Yesterday Secretary Gates said the handover of security to Iraqi forces was going smoothly and that the withdrawal of U.S. forces could potentially be accelerated. Gates’ comments indicate that the U.S. is well on its way to removing its combat forces in accordance with the 19 month timeline outlined by President Obama and the Status of Forces Agreement signed by President Bush.It is now up to Iraq’s political leaders to do theirs. A strategy that progressives have promoted for more than four years – and which have come to have broad bipartisan support – is quietly moving forward
Yesterday Prime Minister Maliki and President Obama confirmed that the United States was on track to withdraw all of its combat forces by August 2010. The meeting between the two comes in the wake of the successful withdrawal of American forces from Iraqi cities. The transition of responsibility for security from U.S. to Iraqi forces has been relatively smooth. However, the situation in Iraq remains volatile, as bouts of sectarian violence have reemerged. But ultimately it is up to Iraqis to determine their own future. Therefore it is imperative that the withdrawal of U.S. forces continue along the timeline announced by President Obama in February, as outlined in the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement signed by President Bush.
President Obama’s announcement today marks the beginning of the end of George W. Bush’s reckless foreign policy in Iraq – a policy that has cost Americans dearly in both blood and treasure while failing to make them more secure. Part of drawing a line under this era, though, is a return to policymaking in which Congress, the media and the American people ask tough questions and exercise oversight.
As the United States experiences its own peaceful transition of power, Iraq heads toward provincial elections this week – the first of several critical touchpoints over the next year. This memo takes stock of where the US stands in Iraq and identifies key challenges going forward.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice misread the situation yesterday when she claimed that Iran’s influence in Iraq was in doubt. Following the overthrow of Saddam – Iran’s principal enemy – the Iranian regime was able to develop tremendous influence with the Shia-majority in Iraq. There is now a broad bipartisan consensus among foreign policy experts and senior government officials that it is time for a new approach based on tough direct engagement with Iran.
This week has seen two contrary Iraq-related developments: a troubling spate of violence that has killed more than 50 Iraqis in bombings the last two days, and an attempt by President Bush to blame the intelligence community, members of Congress, world leaders and the previous administration, for the faulty intelligence presented to justify the war.
Yesterday the Iraqi cabinet approved a security agreement that stipulates that the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq should take place by the end of 2011. This reflects a growing consensus that it is time for American forces to redeploy.
After months of negotiation, speculation, and leaks, the Bush and Maliki Administrations last week presented a draft security pact – and it was promptly attacked by both Sunni and Shiite politicians, including Maliki’s allies. Iraqis are demanding a faster timetable for the withdrawal of American combat forces, but the Bush Administration has balked – although it says it does not want to keep troops in Iraq if they are no longer welcome.