"Whomever voted for this agreement will bear the responsibility of the negative results from it."
Mohammed al-Daini, a Sunni lawmaker who voted against a deal governing U.S. troops in Iraq
After contentious debate in the Iraqi parliament, a majority of lawmakers approve a status-of-forces-agreement (SOFA) that governs the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq. While giving the U.S. new authority to remain in Iraq after December 31, when the current UN mandate is set to expire, the agreement calls for the American military to withdraw from the country by the end of 2011. Approval of the deal is a major political victory for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who hopes to claim credit for bringing an end to the U.S. presence in Iraq. Allies of radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, among others, vote against the pact, arguing that U.S. troops should pull out immediately. The deal is also a measure of validation for newly elected President Barack Obama, who had campaigned on a promise to end the war in Iraq. Near the end of the month Obama says he will keep Robert Gates as Defense Secretary, fulfilling his pledge to have at least one Republican in his cabinet and assuring continuity in national security.