With Iraq’s vote on the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the United States less than 24 hours away. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is doing everything he can to shore up support for the floundering deal, which many in the Iraqi government see as a great victory for their negotiation process.
Yet with Pentagon officials privately grousing about the terms of the deal, the Bush Administration reportedly has one last trick up its sleeve: a remarkably loose interpretation of several key clauses. Part of the reason the administration has kept the terms of the deal a closely guarded secret in the US, even refusing to provide Congress with a copy, is to avoid bringing up their fast and loose interpretation of the text before the Iraqi Cabinet has time to push it through parliament with their own more advantageous perspective on the draft.
Citing several anonymous officials, McClatchy reports some of the disputed areas. Though it had already been speculated that the US could effectively bypass the clause on giving Iraq jurisdiction over “off-duty” troops by retroactively declaring any troops who commit crimes “on-duty,” the White House sees the “court procedures” the SOFA calls for the negotiation of taking easily three years: long enough that the SOFA would expire before they’d be put into action.
Beyond that, a provision guaranteeing the US the right of “self defense” is seen as a way to circumvent the explicit ban on using Iraqi soil to attack its neighbors. One of the officials apparently volunteered his concerns that Iran might get wind of the “loophole” and return to their more vociferous opposition to the pact. They also envision the requirement to notify Iraq before any planned operation as requiring only very rough reporting: for instance a plan to attack somewhere in a province sometime in a given month.
Whether the revelations, at this late hour, will have time to effect the parliamentary vote remains to be seen.