News From The Iraq SOFA

[ Posted Tuesday, June 10th, 2008 – 16:40 UTC ]

President Bush is desperately trying to tie the hands of the next president by negotiating a Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Iraq's government before the end of his term. Unfortunately for Bush, it's looking less and less likely that such an agreement will happen on the timetable he has set. Fortunately, this means that the next occupant of the Oval Office will be able to negotiate his own agreement, rather than being stuck with Bush's.

This story made news a while back, when Bush announced that, with his kingly war powers, he was going to negotiate this agreement on his own, without giving the Senate a chance to weigh in on it at all. Even though this assertation is about as dubious as they come, Bush has acted as though this is a settled question. Senate Democrats beg to differ. But this is a fight that will happen after an agreement is reached with the Iraqis, so it will be fought down the road a ways (if at all).

But the SOFA is making news again now, none of which looks good for Bush's plan. The problem is, the United Nations authorization for coalition forces in Iraq is going to expire at the end of this year. Bush wanted to negotiate a bilateral agreement between the US and Iraq to replace it, rather than extending the UN's authorization. In order to get this passed by December 31st, Bush set the end of July as the date for when the draft agreement was to be hammered out. This would give the Iraq parliament (but not the US Congress, of course) time to discuss and vote on the plan.

This due date is looking less and less likely to be met. Although the negotiators are still saying publicly that they are on track for the end-of-July date, privately a senior administration official told the Associated Press that it was "very likely" they'll have to settle for extending the UN mandate.

Details of what the American negotiators are asking for leaked to the press in the past few days, most notably in a McClatchy story. Here's a quick summary of what Bush is demanding:

  • 58 U.S. military bases in Iraq (we currently only have 30).
  • American control of Iraqi airspace up to 30,000 feet.
  • The ability to determine for Iraq when it was at war with another country (or the ability to determine that a hostile act from another country... cough, cough, Iran... is aggression against Iraq).
  • Immunity from Iraq law for all private US contractors in Iraq.
  • The agreement will be permanent, and if either side wishes to get out of it, they must provide two years' notice that they are going to withdraw from it.
  • The agreement would not cover any other coalition country's forces in Iraq, just US forces (unlike the UN authorization of force currently in effect).

Not surprisingly, the Iraqis aren't very happy about the proposed draft. From the McClatchy article:

"The points that were put forth by the Americans were more abominable than the occupation," said Jalal al Din al Saghir, a leading lawmaker from the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. "We were occupied by order of the Security Council," he said, referring to the 2004 Resolution mandating a U.S. military occupation in Iraq at the head of an international coalition. "But now we are being asked to sign for our own occupation. That is why we have absolutely refused all that we have seen so far."

. . .

"Is there sovereignty for Iraq -- or isn't there? If it is left to them, they would ask for immunity even for the American dogs," Saghir said. "We have given Bush our views - some new ideas and I find that there is a certain harmony between his thoughts and ours. And he promised to tell the negotiators to change their methods."

The Iraqi population at large isn't too happy about it either, as they (quite rightly) see it as an attempt to weaken Iraqi sovereignty. Muqtada al-Sadr has been holding weekly rallies every Friday specifically against this agreement. Look for these to become bigger and louder, now that details of the proposal have been leaked to the world.

Bush's dream of setting Iraq/US policy far beyond his term in office looks less and less likely to happen. This is a good thing, since President McCain or President Obama should be allowed to set their own foreign policy upon being sworn in, and not be saddled with more of the disastrous Bush policy. And the United States Senate likely won't even have to get involved, because there is just no way that the current proposal as written will ever be acceptible to the Iraqi parliament. The sooner Bush realizes this, the better.


-- Chris Weigant


16 Comments on “News From The Iraq SOFA”

  1. [1] 
    ChicagoMolly wrote:

    Well, I don't see why anybody could complain about an agreement like that. It's like a mashup of a Chicago apartment lease agreement and a cellphone contract.

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    It’s a scary proposition, no matter how you slice it, to think that this administration is involved in negotiations surrounding such important agreements as the SOFA, not to mention any long-term agreement dealing with the political, economic, and security relationship between the US and Iraq. And, to think that this is being done in the dark - in more ways than one! - is more worrisome still. The continuing arrogance of this crew, despite their abhorrent track record in Iraq, is mind boggling.

    Here are a couple more links that may be of interest.

  3. [3] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    ChicagoMolly -

    heh heh.

    Yeah, except when you call the cable guy, the 101st Airborne shows up instead...



