US-Iraq Deal ‘Dead in the Water’

by Jason Ditz, October 26, 2008

The US State Department has summoned Massoud al-Barzani, President of Iraqi Kurdistan, as part of a delegation to Washington DC later this week to discuss ways to rescue the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the US and Iraq, which top officials are saying is all but dead at this point.

Two weeks ago the SOFA appeared completed, with aides to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki eying a two-thirds majority in the Iraqi Parliament. But with increasing popular and political opposition to the deal, the ruling coalition began demanding amendments to the deal.

According the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the door was “pretty far closed” as far as altering the agreement, even though Iraq is still submitting proposed changes, and Gates said that if the political process were allowed to play out in Iraq, the deal would likely be approved in the end. The political process seems to have played to a conclusion at this point, however, with Iraqi politicians declaring the deal “dead in the water.”

Now Prime Minister Maliki reportedly sees the agreement as political suicide, and an informal poll suggests that the SOFA would lose by a wide margin if put to a vote in the Iraqi parliament. The deal took a further hit yesterday with the announcement that the top Iraqi Sunni party is severing all ties with the United States after the killing of one of its most senior members.

With the deal dead, the only remaining option for the Iraqi government that would keep US forces operating in the country past the end of the year is asking the UN Security Council for an extension of the expiring mandate. The delegation suggests that the US hasn’t given up on the long term deal yet, but its unclear what Barzani, head of one of the two Kurdish factions that at this point are virtually the sum total of Iraqi political support for the deal, will be able to accomplish.

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