Thursday, 3 July 2008

SOFA - Bruised but still in the game

PressTV's Middle East Today takes another look at the developments related to the fractious negotiations to establish a Status of Forces Agreement in Iraq.

The clock is ticking on a proposed Status of Forces Agreement between the United States and Iraq.

Earlier this year, both sides appeared optimistic that a deal would be signed at the end of July. But as details of the agreement began to leak out – opposition to the deal exploded onto the streets of Baghdad and other cities in Iraq.

In its original form, Iraq would have been turned into little more than a semi-autonomous province of the United States. And a dangerous one at that, with more than 50 permanent bases for the US military and air force.

Iraq would have become a heavily armed outpost of American foreign policy, and with its nuclear armed ally, a stark reminder to any government in the region about who was really in charge in the Middle East.

Despite opposition to the SOFA deal, and obvious provisions that have had to be amended or dropped altogether, it is still on the table.

Officials have become a little more cautious in recent weeks about releasing too many details about what is exactly contained in the deal currently under negotiation. The media – including programs like Middle East Today – can be a real nuisance to policy makers trying to push through a policy that is unpopular with the people it will affect the most.

Washington claims to be striving to bring full democracy to Iraq. Interestingly, the Iraqi parliament went into session Tuesday July 1st to discuss the deal, while President Bush seems to be doing everything possible to keep this away from Congress. Does this mean they have succeeded in bringing democracy to Iraq at the expense of losing it at home?

But however watered down the SOFA deal may become, there is growing opposition to any deal at all. There are plenty Iraqis who simply want the occupations forces and their civilian security companies such as the notorious Blackwater Group out of the country.

And for them, sooner would be far more preferable to later.

Watch the discussion "Bruised but still in the game" and please, join the debate!


Maher Othman, Journalist (Al Hayat) and Media Consultant

Conn Halliman, columnist of Foreign Policy in Focus

Fmr Congressman Paul Findlay

Kamil Mahdi, Senior Lecturer, Middle East Economics, Exeter University

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