Iraqis approve SOFA

posted at 10:30 am on November 28, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

The Iraqi National Assembly approved the status-of-forces agreement yesterday that will keep American troops in Iraq for the next three years.  The pact will change the nature of the US operations and their relationship with the developing Iraqi forces, but along an evolutionary timeline rather than any abrupt retreat or withdrawal.  Sudarsan Raghavan at the Washington Post manages to get that much wrong:

The Iraqi parliament on Thursday approved a security pact that requires the U.S. military to end its presence in Iraq in 2011, eight years after a U.S.-led invasion brought about the fall of Saddam Hussein.

“It’s a historic day for the great Iraqi people,” Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said in a nationally televised address. “It represents the first step on the road to regain national sovereignty.”

Just over half of the parliament members voted to approve the agreement, which will give the United States a legal basis to maintain its forces in Iraq but requires American commanders to work more closely with Iraqi authorities than they have in the past. A United Nations mandate authorizing the U.S. presence expires Dec. 31.

The pact also restricts the powers of the U.S. military to search homes, detain Iraqi citizens and conduct military operations, and gives Iraqi officials oversight over American forces. U.S. troops could be prosecuted under Iraqi laws for serious crimes committed when off duty and off their bases, although the United States retains the power to determine whether a service member was off duty. Still, the changes represent a dramatic shift for a nation where most citizens felt humiliation at having American troops on their soil.

Raghavan relies too much on Maliki’s press team.  First, the act of approving the SOFA demonstrates Iraq’s sovereignty.  Iraq could have insisted on our outright departure, and it would have left us with no choice but to leave.  Maliki doesn’t want that, but he knows that the Iraqi people do, and so he’s selling this as a “first step” towards the sovereignty this agreement proves exists already for his own political purposes.  We could have left Iraq in a year or less if necessary and demanded by Maliki, not three.

The transition Raghavan describes has been well under way for a year.  The US has already relinquished command over most of Iraq’s provinces, leaving the Iraqi Army in charge and the US in support and logistics roles only.  The worst of them, Anbar, got transferred to Iraqi Army control during the summer.  The only big change comes in the ability of Iraqi courts to have jurisdiction over off-duty American personnel, but the US gets to determine what “off duty” means.

And finally, the SOFA does not require an American withdrawal at all.  It actually legitimizes an American presence for an additional three years, at which point Iraq can negotiate for an extension or let it expire.  The US could withdraw earlier if we want, or could agree to stay indefinitely.  The Iraqis won’t have a competent air force for several years, which makes a complete withdrawal highly unlikely by 2012. Their navy is almost nonexistent, too, which will take even longer to re-establish.

The SOFA represents a major step in codifying an alliance between the US and Iraq, but not the nonsense spouted by Maliki and repeated by the Post.  Iraq’s potential enemies in the region know and understand this.  Iran and Syria both publicly opposed the pact and criticized it, and the Iraqi parliament’s passage of it demonstrated their defiance towards the two terror-supporting nations on either side of Iraq.  In that sense, the SOFA vote was a demonstration of national sovereignty and a notice that they would not become a satellite nation to Tehran.

Update: Irony alert!  “Presence”, not “presents”.  Eeesh.  Can’t believe I made that mistake on Black Friday.

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Good news. Thanks for the post, Ed.

BadgerHawk on November 28, 2008 at 10:36 AM

I think the potential damage that could have been done by Hopenchange spurred them into action. The dude is a total cipher so why risk any spur of the moment “change!?”

I do not think Iraq is out of the woods yet. It will take a generation or two of greater education about democracy and a constitutional republic to get Iraqis to accept it culturally. They are still tribal/religious in their politics. That change takes generations not years.

Theworldisnotenough on November 28, 2008 at 10:36 AM

The Iraqis won’t have a competent air force for several years, which makes a complete withdrawal highly unlikely by 2012. Their navy is almost nonexistent, too, which will take even longer to re-establish.

This is why I don’t take Iraqi calls for the removal of US troops seriously. It is either disingenuous or uninformed.

Count to 10 on November 28, 2008 at 10:40 AM

Great News! I read this yesterday. I hope our Troops are OK over there with having to go by their laws.

sheebe on November 28, 2008 at 10:40 AM

I never thought I’d see the day when ANY soldier could ever consider themselves “off duty” in that Godforsaken hell hole of a filthy country.

leetpriest on November 28, 2008 at 10:41 AM

One cable TV news reporter said, the Iraqi “man in the street” is puzzled. They say, “I don’t believe it. Why would they leave before they’ve stolen any oil? I don’t get it.”

