U.S.-Iraq Negotiations Come Down to the Wire

Negotiations over the Status of Forces Agreement have reached a very difficult moment as time runs out quickly. Tension and an exchange of blunt statements and warnings have dominated the environment in the last few days. On the one hand, the Iraqi cabinet and many in the parliament rejected the final draft, demanding unspecified adjustments. On the other hand, the American administration largely rejected those demands and warned of the consequences of an Iraqi failure to ratify the agreement.

It appears that direct communications are not in their best shape, to the extent that the British commanders in Iraq are playing the moderator role between the Iraqi and American sides, according to state-owned Al-Sabah:

A parliamentary source said that Britain has become the moderator between Washington and the parliamentary powers. The source revealed that a meeting was held between Ali Adeeb of the UIA [United Iraqi Alliance] and the deputy commander of British forces, and lasted for an hour. This meeting was followed by another meeting [between the British commander] and members of the Accord Front and a third one with a number of other parliamentary powers.

Not all members of parliament share the cabinet's rejection of the agreement. In fact some suggest that refusing to sign the agreement is tantamount to opening the door for coups. Al-Bayyna al-Jadida quoted three prominent Iraqi lawmakers speaking along these lines:

Chief of the Kurdistan Alliance Fouad Masoum said if the agreement is not signed by the end of the year, U.S. troops will be left without legal cover from the UN. This means they will not have to perform security-keeping operations. This justifies concerns about the possibility of a coup. ... Chief of the Accord Front Adnan Duleimi also warned of a coup toppling the government. Meanwhile MP Iyad Jamal Ad-Din says that the departure of U.S. troops -- or their presence with no operational significance if the agreement is not signed -- exposes Iraq to security threats, top of which is a coup against the democratic system in the country.