The Blog

Another SOFA?

12:58 PM, Jan 21, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

At the new White House website, Obama lays out his agenda for Iraq. In addition to assuring the American people that he "had the judgment and courage to speak out against going to war" (unlike the cowardly fool Joe Biden), Obama promises a responsible withdrawal, a 'diplomatic surge,' a new effort to assist refugees, and then this odd item:

The Status-of-Forces Agreement

Obama and Biden believe it is vital that a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) be reached so our troops have the legal protections and immunities they need. Any SOFA should be subject to Congressional review to ensure it has bipartisan support here at home.

It's possible that the Obama team didn't have an Iraq expert proof this portion of the website before it went live, but our new administration is so competent, and so web savvy, we should assume this isn't just a screwup. So what to make of it?

The Bush administration did, following the election, sign a new status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government. The deal took nearly a year of wrangling with the Iraqi leadership, who faced strong domestic opposition to the deal, and ultimately required the Bush administration to accept a fixed time-line for withdrawal (all U.S. forces must leave Iraq by the end of 2011). The Bush administration and General Petraeus were also satisfied that the agreement provided all necessary legal protections and immunities for U.S. forces. Moreover, the left was largely pleased with the new agreement. Marc Lynch recently called it "Bush's finest moment on Iraq."

So does President Obama plan to renegotiate the agreement and submit it to Congress "to ensure bipartisan support here at home"? And will he expect the Iraqis to do the same, perhaps after the coming elections?