The tough terms dictated by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki in the newly completed U.S.-Iraqi status of forces agreement marked a tactical concession in a domestic Iraqi battle for power that remains far from resolved.
Maliki's homegrown antagonist is the Tayyera al Sadrieen, the Iraqi religious-nationalist movement led by Moqtada al Sadr that has resisted the U.S. occupation militarily and politically since 2003.
It was the constant threat of uprising and the Sadrieen demand for nothing short of immediate pullout of the United States that forced Maliki to demand heavy concessions from the United States, which eventually signed an agreement that looked little like the initial proposal. The Sadrists have long pushed for an agreement that would set a date for the removal or U.S. troops and ensure that none remained.
It is unlikely Maliki could survive if he had come back with anything less. He has fought the militia with the aid of the U.S. military, walking a fine line between allying with the U.S. and trying to avoid looking like a tool of foreign parties.
But Maliki remains on a collision course with the Sadrists as he prepares to participate in January's provincial elections. A clear line will be drawn between those who support Iraqi parties that have allied with the United States and those who have opposed the occupation since the beginning.