When the Iraqi government secured a narrow passage of the unpopular Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the United States in its parliament, it only did so after placating portions of the Sunni opposition with promises of a referendum that could ultimately overturn the pact.
The vote was scheduled to be held in late July 2009, and the efforts to delay the vote were fought tooth and nail by parliament. Ultimately parliament never signed off on the delay, but weeks after the deadline the vote somehow managed to never happen.
So now Maliki’s proposed idea of holding the vote in January, alongside the also-delayed parliamentary vote, is no longer the worst case scenario for Iraqis waiting for a chance to vote on a pact that enormous numbers of them have publicly protested again. Rather, it’s being presented as a possibility, but one that might not happen either.
US officials are reportedly upset by the possibility of the SOFA being rescinded early, even though the pact makes specific provisions for doing just that and a January vote would only take effect in 2011, months after the Obama “end of combat” deadline and just months before the pact is supposed to expire anyhow. Now, they are lobbying to not hold the vote at all. With Iraq’s parliament in recess it seems even the January vote is looking less and less likely.