Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 13, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

IRAQ UPDATE....The Washington Post reports that both Iraq and the U.S. have abandoned efforts to negotiate a formal status-of-forces agreement. Instead, they're working on a "temporary operating protocol" that includes target dates for the withdrawal of U.S. troops:

Although President Bush has repeatedly rejected calls for a troop withdrawal timeline, "we are talking about dates," acknowledged one U.S. official close to the negotiations. Iraqi political leaders "are all telling us the same thing. They need something like this in there. . . . Iraqis want to know that foreign troops are not going to be here forever."

...."What we're doing now is more . . . a bridge to have the authority in place so we don't turn into a pumpkin on December 31," the official said. Neither country wants an extension of the U.N. mandate. Iraq has rejected its explicit limits on sovereignty, and the administration believes that a limited extension would only postpone the need for a bilateral accord and potentially leave U.S. troops with "our backs against the wall."

According to U.S. officials, Maliki also hopes that a temporary protocol would circumvent the full parliamentary review and two-thirds vote he has promised for a status-of-forces agreement. "He is trying to figure out, just as we did, how you can set up an agreement between the two and have it be legally binding," one official said, "but not go through the legislative body."

Great. So now public opinion in both countries is so toxic that there's no chance of gaining approval of a formal treaty. Onward.

By the way, you may have missed this a couple of days ago, but on Friday the surge officially ended. The last of the five surge brigades has left the country and we're now back down to 15 combat brigades in Iraq.

Kevin Drum 10:50 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (22)

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Could well be a tactic to tie President Obama's hand. If they agree, say, on 11/1/2050 or even 12/11/2014 as the date of withdrawal, it will be quite difficult for the new President to say that he will withdraw the troops in sixteen months.

Posted by: gregor on July 13, 2008 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

Maliki's political competition, led by radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, deemed the absence of a timeline a deal-breaker. Iraq's top Shiite leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, warned against any agreement that violated Iraqi sovereignty and was not approved by the Iraqi people.

I'd guess that means an interim deal that is at most good through 2009. I don't see how Maliki could survive otherwise. If Maliki tried to ramrod a longer term deal through I expect he and any agreement would be at serious risk.

Of course, I wouldn't put it past the administration to try to get such a deal, even if they knew it and Maliki was going to go down in flames. No skin off their back. In the future they can claim they got a good deal, and its not their fault it fell apart.

Posted by: has407 on July 13, 2008 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

We have 15 troops in Iraq??? That doesn't sound like much!!!

Posted by: Anon on July 13, 2008 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

NO MANDATE means WE really ARE just plain old INVADERS.
FORCE CONGRESS TO IMPEACH GEORGE BUSH AND DICK CHENEY, call Pelosi @1-202-225-0100 and DEMAND IMPEACHMENT. DC business hours only, call often, and spread it around.

Posted by: Mike Meyer on July 13, 2008 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK


Posted by: mhr on July 13, 2008 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

WhiteHouse: withdrawal of U.S. troops - man, if I had a quarter from every time they said that.

Yeah, Bush is getting out of Iraq BS. But, but what happened to "conditions on the ground" and those troops that want to "complete" the mission?

If any of this is true, surely Iran will stand up while we stand down and I don't think poor little Bush could bear that fact. It's almost as if Bushie has decided to embrace T. Boone's new idea, let cars run on natural gas and go wind for electric - (yeah, than and coal too). I guess we'll know for sure when GM, Ford and Chevy get taxpayer money to retool for mass production of natural gas engines. But it's so hard to believe that Bush would give up on those oil well in Iraq after trying so hard to protect the oil ministry building from looters.

And Maliki wants to run his own country. I'm Sure Bush wouldn't mind that either but somehow I think the rest of Iraq would mind it alot. In fact it is the whole reason al Qaeda exist for pro friendly US - Mideast governments like this.

No wonder big oil wants the Clinton back in office so bad. I'm sure the powers that be would have fire their CEO Dick Cheney a long time ago but for the fact that it would lead to many pesky questions from the generally stupid public of America.

Posted by: Me_again on July 13, 2008 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

The disaster IS that we have been in Iraq for years!

Posted by: Pitchforks R Us on July 13, 2008 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

Well, you gotta admit that the surge worked. It successfully punted the responsibility of Iraq to the next Administration.

Obama will have a chance to end this war and withdraw a majority of troops quickly. However, I suspect that it will result in a temporary increase in violence. I doubt that Obama is willing to shoulder that responsibility.

I predict that Obama leaves the majority of troops in the Middle East. He will continue to play this shell game with the Progressive base. "Sure we still have troops there, but it's better than the hundred year war guaranteed by McBush!"

