White House Dismisses Doubts as Iraq Deal Talks Falter

Massoud Barzani, the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq, said yesterday that he believes it is “doubtful” that the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the United States and Iraq will be approved by Iraq’s cabinet and parliament by the end of the year, when the present United Nations mandate expires.

In fact, it might not even get that far, because US officials appear to view the amendments demanded by the Iraqi government as “unacceptable.” State Department spokesman Robert Wood went on to declare that the existing draft, previously reported to be the final one, was “a good text” and that the window for negotiations “is rapidly coming to a close.”

Not that these comments have shaken the White House’s unflappable optimism that the agreement will be finalized in the end. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino added that “If you stick around, I’m sure by tomorrow you’ll have a different Iraqi politician or leader with a different sentiment.” She also brushed off suggestions about asking the United Nations Security Council to extend the mandate, saying they were going to continue to pursue the SOFA.

Though Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki initially appeared hopeful of receiving a two-thirds majority in parliament, he eventually backed off on even submitting the draft, with informal polls suggesting even a simple majority was unlikely as concerns grew about the draft’s vague language and growing popular sentiment against it.

The United States has threatened serious consequences if the Iraqi government doesn’t eventually approve the deal. In addition to ending military action, which would lack an international legal basis without an extended UN mandate or the SOFA in place, Gen. Ray Odierno has threatened to suspend economic aid and aid to the Iraqi educational system.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.