Despite soaring violence, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh says that they will not allow the United States to extend the June 30 deadline for removing American troops from cities. Dabbagh said the dates in the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) cannot be extended.
Violence in Iraq has continued to rise over the past two months, with April standing as the deadliest month in over a year. US officials however say that Iraq’s decision is not necessarily final, echoing previous comments from military officials. Early in April, top US commander General Ray Odierno said that it was likely the US would choose to ignore the deadline because of the growing number of attacks by al-Qaeda. Nineveh commander Colonel Volesky added that Mosul was a likely city in which troops would remain.
The pact has only been in force for four months, but the United States and Iraqi governments have already clashed on several issues. Last week, US troops killed two civilians and captured several others in the city of Kut, which Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called a “criminal” act and a violation of the SOFA. Though Maliki called for the troops involved to face Iraqi court trials, and the SOFA indeed made provisions for such a call, the US military ultimately overruled him, declaring they would “absolutely not” be made to stand trial for the action. Whether the US decides to overrule the Iraqi government on keeping troops in Iraqi cities past June 30 or not may well remain a question until July 1.