Opposition from Iraqi lawmakers has blocked a British endeavor to prolong its military presence in the oil-rich country until a possible third Iraqi parliament reading of the British contingent mandate.
Britain has withdrawn the majority of its troops from Iraq but has left a contingent of about 150 people to train the new Iraqi navy and assist local forces in protecting the country’s territorial waters.
The mandate that allows British troops to stay in Iraq expires on July 31. An Iraqi parliament vote on a new security pact that postpones the UK departure, however, has been blocked several times in recent weeks by anti-occupation lawmakers.
In a July 24 letter to his Tory shadow Liam Fox, British Defense Secretary Bob Ainsworth said troops could be out of Iraq by late September, due to the Iraq parliamentary recess in the fasting month of Ramadan.
“[The agreement] had successful first and second readings but the imminent Iraqi summer recess and Kurdish elections on July 25 have meant that their parliament has not yet been able to reach the quorum needed to have the third and final reading,” he wrote.
British Embassy spokesman Jawwad Syed said on Tuesday that the delay would is a procedural one and that the remaining British forces would pull back to Kuwait until the issue is resolved.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defense regretted the delay as “unfortunate”, saying in a blog that London would “seek a solution with the Iraqi government that will provide our forces with the sound legal basis they need.”