[JURIST] Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] Friday said that the proposed version of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], which will govern the legal status of US troops in Iraq beginning in 2009, violates Iraqi sovereignty. Al-Maliki told reporters that he particularly objects to provisions that would grant total legal immunity to US troops, allow the US to detain prisoners independent of Iraqi review, and give the US control over Iraqi airspace. Earlier this week, Iraqi lawmakers expressed their strong opposition to the proposal [McClatchy report], but US President George W. Bush told reporters [transcript] Wednesday:
First of all, I think we'll end up with a strategic agreement with Iraq. You know, it's all kinds of noise in their system and our system. What eventually will win out is the truth. For example, you read stories perhaps in your newspaper that the U.S. is planning all kinds of permanent bases in Iraq. That's an erroneous story. The Iraqis know -- will learn it's erroneous, too. We're there at the invitation of the sovereign government of Iraq.The two countries will need to sign a new SOFA in order for troops to remain in Iraq after their current UN mandate expires in December [Security Council release]. Reuters has more. AFP additional coverage.
The US has similar status agreements with other countries around the world. According to a report [CFR materials] by the Council on Foreign Relations [official website], legal immunity for US troops is one of the military's most desired provisions. That immunity is a particularly divisive issue in Iraq, which has previously asked the UN to nullify [JURIST report] the immunity granted to troops under the original mandate [Security Council Resolution 1546] due to past misconduct by US troops, including the Haditha killings and Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal [JURIST news archives]. Iraq has also asked the UN to lift the provision allowing the US to hold prisoners without Iraqi review [JURIST news report].