SOFAs generally do not authorize specific military operations or missions by U.S. forces. While SOFAs generally offer no combat power, the inherent right to self-defense is not affected or reduced. U.S. personnel always have the right to defend themselves when threatened or attacked, and a SOFA does not take this right.32 Language is often found in sofa which defines the extent of the applicability of the agreement. For example, SOFA with Belize specifically applies to U.S. personnel ”who may temporarily reside in Belize in connection with military exercises and training, drug control activities, U.S. security programs or other agreed purposes.” 33 The United States had previously entered into two separate agreements with Belize on military training and the provision of defence items.34 SOFA itself does not authorize specific operations, exercises or activities, but contains provisions relating to the legal status and protection of U.S. personnel during its existence in Belize.
In accordance with the terms of the agreement, U.S. personnel are protected by law, as if they were administrative and technical personnel of the U.S. Embassy.35 persons and property covered by SOFAs between the United States and other countries, members of the United States armed forces and, in certain circumstances, the personnel of private contractors working on behalf of the U.S. government. In addition, SOFAs are often limited to behaviour when staff are ”on duty.” However, since the SOFA is a peace agreement, they do not address the rules of war, the laws of armed conflict or the laws of the sea. In the event of armed conflict, the conditions of a SOFA become unavoidable. Between March 2003 and August 2010, the United States participated in military operations in Iraq to first remove Saddam Hussein`s regime from power, then fight the remnants of the former regime and other threats to the stability of Iraq and its government after Saddam. In late 2007, the United States and Iraq signed a Declaration of Principles for Long-Term Cooperation and Friendship between the Republic of Iraq and the United States of America.111 The Strategic Agreement in the Declaration was ultimately intended to replace the United Nations mandate that the United States and allied forces be responsible for its contribution to the security of Iraq. The declaration ended on December 31, 2008.112 The declaration took root in a communiqué dated August 26, 2007, signed by five political leaders in Iraq, calling for long-term relations with the United States.