As clocks around the world hit 12:00, the United Nations Mandate under which American military personnel in Iraq have operated for years, expired. In its place is the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the Iraqi government, which restricts American operations and places military forces under Iraqi authority for the first time since the 2003 invasion.
Largely symbolic, one of the first moves by the US was to return control of the Green Zone to the Iraqi government. The keys to the luxurious palace of Saddam Hussein will reportedly be given to the government at some point in the future.
More importantly under the SOFA, US troops will have to operate in an entirely different system. Previously going where they pleased and detaining whomever they pleased for however long they pleased, forces will now need to go through the unfamiliar process of obtaining evidence and applying for warrants. The military seems frustrated by the irksome new restrictions, which are to say any restrictions at all. Colonel John Hort complains that warrants his division applied for two weeks ago still haven’t been approved.
It will be a big change for the military. No more will they enjoy the instant gratification of taking an anonymous unsubstantiated tip and launching an immediate enormous raid. Waiting for approval before acting, possibly even running the risk of getting turned down on occasion, will require a major adjustment in the way the occupation has worked for the past five years. It will doubtless take time, and spawn further complaints from personnel who preferred the less restrictive “rules” of the UN Mandate.
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