US Ambassador Ryan Crocker (left) and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari sign the SOFA on Nov. 17, 2008 in Baghdad
Jane Arraf, a freelance correspondent, wrote in a Dec. 2, 2008 Christian Science Monitor article titled "America's Diminishing Role in Iraq":
"The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) provides the legal basis for US-led troops to operate in Iraq after a wartime United Nations Security Council mandate expires at the end of December. The bilateral agreement essentially transforms the US from acting as an occupier - with sweeping powers to launch military operations, detain Iraqis, and bring equipment in the country at will - to having a more normal relationship with Iraq. Under SOFA, American forces are to pull back to bases outside Iraq's cities by the end of June 2009 and withdraw entirely from Iraq within three years. The security pact was the first such agreement since the invasion to outline specific terms for US involvement in Iraq. It was also the first in the region to be publicly debated and approved. Iraqi leaders backed the agreement after reassurances from President-elect Obama that his administration would not try to change the accord negotiated by the Bush administration..."
Was the 2008 Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) to withdraw US troops from Iraq by 2011 a good agreement?
Ryan Crocker, US Ambassador to Iraq, and Raymond T. Odierno, MA, US General in the Multi-National Force - Iraq, released the following Nov. 27, 2008 statement on the Multi-National Force - Iraq website:
"The United States welcomes today’s approval by Iraq’s Council of Representatives of the Strategic Framework Agreement and the Security Agreement....
Taken together, these two agreements formalize a strong and equal partnership between the United States and Iraq. They provide the means to secure the significant security gains we have achieved together and to deter future aggression. They establish a framework for cooperation in the fields of defense, political relations, economics, trade, culture, education, the rule of law, health, the environment and science and technology."
Muhsin Sadoun al-Karkary, a Kurdish Member of the Legal Committee of Iraqi Parliament, is quoted in a Nov. 20, 2008 Los Angeles Times article titled "Iraqi Session on U.S. Pact Ends in Shouting Match":
"If we compare the agreement to the [U.N.] Security Council order extending the permission for the presence of [foreign troops], the agreement is better for the Iraqi people because it has fixed dates for withdrawal."
Hoshiyar Zebari, MA, Minister of Foreign Affairs in Iraq, stated at the Sep. 14, 2008 International Institute for Strategic Studies (ISIS) 6th Global Strategic Review Conference:
“In March this year we began the negotiating process for a Status of Forces Agreement to provide the legal basis for US forces in Iraq once their UN mandate expires in December. This SOFA encompasses jurisdiction; detention; powers of authorization to launch military operations; and issues of sovereignty and immunity...
The negotiation of this agreement is testament to the increased capabilities of our home-grown security forces and conditions on the ground, and the subsequent reduction of MNF [Multi-National Force] control was always the stated objective of UNSC [United Nations Security Council] resolutions, as well as the mutual goal of Iraq and its partners, for full Iraqi sovereignty. We have increasingly needed Iraqi solutions and sovereign decisions to address our problems...”
Frederick W. Kagan, PhD, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), in a Nov. 17, 2008 interview titled "Iraq Surge Co-architect Fred Kagan on the Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq" on the Hugh Hewitt Show:
"...[The SOFA] is a very significant thing, and we need to start by putting this into context in two ways. First of all, understanding that this is more, this agreement is about more than the timetable for American withdrawal. What that timetable is embedded in, is an agreement that is about a strategic partnership between the United States of America and Iraq that is intended to develop over the long term to help us deal with common enemies that we face. And the number one common enemy that we both identify, both Americans and Iraqis, is al Qaeda. And Iraq has been committed to the fight against al Qaeda, remains committed to the fight against al Qaeda. And this agreement captures the intent of the Iraqi government to develop a partnership with us, and that’s an incredibly positive thing."
The Iraqi Nasserite Socialist Party is quoted in a Nov. 28, 2008 Al Jazeera article titled "Iraqi Party Denounces US Pact":
"The party condemns the agreement that is prolonging the US occupation and warns of its grave consequences on Iraq's destiny in particular and the Arab nations in general...[Approval of the deal is a] collective sin perpetrated by the voters, the absent members and the abstainers against the Iraqi people and the nation."
Ameen Izzadeen, Deputy Editor for the Daily Mirror in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in a Nov. 20, 2008 Daily Mirror article titled "Iraq Deal: SOFA, So Bad," stated:
"The haste with which the Iraqi government and the Bush administration signed the deal raises many questions. Why now? Why couldn't the Iraqi government wait till Obama took the oath and sign the deal with the new administration in Washington?
The Bush administration said the agreement had to be signed before the United Nations mandate for coalition troops to stay on in Iraq ended on December 31. The Americans fears [sic] a Russian veto or a double veto by Russia and China when the mandate comes up for renewal at the UN Security Council at the end of the year.
...[I]nstead of rushing through the ill-conceived SOFA, the Iraqi government should have told the Americans that they should try to renew the UN mandate at least by a few more months. Surely, the Russians and the Chinese are unlikely to oppose such an agreement. Let's assume for the sake of argument that there is a Russian veto. If that happens, the Iraqi government should insist on a short-term SOFA – say for six months – as it would give them room to discuss a fresh deal with the new US administration."
Peter W. Galbraith, JD, Senior Diplomatic Fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-proliferation, on Nov. 26, 2008 issued the following statement titled "Galbraith: U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement Is 'Stunning and Humiliating' for Bush" on the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation website:
"The agreement represents a stunning and humiliating reversal of course by the Bush administration, which had vehemently opposed any timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. For the last two years, President Bush has pretended that Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki is a democrat and an American ally. In fact, Maliki is a sectarian Shiite politician who heads a government dominated by pro-Iranian religious parties. The U.S. presence now no longer serves the interests of Iraq’s ruling Shiite religious parties or their Iranian allies, so we are now being asked to leave. While U.S. withdrawal is made easier by the fact that both the Iraqi government and the new U.S. administration want American troops out, the confluence of events leading to the agreement underscores the folly of President Bush’s lost Iraq war."