US soldiers could leave Anbar, and the rest of Iraq, by 2011 [GETTY]
In a tumultuous session of parliament, Iraq’s MPs approved a security agreement that extends US troop presence in Iraq until 2011.
The pact was approved by 144 members of the 198 who attended the session in the 275-member assembly.
Members of the Sadrist bloc waved hand-written signs, beat their tables and chanted “Yes to Iraq” in objection to the agreement.
However, in the Al-Anbar province in western Iraq, scene of the siege of Falluja and some of the heaviest fighting since US-led forces invaded Iraq, the reaction was remarkably different.
Al Jazeera travelled by car from Ramadi, the provincial capital, to the Iraqi border with Syria and asked Anbaris what they thought of the security pact.
Ra’ad al Dulaimi, 30, passport officer at Al-Qaem border crossing
I approve of this pact most favourably because it ensures that Iraqis can and will be rid of terrorism and also because it deprives such organisations as al-Qaeda from ever regaining a foothold in Iraq again.
At the same time this pact should be made more transparent to the Iraqi people.
They should be given all the details in order to let them understand the situation more clearly.
All the chapters and provisions should be explain to all segments of Iraqi society so we know what lies ahead until 2011.
Ismael Sa’eed, 48 employee in Kubaisah cement plant
I support this pact because it is a testimony to the ongoing cooperation and understanding between Iraq and the US.
The current situation in the Middle East is akin to the status of ancient Arab tribes before the rise of Islam who secured coalitions with stronger tribes of the Arab Peninsula.
In the past, tribes survived because they signed pacts with more powerful nations.
Therefore, Iraq should sign a coalition, not only an agreement, with the US in order to be protected from possible Iranian aggression.
Another reason to approve this pact is that it will decrease violence and allow for talks between different factions.
We have to admit that we don’t have the ability to protect ourselves; without the support of a world power like the US, we are vulnerable.
Ali Talib, 30, journalist, Falluja
I think this pact is beneficial to the Iraqi people because it sets a deadline for US troop withdrawal.
However, I am afraid Washington might use this agreement to extend the presence of US troops beyond 2011 or use Iraq to strike neighbouring countries, such as Iran and Syria.
Is there something in this pact which prevents them from using Iraq as a base? I have not read the agreement.
We want peace with our neighbours, we have suffered enough wars. We do not want the US to push us into another one.
Abu Sulaiman Khamees, 48, former Iraqi intelligence officer
I do not feel comfortable with Iraq’s current political environment.
Iraq – in reality – does not enjoy any form [of] sovereignty and I do not trust the government in Baghdad.
The pact has not sufficently addressed the issue of the American presence on Iraqi soil. In fact, it appears to ensure further dependence on the US, particularly since we lack a proper police and military force.
I have no faith in the entire political process in this country which was created by the US.
Hafidh Al-Heety, 56, secretary of the Heet Literary forum
I cannot deny that a US troop withdrawal is an Iraqi dream.
However, we have no option but to approve this pact for many reasons.
First of all we have to avoid the chaos that could occur from a sudden US pullout; such a scenario is dangerous especially since we face a threat from Iran.
Second of all, the time-frame set by the security pact will continue to restrict our sovereignty.
A limited US presence inside the cities may give us the opportunity to rise to the challenge of policing ourselves and maintaining our own security.
I support one of the articles in this pact which prohibits US troops from randomly arresting Iraqi civilians.
Riadh Abu Ttaib, 53, herbalist
I oppose this pact because it extends the mandate of the US occupation and strengthens their troop presence here.
The UN mandate for US troops in Iraq was supposed to end on December 31 .
Who can guarantee that the Iraqi government and US administration will not use this pact once again to extend their presence in Iraq?
There are no deadlines in this pact. It can be renewed and rewritten as they please.
Fo’ad Mohammed Sahil, 47, medical doctor
There are many reasons why I am glad parliament said ‘yes’ and chief among those is the presence of Iran, a strong and former enemy, on our eastern border.
There is no way anyone can deny that Iraq is in deep need of American technical expertise in helping to develop our economy.
Altough this pact is not perfect, it is a step forward that could ensure a sense of stability to allow the country’s economy to grow.
Mohammed A. Latif Kubaisy, 41, NGO manager
The security pact may satisfy the incoming administration of Barack Obama [the US president-elect], but at the same time it will create imbalance in the Middle East for the White House.
Wheather [the pact] is approved or not, it will not change the way the US military acts in Iraq.
I think it is a bitter pil for Iraqis to swallow, because in both cases, it will not make their lives any better.
Kalid Ya’qoob, 42, computer engineer
This pact gives Iraq two choices: Either we enter a security agreement with the Americans, or we watch as our country shifts to greater Iranian influence.
However, the Iraqi political groups have treated the Iraqi people as toys.
We are the true victims of the past five years, of their indecisions.
Nevertheless, it is a positive move that some political parties conditionally accepted the agreement. They did so on condition that all Iraqi detainees be released.
Shaker H. Al Mashhadani, 56, NGO manager
The security pact, which includes the withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq, will end or at least confirm the occupation of Iraq.
I am hoping that with this security pact, Iraq will now be able to access previously blocked funds.
These were slapped on us during the sanctions after 1991.
Everyone knows that funding will bring benefits to the Iraqi people and accelerate rehabilitation and reconstruction projects.