No word better sums up the dangers the United States faces in Iraq today than a four-letter acronym you've probably never heard of: SOFA. Several decades ago, SOFA helped America lose Iran. Now it has become the biggest sticking point between Washington and Baghdad.
SOFA stands for Status of Forces Agreement, a type of compact that governs the treatment of U.S. personnel abroad. With U.S. troops scattered around the globe, these agreements are critically important, and there are some 90 of them in force, each tailored to the special requirements of the host nation. The Bush administration now wants to add Iraq to this list, in order to help formalize the long-term U.S. security presence there.