WASHINGTON — The Bush administration has adopted a much looser interpretation of several key provisions of the pending U.S.-Iraq security agreement than the Iraqi government has, U.S. officials said Tuesday, hours before Iraq's Parliament was to hold its historic vote.
These provisions include a ban on the launch of attacks on other countries from Iraq, a requirement to notify the Iraqis in advance of U.S. military operations and the question of Iraqi legal jurisdiction over U.S. troops and military contractors.
Officials in Washington said the administration has withheld the official English translation of the agreement in an effort to suppress a dispute with the Iraqis until after Parliament votes.
The Iraqi government achieved a breakthrough Tuesday on the pact, which calls for U.S. troops to leave Iraq by 2012, by gaining conditional support from Tawafuq, a bloc of Sunni Muslim parties, after promising to hold a referendum on it next year.
Intensive last-minute negotiations were under way to corral votes in Parliament for the pact, which, if approved, would be a road map for the complete withdrawal of American troops from Iraq in three years.
In some areas, officials said, the United States and Iraq have agreed on the words but have different interpretations of what they mean.
Among the areas of dispute are:
• A provision that bars the United States from launching military operations into neighboring countries from Iraqi territory. Administration officials argue they could circumvent that provision in some cases, such as pursuing groups that launch strikes on U.S. targets from Syria or Iran, by citing another provision that allows each party to retain the right of self-defense.
• A provision that appears to require the United States to notify Iraqi officials of any planned military operations and to seek Iraqi approval for them. The administration interprets the agreement to mean that U.S. commanders would merely need to inform Iraqi counterparts in general — for example, that they plan to launch counterterrorism operations somewhere in an Iraqi city or province sometime during the month of January.
• The agreement calls for Iraqi jurisdiction over U.S. troops or military contractors who kill Iraqis in operations. Administration officials argue court procedures could take three years to work out — by which time the U.S. will have withdrawn from Iraq under the terms of the agreement.