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Iraq no 'platform' for attacks elsewhere, U.S. envoy says

  • Story Highlights
  • Diplomat says U.S. troops in Iraq are no threat to any nation, including Iran
  • He also says nations "must not make of Iraq a forum for their conflicts."
  • U.S., Iraq trying to agree terms for troop presence after U.N. resolution expires
  • Iraqi sovereignty is "fundamental principle" guiding the talks, diplomat says
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The United States believes Iraq should not be used as a "platform" for strikes on other states, according to a U.S. State Department envoy leading talks on an American-Iraqi pact.

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Diplomat David Satterfield is trying to negotiate terms for a U.S. presence in Iraq after a U.N. mandate expires.

David Satterfield, the department's senior adviser for Iraq, said Tuesday that Iraq's sovereignty is a basic principle underlying the negotiations on a bilateral relationship between that country and the United States.

"The United States does not believe that Iraq should be an arena, a platform for attacks on other states. That is our principle," Satterfield told reporters. "But other states must respect Iraq and not make of Iraq a forum for their conflicts."

He said the U.S. "would hope that all states -- including those that have been commenting extensively on these negotiations -- would also respect Iraq's sovereignty."

Satterfield said the presence of American forces in Iraq is not "a threat to any state," including Iran, and said the United States "certainly believes no state should feel threatened by this agreement," adding that the Iraqi government shares this belief.

U.S. officials have said the talks aim to spell out terms for the U.S. presence in Iraq after December 31, when a U.N. resolution that allows American troops to operate in Iraq expires.

Satterfield said the United States is working toward a goal of Iraq being self-sufficient.

"As Iraq's forces become more capable, as the security situation improves, the need for U.S. forces, for coalition or other foreign forces to engage in support will diminish," Satterfield said. "We've seen that happen inside Iraq in other areas. This is obviously the direction we want to proceed in."

His comments follow Iranian concerns that Iraq could be used as a staging ground for American attacks on Iran. Satterfield stressed that the U.S.-Iraq talks are bilateral and the U.S. is "not negotiating" it "with any foreign state," including Iran.

He added, however, that the Americans and Iraqis aren't ruling out another meeting with Iran. American and Iranian officials met three times last year in Baghdad to discuss security.

Also this week, two U.S. senators, in a letter sent to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, questioned the administration's assertion that the proposed U.S.-Iraq deal would not need Senate approval.

Whether the Senate needs to ratify the pact will depend on what's in it, wrote Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and Sen. John Warner.

"It is essential that the administration be more transparent with Congress, with greater consultation, about the progress and content of these deliberations," they wrote in the letter sent Monday.

The pair urged Rice to ensure that the administration "more fully adhere to the promise" of testimony in April from U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, who said the agreements "will not establish permanent bases in Iraq," "will not specify troop levels" and "will not tie the hands of the next administration."

Crocker, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 8, said Congress "will remain fully informed" as the talks proceed.

On Tuesday, Satterfield broached the issue of what would happen with an agreement after President Bush leaves office, saying U.S. negotiators "will not seek to bind the next [U.S.] administration."

However, he noted that the fundamental U.S. and Iraqi interests and goals "enshrined" in the partnership will be goals that will be seen as "significant" and "important to sustain" by future administrations.

Satterfield addressed Iraqi concerns that any U.S.-Iraq agreement would compromise Iraqi sovereignty.

"Iraq is a sovereign nation, is our partner in these negotiations," he said. "The substance of what we're talking about, in terms of the strategic relationship we're seeking to build ... they are all based upon one fundamental premise, one fundamental principle: the complete respect for, acknowledgment of Iraqi sovereignty."

He said the negotiations could be completed by the end of July.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali Dabbagh told CNN recently that "although the end of July been set as a time limit, we do think that there are other parameters more important than fulfilling this date."

CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

All About Iraq WarIranGeorge W. BushBaghdad

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