In a speech in Baghdad, US Ambassador Ryan Crocker defended the latest draft of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) as “an important agreement that fully restores Iraq’s sovereignty.” But massive public opposition to the agreement has scared away political support from even much of Iraq’s ruling coalition (who negotiated it in the first place). They are now seeking further amendments to the deal.
Opposition to the deal seems to grow by the day. While long-time critics such as cleric Moqtada al-Sadr continue to warn that the SOFA would be a betrayal of the Iraqi people, major voices from various other Shi’ite factions are now speaking out against it. Major figures from the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) are expressing concerns for the deal, and even former Prime Minister and Dawa Party leader Ibrahim al-Jaafari is reportedly condemning the deal as a “disgrace.”
And opposition doesn’t even stop with the majority Shi’ite populace. A council of Sunni religious leaders issued a fatwa last week demanding that the deal be rejected. At this point, according to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s office, only the two major Kurdish parties, President Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Kurdistan regional President Massoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), have even endorsed the current draft.
President Barzani’s support comes seemingly only from fear of the alternatives, that “either the continuation of the current situation when an American officer has the power to arrest all ministers, or the US would leave Iraq.” Prime Minister Maliki had previously expressed hope for a two-thirds majority in parliament for the deal, an unlikely prospect at this point.
If the deal is not able to be finalized by the end of the year, it is expected that Iraq will seek a renewed UN mandate for the US military presence. Such a move may not be as easy now as it has been in the past however, with increased tensions between the US and Russia making UN Security Council votes a far less certain proposition.