On Saturday, in what has become one of the rituals of Iraqi politics, a delegation of Shiite lawmakers and government officials met with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani to review the latest changes to the status of forces agreement. According to “an official in Sistani’s office who spoke on the condition of anonymity,” Sistani “gave the Iraqi side the green light to sign it.”
On Sunday, Iraq’s cabinet “overwhelmingly approved a proposed security agreement that calls for a full withdrawal of American forces from the country by the end of 2011.” The agreement now moves to the full parliament, where it is expected to be voted on by next week.
Earlier today, I sat down with CNN’s Michael Ware, who has been reporting from Iraq for the last six years, to discuss the cabinet’s approval of the status of forces agreement. Specifically, I asked Michael to respond to the idea that the cabinet’s approval represents a “defeat” for Iran, as former Coalition Provisional Authority adviser Dan Senor argued this morning on Fox News.
WARE: I would argue that it could potentially be a victory for Iran. In some ways you can argue that these [the SOFA negotiations] have been a form of indirect peace talks with Iran to end that part of the conflict.[...]
Iran has a whip hand, or a key hand at least, within the political framework there. So during these negotiations between Baghdad and Washington, Tehran — whether we like it or not — was in the room. Tehran, in some ways, in some fashion, is a party to this agreement. And you’ll see that some of the sticking points and some of the nuances within the negotiations were issues that were very close to the heart of Tehran….Iran is in a position where it didn’t get everything that it wanted, but then neither did Washington — and indeed neither did Baghdad — but Iran still will feel that it has something of a comfort zone as a result of this in the form that it should hopefully pass the Iraqi parliament.
Meanwhile, NRO’s James Robbins thinks it’s funny that Muqtada al-Sadr has been “making firey demands that the US agree to conditions for the status of forces agreement that both sides had pretty much agreed on anyway.” I think it’s more funny that Sadr has been making these demands for years, that Maliki managed to steal some of Sadr’s nationalist thunder by adopting those demands and then getting the Bush administration to agree to them, and that Robbins thinks this represents a victory for the Bush administration.