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As troops prepare to exit Iraq at the end of the month, the Obama administration faces a dilemma over what to do with the last detainee held by the military in Iraq.
The detainee, Ali Musa Daqduq, a Lebanese suspected of being a Hezbollah operative, is accused of helping to orchestrate a January 2007 raid by Shiite militants that resulted in the death of five American soldiers. The administration is wrestling with turning him over to the Iraqi government or taking him with the military as it withdraws.
Mr. Daqduq is likely to be a subject of negotiation when Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq meets with President Obama at the White House today.
Hanging over the decision is the 2012 Presidential campaign. Americans approve of the withdrawal from Iraq by a ratio of three to one. Mr. Obama will to leverage that sentiment by emphasizing that Republicans invaded Iraq, while he guided the U.S. out.
Republicans are seeking to frame the withdrawal in different terms: that Mr. Obama endangered national security by pulling out of Iraq too soon, and that he should have persuaded the Iraqis to allow troops to stay beyond the deadline agreed to by the Bush administration. Elevating the profile of Mr. Daqduq could bolster such efforts.
Under the status quo arrangement, Mr. Daqduq would be turned over to the Iraqis for prosecution, but former detainees have been acquitted by Iraqi courts or released without charges, and Mr. Maliki could face political pressure to free Mr. Daqduq.
The administration wants to find a solution in which Mr. Daqduq remains locked up because of his suspected role in helping attacks on American troops and because his release could become a propaganda victory for Iran and Iraqi Shiite militants.
The alternative would be for the United States to take Mr. Daqduq out of Iraq and prosecute him in one of three venues: a civilian court, a military commission at the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, or a tribunal somewhere else.
Republicans have made clear that they think Mr. Daqduq should go to Guantánamo.
In the administration, the Guantánamo option is unacceptable. Mr. Obama has resisted adding to the detainee population there and still hopes to close the prison, and Mr. Maliki would not approve sending someone there. It would violate Iraq’s sovereignty to remove him from the country without the Iraqi government’s permission. Under the Status of Forces Agreement the Bush administration struck with Iraq in 2008, decisions on the disposition of any detainees in Iraq are up to the Iraqis.
Conservatives argue that since the United States has control of Mr. Daqduq, it should put him on a plane without seeking Iraq’s permission (essentially, a rendition instead of an extradition). They contended that Iraqis would complain but that it would not matter.
Administration officials said that solution would violate Iraq’s sovereignty, undercutting the relationship when the goal is to relegate the war and occupation to the past, and set up a kind of diplomatic relationship between two sovereign states.
Via The New York Times.
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