Iran and the Iraq Status of Forces Agreement

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 8 months ago

Nibras Kazimi, who by his own insistent claims is an Iraqi expert, has written an analysis of the status of the SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement).

After months of wrangling and getting the Americans to make all sorts of compromises on the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), Iraq’s Shia Islamists suddenly found that they are unable to agree to the very same terms that they themselves had negotiated. This conundrum became abundantly clear on Sunday, October 19th, when the luminaries of the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) parliamentary bloc–much diminished by sizable defections–met and failed to sign onto the agreement as presented to them by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose Da’awa Party is a leading component of the UIA.

The Iraqi political class is adrift as it tries to find its political center, delaying an agreement with the United States about when and how to pull its forces out of Iraq.

This has much less to with the Americans than it does with local politics. The Islamists, both Sunni and Shia, are at a grave disadvantage as Iraq’s political discourse turns patriotic, rather than sectarian. In an odd twist, secular Shias have adopted the talking points of Sunnis when denouncing Islamist Shias, namely that they are agents of Iran, while secular Sunnis have adopted the talking points of Shias when denouncing Islamist Sunnis–they’re too close to the terrorists.

To confuse matters further, America’s top general in Iraq has recently accused Iran of sabotaging the SOFA agreement, provoking a sharp rebuke from Maliki who is at pains to demonstrate, to his detractors among the secular opposition, that he is not an Iranian stooge.

Only a creepy and twisted world view can see General Odierno’s charge – specifically, that Iranian agents were trying to buy votes in the parliament to reject the SOFA – as having confused matters. It is this attitude that has sabotaged the campagin from the beginning, i.e., this failure to see Operation Iraqi Freedom from within the context of the regional conflict that it is.

If Maliki wants to convince his people that he isn’t a stooge, then he shouldn’t act like one.  Charging General Odierno with instigating a problem because he pointed out the truth is like charging the homeowner for sedition because he points out that his taxes are too high.  We have laid out options in the past making it clear that Iraqi forces and their commanders weren’t Iranian stooges.  The first step might be arresting all special forces, Quds, and IRG in Iraq (and this, not by U.S. forces, but by Iraqi forces).  Other steps could follow.

Kazimi has a blind spot concerning Iraqi politics – Iran.  He didn’t always have this weakness. Before he was the staunch admirer and advocate for Maliki, he saw things more clearly. Immediately after the Iraqi elections of 2005, he was understandably disheartened at the horrible loss suffered by Chalabi. Said Kazimi of the results: “Which leaves us, incidentally, with all the people Iran has been cultivating for decades as the soon-to-be-crowned heads of the Shia community.”

We agree with this assessment rather than his later ones, and believe that most, if not all, of the elected officials and even the current Shi’a administration are in the service Iran (including Maliki,  Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, Moqtada al-Sadr, and religious leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who has a following in Iran as well as Iraq and some minor theological disagreements with the Mullahs in Iran, and may not rise to the level of stooge, but at least has very close ties with Iran).

Sistani has recently said of the SOFA:

… the security pact being negotiated with Washington must not harm Iraq’s sovereignty, his office said on Wednesday.

“Ayatollah Ali Sistani insists that the sovereignty of Iraq not be touched and he is closely following developments until the final accord has been clarified,” said his office in the holy city of Najaf, AFP reported.

The statement was issued after a visit by two Shiite MPs.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani wields vast influence among the Iraqis and his explicit opposition could scuttle the deal.

Iraq wants a security agreement with the U.S. to include a clear ban on U.S. troops using Iraqi territory to attack Iraq’s neighbors, the government spokesman said Wednesday, three days after a dramatic U.S. raid on Syria.

The Captain’s Journal weighed in saying that the SOFA already prohibits raids like the one at the Syrian border under Article 4 [3]. Apparently, Sistani insists that it be made even clearer than it is now. Thus does Iran get their way, at least in part. If they cannot rid Iraq of U.S. troops, then they intend to ensure that the U.S. cannot effect operations against Iran or their boy-worshipers in Syria.

As for the good General Odierno, in addition to engaging in truth-telling concerning Iran’s influence in Iraq (The Captain’s Journal likes truth-telling), he has weighed in quantitatively concerning the SOFA.

In a blunt assessment, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Army Gen. Raymond Odierno, said Thursday that there is a 20 percent to 30 percent chance that the United States and Iraq won’t reach a deal to allow U.S. troops to operate in Iraq past Dec. 31.

On a scale of one to 10, “I’m probably a seven or eight that something is going to be worked out,” Gen. Odierno told The Washington Times during a visit to the 101st Airborne Division in Samarra, about 120 miles north of Baghdad. “I think it’s important for the government of Iraq. I think it’s important for security and stability here.”

Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdish Regional Government, told The Times on Wednesday evening that he would be happy to host U.S. troops if the central government in Baghdad refuses to do so.

“The people of Kurdistan highly appreciate the sacrifices American forces have made for our freedom,” Mr. Barzani said at a reception in Washington after meetings with President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

And if the Kurds threaten to undermine the Iraqi Parliament and cut a deal with U.S. troops, that’s what they will do and Iraq won’t be able to stop them. And there is no love in Kurdistan for Iran or the brutal Iranian treatment of the Kurdish people in Iran.

But it would be an odd solution given the enormous mega-bases constructed for the balance of U.S. time in Iraq.   Whatever the outcome of the political machinations in Iraq, if U.S. troops are prohibited from interdicting, arresting and interrogating Iranian forces and destroying terrorist cells across the border in Syria, then the next several years in Iraq will suffer from the same lack of vision that has plagued it thus far.


Analysis of U.S. Attack on Syrian Border

U.S. Combat Action Across the Syrian Border

You are currently reading "Iran and the Iraq Status of Forces Agreement", entry #1447 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Iran,Iraq,Iraq SOFA,Syria and was published October 30th, 2008 by Herschel Smith.

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