Iraq said for the first time yesterday that it wanted to set a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from its territory.
“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. He rejected efforts by Mr Bush to hurry through an agreement on vital issues such as the immunity of US troops in Iraq and use of the country’s airspace. Mr Bush had hoped to sign a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) by the end of July to establish the basis for a long-term presence of US troops in the country.
WOW. This is potent stuff.
I just have to wonder what is going on in the McCain camp over what this could bode. Obviously these comments are ambiguous, and Iraq’s determination to see them through to the next Status of Forces Agreement isn’t certain.
However, there are very few ways that this couldn’t play well for Barack Obama. He has already been edging his way toward the center, and having the Iraqi government at the reigns of setting a timetable will allow him to justify revising his strategy from his previous postion of precipitous redeployment, one that was obviously purely for pandering purposes. Please take a moment to soak in the alliteration…
Merely saying that he wants to revise his strategy to reach a compromise and aquiesce to the wishes of a soverign Iraq is infinitely better than revising his strategy on no basis at all other than sudden epiphany. Also, an Iraq which wants a timetable must be a fairly stable Iraq, which allows for Barack to more legitimately make the claim that it is time to get out.
The only way this could not be a serious punch in the gut for the McCain camp is if what Iraq has in mind is a very long term and slow redeployment, one that is beyond the political elasticity of Obama’s policy position. I seriously doubt this is the case.
For now this issue is going to lay low, but President Bush wants to sign a new SOFA by the end of the month, and if it becomes a persistent statement, it very well might make its way into the campaign in the fall.
If Iraq asserts is sovereignty and becomes hostile to continued US troop presence, it could cast serious doubt on the McCain/neocon ideal of perpetuating nation building in the region with significant standing troop commitment and lend credence to the Obama argument that the time has come to go.
If John McCain loses on foreign policy, he certainly loses the election.