Yesterday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said that reopening the terms of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the United States would be difficult and that it was time for parliament to either ratify or reject the deal as it presently stands. This is not necessarily so, according to a statement released by the United Iraqi Alliance, a coalition of the ruling Shi’ite governing parties.
The statement says some portions of the present draft are fine, but that others need more time “for discussion, dialogue and to amend some of its articles.”The alliance, which includes Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Dawa Party, controls 85 seats in Iraq’s parliament, and would be crucial for finalizing the deal with the two thirds majority sought by the Prime Minister’s government. The statement does not make it clear what portions of the deal it seeks to amend.
But MP Sheikh Jalal al-Din al-Saghir, the leader of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council’s (SIIC) parliamentary bloc gave a much more specific answer about the paragraphs which need to be addressed, seven in all. According to him “these points have to do with the judicial jurisdiction, prisons, the nature of U.S. mail and the nature of the Iraqi government’s monitoring over it.” The SIIC is also a member of the alliance.
In addition SIIC religious leader Sayyed Abdelaziz al-Hakim stressed during a meeting yesterday with US ambassador Ryan Crocker that the agreement needed transparency and must “preserve the unity of Iraq, in addition to avoid violating the Iraqi constitution.”
Many top Iraqi officials have spoken out in favor of the SOFA, but MPs reportedly fear that voting in favor of it may cost them in the upcoming parliamentary elections. The agreement has sparked large protests in opposition, with influential cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s parliamentary bloc taking a very public role in speaking out against it. This has led to accusations from other MPs that the Sadrist bloc is implementing the agenda of a regional power (presumably Iran, who as also been an outspoken critic of the deal), a change denied by Sadrist MPs.