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Iraqi Lawmakers Evaluate Long-awaited U.S. Security Deal

Iraqi lawmakers began debate Monday over a security agreement that will allow U.S. forces to remain in the country until the end of 2011. Analysts discuss the plan's details and remaining obstacles to its approval.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Now, Iraq and the United States sign a new security agreement months in the making. If the Iraqi parliament approves it, U.S. forces will leave Iraqi cities next year and will be largely out of the country by the end of 2011.

    For more, we go to John Nagl, a retired Army officer and now a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, and Feisal Istrabadi, he served as Iraq's deputy representative to the United Nations and is now a visiting professor of law at Indiana University in Bloomington.

    Mr. Nagl, what do we think this agreement achieves?

    JOHN NAGL, Center for a New American Security: This agreement is very important. I was in Iraq in July and August just a couple of months ago. The security situation on the ground is far, far better than it was when I was fighting there a few years ago.

    But there is still going to be a need for Americans to help the Iraqis secure their country, I think for a number of years. And what this agreement does is provide the legal framework within which American forces can operate safely and legally, so this is incredibly important both for Iraq and for the United States.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    How significant — do you agree with that, Feisal Istrabadi?

  • FEISAL ISTRABADI, Indiana University:

    Well, it is an important agreement. Yes, I agree with Colonel Nagl.

    I think that the — I was also in Baghdad in July and August. And it certainly was an improved situation over the last time I was there a year ago. I should point out that the security situation has begun to deteriorate somewhat in the capital since some of the surge forces have been withdrawn.

    It is an important agreement. As you point out, this agreement provides for the presence of U.S. forces.

    The problem, it seems to me, is that the Iraqi government is being overly optimistic as to when it will be able to take over the security function. As I said, the security situation already seems to be beginning to deteriorate somewhat over what it was this summer.

    And I for one, although I'm no expert, as Colonel Nagl certainly is — but I am skeptical that the Iraqis will be able to take over security in the cities by June of 2009, which is what the agreement calls for.