Wednesday, October 22, 2008

US resists changing terms of SOFA with Iraq

This is from antiwar.com. This pressure could very well backfire. Perhaps the U.S. is pressuring Maliki to pull a Bush and simply sign the agreement without ratification as allowed under the draft. But this would be political suicide for Maliki. The Iraqis are not as tolerant of such undemocratic tactics as the US populace apparently: here are the ratification terms.

The Ratification:
Incredibly, the terms of the ratification appear identical to a previous draft leaked over a month ago, requiring only the exchange of diplomatic notes assuring the constitutionality of the ratification between the two parties for the agreement to come into force.
It has been speculated that under these terms Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki could bypass parliament by simply claiming the agreement is a bilateral executive agreement not subject to parliamentary oversight. The Bush Administration has similarly claimed the agreement is an executive agreement and that Congressional approval will not be sought for it.
This seems a dangerous route for the Prime Minister to take, particularly with Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani insisting on parliamentary approval of the agreement. His office has insisted on multiple occasions that the pact would be sent to parliament for a vote, and that he might even withhold a draft unless he was confident of a two-thirds majority in the vote.
What They’re Saying:
Much of Iraq’s government and opposition is arrayed against the present draft and Iraq’s Council of Ministers, one of the pact’s first stops on its way to parliament, has unanimously agreed that amendments need to be made to the agreement as presently written.
Political analyst Ibrahim al-Somaidaee, however, urged the Iraqi government to accept the pact while it still could, citing unprecedented concessions giving the Iraqi government significant authority over US forces. He warned that “neither Obama nor McCain will accept this issue” in the way President Bush is willing to.
To a Kurdistan Islamic Union MP however, the agreement is basically dead in the water. He urged the Bush Administration to stop pressing Iraqi factions to support the deal, saying “it is impossible (for the pact) to be signed and approved by the Parliament in the remaining months of the current year or during the remaining period of President Bush’s term.”

US Digs In as Iraq Voices SOFA Concerns
Posted October 21, 2008
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen issued an unusually harsh warning to Iraq regarding the growing resistance to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). Though he acknowledged that Iraq should engage in “a healthy debate” on the pact, he said he was “increasingly concerned” by the public criticisms of the latest draft, and cautioned the Iraqis that they are “running out of time” to approve the deal.
This weekend, Iraq’s ruling coalition said that it would seek amendments to the latest draft of the deal, a draft previously reported to be the final one. The agreement has sparked massive opposition protests and has been criticized by influential Iraqi religious leaders both Sunni and Shi’ite, including today when Ayatollah Sayyed Kazem al-Husseini al-Haeri issued a fatwa condemning the pact as “humiliating.”
But Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says that the US was reluctant “to engage further in the drafting process,” warning that the US would suspend military operations in the country unless Iraq agreed to the deal or got the UN to renew its mandate for US troops by the end of the year.
Instead, Gates advised letting “the Iraqi political process play out.” But in the week since the present draft was announced to be completed, the political process has taken the situation from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki talking about the struggle for a two-thirds majority in parliament to the Iraqi Council of Ministers, who needs to sign off on the deal before it can even be submitted to parliament, unanimously demanding changes to the agreement, suggesting momentum is not on the secretary’s side.

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