Kurdistan president says U.S.-Iraq
security pact unlikely to pass
President Bush meets with Iraq's Kurdistan region
President Massoud Barzani in the Oval Office of the
White House in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008
WASHINGTON, — Kurdish President Massoud
Barzani said he is “doubtful” that a bilateral
agreement authorizing U.S. forces to remain in Iraq
after the end of the year would be approved by the
Iraqi cabinet and parliament, the Washington Post
newspaper said on Thursday.
Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional
Government, said most political factions in Iraq
want the accord to go through. But he said the
country is “in a situation of intellectual
where people are not
able to state their real positions” for fear of
appearing too close to the United States and of
undercutting their standing in provincial elections
scheduled for January.
“Personally, I’m doubtful it will pass,” Barzani
said, speaking through a translator, during a
meeting with Washington Post reporters and editors.
The assessment came amid growing signs of trouble in
negotiations over a status-of-forces agreement,www.ekurd.net
or SOFA, that would
govern the U.S. military presence in Iraq after a
United Nations mandate expires Dec. 31. The process
stalled again this week when the Iraqi cabinet
decided to reopen negotiations and propose a series
of amendments to the pact.
U.S. President Bush, who
met with Barzani Wednesday in the Oval Office, said
he was “analyzing” the proposals and is optimistic
that an agreement can be reached. “We obviously want
to be helpful and constructive without undermining
basic principles,” Bush said. “And I remain very
hopeful and confident that the SOFA will get
But the mild encouragement from Bush came as other
administration officials strongly suggested that a
compromise is unlikely, increasing the possibility
that the issue will become one of the first major
challenges facing the next U.S. president.
The Iraqis have made several key demands, including
granting Iraq more legal authority over U.S. troops
accused of crimes; hardening a tentative 2011
departure date for American troops; and allowing
Iraqi inspection of U.S. military shipments.
After a controversial raid by U.S. forces into
Syrian territory last weekend, the Iraqis also want
an explicit ban on the United States staging attacks
from Iraq into neighboring countries.
The Bush administration has repeatedly said that the
current draft of the agreement is the furthest that
the United States is willing to go. “The bar to any
revisions is very high,” State Department spokesman
Sean McCormack said.
Kurdish politicians have
long been the most supportive of the U.S. presence,
and the two main Kurdish parties are the only ones
in the government to have publicly backed the
agreement. “We believe it is in the interest of all
Iraqis, especially Kurdistan,” Barzani said
Shiite parties contesting for control of provincial
councils have not committed themselves, and Prime
Minister Nouri al-Maliki has not taken a public
stand on the agreement.
Iraq could seek a one-year extension of the U.N.
mandate as a short-term solution, but Iraqi
officials have long resisted that alternative as a
violation of their national sovereignty.
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