Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s cabinet submitted a draft law to parliament calling for a referendum on the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) to coincide with the January 2010 parliamentary election. The SOFA was originally passed in November 2008 by the Iraqi parliament. Alongside it was a second law, the Political Reform Document, which also called for power sharing in the government and security forces, and a referendum on the SOFA by July 2009. The Reform Document was pushed by the Iraqi Accordance Front, and was the only concession they were able to get from the negotiations over the SOFA. It was not binding however, which was why the referendum was not held on time, and there has been no change in the administration or army and police. There was also no one advocating for the referendum from within the parliament, Maliki’s cabinet, or the United States.
Now Maliki is on the campaign trail, and is portraying himself as the leader that got the Americans to leave Iraq. Maliki for example, called the June 30, 2009 withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq’s cities a national holiday and a great victory. If the Iraqi public votes the SOFA down in January, which American officials seem to believe will happen, the U.S. will have one year to withdraw its forces. As the policy now stands, the Obama administration plans to accomplish that by December 31, 2011. In pushing for the referendum, Maliki needs to balance the continued need for U.S. support with his desire for a nationalist image. He appears to be going for the route that will assure him the most votes.
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