RBMN on November 28, 2008 at 10:43 AM

I’m deploying to Iraq soon and this was one of the things that had us wondering whether or not we were going at all.

The SOFA will most likely ensure a boring year spent supporting the IA and IPs rather than going out and killing bad guys. At this point in the game I’d rather be heading out to Afghanistan.

JasonG on November 28, 2008 at 10:45 AM

Nope. No progress made in Iraq at all. /sarc off

The press will ignore it. The Liberals will deny it.
The people of Iraq know the reality.

kingsjester on November 28, 2008 at 10:46 AM

I think this may bump South Korea up on the list to the second most suck-ass duty station. At least alcohol is legal in Korea.

Seriously fellows, those of you that are still in the military right now, if Obama being president didn’t scare you out of re-enlistment, imagine “garrison” conditions in Iraq….

If you think missionless, boring, suicide-inducing South Korea sucks, just wait until your First Sergeant has your asses raking sand in front of the Barracks in sunny, happy Iraq.

leetpriest on November 28, 2008 at 10:46 AM

Removing a blood thirsty tyrant from a country and handing back to it’s people freedom to choose their own destiny will now go down in the history books as one of the accomplishments of the Bush legacy. This should be shouted out so many times in the future as not to let anyone else taking credit for it other than him.

rich801 on November 28, 2008 at 10:48 AM

I’m deploying to Iraq soon and this was one of the things that had us wondering whether or not we were going at all.

JasonG on November 28, 2008 at 10:45 AM

My BN is scheduled to go in mid 2010. Who knows?

BadgerHawk on November 28, 2008 at 10:50 AM

pffft, mention a SOFA deal to the Dems and they say ‘oh not that Bill Clinton stuff again’.

Seriously though, I am glad to see 43 get this secured before he leaves. He’s obviously putting in some safeguards that ‘da Bamma’ wont be able to undo.

johnnyU on November 28, 2008 at 11:13 AM

But Maliki and Obama said during the campaign that we should be almost completely out by the middle of 2010, facts on the ground notwithstanding. Maliki got his wish with the election of Obama, but realized his bluff would be called, and like the astute politician he is, he did not wish to negotiate a real end to US presence in 2010 when Iraq would not be ready to step up to the plate, so he negotiated this deal with the US. Pres Bush having been immolated by libs and by some foolish policies of his own, gave more deference than he should have to the Iraqis. But, like South Vietnam, the Iraqis prematurely rid their country of a strong US presence, their sovereignty will be short lived and Maliki will spend the rest of his life in an Iranian prison or the end of a noose.

eaglewingz08 on November 28, 2008 at 11:19 AM

It provides a huge opportunity for BHO to sell SOFA as”USA out of Iraq” to the Bill Ayers/Jeremiah Wright wing of the party.
They may grudgingly buy it, but they will buy it.

Amendment X on November 28, 2008 at 11:30 AM

I’ve got a 30 year old bottle of Wild Turkey 101 that says the chosen one will draw down the troops to a point that will be ineffectual in case a need arises where they are called upon for support. As far as Afghanistan goes, as long as we are forced to fight a police action, all will be lost. War is war, didn’t we learn from Korea and Vietnam?

N4646W on November 28, 2008 at 11:30 AM

About a year ago I was avoiding all Iraq talk, but now I cannot get enough of it! Every time the economy is getting me down, I go over to Michael Yon’s website and check out his latest Iraq dispatches. :)

Illinidiva on November 28, 2008 at 11:35 AM

The Iraqis won’t have a competent air force for several years …

Sell them some F-16s, quick! Make Gen. Sada the commander of the Iraqi Air Force and get some trainers in there now.

Their navy is almost nonexistent, too …

They need ships, we’ve got a surplus. That sounds like a win-win to me. Get them the boats and train them how to steer, shoot, swab the deck and whatever else you Navy guys do. Oh, and they’ll need marines and a coast guard too.

Tony737 on November 28, 2008 at 11:54 AM

Awesome freaking news. God bless those who keep us safe. A stable Iraq will help to keep us safe. Thank you and may God continue to bless you, your families, and the Iraqis who have made an ongoing peaceful relationship between our nations possible.

