Only a few hours after the United Nations Mandate for Iraq expired and the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) went into effect, US forces have sparked an incident which may prove to be the first major test of the SOFA’s power and the Iraqi government’s authority.
Earlier today near th al-Jadiriya bridge in Baghdad, US troops opened fire on a female staffer for Iraq’s Biladi TV, critically wounding her. The reason for the attack was unclear, and probably not particularly important to the question of the SOFA.
What is important is that US forces are not supposed to do anything in Iraq without coordinating with the Iraqi government and aren’t supposed to have anything to do with civilians outside of an Iraqi court issued warrant. There was no report that Iraqi forces were involved in coordinating an attack on the woman, nor does is seem likely that an Iraqi court would have issued a warrant to shoot her in the stomach. That would leave this attack either an operation outside of (and in violation of) the SOFA, or just an off-duty, off-base crime against an Iraqi civilian.
If it is the later, the Iraqi legal system is supposed to have jurisdiction over the soldiers involved in the crime. What would yesterday have been just another casual shooting of another Iraqi civilian on the streets of Baghdad may turn out to be a significant test over whether the SOFA has any teeth, or whether it is just business as usual for American forces.