On Sunday, after nearly a year of intense negotiations, Iraq’s cabinet overwhelmingly approved a security agreement that requires coalition forces to withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011. The next day, surge architect and American Enterprise Institute scholar Frederick Kagan appeared on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, declaring that the Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA) was a defeat for Iran.
“The Iranian leadership has been pulling out all the stops to get the Iraqis not to do this,” said Kagan, adding that it was “a great accomplishment for us” because “the Iraqi government has done it anyway“:
KAGAN: Well, actually, it’s opposed by Iran, not just Iranian-affiliated groups. The Iranian leadership has been pulling out all the stops to get the Iraqis not to do this. The Iranians are desperate for Iraq not to align itself strategically with the United States, and they have been literally trying to bribe everybody they can bribe in Iraq, and running a fantastic information operations campaign in Iraq to make this an unpopular and hard thing to do. And the Iraqi government has done it anyway. And that is actually a great accomplishment for us, and it tells us a lot about where this Shia Iraqi government actually stands on whether it wants to be aligned with the United States, or whether it wants to be aligned with Iran.
Kagan’s claims echo those of former Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senor, who argued on Monday that the SOFA’s passage represented a “defeat” for Iran. But their argument misreads the reality on the ground.
As CNN’s Michael Ware, who has been reporting from Iraq for the last six years, told the Wonk Room’s Matt Duss, the SOFA agreement “could potentially be a victory for Iran” because “Tehran — whether we like it or not — was in the room” during negotiations. Watch it:
Though it’s true that Sadr has rejected the agreement, Iranian officials actually responded with “strikingly positive remarks on the security agreement after criticizing it for months.” Indeed, before the vote, Iraqis won a major concession barring the United States from launching attacks on neighboring countries from Iraq, which is thought to have softened Iranian resistance to the deal.