Posted by: Tuna on July 13, 2008 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

"It's hard to convince people that you are killing them for their own good."
-- Molly Ivins

Posted by: Quotation Man on July 13, 2008 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

"temporary operating protocol" t

I guess this is the functional equivalent the "continuing resolutions" and "extraordinary Iraq resolutions that Congress is passing nowadays.

This reminds me of some fellow shuffling credit cards, making cash withdrawals on one to make minimum payments on another....

Posted by: Duncan Kinder on July 13, 2008 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Also thinking that during the debates this kind of thing helps the right/wingers muddy Obama's position even more, or at least makes his case more convoluted sounding, which both the media and the right will exploit. More obstacles ahead. This is going to be a tight election, and if Obama is still losing ground with Clinton supporters, as mentioned in a comment above...the Dems will have more then their fair share of campaign work. I can not imagine what these Clinton supporters are thinking, maybe they are all watching to much teevee, where the "pundits" exclaim over and over how "outraged" the Dem lefty base is on Obama's move to the center, as if anyone really expected him to move further from the center...no one has to date, and all of those chumps know it. Obama did not do any more of a center shuffle then any other pol that has been in a similar position.

Posted by: benmerc on July 13, 2008 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

As Michael Massing points out in the latest NYRB, the primary reason that Bush would never leave, and the reason McCain would stick around for at least 100 years:

Iranian hegemony over Iraq: that is the Bush administration's worst nightmare. The Iraq invasion was designed to project American power in the region at Iran's expense; instead, it has done the exact opposite. And so it dawned on me: no matter what happens in Iraq, the Bush administration doesn't want to leave, since if it does, Iran, in one way or another, will take over. That helps explain recent reports that Washington, in negotiating a long-term status of forces agreement with Iraq, is determined to maintain nearly sixty bases there indefinitely -- a position the government of Prime Minister al-Maliki is strongly resisting.

Posted by: junebug on July 13, 2008 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

Well, the end of the surge certainly didn't prevent Bush from sending a bunch of marines who thought they were going home back to Iraq just a little while ago.

Next he'll be drafting rich Republican kids from New England who are set to attend Harvard, Yale and Princeton next semester. /just kidding

Posted by: Swan on July 13, 2008 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

Guess what? Tony Snow died. Oh well- that's one less guy who got us into Iraq for Cheney's oil, and then worked to keep us there, without a single sincere regret.

It's not worth mourning the likes of him, not in this day and age and considering what our country has gone through. If his kind had been less successful harming our nation, maybe I'd be sucker enough to express some token regret over this guy's death (but even if all the extraordinarily bad things that have happened in our country since 9/11 hadn't happened, Tony Snow would probably just be sticking up for Republican vote-stealing tactics, or the Rovian slime machine, or something similarly sinister, anyway).

Good riddance.

Posted by: Swan on July 13, 2008 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

"but not go through the legislative body."

Well, we've damn sure reached the goal....Bush-style "democracy....I'm sure the Iraqi's are loving it...haveing their country invaded, wrecked, and then having an "agreement" they're not allowed to vote on shoved down their throats.

Posted by: marty on July 13, 2008 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

One thing is for certain, Snow had that "smiley face conservatism" down pat, I always thought he had a cultist like aura or appeal to his presence. I am guessing he passed away believing in the "cause", but these are things one never really knows.

Posted by: benmerc on July 13, 2008 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

In some ways debate about a withdrawal from Iraq is becoming moot. Afghanistan is going to shit. Brigades are needed there. So I see a quickened rotation from Iraq. Time back home for rest and retraining. Then off they go to fight the the Taliban.

Posted by: keith g on July 13, 2008 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

Whatever gains the increased US occupation (aka surge) managed in Iraq is erased by losses in Afghanistan. So sad. Afghanistan was supposed to be THE focus of "global war on terror". Kevin, perhaps it is time to focus more on Afghanistan than on Iraq.

Posted by: rational on July 13, 2008 at 10:53 PM | PERMALINK

>...no chance of gaining approval of a formal treaty.

Kevin, Bush was NOT working on a formal treaty with Iraq. Congress must approve ALL treaties; Bush hates that constitutional idea. He was trying a work-around that had no force of law behind it;

No matter what Bush could have gotten it would have been a worthless agreement.

Posted by: James on July 14, 2008 at 1:51 AM | PERMALINK

As the article says, the "drawdown" now means that there are about 140,000 troops in Iraq, or 8,000 more than when the surge began last February.

It's 2008. Do you know where your short victorious war is?

Posted by: derek on July 14, 2008 at 5:37 AM | PERMALINK

"The Surge" isn't the reason the last year has been a relatively good one in Iraq. The real reason is Rumsfeld is gone!

Posted by: JoeBob on July 14, 2008 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK


Posted by: Kjxbmvej on July 15, 2009 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK



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