Basing Deal Says U.S. Could Withdraw From Iraq Before 2011; Bush No Help to McCain
I just had an English translation of the U.S.-Iraq basing deal — officially the “Agreement Regarding the Temporary Presence in Iraq and its Activities and Withdrawal from Iraq, Between the United States and the Iraqi Government” — emailed to me. It confirms how deeply the Bush administration has been forced to climb down from its timetables-for-withdrawal-equals-defeat position.
Article 25 is the most important one — “Withdrawal of U.S. Forces From Iraq.” The first sub-article reads in full:
The U.S. forces shall withdraw from Iraqi territories no later than December 31 2011.
That, you’ll recall, is the date Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says George W. Bush insisted upon to save face for John McCain. (Maliki wanted a pullout in 2010, along Barack Obama’s proposed timeline.) But the sixth sub-article shows that it’s not even an ironclad insistence. Here’s the entirety of that sub-article:
U.S. forces may withdraw from Iraq before the dates indicated in this article if either of the two sides should so request. The U.S. government recognizes the Iraqi government’s sovereign right to request a withdrawal of U.S. forces at anytime.
That’s about as total a Bush administration cave-in as I can imagine. If the Iraqi government says the troops have to come home in December 2008, then a lame-duck Bush would be obligated to start the pullout. Clearly, the Iraqis blasted a Nisour Square-sized hole through the administration’s bargaining positions. I await all the anguished conservative commentary about how Bush just turned his back on five years of stalwart opposition to timetables for withdrawal.
One more thing. A hypothetical President Barack Obama has a lot to work with here. This agreement has a lot to offer an incoming administration that wants out of Iraq. On the other hand, a hypothetical President McCain would have this agreement thrown in his face by the Iraqis again and again.