Foreign Policy Blogs

Are We Out? The Status of Forces Agreement and the Future of US-Iraqi Relations

Sunnis, Shi’a, secular and sectarian citizens alike, Iraqis have been debating the issues that come with US military occupation for years now.  But one week ago, the Iraqi Parliament came together, despite their different beliefs, and passed the Status of Forces Agreement by a vote of 149-35.  There were dissenters, of course; most were Sadr supporters and some hard-line Sunnis who believed that by voting for the agreement, they were acknowledging an ‘illegal’ war on the part of the US.  However, as the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune reported November 27, the security agreement was a proverbial big political hit. 


Sadr supporters protest the Status of Forces
Agreement in Baghdad on Friday, Nov 28

The Status of Forces Agreement requires US troops to withdraw from cities and towns by June 30, 2009, and completely by the end of 2011.  The agreement will restrict US military operations by requiring court orders for building searches and detaining suspects.  The Iraqi Parliament also asked for jurisdiction over crimes committed by US troops and military contractors, however the compromise only allows them the power to prosecute contractors; the US military will still be subject to US laws.  This request comes after the Blackwater incident in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed.  The agreement also addressed issues of economics, education and health care, but only vaguely touched on the controversial subjects such as dividing oil revenues and the disputed Kurdish city of Kirkuk.  Also passed was a commitment to address the complaints and discrepencies of minority blocs and their political power. 

Considering that President-Elect Obama has committed to withdrawing all combat forces by May of 2010, I’m sure that we can expect most points of this agreement to stay consistent.  However, what happens when we try to negotiate military bases and other forms of security?  After what we’ve done, will we be permanently expelled?  What role, if any, will Iraq allow the US to take in the Middle East?  There's already talk of the Iraqi government not allowing any US invasions from their soil, probably in response to the recent raid into Syria.  This makes sense.  Allowing the US to invade other countries in their region makes them look like a puppet country, something that the Iraqi government is desperately trying to avoid.  This idea is especially beneficial for Iran, at a time when US actions against its nuclear program are unknown. 

At this point we need to think about security in the Middle East region.  Considering that most Islamic terrorist organizations demand that the US leaves the area, staying in some capacity may continue to put us in harm's way.  However, we need to think about the ability to act quickly in defense of our allies, and even to deter potential military conflicts in the region.  Whether this is through off-shore military operations or through permanent bases on Iraqi territory is yet to be seen. 

 

Author

Jennifer Bushaw

Jennifer Bushaw holds an MA from the University of Chicago in Middle Eastern Studies with an emphasis on policy. She focused her research, including her Thesis, on modern Iraq and the Iraq war. She also has a Bachelor's in History from the University of Michigan. Jennifer is currently working as an Investigative Research Associate for a security advisory and management firm in Chicago, Illinois.

Areas of Focus:
Iraq-US Policy; Security; Coalition Operations;

Contact

Great Decisions Discussion group