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October 21, 2008

It's a Hard Timeline
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

So there is an unofficial version of the Iraq security agreement running around.  It's a translation of an Arabic version that appeared in an Iraqi Newspaper.  So, we still have to see if this is the official English.  But here's what it said about timelines in Article 25.

1- The U.S. forces shall withdraw from Iraqi territories no later than December 31st 2011...

5 - Before the end of the period mentioned in paragraph 1 of this article, and based on the Iraqi assessment of conditions, the Iraqi government is permitted to ask the U.S. government to keep specific forces for the purposes of training and support of the Iraqi security forces. In such a case, a special agreement will be negotiated and signed by both sides in accordance to laws and constitutional requirements in both countries. Or, the Iraqi government might ask for an extension of paragraph 1 of this article, and that can be done in accordance to paragraph 2 of article ThirtyOne of this agreement.

What does this mean?  Basically, only if the Iraqi Government asks the U.S. Government to specifically maintain additional forces in Iraq can the timeline be extended.  The United States cannot ask for and has no real control over an extension of any kind.  Considering that the U.S. presence is overwhelmingly unpopular, any consideration or request from an Iraqi government for an extension of the timeline would be tantamount to political suicide.  Once you consider all the publicity given to the agreement and specifically to the withdrawal date, it's hard to imagine the Iraqi leadership asking for an extension - even if it wanted one. 

The Bush administration already underestimated the power of Iraqi public opinion when it first tried to jam an agreement through earlier in the summer and got much harder push back than expected and that's what will happen to any American or Iraqi government that tries to get an extension beyond 2011.  The Bush administration and McCain campaign can pretend that this is agreement is based on "conditions on the ground."  In fact, they may actually believe it is.  But in Iraq's political reality, if this is in fact the final text, all American troops will almost definitely be out of Iraq by the end of 2011.

On an incredibly important side note, this all may be irrelevant since the Iraqi cabinet wants to renegotiate.  Secretary Gates' reaction:

"There is great reluctance to engage further in the drafting process," Gates told reporters.

"I don't think you slam the door shut, but I would say it's pretty far closed," he added, warning that failure to reach a new status of forces agreement (SOFA) or renew the current U.N. mandate for U.S. troops would mean "we basically stop doing anything."


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The Bush administration appears to have not planned for this event in which the Iraqis want an immediate withdrawl of American troops. Just like failing to predict the Iraq insurgency, the Bush administration based its plans for an SOFA on wishful thinking that the Iraqis supported the American occupation of their country.

The imperial president trashes the constitution, not obtaining Senate advice and consent on a treaty, and the Senate acquiesces. SecDef Gates at a news conference Oct 17:
Gates: Finally, I would just say that the four leaders that I talked to from the Armed Services Committees, I think, were generally positive, but clearly are looking forward to seeing exact text.

Q: When would they get that?

Gates: The staffs of -- representatives of each of them, as far as I know, were invited to the White House this morning and walked through the text.
The congressional representatives were invited to the White House and walked through the text! Why do we even have a Senate?

I think there is something in the Constitution about the Senate having the right to get staff briefings on agreements with foreign governments. Wasn't James Madison pretty insistent on that point during the 1787 convention?

I hope I'm not the only person to have noticed, incidentally, that the end of 2011 is three years away. That's a long time to maintain a commitment in Iraq that we can't afford now.

How can you leave? What will happen to Iraq? Brown men will be forced to govern themselves!

What is the world coming to when the US's mission to civilize the globe isn't appreciated! Ingrates!

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