There aren’t many things that a confidant of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a council of Iraqi Sunni religious leaders and the followers of firebrand Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr can all agree on, but they seem to have found common ground on one thing: they all oppose the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the United States.
Imam al-Qabanji told a crowd of hundreds in the Shi’ite holy city of Najaf today that the Shi’ite clergy is “very worried” about the SOFA. A Sunni council issued an anti-SOFA fatwa, and followers of al-Sadr are planning a massive demonstration tomorrow to call for the withdrawal of US forces.
Earlier in the week the SOFA was reportedly finalized, though White House Press Secretary Dana Perino insisted today that this was not the case. She anticipated a final agreement “soon.” It is unclear what if any terms remain to be hashed out, and details of the finished or nearly-finished deal have yet to be made public. The question of US troop immunity was among the last contentious issues.
Even once the terms are finalized, the agreement will face several stages of review in the Iraqi government, culminating with what is expected to be a very difficult vote in the Iraqi parliament. Given the ever-widening array of forces united against the pact, it is unclear whether the Maliki government will even submit it for a vote. In the past Maliki has said he would only submit the draft to parliament if he was confident of two-thirds support.