The U.S. State Department is flying unarmed drones over Iraq to protect the 16,000 U.S. diplomats and other Americans working in the U.S.’s largest embassy. Washington and Baghdad debated for years, off and on, whether or not U.S. troops would be able to stay in Iraq beyond 2011. When Iraq said it wouldn’t grant them immunity from prosecution, the U.S. pulled out. If troops on Iraqi soil were deemed worthy of negotiation, why weren’t unmanned aircraft in Iraqi skies deemed just as much a violation of Iraqi sovereignty and also negotiated before they began flying?
The U.S. Air Force now seeks permission from Iraq before flying its aircraft over Iraq. The New York Times reports Monday that the U.S. says it will seek retroactive approval for the flights now taking place. “Our sky is our sky, not the U.S.A.’s sky,” Ali al-Mosawi, a senior aide to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, told the newspaper. This outcome was eminently predictable – and should never have happened. Somehow, the State Department has been able to shoot itself in the foot with an unarmed drone.