented to a number of Arab and Islamic countries, other than the countries that neighbor Iraq (due to the intense opposition that the Kurdish parties in the Council would evince to any such invitation going to Turkey, while the Sunni Islamic circles are expected to oppose the entry of any Iranian forces into Iraq, out of fear that they would strengthen the activities of the Shiites who are pushing to take over some mosques and Sunni religious institutions in the country, marginalizing the highly skilled and experienced Sunnis.) Sources:
Al-Arab al-Yawm, daily newspaper, Amman, Jordan, Wednesday, 19 November 2003.
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