Angry Dumbo on November 28, 2008 at 12:06 PM

I’m still waiting to hear Hopeychange’s exit strategy for S. Korea and Germany.

TugboatPhil on November 28, 2008 at 12:08 PM

Declare Victory already President Bush. The surge worked congradulate our troops!!!!!

gringo69 on November 28, 2008 at 12:18 PM

Sell them some F-16s, quick! Make Gen. Sada the commander of the Iraqi Air Force and get some trainers in there now.

Tony737 on November 28, 2008 at 11:54 AM

F-16s are tricky and will take too long to train. Get them in the game faster with the new F/A-737, with bellies full of JDAMs and lots of hard points for Hellfire, Sidewinders and AAMRAMs.

DarkCurrent on November 28, 2008 at 12:36 PM

The big thing the Iraqis need are air transport… which they have purchased a number of aircraft and are taking delivery of them. They have been getting us to help train their pilots… after that COIN aircraft, which really are good at ground observation and interdiction, and I do hope we can meet the production schedules. They have also been buying tanks from us, helicopters from multiple places and getting them refurbished in Eastern Europe (Romania, Czech, and Bulgaria if memory serves). It is a good, spiral stand-up with increasing capability and a slow shift of training to the locals. When they had money to spend last year, they finally put about $10 billion into military appropriations to beef up previous buys. And the IA simply adores our logistics system and is wanting to train up on that and how to run one there… and they are getting a good IG system which has already gotten some convictions on those in the employ of al Qaeda and Iran.

The biggest hurdle in the long term is corruption, and the IA, after seeing how US forces operate, understand that not having corruption is extremely important to fighting efficiency. Getting the rest of the culture to understand this and how that improves the ability of government to serve the people is very important.

I figure the last of our support for logistics and such will be around 2015, when the full logistics system is set up and they won’t need any US airpower for that and they can cover most of the country with COIN aircraft and UAVs. If they can keep corruption down they will have a competent armed forces which will be a first for the Arab world in modern times.

Very little that PE Obama can do to five year contracts inked late this year… and by 2012? Who knows.

ajacksonian on November 28, 2008 at 12:55 PM

Declare Victory already President Bush. The surge worked congradulate our troops!!!!!

gringo69 on November 28, 2008 at 12:18 PM

Amen! Can we have a press conference President Bush to declare victory?

canditaylor68 on November 28, 2008 at 1:03 PM

Get them in the game faster with the new F/A-737, with bellies full of JDAMs … – Dark

And some A/C-737 gunships? Cool!

Tony737 on November 28, 2008 at 1:09 PM

Tony737 on November 28, 2008 at 1:09 PM

Of course I was tongue in cheek with the above comment, but then it got me thinking if someone hadn’t actually tried to do it.

DarkCurrent on November 28, 2008 at 1:19 PM

From Dark’s link: Boeing is gearing up to modify its ubiquitous twin-jet, single-aisle airliner into a Navy patrol bomber called the Multi-Mission Maritime Aircraft, or MMA.

They’re already doing it. Most of the pilots I work with at SWA (which only flies the 737) are former military pilots and some are still in the Reserves. I always ask them what did they fly in the Navy (or A.F., Marines) and most of the time they say F-14, F-18 or whatever but one guy said “Believe it or not, 737′s.”

Tony737 on November 28, 2008 at 1:46 PM

I don’t like this Status of forces agreement one bit. I think in the end it will tie the hands of US forces in Iraq. That will make our men and women defenseless to attack by “Iraqi subversive elements”. Iraq should immediately begin paying the full cost of keeping US forces to protect their nation until they are able to defend it for themselves. My preference would be to provide training and equipment of up to 6-12 months. This would be only to the Iraqi military and police after which period they take over all military and police duties and we leave including all US support both military and financial. If Iraq can’t defend themselves by then either we failed to train them properly or they don’t want to be free.

