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Iraqi cabinet approves security pact with U.S.


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Iraqi Cabinet Approves Security Pact With U.S.


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Published: November 16, 2008


BAGHDAD ? The Iraqi cabinet voted overwhelmingly Sunday to approve the security agreement that sets the conditions for the Americans' continued presence in Iraq from Jan. 1 until the end of 2011.


All but one of the 28 cabinet ministers who attended the two-and-a-half-hour session voted for the agreement and sent it to Parliament for consideration, a huge relief to the United States, which had been in intense negotiations with the Iraqis for nearly a year.


The United Nations Security Council resolution that allows U.S. troops to operate in Iraq expires Dec. 31, and, without an extension of the resolution or a separate agreement with the Iraqis like that approved by the cabinet on Sunday, forces of the U.S.-led coalition would have no legal mandate to operate.


?This is the best available alternative,? the Iraqi government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, said shortly after the vote. ?We have always said this is not a perfect solution for the Iraqi side and it is not a perfect solution for the American side. But it is a procedure which was forced by circumstances and necessity.


?This is the time after the progress in the security situation to transfer the security file to the Iraqi side, step by step.?


The decision of the 37-member cabinet, essentially a microcosm of the Parliament, is expected to be a good indicator of whether the agreement will pass. The assembly has not yet announced the date of its vote, but it is scheduled to go into recess on Nov. 24.


The draft approved Sunday requires coalition forces to withdraw from Iraqi cities and towns by the summer of 2009 and from the country by the end of 2011. An earlier version had language giving some flexibility to that deadline, with both sides discussing timetables and timelines for withdrawal, but the Iraqis managed to have the deadline set in stone, a significant negotiating victory. The United States has around 150,000 troops in Iraq.


For months, the fate of the pact has been in doubt as Iraqis have pressed for more changes on a variety of issues, including jurisdiction over operations by U.S. troops and the flexibility of the withdrawal date. The United States, which had wanted the pact concluded by midsummer, gave significant concessions. Iraqi officials said minor tweaks were being made as recently as last week.


Under the agreement, U.S. soldiers are still guaranteed immunity except in cases of serious felonies committed while off duty outside their bases.


?We welcome the cabinet's approval of the agreement today,? said a spokesperson from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. ?This is an important and positive step.?


Many members of Parliament from Tawafiq, the Sunni bloc, said they were still undecided on the pact, arguing that a national referendum was crucial to approval. Parties representing about one-third of that bloc's members have indicated that they would support the agreement in its current form.


The Kurds, who had recently expressed hesitation about the agreement despite weeks of solid support, seem to have decided on approval. The Kurds control more than 50 seats in the 275-member assembly.


?We have already expected that the cabinet would pass this agreement, because this is the best option,? said Mahmoud Othman, an independent Kurdish member of Parliament. ?Our Kurdish leaders are with the agreement.?


Leaders of some of the smaller blocs, like Iraqia, a secular group representing 24 lawmakers, and Fadhila, a Shiite party that includes 15 members of Parliament, said on Sunday that they had not yet taken a stance on the agreement because they had not seen the final draft.


In a crucial development, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most influential Shiite cleric in Iraq, indicated on Saturday that he would support whatever decision is arrived at in Parliament as representative of the will of the Iraqi people. Shiite officials who met with the ayatollah said he found the latest draft acceptable, if not perfect; Ayatollah Sistani also made clear that he did not side with politicians who refused any agreement with the United States out of hand.


?The people who reject this agreement did not give us a logical alternative,? an official in the ayatollah?s office said Sunday. ?We respect their position, but we support the majority decision.?


The anti-American Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr had called for armed resistance against any agreement that allowed a continued U.S. presence in Iraq.


?I repeat my demand to the occupier to leave our land without keeping bases or signing agreements,? Mr. Sadr said in a statement read to thousands of supporters at Friday prayers. ?If they keep bases, then I would support honorable resistance.?


Ayatollah Sistani is enormously influential among the majority Shiite population; in 2004, when he wanted to put pressure on the Americans to hold direct elections, he called upon his followers to march by the hundreds of thousands in a peaceful but powerful demonstration of force.


Mr. Dabbagh said of the Sadrists: ?You cannot guarantee a 100 percent approval of anything. They are performing and they are practicing their role in Iraqi democracy right now and they are expressing their opinion in a peaceful way and not a violent way, which we encourage.?


Stephen Farrell, Tariq Maher, Riyadh Muhammed, Muhammed Hussein, Suadad al-Salhy and Abeer Mohammed contributed reporting.

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I would be interested to know what happened with the provisions regarding US soldiers' liability under Iraqi law (if any).


you mean this?


Under the agreement, U.S. soldiers are still guaranteed immunity except in cases of serious felonies committed while off duty outside their bases.

Yes, thanks. I'm surprised that the deal passed with that provision intact.

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It's unfortunate for the Iraqi cabinet (and us) that their resolutions have no binding effect on US troops. If they honestly think they'll get rid of the US troops and their 14 bases then they should call someone like Tariq Aziz from the old Iraqi government and find out how much value the US government puts on the positions of Iraqi leaders.


All of the Obama folks on here: Seriously, call me when he actually removes all those bases and that ridiculous embassy before we call anything a withdrawl from Iraq.

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I like how Orlando Rays always has to change his thread titles in the Bull Pen, but this one is just perfectly fine.

I don't change my thread titles. Any thread title changes made to my threads have been made by, or at the behest of, the moderators.


That being said, I like how this one completely and utterly mischaracterizes the situation. The United States and Iraq have been working together on this agreement for about half a year, and signed it despite Obama trying to pressure Iraq into delaying it. :mischief

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