As the United States struggles to get Iraqi officials to change their position on the all-but-dead Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) top US commander General Ray Odierno has issued a three-page letter to high ranking Iraqi officials. The letter includes a list of major services which the United States would halt if the Iraqi government does not approve the SOFA by the end of the year.
In addition to military functions, which would have no legal basis without an extension to the United Nations mandate, the letter threatens to cease all economic aid and aid to the Iraqi educational system. The letter includes an exhaustive list of “tens” of services which would be severed on January 1.
The move is “shocking” according to Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, whose Iraqi Islamic Party severed ties with the United States yesterday over the killing of a senior party member in a raid. Hashemi said many in the Iraqi government view the letter as a form of political “blackmail.”
As of this weekend, the SOFA is reported to be “dead in the water,” with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki having said he will not submit the agreement to parliament for consideration and an informal poll suggesting parliament would reject it by a wide margin at any rate. Other top US officials have issued warnings to the Iraqi government about the ramifications of rejecting the current draft of the deal, with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates saying the US was reluctant to consider further amendments to the deal.
It is unclear which portions of the current SOFA draft are unacceptable to the Iraqi government, but they are seeking several amendments. The United States has repeatedly blamed Iran for the delay, accusing them of bribing Iraqi officials. The Iraqi government has denied the accusations.