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Washington, DC – Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-DE) and Senators Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Bob Casey (D-PA), George Voinovich (R-OH) and Jim Webb (D-VA) today introduced legislation which prohibits the Bush Administration from entering into a binding security agreement without the approval of Congress. 

“With less than six months left in his term, the President is on a course to commit the United States to guarantee Iraq’s security far into the future,” said Senator Joe Biden, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  “This legislation makes clear that the President cannot do that without Congressional approval.  Rather than engaging in these negotiations – which by the Administration’s admission will ‘set the broad parameters’ of the U.S.-Iraq relationship – the President should secure a short-term agreement, through the UN, or with Iraq, to provide the necessary legal protection for U.S. forces after the current UN mandate expires at the end of the year.”     

“A strategic framework for a continued U.S.-Iraqi relationship that includes future U.S. security commitments and arrangements will be sustainable only with strong and broad political support in both the United States and Iraq.  Only direct involvement by and partnership with the Congress will ensure a consensus of support in the United States,” said Senator Chuck Hagel.   

“Unfortunately, the Administration continues to handle long-term security negotiations in the same manner that has characterized its entire approach to Iraq since 2003, without Congressional input,” said Senator Casey.  “Now we have no choice but to require Congress to approve any U.S.-Iraq strategic agreement that includes provisions committing the United States to the defense of Iraq against aggression.” 

“It is imperative that Congress exercise its proper authority on the vital issue of our future relationship with Iraq, and on the question of whether the United States should maintain a long-term presence in that country,” said Senator Webb. “This bipartisan legislation would ensure that any agreement with Iraq would not be implemented without the explicit consent of Congress and protects the constitutional responsibilities of the Senate in this important national security matter.”   

The Administration is negotiating two agreements with Iraq – a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and a Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA) – pursuant to the “Declaration of Principles” signed by President Bush and Prime Minister al-Maliki last November.  The Declaration called for the conclusion of the agreements by yesterday, July 31, 2008, which would cover a broad range of topics, including political, economic and security issues.  In the security sphere, the Declaration proposed to commit the United States to “[s]upporting the Republic of Iraq in defending its democratic system against internal and external threats” and to provide “security assurances and commitments to the Republic of Iraq to deter foreign aggression against Iraq that violates its sovereignty and [the] integrity of its territories, waters, or airspace.”   

The Administration has asserted that neither the SFA nor the SOFA will contain a binding security commitment.  One of the agreements, however, will likely contain a lesser security promise – described as a security arrangement – that involves a pledge to consult on appropriate steps if Iraq is threatened or attacked.  With over 100,000 troops in Iraq, and an expansive program to train and equip Iraqi security forces, the government and people of Iraq are likely to perceive such a promise as a security guarantee.  

“The notion that Iraq’s leaders plan to submit the agreement to their Parliament – but our President does not – makes no sense,” Senator Biden added.  “The President cannot make such a sweeping commitment on his own authority.  Congress must grant approval first.”