Wednesday, 19 November 2008, 09:39 GMT
Kurdish demand set within security agreement

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, left, and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, right, shake hands after a signing ceremony for a security pact between the United States and Iraq in Baghdad on Monday, Nov. 17, 2008. AP Photo

The Kurdish Globe

Iraqi Cabinet sends the SOFA bill to Parliament for approval

With a timetable for American withdrawal set and Kurdish demands heeded, the Status of Forces Agreement needs the final approval of Iraq's Parliament.

By a majority of votes, the Iraqi Council of Ministers on Sunday agreed on the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) draft hammered out between Baghdad and Washington. A Kurdish demand has been added to the draft.

"The American side agreed on adding amendments demanded by the Kurds to be inserted within the agreement. It commits the American government to defend the federalism system currently in Iraq and to prohibit any attempts to violate federalism by some political sides," announced Firyad Rwandizi, spokesman of the Kurdistan Coalition list in Iraqi Parliament.

Rwandizi said the agreement did not contain any item concerning relations between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the federal government in Baghdad. "This issue is within the authority of the Iraqi Constitution and Iraqi political blocs," he said during an interview with the news website Newsmatique on Sunday.

Parliament began discussing the bill last Monday and will vote on the agreement on November 24.

According to Abdul-Khaliq Zangana, a member of Parliament from the Kurdistan Coalition list, the bill is being sent to Parliament for either approval or rejection; there is no way to amend the items. "This process is because Parliament's vote is needed, since it represents the Iraqi people," said Zangana.

Parliament member Sirwan Kakaee told the Globe that the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance and the Kurdistan Coalition list as well as a number of Sunni members said they will vote in favor of passing the security agreement, which requires 165 of Parliament's 275 seats.
Kakaee said that the Al-Sadr bloc, with 30 votes, reject the bill. The Iraqi List with 24 seats and the Al-Fadhila Party bloc with 15 seats have yet to declare their opinions.

Turkey is worried

"Hürriyet" reported Turkish concerns regarding the security agreement between the Iraq and the U.S.

"Iraq and the U.S. have reached an agreement that allows Washington three years to withdraw their forces from the country, but it raises serious doubts concerning the future of the Turkish military operations targeting terrorist bases in northern Iraq and their relation with the Iraqi Kurds," reported "Hürriyet" on Tuesday.

The paper also quoted Turkish Defense Minister Mehmet Vecdi Gonul as saying that the agreement returns airspace authority to the Iraqi forces, and this will hinder Turkish operations against elements of the Turkish-banned Kurdistan Workers Party. The security agreement also cancels the agreements of November 5, which arranged the exchange of intelligence between Washington and Ankara, said Gonul.

However, Iraqi government spokesman Ali Al-Dabagh on Sunday gave assurances to neighboring countries about the contents of the agreement.

"The security agreement clearly and frankly mentions that Iraqi lands will not be used to attack neighboring countries, and it will not cause any damage to those countries," said Al-Dabagh.

He announced that all American forces will withdraw due to the final deadline of December 31, 2011. Al-Dabagh said that the Iraqi government will govern its airspace by the end of this year.