Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
November 18, 2008

The Iraq SOFA Is A Shiny Object

There is lots of reaction in 'western' media to the Iraqi cabinet passing the Status of Force Agreement (SOFA). Even an English translation (.doc) (h/t Helena) of the SOFA, including version changes, is available. Article 24/1 now says (red = newly inserted, 'must' replaced 'shall'):

All U.S. forces must withdraw from all Iraqi territories no later than December 31st 2011.

While there are still ambiguities, the SOFA seems to be not as bad as it was.

But from the beginning of the negotiations the talk was about TWO agreements, the SOFA and a Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA) and in fact, two agreement have been signed:

Apart from the troops pact, the two men signed a long-term strategic framework, which Crocker said would define relations between the countries for years in "economy, culture, science, technology, health and trade, just to name a few."

"It reminds us all that, at a time when U.S. forces will continue to withdraw from Iraq in recognition of the superlative security gains over the last few years, our relationship will develop in many other important ways."

Next to Crocker's words we only have this slightly expanded but similar talking point from Maliki's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh repeated by :

“The second agreement frames the principles of cooperation between the two countries in the fields of politics, diplomacy, culture, health, environment, economy, and power, in addition to information and communication technology and implementing law and judiciary,” he explained.

Why did Crocker avoided to mention the 'implementing law and judiciary' point in that new  U.S-Iraq agreement? Hmmm ...

And what is the agreement's status? The SOFA will have to pass the Iraqi parliament. How about the SFA? Will the parliament get a vote on that treaty or will it not?

Somehow the SOFA seems to be a shiny object held out to keep our eyes away from the piece of work that might well be the real 'long-term strategic' sell out of Iraq.

Even the imperial Council of Foreign Relation in its backgrounder seems to have no idea what that second document includes. The experts it asks are simply guessing.

Both the SOFA and the SFA are based on the quite vague Declaration of Principles signed by Bush and Maliki a year ago. One 'principle' included therein is:

Facilitating and encouraging the flow of foreign investments to Iraq, especially American investments, to contribute to the reconstruction and rebuilding of Iraq.

That point could mean that the U.S. will get some exclusiveness or special preference in buying up certain Iraqi assets.

Or what about this one:

Supporting the building of Iraq's economic institutions and infrastructure with the provision of financial and technical assistance to train and develop competencies and capacities of vital Iraqi institutions.

Will there be U.S. 'trainers' in every ministry of the Iraqi government 'developing competencies and capacities' of the nominal minister?

If such points are now more specifically laid out in the Strategic Framework Agreement, as they should be, the SFA certainly deserves some serious scrutiny from the Iraqi and the U.S. people.

But there is zero information available about its real content. 

All the media seem concerned with is that shiny SOFA object held out to them. But what is in that paper the other hand of the various con artists in DC and the Green Zone are holding back?

That Crocker and al-Dabbagh have so little to say about it means that it is important.

Posted by b on November 18, 2008 at 18:08 UTC | Permalink


It's not a matter of whether the war is not real or if it is. Victory is not possible. The war is not meant to be won. It is meant to be continuous...The war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects. And its object is not the victory over either Eurasia or East Asia but to keep the very structure of society intact.~George Oilwell

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Nov 18 2008 19:30 utc | 1

'keep the very structure of society intact,' along with, apparently, 80 years of Detroit kleptocracy, although, in all fairness, the $13B of US reconstruction aid already filtched by Maliki is scarcely less than the filtching we're going to get as B3 get bailed and commodities take off again, if briefly, before the hard reality of 'bubble-up or die' sets in. The anachronistic US system is built on the very bedrock of trickle down, like those snot strands hanging from cave ceilings in the Mexican gulag.

Posted by: Eugene Debits | Nov 18 2008 20:48 utc | 2

Somehow the SOFA seems to be a shiny object held out to keep our eyes away from the piece of work that might well be the real 'long-term strategic' sell out of Iraq.

That's a very nice point,b. And I'm glad you raised it; it needs publicity. However, I should think the text will be leaked shortly. By Raed Jarrar, for example. It will not remain secret, if there's a prospect of a sell-out. There are too many people who would have interests in getting it into the public domain.

