Commentary: Either sign agreement, or don't

This editorial appeared in the Macon Telegraph on Thursday, Oct. 30, 2008.

For the past two weeks the Iraqi government has been weighing a proposed agreement to establish the legal circumstances under which the U.S. will keep troops in that country. Time is critical, and the agreement must be ratified by both Iraq and the United States by the end of 2008, when a U.N. mandate expires, along with it the legal basis for America to maintain forces in Iraq.

At present, United States' negotiators believe they have offered a reasonable status of forces proposal, one that would authorize U.S. troops to remain in Iraq for the next three years so long as both countries agree. It also spells out the legal relationship between Iraq and U.S. military and civilian forces stationed on Iraqi soil. Iraq isn't ready to sign on the dotted line and wants to reopen negotiations.

The agreement, similar to other pacts with countries where American forces are garrisoned, would do several things. It establishes when U.S. military and civilian contract personnel can be held responsible to the Iraqi judicial system. Under the draft agreement, soldiers would be subject to Iraqi law only when they are outside a military compound and not on a military mission. (This happens rarely.) It also would permit U.S. forces to remain in Iraq for the next three years, so long as the Iraqi and U.S. governments agree. Essentially, the draft formalizes a legal relationship between Iraq and America.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Macon Telegraph.