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IRAQ: Cabinet approves plan for total U.S. troop withdrawal in 2011


After months of tense negotiations and countless amendments, Iraq's Cabinet today approved a Status of Forces Agreement that outlines the future of American troops in Iraq. Under the plan, which now goes to the Parliament, U.S. troops would pull out of Iraqi cities by the end of June 2009 and would leave the country by the end of 2011.

But some opponents say they want a total withdrawal sooner than 2011; others say, whatever the final plan, it should be approved not by politicians but by the public in a referendum.

If you look closely at the photograph above, taken during the Cabinet's vote, you'll notice one hand not raised. The minister with her hands folded in front of her represents the main Sunni bloc in Parliament, which says the public, not Parliament, should decide on such an important pact. Also opposing the pact are lawmakers from Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr's bloc. Sadr on Friday threatened to revive armed elements of his Mahdi Army militia and return to war with U.S. forces if such an agreement is allowed to go through.

Despite these differences, the Cabinet approval had been anticipated following Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's decision to accept what he concluded was the best deal Iraq was going to get from the Americans. That deal includes the firm withdrawal dates, which will not be based on conditions on the ground as the United States had initially wanted. As government spokesman Ali Dabbagh made clear after the Cabinet vote, those dates are "final and decided."

Whatever concessions the United States made to get the pact approved, a statement issued from a U.S. Embassy representative in Iraq said the Americans welcomed the Cabinet vote. "This is an important and positive step," the statement said.

Other major elements of the pact include a ban on U.S. forces searching and raiding homes without Iraqi approval, the right of Iraqis to search shipments of weapons and other packages coming into the country for U.S. recipients, and the right of Iraq's justice system to prosecute American troops for serious crimes under some circumstances.

The question now is what will happen when the pact goes before Parliament, presumably this week. Will the pact's detractors try to prevent its passage, perhaps by staging walkouts and denying Parliament a quorum? Will Sadr make good on his vow to send his personal brigade into battle against the pact? If it passes Parliament, will Sunni Vice President Tariq Hashimi, who has led the call for a referendum, use his power on the presidency countil to veto it?

As one lawmaker said of the potential hurdles facing the legislature, "This will be an adventure."

--Times staff writers

Photo: The Iraqi Cabinet votes on the Status of Forces Agreement. Courtesy: Government of Iraq parliament.


Comments () | Archives (4)

Mr. Grant, I'm curious to know if you have ever stepped foot on Iraqi soil? Judging from your posting I would surely guess not. It sounds to me like you get all your information from MSNBC and CNN with all their liberal spin on what is going on in Iraq. Iraq has a democracy, maybe a newborn and weak democracy but still one. No one could have known what exactly would happen after major conflict was ended in Iraq. When I say major that means force on force, not insurgency against counter-insurgency. As a third time deployer to the Iraq theatre of operations I fully understand this. I was in the initial invasion, here for the first votes, and here currently with nation wide statistics of violence lower then our Detroit city. All of you liberals out there have done nothing but bash Bush these past four to eight years with no answer to anything. What we have done is just elected into power of these United States a socialist.Americans have become increasingly lazy thus the election of a man who promises to give "hand outs." I remember a famous Democrat who said "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." What about "Life, Liberty, and the PURSUIT of hapiness." Not GIVEN happiness but to puruit it. Americans are griping and moaning about what they want and how much they don't want to work toward that goal. We need to wake up as a nation and get ourselves together.

The previous 2 posters were drunk. After all is said and done, we will have spent 5 Trillion dollars 5,000,000,000,000 to turn Iraq over to about as unstable a "democracy" as there can be. The ONLY reason there is no chaos there right now is because we paid the militias to stop fighting -- the surge didn't work at all. And, soon, Iraq will turn into a Shiite theocracy (just like Iran). And, ANYONE WITH ONE WHIT OF UNDERSTANDING ABOUT WHAT'S HISTORICALLY GONE ON OVER THERE ALREADY KNOW THIS. But, pretend that George Bush is the savior, and then blame Barack when Iraq falls back into disarray. I hate reading stupid posts like the previous ones -- people trying to sound like they know something. It's embarrassing to read.

Bush won the war against Saddam. Bush won the war against al qaeda in Iraq and settled the insurgency - setting up a stable democracy in a country that never had one. Now he has negotiated the total withdrawal of our troops in such a way that we are LEAVING a stable long term government there. It's all over except giving Obama the credit, but the national press will see to that detail.

Sounds like a move in the right direction by the Iraqis. As an average American and someone with a nephew in the military, we want this war over. Even if you, like me, were not for the war in the first place there is no disputing these facts. Five years ago, with the support of most Iraqis, the U.S. and it's allies invaded Iraq and overturned an evil regime. Since that time we have tired, not without errors, to help restore Iraqi national security and encourage the establishment of a government that will fairly represent all members of Iraqi society. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost us over four thousand lives and thousands more of our military have suffered physical and mental injuries that will never fully heal. Most of these were young people who grew up in the poor and middle class of U.S. society who joined the military for financial reasons and who wanted to do their duty to protect our country and the world from the real threats of evil or misguided terrorists. It has been five years since the invasion, and before this agreement would take full effect the Iraqi government and it's people will have two more years to "get their house in order". We have done our part to fix what we broke and give the Iraqi people a chance for a government lead by the people. It is time for the Iraqis to take on the full responsibility for governing it's own people. If the people of Iraq are smart they will establish a government that will be elected by and answerable to the citizens. However, if they choose to give power to another brutal dictator or fanatical Theocracy it is their choice and it will not be our fault. As I said before, we have done our part to encourage otherwise. Once we are gone it will be "sink or swim" just as it is for every other government in the world. I wish the Iraqi people well and pray for their peace and prosperity. They deserve it and can have it if they work together toward that goal.


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