Aware of the obstacles ahead, the White House was cautious in its reaction. "While the process is not yet complete, we remain hopeful and confident we'll soon have an agreement that serves both the people of Iraq and the United States well," spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.
If Iraq's parliament rejected the deal or failed to pass it before the end of the year, it would not be the first time crucial legislation has fallen victim to the country's polarized politics. A bill to manage Iraq's lucrative oil industry was approved by the Cabinet more than a year ago but never passed parliament.
After the Cabinet vote Sunday, government spokesman Ali Dabbagh sought to deflect Iraqi concerns that the pact left open the door for U.S. troops to extend their stay here. He called the withdrawal deadlines of June 2009 and Dec. 31, 2011, "final and decided."
When the talks began, the United States had pressed for wording that would have omitted deadlines for troop withdrawals in favor of a vague "time horizon" for withdrawal dependent on conditions in Iraq.
Even with the deadlines, Dabbagh said Iraq would have the right to cancel the agreement if it decided its forces were ready to assume full control of the country's security.