Obama will take Iraq's word for now that U.S. soldiers won't be prosecuted by the country's courts as they defend Baghdad.
President Obama pulled U.S. forces out of Iraq in 2011 because he couldn’t get Iraq’s parliament to offer U.S. soldiers immunity from Iraqi prosecution. But now Obama is promising to send in hundreds of special operations forces based on a written promise that these soldiers will not be tried in Iraq’s famously compromised courts for actions they are taking in defense of Baghdad.
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The U.S. military and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel have opposed sending any special operations teams to Iraq until there is a written agreement from Iraq’s government that they will not be prosecuted under Iraqi law. On Monday, the White House spokesman said those promises were provided in an exchange of diplomatic notes. The delay in getting that agreement is one of many reasons why the Pentagon and the White House were reluctant to support air strikes inside Iraq—despite lobbying from Secretary of State John Kerry and his aides.
“We remain confident that the military advisers will have the protections they need,” said Bernadette Meehan, a spokesperson for the National Security Council. “They are going to Iraq with the full support of the Iraqi government. We are working through the mechanism for assurances and we hope to [have it] resolved soon.”
The debate has echoes of 2011, when then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton favored keeping more troops in Iraq past 2011 than President Obama.