The latest version of the Iraq-U.S. agreement is “unacceptable” and must be changed to “secure for the Iraqis their legitimate national rights,” the leader of the Iraqi Communist Party told a public meeting of 1,000 people in Baghdad Oct. 31.

“Our party is seeking, with others, to amend the agreement, because it is unacceptable in Iraqi society in its current draft,” Hamid Majeed Mousa, secretary of the party’s central committee and a member of the Iraqi Parliament, said. “It will also not pass in the Parliament in this format, and we will be the first to reject it.”

The U.S. occupation was internationally legitimized through UN Security Council Resolution 1483 against the will of the Iraqi people, Mousa said.

Therefore, “it is not a question of whether not or there should be an agreement,” he told the crowd. “There has to be an agreement that ensures the evacuation of the foreign troops … their evacuation cannot take place by total rejection. It must be regulated by an agreement between the two sides. In all countries, regardless of the situation where there are foreign troops, their exit does not take place by only ignoring mutual dialogue and talks, but through an agreement. What matters, therefore, is the content of such an agreement, and what the principles and basis were for concluding it. This is the correct approach.”

Iraq’s Communist Party, he said, is “trying, along with other national forces, inside and outside the political process, to reach an agreement that governs the withdrawal of foreign forces and their operation during the interim transitional period. This was the demand of the patriotic forces from the outset: i.e. scheduling the withdrawal of foreign forces. Scheduling means, among other things, that there should be a document regulating this process; this movement and this withdrawal, and the gradual transfer of authorities and responsibilities to the Iraqi national side. We strive to ensure that this document reflects the will of Iraqis and their aspiration to see a clear end, unequivocally, of the foreign presence, without delays, procrastination and cumbersome conditions.”

Several parties bear responsibility for the imposition of foreign occupation on the Iraqi people, “first of which is the dictatorship that led Iraq into this mess and the subsequent repercussions,” the Communist Party leader said,

“Then comes the UN Security Council and the resolutions it issued as a result of the hegemony of the unipolar order and the United States.

“Finally, we have the Arab countries that brag and shout against the agreement, and consider its signing to be a ‘violation’ of Iraqi sovereignty — yet, many of these countries have signed agreements that are more problematic than the present agreement.”

“We want a clearly-defined agreement,” one that “does not involve any ambiguity, or ambiguous language,” Mousa said. “The contents of its clauses must not be open to various interpretations, contradictory or contradicting each other. We want the terms of the presence of foreign forces to be set out clearly. They must not have absolute powers, without bounds and regulations, and not subject to inspection and control by the Iraqi forces and authorities. Their movement and operations must all be conducted in coordination with the Iraqi side, supervised by it, and liable to Iraq’s national decisions, contrary to what the situation is today.”

Mousa sharply criticized the notion that an extension of the UN Security Council mandate would be preferable to a negotiated Iraq-U.S. agreement. Under the UN Security Council resolution, “the foreign forces are in command militarily and in charge of security matters, with the Iraqi forces being part of the ‘coalition forces,’” he said. “An extension of the mandate would mean complete control by foreign forces and the subordination of Iraqi forces to them. What is required, however, is an agreement that sets a clearly-defined timetable for the departure of foreign forces.”

Returning to the UN mandate “means a return to square one,” he said. “The UN resolutions do not have a specified time limit, and do not adhere to a clearly-defined timetable for the evacuation of foreign troops; and therefore do not speak about restoring sovereignty.”

Although negotiations with the U.S. have produced some improvements over earlier versions of the agreement, he said the Communist Party had submitted to the Iraqi government additional changes it considers essential to any agreement. Iraq’s Council of Ministers has endorsed a memorandum incorporating the Communist Party’s proposals and those submitted by other Iraqi groups, as a basis for further negotiations with the U.S., Mousa said.

He spelled out a list of specific necessary changes to the draft agreement. They include:

* Specifying an end-date for the agreement. The current draft leaves the agreement in force open-endedly, unless one of the two parties submits a written notice to the other party requesting termination. “There is concern,” said Mousa, that this “may be used to circumvent the timetable of the Agreement on the temporary presence of foreign forces.”

* Deleting language that allows for extending the stay of U.S. forces in Iraq.

* Deleting language that “allows an open-ended increase of the installations and areas used by the US forces, without limitation.”

* Clearly defining who is subject to Iraqi laws and jurisdiction.

Mousa charged that “the American side spares no effort and does not refrain from using illegitimate and sometimes deceitful means to put pressure on the Iraqi side, to compel it to sign the agreement as it is, or to accept the fewest possible and formal amendments.”

The reactions of the Bush administration to the negotiating process have been “mostly negative,” he said, “with some going as far as implicit threats, others being explicit, saying that Iraq would revert to the state of chaos; would lose a lot as a result of not signing the agreement; would lose aid, support and arms; and its funds abroad would be plundered. But a careful analysis of things and a correct knowledge of the prevailing balance of forces at the concrete moment, especially with regard to the American side, allows the conclusion that the threatening and escalation is nothing but ‘hollow drums’ intended to intimidate and influence the Iraqi negotiators to force them to relent and submit to the demands and conditions of the American side.”

At the same time, he noted, statements issued by some American officials indicate they will “listen to the Iraqis’ point of view.”

The issue of how to deal with the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq is “a sensitive issue” in the United States, Mousa said. “The demand for the need to reduce the U.S. presence in Iraq and for the scheduling of the withdrawal is a pressing factor in the presidential elections and for the American position. Obama’s program, which he put forward regarding the military presence in Iraq, is perhaps closer and more appropriate, but we must not lose sight of our objective … for the policy in the U.S. is not decided by this president or that, and the president-elect does not necessarily adhere to his pledges.” U.S. policy is the product of “diverse interests and contradictory interests,” he observed.

The Iraqi Communist leader was also critical of some “Arab and regional players.” With varying motives, these players, he said, “have used various means to exert pressure and psychological warfare on the Iraqi side and the Iraqi negotiators, instead of providing positive support to strengthen its position and act as brothers or allies so as to help improve the negotiating position of the Iraqi side.”

Within Iraq, he said, “the higher interests of the country must be the basis and criterion in determining the position towards the agreement, rather than the differences between the parties of the political process. It is therefore essential, first and foremost, to support the efforts that help Iraq to get a fair and balanced agreement that secures its legitimate rights in accordance with international law, in the forefront of which is to exercise its right to self-determination, build the system of its choice, and regain its full sovereignty and independence.”

“We are not among the supporters of absolute acceptance or absolute rejection. We are for the option of insisting on amending the current draft of the agreement” and there are real possibilities” to achieve that if public opinion is heeded and mobilized, Mousa said.

“We will not accept any secret agreement or secret annexes,” the Communist leader concluded. “Everything must be presented to the people.”