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Now that Iraq's national security adviser has joined the Prime Minister in calling for the US-Iraq status of forces agreement to include a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops, it's time to place these remarks in context.

Nouri al-Maliki is trying to win an election.  He wants to outflank the Sadrists who have been resisting the US occupation for some time.  There have been massive demonstrations among the Shiite community to drive the occupiers out.  It's significant that the NSA, Mouwaffak al-Rubaie, made his comments in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, and after discussions with the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, no less.

But the actual withdrawal proposal put forth by Maliki and the Iraqi government is far less than it seems.

The Iraqi proposal stipulates that, once Iraqi forces have resumed security responsibility in all 18 of Iraq's provinces, U.S.-led forces would then withdraw from all cities in the country.

After that, the country's security situation would be reviewed every six months, for three to five years, to decide when U.S.-led troops would pull out entirely, al-Adeeb said.

The proposal, as outlined by al-Adeeb, is phrased in a way that would allow Iraqi officials to tell the Iraqi public that it includes a specific timetable and dates for a U.S. withdrawal.

However, it also would provide the United States some flexibility on timing because the dates of the provincial handovers are not set.

That's the key.  This is a positioning document for al-Maliki, who wants to consolidate control in provincial elections.  He's trying to prove that his rule has been successful and that he is not a puppet to the Americans.  The other day he said that terrorism has been defeated in Iraq - it was his "Mission Accomplished" statement - as proof that he has been able to increase security all by himself.  

The practical effect of the agreement described above is negligible.  We've only handed over security responsibility in 9 of the 18 provinces to date.  There's enough flexibility in this statement to hold off withdrawing all combat troops for potentially up to a decade.  And 10 years is a long time and lots of things can change.  This is an election-year "peace is at hand" statement that Maliki can wave around to the Iraqi public.  

I wouldn't be surprised if Bush jumped at it, actually.  It's certainly a good deal for him - he gets to pretend to leave while locking in for a long-term arrangement.  He helps Maliki consolidate power and break the back of the Sadrist movement.  It perpetuates the myth that we aren't seeking permanent bases - there's nothing in the withdrawal document about after-action forces - and that Iraq has some form of soveriegnty.

So let's not kid ourselves - even with such an agreement in place it will be very important who is in the White House implementing the policy, which could result in a gradual withdrawal or no discernible change for decades.  If Sen. Obama wanted to clear up confusion about his Iraq policy that the brain-dead media seeks to muddy, he could come out strongly endorsing this concept of a phased withdrawal and the right of the Iraqis to self-govern.  And he could specifically explain that this document wouldn't necessarily do that, and that it would be up to the policymakers to determine the next course.

Originally posted to dday on Tue Jul 08, 2008 at 11:00 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  tips (23+ / 0-)

    see you next week in Austin!

    D-Day, the newest blog on the internet (at the moment of its launch)

    by dday on Tue Jul 08, 2008 at 11:00:28 AM PDT

  •  I posted this on TPM this morning (6+ / 0-)

    Somewhat similar to your comments:

    It just occurred to me what Nouri al-Maliki, the Shia Prime Minister of Iraq, President George W. Bush, Senator John McCain and the Republican Party may be up to with al-Maliki’s sudden demand for a withdraw date of American troops from his country.

    Yesterday, Nouri al-Maliki, the Shia Prime Minister, who boasted last week that he had crushed terrorism in the country, ‘suggested’ that it was time to start setting time-lines.

    "The current trend is to reach an agreement on a memorandum of understanding either for the departure of the forces or to put a timetable on their withdrawal," Mr al-Maliki said during a visit to the United Arab Emirates.

    This sudden demand comes before Iraqi provincial elections later this year, and may be a political strategy for the Prime Minister’s campaign to be reelected.  It also comes during Senator John McCain and the Republican Party’s fight to keep control of the White House in November.

    Both parties benefit having their voters ‘thinking’ that the war in Iraq is about to come to an end.  Having the news media reporting that there are negotiations going on, discussing a ‘possible’ withdraw date from Iraq just before Election Day, can only benefit those currently in power or are hoping to be.

    The Iraqi people will think that the Americans will finally be leaving soon.  Americans will think that our troops will be coming home soon.  

    The Republican Party and Senator John McCain will say, "The Surge worked – we have a Victory in Iraq."

    A word of warning to my fellow Americans.  These negotiations do not have to be solved by Election Day in November.  The two governments have until the end of the year to settle.  In other words, don’t get your hopes up too soon.  This arguing back and forth about a ‘possible’ withdraw date -- could just be a political ploy.  

    We’ve been ‘lied’ to before, remember.

    Coonsey's View

    by cscmm on Tue Jul 08, 2008 at 11:10:14 AM PDT

  •  it's all coming together (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rasbobbo, truong son traveler, petral

    The policy is coalescing, from Iraq, from Bush, from the Democrats.

    Once Iraqi forces have resumed security responsibility in all 18 of Iraq's provinces, U.S.-led forces would then withdraw from all cities in the country.

    The handover of provinces is taking place to local armed groups, from the Kurdish peshmerga to the various Sunni Awakening councils to the Badr Organization, and the provinces are becoming de facto independent. The US forces will withdraw from combat operations into the vast bases which have been constructed. I believe Obama's emphasis on removing "combat troops" reflects his understanding of the overall strategy here to leave air bases, supply depots, force protection and special forces toops, basically as has already happened in Kuwait.

