An agreement on the status of forces (SOF) in Iraq has been reached in draft form between the US and Iraqi governments:
The real sticking point for Iraqis - the immunity deal on crimes committed by US personnel - is probably going to have to be further negotiated. As described in the Chronicle article:
The draft calls for U.S. troops to pull out of Iraqi cities by the end of June next year and leave Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011, unless the Baghdad government asks them to stay. It also includes a compromise on the biggest bone of contention: legal immunity for American forces, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the evolving diplomacy on the so-called Status of Forces Agreement.
The draft, reached after months of halting and often tense talks, contains elements that are expected to further aggravate an already difficult effort to get the Iraqi government and parliament on board, the officials said.
It also may draw objections from U.S. lawmakers, whose support is not legally required but is considered essential to the eventual success of any deal, according to the officials.
However, the negotiating teams have decided they cannot improve on the proposal and have sent it to higher-ups for a political decision as time runs out on both the Bush administration and the U.N. mandate under which U.S. troops now operate, which expires on Dec. 31, they say.
Without an agreement soon, the officials said Tuesday that the two sides will have to begin look more seriously at alternatives that include extending the U.N. authority, which is fraught with complications.
The Iraqi legislature, which must approve the deal, has made it clear that immunity is a deal breaker and that they wish to have complete jurisdiction. They are not going to get it. Few nations has such rights where American soldiers are concerned so some sort of compromise is going to have to be reached.
The officials would not discuss the draft agreement in detail. Yet they did discuss the troop pullout dates and described in general outlines the provisions on legal immunity. Under the agreement, Iraqi authorities would have a limited role in the prosecution of off-duty U.S. soldiers accused of committing crimes off their bases, they said.
Meanwhile, civilian employees of the Defense Department would be afforded the same immunities granted to State Department workers under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the officials said.
The compromise allows Iraq to claim jurisdiction over Americans while preserving nearly all the protections U.S. forces and employees now hold in Iraq. The vagueness appears deliberate, thus allowing both sides to argue they got concessions they needed.
A military official said top Pentagon leaders are not entirely happy with the legal immunity compromise as written in the draft. Officials have said repeatedly, however, that the administration "can live with" the proposed deal.
As for the withdrawal dates, looks like Obama is going to have to change his website again. The Iraqis have totally rejected his "plan" and are opting for a longer stay by US troops.
All in all, the deal is about as good as we could hope for on withdrawal while we will probably have to give a little more on immunity. But one thing is certain; the "puppet" government of Iraq is definitely growing up and the world should acknowledge it.
Hat Tip: Rich Baehr