Deal sent to
the three-person Presidential
Council for ratification, which is expected;
Fifty-five of 275 legislators skip vote on pact
November 27, 2008
BAGHDAD – Iraq's parliament approved Thursday [November 27, 2008] a security pact with the United States that lets American troops stay in the country for three more years.
The vote in favor of the pact was backed by the ruling coalition's Shiite and Kurdish blocs as well as the largest Sunni Arab bloc, which had demanded concessions for supporting the deal.
The breakdown of the vote was not immediately available. But parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani said an "overwhelming majority" of lawmakers who attended the session voted in favor. Parliament's secretariat, which counted lawmakers as they entered the chamber, said 220 out of 275 legislators attended.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appeared to have won the comfortable majority that he sought in order to give the agreement additional legitimacy.
A bloc of 30 lawmakers loyal to anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who opposed the pact, chanted protests and hoisted banners that said "No, no to the agreement" during the 25-minute session.
The deal must now be ratified by the Presidential Council, which is expected to approve it.
Under the agreement, U.S. forces will withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30 and the entire country by Jan. 1, 2012. Iraq will have strict oversight over U.S. forces.
The security pact meets an Iraqi goal of a clear timetable for the departure of American forces and has been described by al-Maliki as a path toward full sovereignty.
The vote had been delayed by one day because of sectarian-based disputes and power struggles among the political factions, which have hampered reconciliation efforts after years of war.
The Shiite and Kurdish blocs agreed to a Sunni demand that a national referendum on the pact be held by July 30. A vote against the pact at that time could torpedo the deal.
But the Sunnis did not get two concessions: the repeal of a law designed to weed out former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party, and the dissolution of a special court that tried the dictator and top officials of his regime. Saddam was sentenced to death and executed in 2006.
Iraq's Shiites and Kurds, who account for 80 percent of Iraq's 27 million people, were the target of massacres and other atrocities under Saddam's Sunni-dominated regime. Grievances run deep, and caving in to Sunni demands on the special court and the Baathist law could have produced voter backlash ahead of provincial and general elections in 2009.