Al-Zaman reports in Arabic that the Iraqi cabinet approved the security agreement between the Bush administration and the Iraqi government. It will now go to the Iraqi parliament, where it will be voted on on November 24. Out of 36 cabinet members, 28 were present for Sunday’s vote (a lot of Iraqi politicians actually live in Amman or London because of the poor security situation). Of the 28, 27 voted in favor.
Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) was in Tehran. He sent word back that ISCI cabinet secretaries should vote for the agreement. Iran had earlier opposed the agreement, but appears to have been persuaded to cease lobbying Shiite members of parliament against it. Al-Hakim’s group, along with the Islamic Mission (Da’wa) Party of the prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, controls many of the Shiite votes in parliament.
Despite some reservations, the Kurdistan Alliance also voted for the agreement. Kurds were afraid it would limit their quest for semi-autonomy and control of more of Iraq. On the other hand, they very much want the US troops to stay, since they see them as protectors against Arab dominance.
Typically, the Kurdistan Alliance and the major Shiite parties can put together a parliamentary majority, so the agreement looks likely to pass.
Two members of the Sunni Arab fundamentalist coalition, the Iraqi Accord Front also voted for the agreement. (Update: Time says 2 IAF members voted for it, one against, and 3 were absentees.) One of the three parties in that coalition, the Iraqi Islamic Party, wants the agreement to go not only to parliament but also to a national referendum. Al-Zaman says that the leader of the IIP, Tariq al-Hashimi, is asking for the referendum because Shaikh Abdul Karim Zaydan, the spiritual counselor of the Muslim Brotherhood of Iraq, has given a fatwa against the agreement. The Iraqi Islamic Party is a branch of the Iraqi Muslim Brotherhood, and al-Hashimi is therefore in the uncomfortable position of defying his own party’s spiritual guide. If the measure went to a referendum, the IIP would be off the hook.
There is a dispute among Iraqi parliamentarians as to whether the agreement can be passed by a simple majority (i.e. 51% of those MPs present, assuming there is a quorum) or by a supermajority of 2/3s. Some are saying that they should pass legislation specifying which it is. The al-Maliki government maintains that this issue is decided by the president.
Al-Zaman says that President-Elect Barack Obama was shown the agreement and agreed to be bound by its provisions.
In contrast, the secretary-general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, expressed dismay that he was not shown the agreement before the cabinet vote. Iraq is a member of the Arab League, and the latter feels that any treaty that affects the sovereignty of one of its members is in its purview.
Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that Iraqi government spokesman Ali Dabbagh said that as soon as the agreement is passed, Iraq will go to the United Nations Security Council to ask to be removed from Chapter 7 of the UN Charter and for permission to abrogate Order 17 issued by US viceroy Paul Bremer.
Of order 17, , Tom Engelhardt wrote:
‘ Order 17 is a document little-read today, yet it essentially granted to every foreigner in the country connected to the occupation enterprise the full freedom of the land, not to be interfered with in any way by Iraqis or any Iraqi political or legal institution. Foreigners–unless, of course, they were jihadis or Iranians–were to be “immune from any form of arrest or detention other than by persons acting on behalf of their Sending States,” even though American and coalition forces were to be allowed the freedom to arrest and detain in prisons and detention camps of their own any Iraqis they designated worthy of that honor.’
The Iraqi government believes it can by signing this bilateral agreement with Bush get back its full sovereignty and escape the humiliation of being in receivership to the United Nations and having Bremer’s law give foreign carpetbaggers the run of Iraq. This belief explains why even the proud Nuri al-Maliki is willing to sign on the dotted line.
Dabbagh was emphatic at a news conference that “The Iraqi government has the right to request the abrogation of the agreement when its own security forces are ready, even if it is before the end of the stipulated timetable.”
Some Western observers have assumed that the 2011 date is non-negotiable once the agreement is signed, but that is not true. Insisting on a provision that any side could bring certain articles of the agreement to a premature close was one reason the Iraqis sent the agreement back to the US a month ago.
In other news, the Iraqi High Electoral Commission has permitted the placing on the ballot of a measure that would amke Basra a regional government in its own right, analogous to Kurdistan. If this measure went through, Basra would own all new oil fields that are discovered and developed.