Chicago Journal of International Law


Just before the end of President George W. Bush's second term, the UN Security Council resolution authorizing US operations in Iraq as part of a Multi-National Force in accordance with international humanitarian law expired. To ensure a legal basis for the continued US military presence and military operations in Iraq, the US and Iraqi governments negotiated a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), as well as a "Strategic Framework Agreement for a Relationship of Friendship and Cooperation between the United States of America and the Republic of Iraq" (Framework Agreement). The details of these two documents are of great importance, as their stipulations will inform the crucial developments in the US-Iraqi relationship, including the eventual US withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq. President Bush and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki signed the "Agreement Between the United States of America and the Republic of Iraq on the Withdrawal of United States Forces from Iraq and the Organization of Their Activities during Their Temporary Presence in Iraq," (Iraq SOFA) in Baghdad on December 14, 2008, just two weeks before the Security Resolution's expiration. In its final form, the Iraq SOFA varies significantly from other US SOFA agreements in several ways. Primarily, the agreement regulates ongoing active military operations, with emphasis on Iraqi sovereignty and US accountability. As with the Iraq SOFA, the Framework Agreement proved quite distinct from other US "friendship" agreements, which traditionally deal with cultural and commercial concerns. In the Framework Agreement with Iraq, strategic issues are scattered throughout the document, as if to camouflage their presence among the more traditional cultural concerns. The Bush Administration likely structured the agreement that way to avoid having to submit it to the Senate, as it was required to do with the Iraq SOFA. The Framework Agreement overlaps with the Iraq SOFA with regard to strategic considerations. Both should be read in pari materia. This Article describes and assesses these two agreements, as well as prior relevant legal instruments (US, Iraqi, and international), bearing upon the legal status and operations of US forces in Iraq. It also examines one issue which was not addressed by these agreements: US legal obligations in light of the "protected persons" status it gave to an estimated 3,400 Iranians who oppose the Iranian regime, and who have been living at Camp Ashraf in Diyala Province, Iraq, under US protection since 2003.