Iraq elections can now go forward after Kurds and Sunnis agreed to a new, amended law. Obama's 11th-hour call Sunday night was part of a crucial US role in sealing the deal.
Iraq's fractious Parliament agreed to a compromise paving the way for legislative elections early next year after an 11th-hour phone call from President Obama to a top Kurdish leader removed remaining objections to a deal.
Minutes before a midnight deadline to approve the amended law, lawmakers who had been arguing in conference rooms and around cafeteria tables voted in the Parliament chamber to approve an election law placed in jeopardy when it was vetoed by Iraq's Sunni vice president three weeks ago.
The uncertainty over whether it would pass sent US and UN diplomats into a tailspin, with US Ambassador Christopher Hill rushing back from Washington and the United Nations special representative Ad Melkert trying to bridge Sunni and Kurdish objections.
"The US role was monumental. They brought everyone together," says Krikor Derhegopian, an advisor to Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, whose veto sparked the latest crisis. He says the elections could likely be held on Feb. 27, the latest date suggested by UN officials.
Obama's call and the US diplomacy was a stark reminder that as the US withdraws militarily from iraq, it remains engaged in almost every part of the political process.
Every seat crucial in elections
The finalized election law addresses a key concern raised by Mr. Hashemi's veto: that several million Iraqis living outside Iraq were not being adequately represented. A majority of those who fled Iraq during the worst of the sectarian fighting over the last six years are believed to be Sunni. The amended law allows their votes to count in their original home districts, many of them Sunni areas.