Iraqi Parliament Debate on Pact Erupts in Chaos

by Jason Ditz, November 19, 2008

The Iraqi Parliament’s debate on the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) was expected to be contentious, but it would have been difficult to envision just how contentious things ended up today. Influential Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s parliamentary bloc had firmly opposed the SOFA from the beginning, and loudly forced an adjournment as the SOFA was being read to parliament.

It didn’t end with desk banging, while Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani loudly berated anti-SOFA legislators, MP Ahmed al-Massoudi approached the bench, apparently to grab the document away from the reader. He was reportedly punched by a security guard for nearby Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, prompting several other legislators from his bloc to rush to his aid, leading to a melee which spilled into the hallway, in full view of the lobby.

Parliament will attempt once again to have a reading of the bill tomorrow, though several blocs are threatening to boycott until they hold an investigation. Parliament is going into recess next week, and the delays have thrown into doubt the ability to hold a vote on SOFA before then. The Sadr faction has already gained the support of the Shi’ite Fadhila party and a Sunni Arab bloc led by Saleh al-Mutlaq.

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