  4. [4] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Elizabeth -

    The good news in all of this is that there's just no way the Iraqi parliament is going to go for it. The closer we get to having a new president, the less likely it is they'll accept it, too. Bush can pressure Maliki, but he can't put the screws to every member of the Iraq parliament.


  5. [5] 
    Michale wrote:

    Yeah, except when you call the cable guy, the 101st Airborne shows up instead…

    And the DOWN side to that would be....??? :D

    Especially if you get a "Jim Carrey" cable guy instead of Larry.. yuk yuk yuk :D


  6. [6] 
    Michale wrote:

    OK, all joking aside, let me ask ya'all something.

    Let's try and think "outside the box" for a second.

    Let's ignore all the partisanship and petty "He said TO-MAY-TOE instead of TO-MAA-TOE" nitpicking crap and look at thing objectively..

    Does anyone here see the ADVANTAGES to having a SOFA agreement with Iraq??

    Does ANYONE think that Iran is, after 30 years if hysterical USA hatred, suddenly going to make nice and become a responsible member of the world community??

    Seriously, does ANYONE think that??

    Of course not.

    That being the case, doesn't it make a whole lot of sense, militarily, to have staging areas right in Iran's face??

    To put it in historical perspective (but at the risk of invoking a Godwin) imagine if the US had "occupied" Czechoslovakia (and if you think I spelled that right w/o a spell checker, yer nutz!! :D) in 1938. Imagine how Hitler and the Nazis would have been stopped cold if wolves were in Czechoslovakia instead of sheep...

    Ya'all can indulge in all the Bush bashing you want. But it won't change the fact that it IS a scary world out there right now. With scary people and scary countries bent on very scary things..

    Giving these psychotic dictators a blank check (ooooo, THAT is gonna come back to haunt me! :D) and the freedom and time to do what they will is NOT in the interests of the USA or any western democracy..

    And, if ya'all could think outside the partisan box, you would know this to be true.

    I have spent the better part of my adult life in two branches of the US Armed Forces and working civilian Security and Law Enforcement. I can assure you with complete honesty and utter conviction that letting countries like Iran, Syria and North Korea have free reign is tantamount to suicide.


  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Yeah, I don’t think there is any chance of an agreement, SOFA or long-term security and economic arrangement, being put in place without Iraqi support or Senate consent. That’s not to say that some sort of SOFA isn’t absolutely necessary because it is...even if it’s just an extension of the current UN mandate. But, the bush-CHENEY administration has really gone off the deep end if they think they can do this on their own - and get away with it!

    I would also be surprised if the Iraqi government, as it is currently structured, lasts as long the Bush administration - another complication in the very tricky business of negotiating a SOFA in the midst of a civil war.

  8. [8] 
    Michale wrote:


    True, true..

    But you can't blame Bush for wanting to get something concrete before the Dems go in and frack things all to hell, now can you?


  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    I love to think outside the box - let’s do it!

    I think it is absolutely necessary to have a SOFA in Iraq - let’s face it, the US military will be in Iraq for a long time, anyway you slice matter who occupies the White House.

    However, I don’t agree that having “staging areas right in Iran’s face” is necessarily the definition of a smart Iran policy. Frankly, I don’t think that military action in Iran - at this juncture, at least - is even ‘on the table’, so to speak For many reasons, the best way forward now in Iran is through direct engagement with the Iranian government with a focus on conduct change as opposed to regime change. For example, the Bush administration should be working with Iran much the same way as they are engaging with North Korea.

    Such a policy toward Iran would in no way be giving the Iranian leadership a blank check or the freedom and time to do what they will. Because, you are so right - that would not be in the interests of the US or any of its allies. I don’t believe for a second that you are suggesting that there are only two options here - without having staging areas in Iran’s face OR giving them free reign. There are a lot of possibilities that exist between those two extreme positions, I am sure you would agree. Let’s really think outside the cramped box of partisanship and talk about some of those!

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Your last comment made me laugh...out loud! You really should consider taking that show on the road.

  11. [11] 
    Michale wrote:

    {mutters} "Damn, she called me on it!!" :D

    OK, outside the box it is... :)

    OK, let's start with some common ground. Correct me if I am wrong. Anyone else, feel free to chime in. This is a group thing.. :D (Don't get me started!! :D)

    1. We both agree that a long term presence in Iraq is inevitable and necessary. We broke it, we gotta fix it.

    2. A Vietnam-style bug out would not serve the security interests of the United States or it's allies.

    3. The politics of the region negate a quick fix.
    "They've been fighting for two thousand years. They're bound to get tired soon!!"
    -Don't Mess With The Zohan
    (A thoroughly stupid and moronic movie. Don't waste your time...)

    4. Weakness (as it is perceived by the region) is a non-option...
    "If the Romulans are off-shoots of my Vulcan blood and I think this likely, then weakness is something we dare not show."
    (Boy, I am on a roll tonight!!! :D )

    So, given the assumption that these are accurate, what are the possibilities??

    A massive and over-powering show of force.. IE Shock & Awe II???
    Not doable by our current capabilities. The most we could probably acheive is a noogie and mild interest...

    Diplomatic overtures I think are useless as well.. Both sides have painted themselves into a corner with the rhetoric. Any diplomatic overtures from one side will simply be viewed by the other side as a stalling tactic... And probably that is exactly what it would be.

    Frankly, the best avenue I see is also can be found in a movie quote.

    "You don't fight a junkyard dog with ASPCA rules. What you do is you take the leash off your bigger, meaner dog."

    Turn the Israelis loose and provide all the support they need to get the job done.

    Barring that, a regime change in Iran might be advisable. But that didn't work out to well the first time, so....

    Those are my thoughts...

    What are yours???


  12. [12] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Actually, it seems the Israelis are recommending to their US "friends" (though with friends like the US, Israel doesn't need enemies) that direct engagement with Iran would be in the best interests of all concerned. Sometimes, Israel can really suprise a good way, I mean.

    Of course, I have little faith that President Bush (I'm not bashing, here...just lamenting) and his foreign policy team have the capacity, or even the inclination, to carry out such a smart Iran policy.

  13. [13] 
    Michale wrote:

    I think our policy towards Iran should best be...

    (pardon the crudity) either shit or get off the potty.

    A nuclear armed Iran is a no-go from word one. It simply cannot be allowed to happen.

    This being the case, it seems an armed DIRECT conflict with Iran is inevitable.

    I say DIRECT because we are, at this time, already in a covert armed conflict with Iran. It's only a matter of time before the covert becomes the overt.

    I have to wonder where will the Democratic Party stand then?


  14. [14] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    I really have to run, but I'll leave you with this link to a recent speech by the leader among Democrats on foreign policy (including Iran) and national security...and the next Vice President with Special Portfolio on Iraq, if Senator Obama is half as smart as he thinks he is...

    Have a great weekend!

  15. [15] 
    Michale wrote:

    Interesting speech..

    I'll only address the parts that pertain to this discussion..

    As much as I support Obama, I have to re-iterate McCain's question.

    What is there to talk to Iran about??

    Or, more accurately, what is there to talk to Iran about that hasn't already been talked about?

    I mean, honestly. Do you think that this issue hasn't been talked to death. Does anyone HONESTLY think that Bush **WANTS** to nuke Iran back to the stone age?? Diplomatic efforts are always preferable ***IF THEY PRODUCE POSITIVE AND LASTING RESULTS***..

    But there comes a point when enough is enough...

    If Iran and the US hasn't found common ground in the last 30 years, what makes ANYONE think that, ALL OF THE SUDDEN, there is going to be a koom-bye-yaa moment that will have Ahjmenwhatsahoosits and Bush embracing like long lost kin??

    The US was able to break the back of the Soviet Union thru military pressure that begat economic pressure..

    That type of pressure won't work with Iran. That much is obvious.


  16. [16] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    It seems to me that, in an ideal world, there are three options for dealing with Iran. The US can engage them in a muscular diplomatic effort with friends, allies, and UN Security Council colleagues in tow to compel Iran to do the right thing and avoid being isolated in the world; this option, by the way, has not been put into action - in any way, shape, or form over the last thirty years - by the Bush administration or by any administration before it; this would seem be the option favored by most rational thinking people, especially considering the events of the past seven years and the resulting lack of US credibility;

    Another option would be to simply endure the status quo - I can't imagine that there would be many subscribers to that proposition.

    Finally, we come to the option of war - if that can be called an option at all. Frankly, in my not so humble opinion, that option is not only off the table, it's not even in the room - or the building, for that matter...for anyone, that is, with half a pea brain. Of course, that would exclude anyone in the Vice President's office, among others.

    My hope would be that, in an ideal world, we can tread water on this issue long enough to see us through the rest of the Bush administration and then begin a smart Iran policy with the next administration.

    In the real world, however, we cannot look at US policy in Iran in isolation from what is happening in the region and in the world. Hopefully, the next administration has a very wide angle view of the world and of all the global challenges that face it.

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