Center for American Progress

Americans Need to Debate the Proposed U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement
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Americans Need to Debate the Proposed U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement

Americans cannot afford to allow a lame duck administration to push through an 11th-hour agreement with Iraq that might not advance America’s national security interests.

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The Bush administration is engaged in perhaps its last significant policy decision on Iraq before a new U.S. president and Congress are elected to office next month—negotiating a status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government that will determine how U.S. military forces operate in Iraq beginning in 2009. This is not a decision that should be left to a lame duck administration. The American people should be engaged in the debate every bit as much as the Iraqi people are today across their own country.

Iraq’s leaders are considering the current draft of a proposed U.S.-Iraq status of forces agreement, or SOFA, that would replace the current UN mandate set to expire at the end of the year. Even after nearly a year of negotiations, Iraq’s leadership remains sharply divided over the draft SOFA accord, with key factions criticizing the deal, including the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a leading Shia faction in the government.

It seems the SOFA’s provisions on the combat role of U.S. troops essentially commit the United States to a new military mission in Iraq beyond the original mission of enforcing "all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq." That’s a big problem.

A series of excellent hearings held this year by the Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, highlighted some of the concerns with the proposed SOFA. But overall the American public has not been engaged on the question of the proposed agreement by its leaders.

The lack of attention is perhaps understandable given the current financial crisis and hazardous economic conditions now dominating the news. But Americans cannot afford to allow a lame duck administration to push through an 11th-hour agreement with Iraq that might not advance America’s national security interests.

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