When the United Nations Mandate for Iraq expires at the end of the year (just 9 short days from now), the legal basis of all foreign troops save the United States, who has already signed a Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, to remain in Iraq will be gone. Less an issue for the remnants of other nations’ forces, relegated to training and support duties, than for the British, whose approximately 4,000 troops remain active in southern Iraq.
Last night we reported a scheme by the Iraqi government (they labeled it a “compromise”) to circumvent last week’s failed vote on a law allowing the troops to operate until May and leave in July. The plan was to re-vote, only this time call it a parliamentary resolution instead of a law in an attempt to bypass the need for a two-thirds majority.
But while the last vote failed in part because of the chaos in parliament last week, the new vote might never even see the light of day. As deputies of Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani demanded that he step down after last week’s resignation and quiet unresignation, Mashhadani suspended parliament until January 7.
Unless Mashhadani changes his mind, which he has a long and storied history of doing, this would leave those British forces with no legal cover whatsoever beginning next Thursday. Until the government can push through a vote those forces will be confined to base pending arrangements for their withdrawal from the nation. What was supposed to be a leisurely pullout for one of the major nations involved in the 2003 invasion is now a race against the clock to save face and avoid having their legal cover pulled out from under them before they’re able to leave. It all started, amazingly enough, when Muntadar al-Zeidi threw his shoes at President Bush eight days ago.