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Iraq; United States: Parliament Approves Status-of-Forces Agreement

(Jan. 7, 2009) On November 27, 2008, the Iraqi Parliament approved the Status-of-Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the United States. SOFA calls for the withdrawal of the American forces from Iraqi cities by July 30, 2009, and from the entire country by 2011, with the exception of some elements of the U.S. Special Forces that will remain to train the Iraqi army.

The purpose of SOFA is to define the legal status of the U.S. military presence in Iraq. It regulates an array of issues between the two countries, including the duration of stay and the nature of activities of the American troops. It addresses the rights and responsibilities of the U.S. forces operating in Iraq in terms of the criminal and civil liabilities of these troops. SOFA also discusses customs and taxes imposed on troops; currency exchange; the carrying of weapons; when and where the American soldiers must wear their uniforms; the entry and exit procedures for military, civilians, and other American personnel; the movement of equipment in and out of Iraq; the movement of American military vehicles; and the ownership of properties used by American troops. (Iraqis Welcome the Parliament's Approval of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) [in Arabic], AL SABAAH, Nov. 28, 2008, available at [via Firefox or IE 7.0 or higher].)

In addition, SOFA outlines the circumstances under which American civilian and military personnel would be subjected to the Iraqi judicial system. Under article 12 of SOFA, the United States only has jurisdiction over its civilian and military personnel while they are working inside the American military bases. However, if an American individual committed a felony outside the American military facility while off duty, this individual would be tried by an Iraqi criminal court. Further, the agreement allows U.S. military personnel the use of any type of weapon during their operations, with the exception of weapons of mass destruction. Article 7 of SOFA prohibits the use of any chemical, nuclear, radiological, or biological weapons on Iraqi soil. (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 [text in Arabic], AL SABAAH, (last visited Dec. 22, 2008).)