As the fallout from yesterday morning’s US raid in the Iraqi city of Kut continues to harm American ties to the Maliki government, members of Congress are expressing alarm at Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s call to prosecute the US soldiers involved in the raid.
Rep. Ike Skelton, head of the House Armed Services Committee, urged Maliki to “reconsider his rash demands,” adding “under the terms of the SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement), they are not subject to prosecution in Iraqi courts.” Rep. Pete Hoekstra somehow managed to blame President Obama’s refusal to rule out prosecuting Bush-era Justice Department lawyers for torture for making “our guys” fair game.
But despite Rep. Skelton’s claims, whether or not the SOFA allows prosecution in this case is unclear. The Bush Administration, which negotiated the deal, allowed prosecution of US troops “in respect of premeditated and gross felonies” off base and when not on a mission, which would need to be approved by the Iraqi government.
That last bit is the sticking point, for while the Iraqi government maintains they did not approve the raid, which they labeled a crime, they also arrested two high-ranking defense officials for allegedly giving the US raid “the green light” without authorization. It would seem then, that the US troops would have had no way of knowing that the attack, which killed two innocent civilians and the brief detention of several others, was not approved in a legal manner by the Iraqi government.