Essential

U.S. and Iraq Agree on Security Pact

One of the few things that the lame duck Bush Administration must deal with before scuttling out of the White House is the expiring U.N. mandate that allows American troops to be in Iraq. According to an anonymous Nouri al-Maliki aide, it's done. A draft of the security pact allowing U.S. forces to remain in Iraq until December 31, 2011, has been agreed upon, according to the aide. The next step is a vote of the 37-member cabinet. If it passes by a two-thirds majority, the pact moves on to the 275-member parliament where it only needs a simple majority to pass. The pact appeared to stall last week when the U.S rebuffed Iraqi demands for changes. But according to Sunni vice president Tariq al-Hashemi, modifications were made addressing Iraq's right to try U.S. soldiers and contractors who commit crimes off-base and the country's concern that the U.S. wouldn't use its territory to attack a neighbor. "We think this is a good document that serves both Iraqis and Americans well. We remain hopeful that the Iraqi government will conclude this process soon," said National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe.