Numerous vote delays to allow time for extra politicking, a deal for a referendum next year to placate the major Sunni bloc (the Iraqi Accord Front), and last minute endorsements from the IAF, the National Dialogue bloc, and the Iraqi Communist Party seem like a recipe for success for Iraq’s controversial Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the United States. And indeed, the pact managed to sneak through parliament today with 149 votes in the 275 member legislature, narrowly finding the simple majority the government argued was required but falling far short of the two-thirds majority Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was hoping for and some constitutional experts had argued was needed.
With its victory, such as it is, in parliament, the Maliki government will simply have to affirm that the deal was passed in accordance with the Iraqi constitution, which it seems to believe is the case, and President Bush will have to do the same (which he too is expected to do, despite having refused to even let Congress look at the terms of the deal), and the SOFA will go into effect on January 1, 2009. The terms of the deal, which the Bush Administration reportedly sees wildly different from the Iraqi government, will govern American forces operations on Iraqi soil from 2009 to the end of 2011.
The White House has lauded the narrow passage of the deal as “another sign of progress,” and said it affirms Iraq’s “increasing ability to secure itself.” The deal will replace a United Nations mandate, which expires at the end of this year.