An aide to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says that the Iraqi government expects a US reply on a myriad of submitted amendments to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) sometime after Tuesday’s election.
The most recent draft of the SOFA was initially reported to be the final one, but as popular opposition in Iraq spread to its parliament, Prime Minister Maliki’s hopes of a two-thirds majority soon turned into doubts that even a simple majority could be obtained, leading him to rule out submitting the draft to parliament without new amendments.
The amendments were largely clarifications to the vague wording of the previous document, for instance on the question of Iraq’s jurisdiction over US forces. Beyond that though, the Iraqis have sought an explicit ban on US forces using Iraqi territory to attack neighboring countries, the right to inspect American arms shipments, and the elimination of a clause which would allow troops to stay past the December 31, 2011 deadline.
But Bush Administration officials reportedly see the changes to the draft as ‘unacceptable,’ and though the President has said he will consider the amendments because “we obviously want to be helpful and constructive” he also warned that the Iraqis won’t be allowed to undermine the accord.
Maliki’s aide says the delay until after the election is “so the new president-elect can be informed of the status of the talks,” but at least as plausible is that the President doesn’t want to make any announcement, whether it is approving amendments he’s already warned weaken the US position or rejecting them and effectively killing the hopes of a SOFA by year’s end, that might effect the outcome of the election.