Our military won this war long ago after which Washington squandered that victory with stupid mistakes. I’m sure the problems over the past few years were unintended consequences of those mistakes. High on the list would be disolving the Iraqi military completely and also the government which led to the loss of control and management of the infrastructure. This caused the people to lose confidence and let the insurgents gain a foothold. Our military once again was called on to rescue Iraq from itself. A complete success….Now I am afraid they will be left there without the means to defend themselves.

kanda on November 28, 2008 at 2:02 PM

Seriously fellows, those of you that are still in the military right now, if Obama being president didn’t scare you out of re-enlistment, imagine “garrison” conditions in Iraq….

leetpriest on November 28, 2008 at 10:46 AM

This may sound crazy,but I busted my a$$ for the last 2 months trying to get waivers(hearing loss) so that I could enlist.
I have a beautiful wife and daughter,my own business(six figures a year)and the suburban lifestyle,but would give anything to serve and be an American Soldier.

The waiver got through MPES but not the Surgeon Generals office.I was denied.I turned 42 last Saturday so I am now above the age requirement.

As crazy as it sounds,I would love to shovel sand in Iraq or fight in Afghanistan,Pakistan,Somalia,or wherever.
The War on Terror is an Historic and world changing event
that is freeing millions of people from the Jihadist.

I hate I could not join you men and women,but thank God for your service,because going around flashing the peace sign and chanting “I hate Bush” has not freed one dam# person or stopped one terrorist.

Baxter Greene on November 28, 2008 at 2:05 PM

Tony737 on November 28, 2008 at 1:46 PM

Don’t get overconfident! My CFI when I got my PPSEL was an Iranian-born guy who at last contact was flying MD-80s for one of your competitors. Imagine an MD-80 vs. B-737 dogfight!

DarkCurrent on November 28, 2008 at 2:10 PM

Baxter Greene on November 28, 2008 at 2:05 PM

You sir, get it. I personally consider you a Great American.

thomasaur on November 28, 2008 at 2:16 PM

I am glad this was done before Obama takes control of the White House.

Terrye on November 28, 2008 at 3:51 PM

…the SOFA vote was a demonstration of national sovereignty and a notice that they would not become a satellite nation to Tehran.

How can that be? The MSM told me that all Shiites (like Maliki) are just Iranian puppets. What nefarious plan has dinnerjacket cooked up this time? I know! Death to America by agreeing to its terms. Ahmadamnutjob has us right where he wants us.

Kafir on November 28, 2008 at 4:26 PM

Why can’t Isreal lend a hand or do they just take of themselves? Im just asking.

johnnyU on November 28, 2008 at 5:26 PM

Elenor Clift has preemptively wrote in newseek that Obama is inheriting a defeat abroad. I read the first few sentences and had to get out of there. Why can’t a lib be proud of our country and say we won?????

gringo69 on November 28, 2008 at 5:51 PM

Baxter Greene on November 28, 2008 at 2:05 PM

You sir, get it. I personally consider you a Great American.

thomasaur on November 28, 2008 at 2:16 PM

Thank you,
I know exactly were our Freedoms come from.
Without the great leadership and sacrifice of our men and
women in uniform,America and the rest of the world would be a lot worse off and know nothing of individual rights,and representative government.

Iraq and Afghanistan are just more examples of why the American Soldier is the greatest liberator in the history of
mankind.

Baxter Greene on November 28, 2008 at 6:06 PM

Baxter Greene on November 28, 2008 at 2:05 PM

You are an honorable person. I know you feel disappointed but I’m certain you will find other ways to contribute.

kanda on November 28, 2008 at 8:17 PM

I guess we know who’s side Iraq will be on…..

from Brietbart:

Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani said on Friday that 80 dollars a barrel is a “reasonable” price for oil and that his country would support any OPEC decision to cut output.
“A reasonable price for oil is 80 dollars a barrel,” said Shahristani on arrival in Cairo to attend a consultative meeting by the OPEC cartel to study slumping crude prices.

“We have to make sure that produced oil is used for consumption and not for storing.

“Iraq would support a decision by OPEC to cut output either here or in Algeria,” the Iraqi minister added.

kanda on November 28, 2008 at 8:30 PM

Wow. Obama said he would end the war “immediately and bring the troops home now”. I wonder how that’s going to work out? Ha!

Guardian on November 28, 2008 at 11:58 PM

kanda on November 28, 2008 at 8:30 PM

Remember, his country’s national budget is based on oil being at $80/bbl. Hopefully, Iraq’s economy will begin to diversify and they won’t depend on oil so much.

Kafir on November 29, 2008 at 9:02 AM