Thursday’s narrow victory for the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in Iraq’s Parliament has put Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in a position of increased power. The Prime Minister has used the US military presence to enhance his own power, and has used President Bush’s insistence on getting the deal finalized before his term ends to push through amendments enhancing his own authority over US forces.
Maliki’s growing independence has been a matter of concern for the Bush Administration for months now, and his growing domestic power has been nowhere more apparent than in the growing concern over his “Support Council,” a private militia force operating under Maliki’s direct control and paid for by the Iraqi government.
But its not all good news for the Prime Minister, in spite of being the strongest single political figure in post-invasion Iraq. To get the SOFA narrowly passed Maliki had to make multiple concessions to Sunni lawmakers, and the battle left the deal with considerable popular objection. That disquiet may spill over into January’s provincial elections and the national elections expected near the end of 2009… and may ultimately threaten his ability to remain Prime Minister.