The Iraqi Cabinet has approved a status of forces agreement with the United States:
BAGHDAD — The Iraqi cabinet voted overwhelmingly Sunday to approve the security agreement that sets the conditions for the Americans’ continued presence in Iraq from Jan. 1 until the end of 2011.
All but one of the 28 cabinet ministers who attended the two-and-a-half-hour session voted for the agreement and sent it to Parliament for consideration, a huge relief to the United States, which had been in intense negotiations with the Iraqis for nearly a year.
The United Nations Security Council resolution that allows U.S. troops to operate in Iraq expires Dec. 31, and, without an extension of the resolution or a separate agreement with the Iraqis like that approved by the cabinet on Sunday, forces of the U.S.-led coalition would have no legal mandate to operate.
But now they will, pending approval by the Iraqi Parliament which I suspect is largely a formality.
Terms of the agreement include:
- American forces will vacate Iraqi cities and towns by summer 2009.
- American forces will vacate Iraq by the end of 2011.
- U.S. soldiers are still guaranteed immunity except in cases of serious felonies committed while off duty outside their bases.
Overall I’m satisfied with this agreement for a number of reasons. First, it’s certainly no open-ended lapdog agreement. The Iraqi government has asserted its sovereignty while insuring a roadmap for assuming responsibility for the country’s security within a reasonable and foreseeable timeframe. The map above shows the status of the provinces of Iraq. In those in yellow security still remains under the control of Coalition forces. I think it’s reasonable to expect that by summer of 2009 all of the provinces will have been turned over to Iraqi responsibility.
Second, U. S. interests, both in our soldiers and in Iraqi and regional security, are reasonably secured.
Note that this agreement goes beyond what President-Elect Obama has said he’ll do. Facts on the ground have outrun U. S. politics, giving him justification for what he’s promised and more.
I opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003 but also opposed removing U. S. forces from the country until things were more stable than they were in, say, spring of 2007 both for humanitarian reasons and to preserve greater U. S. interests in the region. As I see it this agreement is a confirmation that the situation in Iraq has become stable enough that removing our forces from the country can reasonably be contemplated.