    An optimist sees pluses even when he is at a cemetery.

    by Marcion on Tue Jul 08, 2008 at 11:20:29 AM PDT

  •  smells like victory to me (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    trashablanca, bottsimons, Marcion

    good work boys, job's done, come on home.

    Anyone who advocates, supports, defends, rationalizes, or excuses torture has pus for brains and a case of scurvy for a conscience. - James Wolcott

    by rasbobbo on Tue Jul 08, 2008 at 11:24:07 AM PDT

  •  Bush and al-Maliki (4+ / 0-)

    Political expediency in the service of corruption.  I am not the least bit surprised that spineless and corrupt Maliki is playing this game. I do wonder if Sadr will let him get away with it. I also wonder if Bush uses bases or air space to attack Iran if the Shiite majority in Iraq will stand by applauding.

    Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. - Martin Luther King, Jr.

    by DWG on Tue Jul 08, 2008 at 11:31:11 AM PDT

  •  My thoughts this development (3+ / 0-)

    Posted this comment on LithiumCola's diary Maliki's Timetable Demand: Things to Watch For earlier today.

    Maliki is doing this not only because it would be popular in his own country but also because the Bush Administration wants him to do it in order to bolster Republican chances in the upcoming elections.

    Remember that the Bush Administration has always rebuffed any calls for withdrawal or timetables that were presented by anyone in the congress - even if it came from Republicans. However, they have often said that if the Iraqi's "ask" the US to leave we will.  It always gave them a card to play in the game if they ever needed to use it. Now is that time.

    Setting a withdrawal timetable because the Iraqi's asked for it will allow the Bush Administration (and Republicans by lock-step association) to claim that it was always in line with their position. It would be intended to take the "Get out of Iraq" issue off the table - well at least partially. Perhaps this agreement will take place even before the Democratic Party Convention.

    The effect of the agreement with a withdrawal timetable would serve to try to recapture those Republicans and Republican leaning independents that are fed up with the Iraq Debacle back to the Republican candidate - especially for congressional races. They have Bob Barr out there under the Libertarian banner that might grab a few but he is really out there to capture the Republican voters that won't vote McCain because they think he is a liberal. With the theory that at least the vote won't go to Obama.

    Now it wouldn't take the Iraq Debacle issue off the table completely but if there are attacks on McCain or Bush on what happened in the past they are likely to try to put that fire down by telling the Democrats that what they had wanted - a timetable for withdrawal - is set in place so why are you complaining?  Even though we all know that any such timetable for withdrawal will be filled with enough caveats to make it all but impossible to achieve it will fly past many in the electorate. The short attention span folks will read/hear "timetable for withdrawal" and that could just be enough to bring them "home" to their party.

    What is key, in my opinion, to seeing it this way is the simple fact that Maliki does nothing, and I do mean nothing, without the approval of the Bush Administration. Anytime that he, or others in his government seem to go off the reservation they really haven't. There are alot of elaborate, overlapping psyops activities at work and almost all of them that originate over there are geared for domestic consumption. Which is why the very small slice of truly independent reporting out of Iraq is so at odds with what has been presented domestically.

    If anyone would wonder why Maliki and company would go along with this it is simply because they, and their families, want to live. For each and every one of them is a dead man walking. They will live out their existence in the protective custody of the US with in Iraq and/or live a comfortable life after looting the Iraqi treasury and/or the US taxpayer in exile - most likely in Iran or the UK. It is extortion plain and simple. The United States doesn't exterminate the Sunnis or the Sadrists and they won't let the Shiites of Maliki and Al-Hakim nor the Kurds do it either. Sure the US kills and lets them kill plenty. Don't get me wrong. But were the US or the Iraqis in charge to eliminate the internal threat completely then the Iraqi's in charge would have little to fear. Fear can be a powerful motivator.

    So, after all that wordiness, I believe that it will come down to being something that will get done for a talking point for Republican candidates in the general election. I figured it was best to explain why.

  •  Hilariously, Bush refused it (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LithiumCola, bottsimons

    Another diary not far down from yours.  The one about it officially being an occupation now?

    Our saving grace has been Bush's political/diplomatic (people-influencing) stupidity and that of his advisors.

    -5.63, -8.10 | Impeach, Convict, Remove & Bar from Office, Arrest, Indict, Convict, Imprison!

    by neroden on Tue Jul 08, 2008 at 11:37:13 AM PDT

  •  Until victory, or something (0+ / 0-)

    Is the bottom line protecting the flow of oil?  Training the Iraqi Security Forces must have seemed like a simple job to those who didn’t bother to plan the war beyond the first weeks of shock and awe.  
    A recent article about training the Afghan police was not encouraging .
    One military trainer observed, “This is going to take a generation, maybe longer.”  
    With McCain, we’ll be there that long.

    It is high time the ideal of success should be replaced with the ideal of service. --A. Einstein

    by HenryBurlingame on Wed Jul 09, 2008 at 04:41:34 AM PDT

  •  Victory or something, link (0+ / 0-)

    Sorry, I failed to get the link to the article to show up.

    It is high time the ideal of success should be replaced with the ideal of service. --A. Einstein

    by HenryBurlingame on Wed Jul 09, 2008 at 04:44:01 AM PDT

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