Echoing comments last week from State Department adviser David Satterfield, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said his government will not seek an extended UN Mandate if the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the US fails to pass parliament. Though both sides had previously expressed interest in using an extension of the mandate, which expires at the end of December, as a fallback position, Satterfield indicated last week that the US would block the extension if proposed.
The latest comments came following a closed door meeting of the leaders of every political bloc in Iraq aimed at saving the pact. Or rather, every bloc save one: the bloc allied to Moqtada al-Sadr, the primary opponents of the pact, did not attend. Though its unclear whether they were invited, it seems unlikely after last week’s physical confrontation in parliament.
As with the previous draft, the current and apparently final SOFA draft is starting off with a lot of momentum and the endorsement of Prime Minister Maliki. However, as with the previous draft opposition is growing: the Sadr faction has gained the support of the Fadhila party and the Sunni Arab Bloc for National Dialogue. Though Maliki seems likely to be able to get a simple majority, the prospect of a two-thirds majority, which some argue is required under the Iraqi constitution for such a pact, seems increasingly less likely.
The parliamentary vote for the SOFA is expected to take place on Wednesday. With parliament set to go into recess after that, it seems unlikely that another draft could be voted on before the end of the year if this one fails, making it an all-or-nothing proposition.