Iraq: SOFA will have to pass referendum

President George Bush hailed the Iraqi parliament’s approval of a landmark accord for US troops to remain in the country in three years—but a popular referendum on the deal was included in the legislation. As part of political bargaining before the vote, the Baghdad government agreed to demands by Sunni parties to hold a referendum on the accord no later than July 30. Even if the accord is voted down, Baghdad would have to give Washington one year’s notice, meaning that troops would be allowed to remain in the country only until the summer of 2010. (AFP, Nov. 27)

Formally the Agreement on the Withdrawal of United States Forces from Iraq and the Organization of Their Activities during Their Temporary Presence in Iraq, the so-called “status of forces agreement” states that “all US forces shall withdraw from all Iraqi territory no later than December 31, 2011.” All combat troops will leave Iraq’s towns and villages and go back to base by the end of June next year. Iraq will have a veto over all US military operations. A clause added at the behest of Iran states that Iraqi land, sea and air may not be used as a staging ground or transit point for attacks on other countries. Under the agreement, no Iraqi can be arrested by US forces except with permission from Iraqi authorities, and anyone is arrested in these circumstances must be handed over to Iraqi forces within 24 hours. The tens of thousands of detainees in US custody must either be released or turned over to the Iraqis immediately. US troops may not enter or search any house without an Iraqi judge’s warrant, except if they are conducting a joint combat operation with the Iraqi military. US contractors will lose their immunity and be subject to Iraqi law. (The Guardian, Nov. 27)

See our last posts on Iraq and the Status of Forces Agreement.