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Nov 18th, 2008

Iraqi Parliament Debates Security Pact

Image: Iraq Cabinet
The Iraqi Cabinet approved a U.S.-Iraqi security pact, Nov. 16, 2008, now being considered by the parliament ahead of a Nov. 24 vote, following months of difficult negotiations. (Photo credit: Iraqi Government / AP)

Nov. 17, 2008

BAGHDAD — Iraqi lawmakers Monday began debate over a pact with the United States that will allow U.S. forces to remain for three more years, while an Iranian official close to that country’s leadership praised the Iraqi Cabinet for approving the deal.

The comments from Iran’s judiciary chief marked the first time that the deal has met with clear-cut approval in neighboring Iran. Meanwhile, Syria, target of a deadly cross-border raid by U.S. forces in recent weeks, criticized the deal as virtual surrender to America.

More than two-thirds of the 275-seat legislature attended Monday’s session, raising confidence that parliament will be able to muster a quorum for the Nov. 24 vote. The session ended after the agreement’s text was read to lawmakers, the first step to adopt legislation. …

Pact still needs to be ratified

The Cabinet approved the pact Sunday, meaning the political parties in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s coalition government are expected to have similar success in securing parliamentary support. If parliament approves, President Jalal Talabani and his two deputies must ratify it.

Under the agreement, U.S. forces must vacate Iraqi cities by June, leave Iraq by the end of 2011 and grant Iraqi authorities extensive power over the operations and movements of American forces. It also prohibits the U.S. from using Iraqi territory to attack Iraq’s neighbors, like Syria and Iran.

It also gives Iraq the right to try U.S. soldiers and defense contractors in the case of serious crimes committed off-duty and off-base.

The deal would replace a U.N. mandate governing their presence in Iraq that expires Dec. 31. …

Ban on cross-border attacks

Iran and Syria, longtime adversaries of Washington, have said an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces would be the best solution for Iraq, fearing threats to their security and regional influence. Iraqis sought to allay their fears, amending the pact with the ban on cross-border attacks from Iraq.

On Monday, however, Iran’s judiciary chief, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, said the Iraqi Cabinet acted “very well” in approving the pact. The Web site of Iran’s state television quoted him as saying he hoped the U.S. will withdraw from Iraq within the time specified in the deal.

“The Iraqi government has done very well regarding this,” he said. “We hope the outcome of (the deal) will be in favor of Islam and Iraqi sovereignty.”

Shahroudi is very close to Iran’s top leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his comments reflect thinking of conservatives within the ruling system, but not all hard-liners or President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Hard-line outlets, which have said the pact would “turn Iraq into a full-fledged colony” and urged Iraqis to oppose it, remained adamant. “Iraqi government gave in to American capitulation,” read a front-page headline in the hard-line daily Jomhuri-e-Eslami newspaper Monday.

Syria criticizes the pact

In Syria, a top government official the deal as an “award to the occupiers” of Iraq. “We shouldn’t give occupiers any reward or prize … On the contrary, they should apologize for the damage they have caused,” Syrian Information Minister Mohsen Bilal said.

The Iraqi Cabinet’s approval came one day after the country’s most influential cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said he would not object to the pact if approved by a comfortable majority in the legislature.

That removed a major hurdle in the way of the agreement since the Iranian-born cleric could have buried the deal had he publicly opposed it and Shiite parties said they would not sign off on the document before the cleric stated his support for it. …

Lawmakers loyal to Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, a fierce opponent of the pact, attended Monday’s parliamentary session. They entered the chamber as the security agreement was being read to lawmakers, shouting and briefly interrupting the process before the reading resumed.

Al-Sadr, who has about 30 legislators in his camp, has urged parliament to reject the agreement and has threatened to resume attacks on U.S. forces if they don’t immediately begin withdrawing from Iraq.

Al-Sadr’s fighters have battled the Americans over the years, but he declared a cease-fire last year and disbanded most of his militia. Al-Sadr, who is based in Iran, has called for a protest in a central Baghdad square on Friday.



Analyst: U.S. presence could benefit Iran

Michael Hanna, an analyst at The Century Foundation, a New York-based research center, said that a continuing but finite presence of U.S. troops in Iraq could benefit Iran because it provides “retaliatory options” as Tehran pursues a nuclear program opposed by the West.

“At the moment, having the Americans just next door is, paradoxically, the greatest insurance against a U.S. attack,” Hanna wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. “In the near-term, a constrained U.S. troop presence would seem to be in their (Iran’s) best interests.”


Main Provisions of U.S.-Iraq Security Pact

Nov. 17, 2008

Key provisions of the U.S.-Iraqi security pact that was approved by the Iraqi Cabinet and is being considered by the parliament ahead of a Nov. 24 vote:

  • U.S. forces must withdraw from Iraq by Jan. 1, 2012.
  • U.S. forces must withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009.
  • Iraqi authorities are granted extensive power over the operations and movements of U.S. forces.
  • The U.S. cannot use Iraqi territory to attack Iraq’s neighbors, including Syria and Iran.
  • Iraq can try U.S. soldiers and defense contractors in the case of serious crimes committed off-duty and off-base.


Security Developments in Iraq

Following are security developments in Iraq on Nov. 17, 2008, as reported by Reuters.

BAGHDAD – A bomb affixed to a car killed the driver and wounded two others in the Jamiaa district of western Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD – A bomb affixed to a car exploded on a highway in eastern Baghdad, wounding two civilians, police said.

KIRKUK – The body of a woman was found with gunshot wounds in the northern part of Kirkuk, 155 miles north of Baghdad, police said.

SULAIMANIYA – A bomb wounded three civilians and destroyed four cars in the northern Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya, which normally sees little violence, police said. Police were not able to give details on the type of bomb in the blast.

MOSUL – A roadside bomb targeting a U.S. patrol wounded two Iraqi civilians, police said. The Americans were unhurt.

AMARA – A parked car bomb wounded 17 people when it blew up near a the headquarters of Iraqi and U.S. forces in Amara, capital of Maysan province, 185 miles southeast of Baghdad, said Latif al-Tamimi, head of the security committee on the provincial council. The U.S. military said 14 people were wounded.

MOSUL – A bomb carried on a handcart killed one policeman and wounded six people including three policemen when it detonated near a checkpoint in central Mosul, police said.

MOSUL – Police said they killed two gunmen inside a house in western Mosul.

BAGHDAD – A bomb attached to a car wounded five civilians in Tayaran Square in central Baghdad, police said.

MUSSAYAB – A roadside bomb killed two civilians and wounded three others in the town of Mussayab, 40 miles south of Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD – The Iraqi army killed five militants and arrested 26 others during last 24 hours in different parts of Iraq, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

MOSUL – A roadside bomb killed one policeman and wounded three others when it struck their patrol on Sunday in southern Mosul, 240 miles north of Baghdad, police said.

ISKANDARIYA – Police said they found the body of a member of a U.S.-backed neighborhood patrol in Iskandariya, 25 miles south of Baghdad. The body bore gunshot wounds.

NUMANIYA – A man was found shot dead inside his car on Sunday in the town of Numaniya, 70 miles south of Baghdad, police said.

MUSSAYAB – A roadside bomb killed one person and wounded another person in Mussayab, 40 miles south of Baghdad, police said.

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