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Thursday, October 30, 2008

US unlikely to accept revised Iraq SOFA

This is from the Monterey-Herald.
Time is running out and it seems that the US has drawn the line at its final draft. While that draft gives more power to the Iraqis than earlier drafts it still does not give the Iraqis much jurisdiction when troops or contractors commit crimes and none when they are on missions.

U.S. unlikely to accept revised Iraq security pact
By LEILA FADEL McClatchy Newspapers
Article Last Updated: 10/29/2008 01:47:27 AM PDT

BAGHDAD — The Iraqi cabinet agreed Tuesday to amend a draft agreement governing the status of U.S. forces in Iraq, but introducing new provisions that the U.S. military is unlikely to accept.
Among other things, the amendments would give Iraqi authorities the right to determine whether a U.S. service member was on- or off-duty when he or she committed an alleged crime outside American bases, where such an American would be tried. It also would allow authorities to inspect all U.S. cargo entering the nation.
Iraqi politicians see the changes as a way to preserve Iraqi sovereignty.
The amendments were made to "preserve the basic principles and the sovereignty of Iraq and its supreme interests," said government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh in a statement. The government, al-Dabbagh said in an interview on an Arabic satellite news station, has no "third option."
U.S. officials have described the original draft agreement, which would replace the United Nations mandate for U.S. military operations in Iraq, as "final," and the Iraqi amendments are likely to push negotiations between Iraq and the U.S. to an impasse.
In Washington Tuesday, senior U.S. military officials said that while they were unaware of the proposed changes, the Pentagon very likely would reject them.
"We are very comfortable with the draft sent forward," a senior U.S. military official said Tuesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the negotiations

publicly. "But the longer we wait, the more in peril this gets."
The Iraqi parliament must approve any agreement, so if the Americans don't accept the proposed Iraqi changes, the cabinet will have to decide whether to submit the agreement to the parliament as it stands, which could doom its chances of passage.
Iraqi officials involved in the process told McClatchy Newspapers that they don't believe the two nations will reach an agreement before the U.N. mandate for the U.S. presence in Iraq expires at the end of this year.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is considering renewing the mandate, but he wants changes that would lift the immunity from Iraqi prosecution that private contractors in Iraq now enjoy. The U.S. will veto a new mandate with any changes, officials have said.
While U.S. military officials are skeptical about the agreement, the Bush administration remains hopeful.
"We remain confident that we'll be able to get one," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino referring to the status of forces agreement. "However, if we don't, there will be consequences for that. I don't think there are Iraqis — I don't think there are any Iraqis who think that they are ready to do this all on their own — deep down."

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