Sistani is opposed to the long-term strategic agreement because it violates the Shari’a
An extended review of the Iraqi reaction to leaked information about a potential long-term strategic agreement with the US (which had been scheduled to be signed in late July 2008) highlights the wide-scale protest engendered. The agreement was perceived as harmful to Iraqi sovereignty, and even deemed “occupation.”
Accordingly, the Iraqi government rejected various amended versions of the agreement prepared by the U.S, and the signing of a long term agreement was eliminated from the agenda, in lieu of the short-term prospect of a “memorandum of understanding.”
Iraqi political opposition to the agreement was intense and widespread, with the main concern being that it would “deprive Iraq of its sovereignty.” Senior Iraqi government officials called for significantly curtailing the role of U.S. forces in Iraq by the end of 2008, and demanded a definite timetable for a U.S. troop withdrawal. Emboldened by the recent performance of the Iraqi security apparatuses, they requested that the U.S. commit to restricting its forces to its military bases unless Iraq asked for help, saying that otherwise the agreement would not be signed, and Iraq would find alternative solutions. MP Sami Al-‘Askari, who is affiliated with Al-Maliki, thus stated: “The Americans are raising demands that will transform Iraq into a colony. If we fail to come to a satisfactory agreement, many people will have to say to the American forces, ‘Bye-bye! From now on, we don’t need you here…’ If negotiations fail, Iraq will have to extend the presence of U.N.-sponsored foreign forces by yet another year.”
Shi’ite religious scholar Grand Ayatollah ‘Ali Al-Sistani voiced opposition to the agreement, arguing that “any agreement that harmed Iraq’s sovereignty in any way was considered a violation of shari’a,” and that “it would be inconceivable for foreign forces to stay in Iraq forever; they must leave Iraq, in light of the significantly improved security situation there.” Another three Shi’ite scholars in Najaf also condemned the agreement, warning that the signing of it would constitute a violation of Islam and bring about a popular intifada. ‘Abd Al-‘Aziz Al-Hakim, the head of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (the largest Shi’ite group in the Al-Maliki government), also criticized the agreement, since it stipulated a continued presence of U.S. forces.
And Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki seemed unduly concerned that any agreement with the U.S would not be detrimental—to Iran. Scurrying to Tehran on June 7, 2008, al-Maliki re-assured his Iranian brothers “…that all influential political elements in Iraq supported rapprochement with Iran in all areas, and that Iraq would not allow its territory to be used as a base for attacks against Iran.”