Notice and Correction: Inquiries sent to the FRBNY, the U.S. State Department, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR, Department of Defense), the U.N. International Advisory and Monitoring Board for Iraq (IAMB), the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Oil, were not returned before publication. The FRBNY has since responded. An official from the FRBNY denied that the U.S. any longer has any control over the DFI. FPJ continues to investigate.

The BBC, cited in this article, reported Doug Rokke as having been a Colonel in the Army. Mr. Rokke obtained the rank of Major.

There’s been no shortage of controversy surrounding what has been termed the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the governments of the United States and Iraq. After battling away for most of the year at what the terms of the agreement should be, the text was at last finalized this month.

The terms of the agreement effectively allow the U.S. to continue to control billions of dollars of proceeds from the sale of exported Iraqi oil held in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. It also contains numerous loopholes that could allow the continuing long-term presence of U.S. military forces and would effectively maintain U.S. jurisdiction over crimes committed by American soldiers.

Iraq’s cabinet approved the agreement a week ago with 27 members voting in favor, out of 28 ministers who were present, with nine ministers absent. It is now being debated in the Parliament.

Abdul Qadir al-Obaidi, Iraq’s minister of defense, issued a dire warning that without the agreement and continued presence of U.S. forces, “then what happened in the Gulf of Aden will happen in the Arabian Gulf too. Pirates will start in these ports in a way you can’t even imagine.”

Governments often use fear tactics to push through controversial legislation. Before the U.S. invasion, members of the Congress were told that if they didn’t authorize the President to use military force against Iraq, Saddam Hussein might attack the east coast of the United States with biological weapons from unmanned aerial vehicles, for example. More recently, members of Congress were warned that if they did not pass the highly unpopular bill taking taxpayers’ dollars to bail out banking and investment corporations, there would be martial law in America.

While painting an imaginary threat to frighten the public into supporting the agreement, Obaidi criticized opponents as being conspiracy theorists. The New York Times reportedtoday that Obaidi “batted down conspiracy theories about the agreement”, theories fueled by “anti-American Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr” about “the existence of secret deals for a longer American presence.”

And yet Obaidi at the same time seemed to lend credence to the fears of opponents. As the Times noted, without comment on the contradiction, he “held open the possibility that some Americans might be needed after” the deadline of the withdrawal of U.S. troops by the end of 2011.

The agreement has been protested by large popular demonstrations in the streets of Baghdad. Thousands protested during a rally on Friday against the deal in Firdaus Square, where in 2003 U.S. soldiers toppled a statue of Saddam Hussein in a staged publicity event that has since been hailed by the mainstream media as “an iconic moment”.

At the rally, demonstrators burned an effigy of President George W. Bush. A man who helped erect the effigy was quoted by the London Times as saying, “Just like Saddam’s statue was brought down, Mr Bush has fallen as well.”

The demonstrations were reportedly organized by Moktada al-Sadr, a highly influential figure whose father was murdered in 1999, most likely by the regime of Saddam Hussein. Following the U.S. invasion of Iraq, he organized a resistance to the occupation consisting of both political and military elements. He commands the al-Mahdi Army, which has threatened to resume armed resistance if the agreement is passed by the Iraqi government.

While the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki initially claimed it could make an agreement unilaterally with the Bush administration, it has since conceded that the measure must obtain Parliamentary approval.

Under the U.S. Constitution, the agreement would also need to be agreed to by the Senate to have the force of law, but the Bush administration has claimed that no Senate approval is necessary, essentially declaring its intention to violate Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution. This is not the first time the Executive Branch under Bush has declared for itself the power to govern by fiat, and it is likely to continue to be met with little resistance by the complacent U.S. Congress.

The SOFA agreement, which now has the official lengthy title of “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”, while addressing a number of the Iraqi concerns, contains a number of loopholes that would allow, among other things, a U.S. military presence in Iraq beyond the given deadline for withdrawal.

It states in the preamble that both parties recognize the importance of “contributing to world peace and stability, combating terrorism in Iraq”, and “thereby deterring aggression and threats against the sovereignty, security, and territorial integrity of Iraq”. The agreement affirms that cooperation between the two countries “is based on full respect for the sovereignty of each of them in accordance with the purpose and principles of the United Nations Charter”.

This must be considered rather Orwellian language, given the fact that the invasion of Iraq was an act of aggression, defined at Nuremberg as “the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole”; and that the invasion was itself a breach of the peace in violation of the U.N. Charter and other applicable international treaties comprising the body of international law, resulting in instability and bringing terrorism to Iraq. It’s also quite meaningless language given some of the actual contents of the agreement itself.

Article 3 of the agreement contains a clause apparently intended to prevent the U.S. from including Iraqis in its extraordinary renditions programs by barring the U.S. from transferring any non-U.S. persons into or out of the country “unless in accordance with applicable Iraqi laws and regulations, including implementing arrangements as may be agreed to by the Government of Iraq.”

There is thus a loophole that might allow the U.S. to do precisely that, and any such “arrangements” could be interpreted, if the record of the Bush administration is any gauge,  to mean approval from the Iraqi President without advice of consent of the Parliament. The U.S. could also, of course, simply violate the agreement and spirit disappeared persons out of the country as it has under the CIA renditions program.

Article 4 states that the U.S. military presence is requested “for the purposes of supporting Iraq in its efforts to maintain security and stability in Iraq”, which is belied by the fact that most Iraqis want the American troop presence to end and consider the continuing occupation to be the most significant causal factor of the violence that, while having ebbed over the past two years, continues to plague the country.