Fear of US-Sunni Ties Undercut Security Talks.
By Gareth Porter
"The threat by the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki earlier this month to reject the U.S.-Iraq status of forces and strategic framework agreements was prompted in part by U.S. demands for access to bases that were unacceptable to a highly nationalistic Iraqi population.
But an equally important factor in the apparent rejection of the agreements by Iraqi Shi'ite leaders is the absence of a U.S. security guarantee against foreign aggression in the U.S. proposal.
That issue loomed very large for Iraqi Shi'ite officials who have long been nervous about whether the United States is firmly committed to supporting the survival of the Shi'ite-dominated regime in Iraq from plots by Sunni Arab states and Turkey to restore Sunni rule in the country.
The Maliki regime had demanded that U.S. President George W. Bush include a commitment in the statement principles they signed last November. The text of the statement included a U.S. pledge to "provide security assurances to the Iraqi Government to deter any external aggression and to ensure the integrity of Iraq's territory."
But the March 7 U.S. draft of the agreement stated only that "the U.S. and Iraq are to consult immediately whenever the territorial integrity or political independence of Iraq is threatened."
This commitment only to consult was clearly unacceptable to the Maliki regime. While visiting Jordan June 13, Maliki himself referred to the abandonment by the U.S. of its previous commitment to defending the Iraqi government against "foreign aggression" as "a clear point of disagreement.".......
From the perspective of the Maliki regime and the Shi'ite political parties supporting it, however, that refusal has a broader and more sinister significance. Iraqi Shi'ites interpreted it against a background of Bush administration efforts to prevent the Shi'ite regime from consolidating power and the possibility of U.S. collaboration with Sunni Arab regimes to try to overthrow the regime because of its ties with Iran.
A common factor in this history of the "Sunni option" in Bush administration policy is the role of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi........."