An an interview US commander in Iraq General Ray Odierno has accused Iran of “coming in to pay off people to vote against” the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and using Saddam-era contact “to attempt to influence the outcome of the potential vote.” The accusation was seconded by Kurdish MP Mahmoud Othman, who claimed “Iran has been doing this for the last six months.”
However, the accusation seems a little light on evidence. Gen. Odierno conceded that he has no definitive proof of the bribes, and MP Othman, an outspoken supporter of the as-yet-incomplete SOFA, admitted that he has never actually been approached by Iran.
This is not the first time Iran has been blamed for the long delayed SOFA. Late last month, US Ambassador Ryan Crocker also claimed that Iran had successfully blocked the deal as part of a plan to keep Iraq “off-balance.” Gen. Odierno predicted that the alleged Iranian moves would backfire, citing Iraqi nationalism.
Iranian officials have been outspokenly critical of the agreement, with high ranking Iranian General Masoud Jazayeri terming the agreement “a disgrace” and Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani cautioning that the agreement would have “unpleasant impacts” on Iraq-Iran relations. Several others, including Iran’s ambassador to Iraq Hassan Kazemi-Qomi, have accused the US of trying to impose the agreement on Iraq against the will of the populace.
But in fact, the terms of the agreement still haven’t been finalized, with questions about US troop immunity taking center stage in the remaining disagreements. Highly influential Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani also insisted in a Friday meeting with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that any agreement reached with the US be put to a parliamentary vote, a move perhaps aimed at preventing Maliki’s rumored plans to bypass parliament altogether. The agreement also remains dramatically unpopular with supporters of influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, leaving plenty of domestic reasons why the agreement has taken so long to finalize.