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Iraq parliament delays final vote on troop withdrawal agreement for non-US forces

[JURIST] The Iraqi Council of Representatives [official website] on Monday delayed a vote to determine the future of non-US foreign troops in the country. On Saturday, the parliament rejected a draft law [JURIST report] that would have permitted 6,000 troops from the United Kingdom, Australia, Romania, El Salvador, and Estonia to remain in the country after the current UN mandate [UN press release] authorizing the multi-national force in Iraq expires on December 31, 2008. The Iraqi parliament was reported to have reached a compromise [BBC report] Sunday, transforming the failed draft law into a parliamentary resolution that would require the approval of only a simple majority, but the process stalled on Monday due to rising tensions between members of parliament and speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, who suspended the legislative session after a number of deputies called for his resignation. Last week, Al-Mashhadani called some parliamentarians "sons of dogs" during a debate over the fate of Iraqi shoe-throwing journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi [JURIST report]. It is not clear when the parliament will meet again, but failure to approve a troop extension agreement before December 31 would leave the legal status of non-US troops uncertain.

Earlier this month, the Iraqi presidential council approved [JURIST report] a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) [text, PDF; CFR backgrounder] that sets a 2011 deadline for the withdrawal of US troops but also approved an additional law calling for a national referendum on the pact in July 2009. The approval of the council, comprising President Jalal Talabani [BBC profile] and two vice presidents, was the final step required before the SOFA can go into effect on January 1, 2009, a day after the current UN Mandate authorizing the US presence in Iraq expires. The SOFA was approved by the Iraq cabinet and the Iraq parliament [JURIST reports] in November. In addition to the official deadlines for troop withdrawal, it gives Iraqi courts limited jurisdiction over American military personnel and eliminates immunity [JURIST reports] for US defense contractors working within Iraq.

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