Watching the Iraq Parliament on the Iraq/U.S. SOFA pack

The voting comes today but the dealing goes to the wire.

Iraq's ruling Shiite and Kurdish blocs have made a key concession to a large group of Sunni Arab legislators in hopes of securing a big majority in a parliamentary vote on a U.S.-Iraqi security pact, a senior Shiite lawmaker and a close aide to the prime minister said Wednesday.

Just this past Sunday al-Maliki said if pack isn't passed, Occupation Forces Out!

"Extending the presence of the international forces on Iraqi soil will not be our alternative," Maliki told journalists. "The alternative will be their immediate withdrawal from Iraq."

Al-Maliki's ruling coalition has a slim majority, if they all fall in line, but he apparently wants a 'Slam Dunk' majority so the dealing continues.

But the prime minister seeks a bigger win that transcends Iraq's factionalism and sectarian divisions and reinforces the legitimacy of the pact, which could lead to full Iraqi sovereignty and close the bloody chapter that began with the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

But it looks like, at least with this recent report, whatever takes place today and if passed it will do so as a temporary agreement.

Shiite Lawmaker Ridha Jawad Taqi said the government's Shiite and Kurdish blocs, which account for about 140 seats, or a slight majority in the legislature, were willing to hold a national referendum on the deal in 2009. That amounts to a concession to many Sunni Arab legislators, who have said they would support the security pact Wednesday if it was put to a nationwide vote next year.

So the deal, if approved in the parliamentary vote, could still be rescinded if it fails in the popular referendum.

A referendum would give the Iraqi people a chance to evaluate "whether their interests have been achieved," said Alaa Makki, a member of parliament's biggest Sunni Arab bloc, the 44-seat Iraqi Accordance Front.

One would think that if the escalation of forces, known as the 'surge', had been a success in the purpose it was sold, time for the Iraq Government to stabilize and start functioning as a government of the people, they would have put this to the people of Iraq rather than doing the dealings behind close doors with the administration and leaving out our own Congress!

A senior al-Maliki aide confirmed the concession by the Kurdish and Shiite blocs. Speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, he said a draft bill containing provisions for the referendum and a package of political reforms demanded by the Sunnis would be voted on separately in parliament, also on Wednesday.

And what does the Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani have to say:

The vote count will be as important as the overall result because the country's most influential Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has indicated that the deal would be acceptable only if it's passed by a big margin. He could scuttle the deal if he speaks against it.

One of the reasons violence, at least in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities is down, are the huge concrete block walls surrounding the neighborhoods, though as we've read this week and previous bombings and killings still take place.

How would you feel if forced to live as the Iraqi's are, probably the same as the Iraqi's or even in more rage.

Iraqis suffer walls that divide and save

Once one of the most dangerous areas in Iraq, Rashid has seen violence drop dramatically in the past year and a half, a trend both Iraqis and Americans credit to walling off certain neighborhoods and shopping areas and adding many checkpoints. The stepped-up security effort began in the spring of 2007 and almost immediately violence began to drop, bottoming out in August when there were only 24 attacks.

Recently, though, a spate of bombings — including several at busy markets — has put the area on edge. American and Iraqi security officials say that is proof the barriers are still needed to keep the fragile peace.

McClatchy had an Unofficial Translation of the pack last week.

What will the Iraqi Parliament do today!

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Iraq's parliament delays vote on US pact

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's parliament speaker says a vote on a proposed security agreement with the United States has been delayed until Thursday.

Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani's announcement came after a planned session to hold the vote did not go through Wednesday.

"The wise man points to the stars and the fool sees only the finger - and discusses it 24/7 on cable."

Iraqis Agree to Put U.S. Troop Withdrawal to National Vote

Iraqi lawmakers postponed until Thursday a scheduled vote on a security agreement that would extend the U.S. military presence in Iraq. But they have agreed to make the pact subject to a national referendum next year that could require a complete American troop withdrawal by July 2010 -- 18 months ahead of what the agreement now envisions.

"The wise man points to the stars and the fool sees only the finger - and discusses it 24/7 on cable."

Iraq parliament passes U.S. security pact

Iraq's parliament approved a landmark security pact with the United States Thursday that paves the way for U.S. forces to withdraw by the end of 2011.

The deal, which parliament linked after days of fractious negotiations to a series of promised political reforms and a public referendum next year, brings in sight an end to the U.S. military presence that began with the 2003 invasion.

"The wise man points to the stars and the fool sees only the finger - and discusses it 24/7 on cable."