Intense dealmaking among Iraq's political factions has delayed until tomorrow a parliamentary vote on the security pact that would allow American forces to stay in the country through 2011. The Shiite-led government is struggling to meet the demands of political blocs, including a large group of Sunni Arab lawmakers, seeking concessions in return for supporting the agreement.
The government's Shiite and Kurdish blocs, which hold a slight majority in parliament, have agreed to include a provision for a national referendum on the deal in 2009, as a concession to Sunni Arab legislators. If that happens, the deal could be approved by parliament, but torpedoed by a "no" vote in the referendum. The vote count tomorrow 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 passes by a wide margin.