I think you're somewhat mis-estimating the Iraqi position. Without troops in the country, the US would have trouble enforcing its desires. If I were Maliki, I too would have agreed to something that apparently gave the US continued influence, but was in fact unenforceable in the long term, particularly if it eased the US into accepting the basic agreement. I think that's what it is about.

This SOFA/SFA agreement is the equivalent of the Paris Vietnam treaty of 1973. It is not the end, but it treats the important point, getting US troops out of the country.

What will remain? American influence over the Special Forces, and over the intelligence service, both of which have been thoroughly infiltrated. US advisors in the ministries, you can forget; I think they're probably ignored as it is. implementing law and judiciary - that's a good point, but, you know, all of them can be slowly eased out over time.

You have to understand Maliki's dilemma. Yes, he could be removed by the US any time, but if he gives in, he could be knocked off by his own people even quicker. It's a very fine line to tread. There are very few left in non-Kurdish Iraq who are willing to tolerate the US for much longer. Politics of course can change a lot in two years. Black operations, as in the last Iraq thread, might have an effect, but those didn't. The juggernaut of anti-US feeling has been launched, and I doubt if there's anything that can turn it around.

Posted by: alex | Nov 18 2008 23:38 utc | 3


The American media is by and large swallowing the propaganda line that the Iraqi cabinet's acquiescence to a "Status of Forces Agreement" (SOFA) with the U.S. occupation force means that the Iraq War will be over in 2011. This will further cement the conventional wisdom that the suppurating war crime in Iraq is now behind us, and the topic will be moved even further off the radar of public scrutiny.

'See no evil,(Clinton) hear no evil,(Bush) speak no evil'(Obama) ...

" Some contend that it is a proverb reminding us not to be so snoopy, so nosy, and so gossipy.

Others say that it is a warning to stay away from places where immoral acts are taking place.

Whatever the origin and meaning of see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil," it is one of the most visual phrases in existence...

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Nov 18 2008 23:54 utc | 4

Badger has two new posts!

Posted by: Alamet | Nov 19 2008 0:13 utc | 5

You can't see the forest for the trees.

The problem here is not the content of the agreement but that the form of the agreement is an executive agreement between the US president and the Iraqi government. So it doesn't matter what's in the agreement because the the US president (soon Obama) will have executive privilege to modify it.

That means that Obama will be able to retain troops in Iraq on their mega-bases throughout his administration, a pleasant position for which Obama is not doubt grateful to Bush.

Thanks to Bush, this executive agreement never attained the status of a treaty which not only would have invited messy, constitutional Senate advice and consent but after Senate approval (doubtful) would have become the law of the land, thus mandating an undesired (by Obama) complete US military wthdrawal.

The unitary executive lives on, a role soon to be assumed by the consenting Barack Obama, who will then be the Commander In Chief and a proponent for Supporting The Troops.

Perhaps the Sadrists, who probably read the newspapers, will terminate this Bush/Obama subterfuge. Let's hope so.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Nov 19 2008 3:54 utc | 6

I think most are missing the point here . The SOFA in any form acceptable to amerika would never be passed by any Iraqi administration. The Cheney gang want to cut their losses and move on. Those of us who can remember the talk from western media at the time of the "Paris peace settlement" can recognise the similiarities.

This is an unconditional withdrawal with the late drafted flimsy unforceable and meaningless Strategic Framework Agreement used as the last veil to conceal the reality, to be waved under the noses of the amerikan imperialists as a justification for signing the surrender that the SOFA really is.

The Iraqis have won their country back, not only that, all the people of the ME have had the specter of a "forward strategic base", loaded to the gunnels with rapists and murderers fresh from the high schools of middle amerika, all itching to 'show the ragheads', that was to be dropped into the middle of their venerable societies, removed for at least a generation. In other words forever.
That is it, all over. The high tide mark of empire will still be seen on the green zone of Baghdad for a few years but that tide is receding and will never return.

Congratulations to the people of Iraq. Respect for their honour and endurance.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Nov 19 2008 8:54 utc | 7

Who needs a SOFA? We won!!!
ttp://">Victory in Iraq Day

Posted by: ralphieboy | Nov 19 2008 15:35 utc | 8

The objective was never to win but to stay. Any withdrawal, from the beginning under Rumsfeld, has to be "conditions-based." The conditions are never quite right, and probably never will be.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Nov 19 2008 21:42 utc | 9

ralphieboy, here's your link

should we all prepare for the celebrations??

