In Iraq for meetings with several high-ranking officials, President Bush received a first-hand reminder of the continuing controversy of his 2003 decision to invade Iraq, and their continued presence of around 150,000 US troops at the behest of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government.
During a press conference with Maliki after the two formally signed the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) which would maintain a US military presence in Iraq through at least 2011, journalist Muntadar al-Zeidi sought to show his disdain for the visiting president, shouting “it is the farewell kiss, you dog” and hurling his shoes at him.
Neither of the shoes hit President Bush, who says the incident “doesn’t bother me.” Secret Service and Iraqi security leapt at Zeidi and hauled him out of the room. It was not immediately clear what happened to him afterwards. Before the incident Bush assured that “the war is not over,” but that he believes “it is decisively on it’s way to being won.”
The SOFA was narrowly approved by the Iraqi parliament last month, after a contentious and sometimes chaotic debate. The pact was presented as having a “firm” 2011 deadline for the US military presence, though the Iraqi government is already openly speaking of the troops remaining long after that. There was no US debate on the pact, and indeed the English language version was kept a secret from Congress until after the Iraqi parliament’s vote.