BAGHDAD — A draft agreement by U.S. and Iraqi negotiators that calls for withdrawing American troops by 2012 appears to be facing obstacles in Iraq that could kill the deal before it's implemented, lawmakers in Baghdad said.
After seven months of wearisome back and forth, negotiators completed the draft this week. Both governments are reviewing it. While the agreement doesn't require congressional approval, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are reaching out to key members of Congress and asking them to support it. In Iraq, the Political Council for National Security, the Cabinet and the Parliament must approve it.
Progress on the accord follows a compromise on what has been the biggest point of contention between the two sides: the legal jurisdiction over U.S. military personnel in Iraq.
Under the draft now being discussed, Iraq could prosecute American troops accused only of committing major, premeditated crimes while they were off duty and outside U.S. bases. Some Iraqis argue that that doesn't go far enough, especially since U.S. troops and contractors rarely move around the country unless they're on duty.
The draft also calls for American troops to withdraw from Iraqi cities by mid 2009 and from the country entirely by 2012.
Despite this week's movement, concern is widespread that the pact — which the United States hopes to finalize by the end of the year — won't win Iraqi approval.
Whether the draft will survive is questionable, lawmakers here said.
"It's very hard to judge at this point," said Sami al-Askari, a senior Shiite Muslim lawmaker and a close adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. "There are some who will fundamentally oppose any agreement with the Americans, regardless of the terms."
He said others might reject the draft because they thought that Iraqi negotiators had given up too much concerning legal jurisdiction over U.S. troops.
Mithal al-Alusi, a secular Sunni Muslim member of Parliament, said he would support the draft if it made it to a vote.
Other lawmakers are opposed. "I won't vote for this agreement as it stands, and anyone who would is a traitor to the Iraqi people," said Bahaa al-Araji, a lawmaker with the Sadrists, followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. "Many of the points included in the draft I read are contrary to the Iraqi constitution and Iraqi law."