Friday, January 25, 2008

Bush plan for Iraq would be a first - No OK from Congress seen; Constitutional issues raised

WASHINGTON - President Bush's plan to forge a long-term agreement with the Iraqi government that could commit the US military to defending Iraq's security would be the first time such a sweeping mutual defense compact has been enacted without congressional approval, according to legal specialists.
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After World War II, for example - when the United States gave security commitments to Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, and NATO members - Presidents Truman and Eisenhower designated the agreements as treaties requiring Senate ratification. In 1985, when President Ronald Reagan guaranteed that the US military would defend the Marshall Islands and Micronesia if they were attacked, the compacts were put to a vote by both chambers of Congress.

By contrast, Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki have already agreed that a coming compact will include the United States providing "security assurances and commitments" to Iraq to deter any foreign invasion or internal terrorism by "outlaw groups." But a top White House official has also said that Bush does not intend to submit the deal to Congress.

"We don't anticipate now that these negotiations will lead to the status of a formal treaty which would then bring us to formal negotiations or formal inputs from the Congress," General Douglas Lute, Bush's deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan, said in November when the White House announced the plan.

Lute's disclosure initially attracted little scrutiny. Most of the attention has instead focused on whether the pact could make it more difficult for the United States to withdraw from Iraq after Bush leaves office. Although the next president could scrap the agreement, reneging on the compact would create diplomatic problems by showing that the nation does not live up to its obligations, specialists say.

But there is now also growing alarm about the constitutional issues raised by Bush's plan. Legal specialists and lawmakers of both parties are raising questions about whether it would be unconstitutional for Bush to complete such a sweeping deal on behalf of the United States without the consent of the legislative branch.....

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