Updated 11/15 11:30 AM EST
With Iraq’s cabinet preparing to discuss the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the United States, and a vote expected sometime this weekend, the latest and seemingly final draft of the controversial deal is expected to receive a shot in the arm in the form of an endorsement by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
The Los Angeles Times cites one of Maliki’s “trusted confidants” who says the prime minister will press his cabinet to approve the deal and give an address endorsing the deal ahead of a vote in parliament. Maliki’s support for the SOFA will likely be of enormous help in getting the deal through the cabinet, where one aide says it has a “good chance” of passing, but there is no guarantee it will sway parliament to support the measure over popular objection.
Iraq requested over 100 amendments to the previous “final” draft of the SOFA, which also seemed to have the support of the prime minister before popular sentiment turned securely against it. The United States accepted some of the amendments, but rejected others, most particularly a change regarding immunity for US troops who commit crimes in Iraq. The office of President Jalal Talabani says the US agreed to other, unspecified “additional modifications” since then.
The White House has also endorsed the current draft, with spokesman Gordon Johndroe calling it a “good agreement.” This is hardly surprising, of course, in that they were the ones who submitted the draft in the first place. State Department deputy spokesman Robert Wood indicated that the US was unwilling to entertain further negotiations, but they seemed quite resistant to the current round until Prime Minister Maliki announced he would not be submitting the draft to parliament without amendments.