Iraqi Parliament Defeats Bill on Foreign Troop Presence in 2009

The Iraqi parliament has rejected a draft bill submitted by the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki specifying the rules under which some 4,000 British troops and small contingents from Australia, El Salvador, Estonia and Romania may remain in Iraq past Dec. 31, 2008.

The vote was 80 to 68. The Sadr Movement, which opposes foreign troop presence, appears to have played an important role in defeating the bill and inflicting a humiliation on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. This move is political payback for the military defeat al-Maliki inflicted on the Sadrist Mahdi Army last spring and early summer in Basra, Amara and Sadr City.

In an ordinary parliamentary system, al-Maliki’s government would have fallen over this vote, but the Iraqi system does not work in that way.

Parliament appears to want individual Status of Forces Agreements to be conducted with each of the countries that continues to have forces in Iraq. Since there is no time for such negotiations to be concluded before January 1, this impasse may force the multinational forces out of Iraq. This expulsion is the goal of the Sadr Movement.

US troops may stay through 2011 by the terms of the SOFA passed by parliament in November.