Are We Getting Kicked Out of Iraq?

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

Last year the Iraqi parliament approved a Status of Forces Agreement that called for U.S. troops to withdraw from cities by June 2009 and to leave the country completely by December 2011.  At the time, there was a plan to submit the SOFA to a referendum, but that never happened.

Now, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has apparently decided to revive the idea:

If Iraqi lawmakers sign off on Maliki’s initiative to hold a referendum in January on the withdrawal timeline, a majority of voters could annul a standing U.S.-Iraqi security agreement, forcing the military to pull out completely by January 2011 under the terms of a previous law.

It is unclear whether parliament, which is in recess until next month, would approve the referendum. Lawmakers have yet to pass a measure laying the basic ground rules for the Jan. 16 national election, their top legislative priority for the remainder of 2009.

If the SOFA is voted down, American troops have to leave within a year.  That means January 16, 2011 instead of December 31, 2011.  It’s not at all clear why Maliki is doing this, but Juan Cole takes a guess:

I am just speculating, but I wonder if this measure was pushed by the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, which is close to the ayatollahs in Tehran, who in turn may want to speed up the US withdrawal because they have become afraid of a ‘color revolution’ in Iran promoted by the US. Staging such things from neighboring Iraq would be easier than doing it from a greater distance…

Meanwhile, there’s this:

In an effort to defuse mounting Arab-Kurdish tensions, the U.S. military is proposing to deploy troops for the first time in a strip of disputed territory in northern Iraq, the top American general in Iraq said Monday.

….Though the plan is still not finalized, Odierno said that he had discussed it recently with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki and with Massoud Barzani, the president of the regional government, and that both had been receptive to the idea.

So on the one hand Maliki is supporting a referendum that might force a faster troop withdrawal, while on the other hand he’s supporting renewed U.S. patrols even though the SOFA banned them starting last month.  The fig leaf is that the patrols will be in “mostly rural” areas, but that’s a fairly thin excuse.

Anyway, I’m not sure what to make of all this.  But it wouldn’t bother me at all if the Iraqi public voted down the SOFA and we ended up withdrawing a year earlier than planned.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate