Karl Rove Attacks Obama For Pursuing “Unprecedented” Iraq Deal That Bush Did First

Karl Rove

Karl Rove argued that the Obama administration's effort to renegotiate the Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq in 2011 failed because Obama placed unprecedented conditions on Iraq -- conditions that the Bush administration actually included in its 2008 agreement with Iraq.

Fox contributor Karl Rove went on the June 20 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom and accused the Obama administration of adding unprecedented demands into the renegotiation of the 2011 Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Iraq. According to Rove, the U.S. and Iraq failed to agree because the Obama administration insisted on parliamentary approval of the agreement -- a condition that “was impossible for Iraqis to meet” and divergent from “what we've done in any other country around the world where we have a Status of Forces Agreement” (emphasis added):

BILL HEMMER (co-host): Are you of the mind that the reason why we did not leave a force of 10,000 behind in Iraq -- you know, the president said yesterday 'the Iraqis didn't let us, Maliki would not give us the agreement, so we had no decision but to pull out.'  Are you of the mind that this administration did not want that agreement in order to have the reason and the rationale to pull American forces out of Iraq and say to the American people 'campaign promise fulfilled, the Iraq war is winding down and now ended.' What do you think?

ROVE: Well it's hard always to define intent, but I do think the administration, they said they wanted it, they assigned Joe Biden to negotiate it, and then at the last minute they put in a condition that was impossible for the Iraqis to meet -- that is to say, they wanted parliamentary approval of the SOFA. That's not what we've done in any other country around the world where we have Status of Forces Agreement. We've signed it with the leader of the country. And Maliki had the authority to do it, but it was impossible for him to go to his parliament at that time because he was trying to form a government and this would have been embroiled in domestic politics. So the administration basically made it impossible to do the deal.

Yet the Bush administration -- in which Rove served for seven years -- included parliamentary approval in its 2008 SOFA with Iraq, setting the terms for future SOFA's renegotiations.

In November 2008 the Iraqi Parliament approved the 2008 Status of Forces Agreement with the U.S., and then-President Bush praised them for the vote, saying “the success of the surge and the courage of the Iraqi people set the conditions for these two agreements to be negotiated and approved by the Iraqi Parliament.”

Thus in 2011, when the Obama administration began talks to renegotiate the SOFA, a necessity if U.S. troops were to remain in Iraq after January 1, 2012, parliamentary approval was required in large part because it had been achieved in 2008. Colin H. Kahn, the senior Pentagon official responsible for Iraq policy during the first three years of the Obama administration, explained, “Because the 2008 security agreement had been approved by the Iraqi parliament, it seemed both unrealistic and politically unsustainable to apply a lower standard this time around.”

And like Bush's 2008 SOFA agreement, in 2011 the U.S. requested that soldiers receive legal protections and immunities, protections common “in nearly every country where U.S. forces operate,” Kahn noted:

Iraq's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, told U.S. negotiators that he was willing to sign an executive memorandum of understanding that included these legal protections. But for any agreement to be binding under the Iraqi constitution, it had to be approved by the Iraqi parliament. This was the judgment of every senior administration lawyer and Maliki's own legal adviser, and no senior U.S. military commander made the case that we should leave forces behind without these protections.


Unfortunately, Iraqi domestic politics made it impossible to reach a deal. Iraqi public opinion surveys consistently showed that the U.S. military presence was deeply unpopular (only in Iraqi Kurdistan did a majority of people want American G.I.s to stay). Maliki was willing to consider going to parliament to approve a follow-on agreement, but he was not willing to stick his neck out.