It is being hailed as an honourable end to a disreputable war, the Status of Forces Agreement signed by the Iraqi cabinet last weekend sets out a timetable for the withdrawal of US combat troops from cities by June 2009, and the whole country by December 2011.
But the deal, the full text of which is yet to be published, will not end the occupation.
By signing the accord the Iraqi government is agreeing to a ten-year mandate for US troops to “guarantee the security of Iraq” against war, coup, rebellion or revolution.
The US will have the right to maintain 50 military bases, store military equipment, control Iraqi airspace, sail warships in its waters and continue its “supervision” of the interior and defence ministries. The military will also have the right to seize any Iraqi “working against US interests”.
The US has made small concessions over the prosecution of US soliders or citizens who break Iraqi law while not on operation duty – but this can only be done in agreement with a US military panel.
The deadline for the withdrawal of troops can also be changed if the US or Iraqi government feels that the “situation on the ground” has changed.
Opposition to the agreement threatened to sink the deal. But after threats against the country, which included withdrawal of $50 billion in aid and the sequestration of its assets held in US banks, the Iraqi government caved in.
The powerful Shia religious establishment, headed by Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, withdrew its opposition to the pact. All Iraqi parties that are allied to the occupation have also dropped their objections.
Britain hopes for a similar agreement guaranteeing its role in the south of the country.
The only voices of dissent to the accords are those of rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and his supporters. Sadr has denounced the accords and called a protest on Friday of this week.
Far from ending the occupation, the Status of Forces Agreement would leave the US in almost total control of the country, and guarantee the future of the occupation.