US and Iraqi officials say that the final draft of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) has been completed, and has been submitted to Iraq’s political leadership for a long, arduous approval process. While the overall terms of the agreement were not publicly disclosed as of yet, they reportedly included a firm end of 2011 deadline (barring a future agreement) and an unspecified compromise agreement on the question of troop immunity.
While the Bush Administration insists that the president can approve the long-term deal without any Congressional oversight or approval, the road for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a complex one indeed. The draft must first be reviewed by a body of political leaders including Maliki, President Jalal Talabani, and several other high ranking officials. If they approve, it moves along to the Iraqi Cabinet for review.
But it doesn’t stop there. Even if Iraq’s Cabinet approves of the deal, it would then have to be submitted to the Iraqi Parliament for final approval. There was talk, stemming from a previous draft of the agreement, that Prime Minister Maliki might bypass the final step of parliamentary approval. This seems highly unlikely at this point however, as Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has reportedly demanded that parliament be involved in the final decision.
There is no guarantee that parliament will sign off on the controversial agreement, which has much popular opposition. General Raymond Odierno has also accused Iran of attempting to bribe members of parliament in an attempt to influence any vote, but the Iraqi government slammed the general, saying it upsets relations with the Multi-National Troops.
If the Iraqi parliament doesn’t approve of the SOFA, the government has said it will consider approaching the United Nations Security Council to expand its mandate, which expires on December 31.