The official US response to Iraq’s proposed amendments to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) was received on Thursday, condemned by top Iraqi clerics during Friday sermons, and will be discussed by the Iraqi cabinet on Sunday. In all that time, we’ve had only a handful of comments about what the amendments actually were and even less about what the responses have been. The Wall Street Journal seems to have found something however.
In an article by Gina Chon, it is reported that the Iraqis had requested “more than 100 changes” to the SOFA pact, most of them as previously reported just superficial changes to wording. The previous reports on the major amendments seem largely to agree with the article, but the question of which portions were accepted or rejected is much more concretely spelled out than in prior speculations.
The US appears to have agreed to remove the paragraph about keeping troops in Iraq beyond 2011, since there is no reason Iraq couldn’t request that anyhow and it appears to be one of the major issues of the opposition. Rejected however were the demand to inspect all incoming US shipments, and the proposed amendment to the immunity clause – the present draft seems to allow the US to determine when (if ever) Iraqi courts would have jurisdiction over their personnel.
Conspicuously absent from the WSJ article is one of the few amendments actually confirmed by the Iraqi government: an explicit ban on the US launching strikes on Iraq’s neighbors from Iraqi territory. It is unclear if the US accepted or rejected this, but in the wake of last month’s US raid into Syria, it certainly wouldn’t be considered a minor or cosmetic change.