Posted by: annie | Nov 19 2008 21:43 utc | 10

Truthout on the ambiguities of SOFA:

Experts: SOFA Faces Legal Uncertainty

Posted by: Alamet | Nov 19 2008 23:10 utc | 11

Recommended interview on The Real News Network:

Class and religion in Iraq

Sabah al-Nasseri: Conflict in Iraq is more complex than the Sunni-Shiite division

Posted by: Alamet | Nov 19 2008 23:12 utc | 12

There is a lot of logic behind declaring victory. Then they just have to hol out until 2011. If Obama is not able to extract us from Iraq by then, it will become his albatross and no longer will he be able to call it "Bush's War" any more than Nixon could call Vietnam "Kennedy's War".

Posted by: ralphieboy | Nov 20 2008 5:30 utc | 13

Don@9, the conditions will be right once we've extracted the last drop of our oil from beneath their sand.

Posted by: ran | Nov 20 2008 6:16 utc | 14

If it all comes down to winning, then there must also be a loser. Saying that the U.S. has won in Iraq implies that the Iraqi's have lost. So why would the Iraqi's sign an agreement that could be construed as a surrender document? Unless it implies no such thing. Usually, the side that withdrawals from the conflict is the loser, and the side left holding the battle ground is the winner. If the U.S. has just signed a document that requires it to vacate all its troops by a certain date, there is no possible way to call it the winner. Or even rate as a pyrrhic victory.

Posted by: anna missed | Nov 20 2008 6:57 utc | 15

Lets spell it out. There was no way the SOFA was going to be signed before the election no matter how much pressure cheneyCorp piled on. The Iraqis were already in the box seat since too much pressure from the rethugs would have had Iraqi violence particulary that against the invaders, ramped right up which would have put the war back on amerika's front pages before the election a situation that could only benefit Iraq in the long run. So the amerikan imperialists bullied and blustered, blackmailed and murdered, to twist arms in their usual manner but never could go far enough to force their point of view.

Sure the collapse of amerika's free money pipeline helped a bit but the Iraqis remained staunch, despite provocations particularly the murders of senior Sadrists by the amerikan death squads. No one lost it and restarted the sectarian violence, all sides remained ready to attack amerikan forces should the situation demand it.

Then Obama won and the rethugs have decided to that the most they can get from the unwinnable Iraqi situation is to leave the dem party in the shit. Even though the deal was signed under a repug administration it will the Obama administration which presides over the withdrawal.

This means that in ten years, the usual historical revisionism to buttress the myth of amerikan military invincibility will place the blame for the loss firmly at the feet of Obama and the dems.

Good job too. If the only way amerikans are going to learn that the inevitable conclusion of their jingoistic support of foreign adventures into slaughter is always to have to suffer oppression and misery at home then perhaps they will think next time the opportunity arises for amerika to invade murder rape and pillage another country, that the price is too high.
This was not George Bush's war, the million plus dead, 4 million refugees is down to every asshole who voted for a war candidate in 04. That means senator Clinton or Joe Lieberfuckface as well as George Bush or Tom Delayedhisincarceration.

Most amerikans have much to atone for.
As has been said many times before. Ignorance of reality is no excuse in a world where so much information is so easily available.

In the meantime just like straight after the Paris peace settlement the imperialists will deny the obvious - that they lost and instead claim they won - that their reich in their colony will never fail, when in fact as soon as the bulk of the killers and the death machines have left, Iraq, (just like Vietnam did) will get back to doing what they had always intended, constructing a society in their image not that of Peoria, Palo Alto or Palm Springs.

The oil deal hasn't been signed in any meaningful way and never will be, amerika will bluster on that for a bit then it will slip from the public, and then the political consciousness because events far more disturbing and threatening to the future of the empire will have overtaken the average fat white man's day to day existence.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Nov 20 2008 19:22 utc | 16

Surprising historical perspective at NYTimes Baghdad Bureau Blog. You'd almost think the author was implying something...

Security Agreement Déjà Vu

Posted by: Alamet | Nov 20 2008 23:51 utc | 17

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