Overview of the SOFA Negotiations
As the SOFA negotiations have progressed from their beginnings in the autumn of 2007, they have become increasingly politically charged as major powers vie for dominance. These struggles have played out in venues other than the official SOFA negotiations, unofficial parallel negotiations between peripheral powers and covert actions by regional powers aimed at either weakening Iraqi resolve or altering Iraqi perceptions of the SOFA have had a great impact on the trajectory of negotiations. Maliki has used the opportunity to enhance his position in advance of provincial elections, Iran has sought to undermine Iraqi confidence in the SOFA in order to establish regional dominance in the absence of US forces, and the Kurdish block has sought to exploit SOFA negotiations in return for unrelated political concessions from the Government of Iraq. Throughout these negotiations, most of which are happening behind the scenes, the US has been pursuing its public negotiations in a position of relative weakness – upcoming US elections and unwillingness by US politicians to tie the hands of a future administration limiting the current administration’s options. Despite the advances seen over the last four months, given the SOFA’s faltering steps over the last year, it is likely that any agreement reached will come in the eleventh hour.