Menu

Politics

First 100 Days

Lawmakers Alarmed Over Iraqi PM's Threat to Prosecute U.S. Soldiers

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill raised alarm Monday over reports that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki wants U.S. troops involved in a deadly raid to be prosecuted, while Pentagon officials maintained that the raid was approved by the Iraqi government before it occurred. 

The controversy broke out after an operation early Sunday in which coalition forces, according to the U.S. military, arrested six suspected members of violent groups. Two Iraqis were killed in the raid -- the U.S. military described one Iraqi as a hostile man wielding a weapon; the other was described as a woman who got caught in the crossfire. 

The Washington Post reported that al-Maliki, in a written statement, called for the six suspects to be freed and for the U.S. troops to be prosecuted -- the first time the Iraqi government had called for such a thing. 

Al-Maliki cited the bilateral security agreement, under which U.S. forces can be prosecuted for "grave" and premeditated felonies. 

U.S. officials on Monday warned Iraq not to go down that road, and they urged U.S. forces not to stand for it. 

"I urge the prime minister to reconsider his rash demands," Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a written statement to FOXNews.com. 

The possible prosecution of U.S. troops drew concern from lawmakers last year when the security agreement was being discussed under the Bush administration. Skelton reiterated Monday that "ensuring immunity" for on-duty U.S. troops was his biggest concern during negotiations over the Status of Forces Agreement, or SOFA. 

Skelton noted that the soldiers in question during the raid Sunday were apparently on duty and conducting an Iraqi-approved mission. The SOFA allows Iraqis to prosecute U.S. troops only for alleged crimes committed while off-duty and off their base. 

"Under the terms of the SOFA, they are not subject to prosecution in Iraqi courts," he said. 

Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, urged President Obama to take a stand against the call for prosecution. He said such threats of prosecution could have a crippling effect on troop morale. 

"If I'm a frontline guy today, CIA or military, I am ... very, very hesitant to do anything," Hoekstra said. 

The Michigan lawmaker also partially blamed the president's recent statements opening the door for prosecution of those lawyers who drafted memos justifying "enhanced" interrogation techniques. He said such statements embolden countries like Iraq to try to prosecute U.S. personnel as well. 

"Our guys are now fair game wherever they are because of the lack of support that they've gotten from this president," Hoekstra said. 

The Department of Defense had no comment on al-Maliki's statement. Lt. Col. Mark Wright, spokesman for the department, said the Pentagon hadn't seen any direct communication between the Iraqi government and U.S. military on the matter. 

He said only that the U.S. troops had clearance to move forward with the raid. 

"It was an operation fully coordinated and approved by the Iraqi government," he said. 

A written statement from the Multi-National Force in Iraq also said the operation was "fully coordinated and approved by the Iraqi government." 

The statement said the forces were specifically targeting a financier allegedly responsible for smuggling weapons into the country. 

Coalition forces tried to treat the woman who was shot, but she died of her wounds, according to the statement. 

Rep. John McHugh, ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, released a written statement saying the SOFA provides the "appropriate framework to adjudicate this situation." 

"It is my understanding that this operation was fully coordinated with the Iraqi military; and, therefore, my expectation is that any investigation shall be conducted under the auspices of the U.S. military," said McHugh, R-N.Y.

FOXNews.com's Judson Berger contributed to this report.