The Iraqi Parliament is scheduled to vote on the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the United States sometime tomorrow, but before that happens aides to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki are holding a last ditch round of press conferences to shore up support for the controversial pact.
And the SOFA needs all the help it can get. The Iraqi Accordance Front (IAF), a powerful Sunni bloc seen as a key to passing the deal amid growing opposition from smaller, independent factions, are digging in their heels on long-standing demands, primarily the call of Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi that the SOFA be put to a popular referendum.
But with just over a month left before the UN Mandate expires and both the US and Iraqi governments already ruling out an extension, a national referendum on the SOFA in time to put it into force seems virtually impossible, and there are no indications from Iraq’s ruling Shi’ite coalition that it is even being considered. It may ultimately cost them the 44 votes of the IAF in tomorrow’s vote.
And that’s only assuming that the vote takes place in the first place. Top IAF figure Abdelkareem al-Samarraie suggested his party may not attend the session if the bloc’s demands are not met, in an attempt to derail the ability of parliament to hold the vote at all.
The SOFA will, if passed, govern the operations of US forces in Iraq from 2009 through 2011. The United States has insisted if the Iraqi parliament does not pass the current SOFA draft its forces will immediately leave the country.