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U.S. Security Agreements and Iraq

Introduction

As the United States prepared for a presidential transition, the Bush administration put the final touches on long-term agreements with Iraq's government intended to shape legal, economic, cultural, and security relations between the two countries well into President-elect Barack Obama's first term. U.S. and coalition forces have been in Iraq since 2003. And while the UN Security Council did not explicitly authorize the invasion, the council did approve the presence of foreign forces in an annually renewed resolution first adopted in October 2003.Because Iraq's government has requested that the Security Council not renew the mandate upon its expiration at the end of 2008, U.S. officials have had to accelerate negotiations on a detailed legal framework for the U.S. presence in Iraq. Two major agreements-a Status of Forces Agreement stalled on the issue of legal immunity for U.S. troops and dates for a full withdrawal, and a broader strategic framework agreement-were approved by Iraq's parliament in late November 2008.

Agreements Take Shape

Details of the draft agreements began to leak in early 2008, when U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker, testifying before Congress, confirmed two separate accords were on the table. The first, a status of forces agreement, called a SOFA, would codify legal protections for U.S. military personnel and property in Iraq. Such agreements already govern U.S. military conduct in other long-term deployment zones--including Germany, Japan, and South Korea--and the administration has characterized talks for a SOFA in Iraq as a hopeful step toward stability. The final version shows significant concessions from the U.S. side. For instance, the Bush administration agreed to a total withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. The draft and final versions also called for additional...

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