Washington, DC (RushPRnews)11/18/08-Iraq and U.S. officials have signed an agreement on ending the U.S. military presence in Iraq. The U.S. ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, described the pact signed Monday as historic. By calling for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraqi cities by June next year, and all American troops by the end of 2011, the agreement overturns a long-standing U.S. policy against setting timelines for leaving the country.
The agreement, which replaces a U.N. mandate governing the U.S. presence, is now being debated in Iraq’s parliament, where it appears to have majority support. It is opposed by radical Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and his supporters in parliament, who denounced the cabinet’s approval of the pact and are urging lawmakers to reject it.
If passed by parliament, the pact would give Iraq authority over all U.S. military operations for the first time. It also requires the U.S. military to request Iraqi government permission to search homes. And it gives Iraq some judicial oversight of serious crimes committed by U.S. soldiers while off duty.
The pact comes after a year of often testy negotiations, and six weeks before the current U.N. mandate is set to expire. It also follows the transfer to Iraq of security responsibilities in many of its provinces as violence declined sharply over the past year.
The White House has said the pact – called the Status of Forces Agreement – does not need congressional approval.
Neighboring Iran has expressed skepticism that the pact gives Iraq enough protection from U.S. influence. But Monday, the head of Iran’s judiciary was quoted in Iranian media as saying the Iraqi cabinet acted very well in approving the pact.
Source: Voice of America- Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.