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.
Today, the Iraqi Parliament postponed a scheduled vote on the U.S.-Iraq Security agreement. In order to get broad support in Parliament for the security agreement, Maliki and his allies appear to have given into a Sunni demand to hold a national referendum on the agreement in 2009.
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.
One of the unnoticed evolutions in Iraq policy over the past few months is that there is now a broad consensus both here and in Iraq that for the sake of American and Iraqi interests it is time for American forces to redeploy.
The Bush administration had no official comment concerning a clandestine attack by U.S. Special Operations forces into Syria. Senator Obama also refused to comment publicly on such a sensitive military operation. Yet the McCain campaign responded with a press release that argued that this operation would not have happened in an Obama administration and attacked Obama for advocating diplomatic engagement with Syria. McCain’s argument is not just reckless but incoherent.
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.
Tomorrow marks a major milestone in Iraq as the Iraqi Government takes responsibility for paying and integrating large numbers of the Sons of Iraq (SOI) - the former Sunni insurgents who began aligning themselves with the U.S. in 2006 and were one of the main reasons for the reduction in violence. There are still significant tension between the Shi'a dominated central government and the SOIs; and, if the government does not continue to pay these fighters or integrate enough of them into the security forces, it could spell trouble.