A deal yesterday to schedule a referendum for July 30, 2009 on the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) may have been instrumental in scoring the vote a narrow victory today in Iraq’s Parliament, but the terms of the deal are unlikely to give the referendum the meaning that its Sunni advocates were hoping for.
Not scheduled until seven months after the SOFA is already in effect, the referendum would at best order the Iraqi government to cancel the deal. The SOFA terms do seem to allow that, however they also require 12 months advance notice, making August of 2010 the absolute soonest the Iraqi government could cancel the deal passed today, even if the public roundly reject it in the referendum.
Of course, the White House has kept the English language version of the SOFA a carefully guarded secret, refusing to provide even Congress with a copy, and reportedly has its own very loose interpretation of the pact, so exactly what mechanism the cancellation of the SOFA might take isn’t entirely clear.
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