Iraqis amend treaty that U.S. calls final

The Iraqi Cabinet agreed Tuesday to amend a draft agreement governing the status of U.S. forces in Iraq. The changes introduce provisions that the U.S. military is unlikely to accept.

Among other things, the amendments would give Iraqi authorities the right to determine whether a U.S. service member was on- or off-duty when he or she committed an alleged crime outside American bases. It also would allow authorities to inspect all U.S. cargo entering the nation.

Iraqi politicians see the changes as a way to preserve Iraqi sovereignty.

The amendments were made to “preserve the basic principles and the sovereignty of Iraq and its supreme interests,” said government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh in a statement.

The government, he said, has no “third option.”

U.S. officials have described the original draft agreement, which would replace the United Nations mandate for U.S. military operations in Iraq, as final, and the Iraqi amendments are likely to push negotiations between Iraq and the U.S. to an impasse.

In Washington Tuesday, senior U.S. military officials said that while they were unaware of the proposed changes, the Pentagon very likely would reject them.

“We are very comfortable with the draft sent forward,” a senior U.S. military official said Tuesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the negotiations publicly. “But the longer we wait, the more in peril this gets.”

The Iraqi Parliament must approve any agreement, so if the Americans don't accept the proposed Iraqi changes, the Cabinet will have to decide whether to submit the agreement to the parliament as it stands, which could doom its chances of passage.