Thursday, August 21, 2008

Out of Iraq by 2011?

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that an agreement has been reached between U.S. and Iraqi negotiators on a security deal that sets timelines for the U.S. military to get out of Iraq. Under the agreement, U.S. forces will withdraw from Iraqi cities by next summer. After they leave the cities, a phased withdrawal will begin, with all forces to be out by 2011.

The draft agreement sets 2011 as the date by which all remaining U.S. troops will leave Iraq, according to Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Haj Humood and other people familiar with the matter.

Teams of American and Iraqi negotiators spent months haggling over the deal, which represents a remarkable turnaround from just a few months ago, when talk of timetables and deadlines was routinely dismissed by the Bush administration and other Republicans in Washington.

Senior officials in Washington said the talks have concluded. The deal will be presented to the Bush administration and the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for formal approval or rejection.

"The talking is done," one U.S. official said late Wednesday night. "Now the decision makers choose whether to give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down."

The precise terms of the agreement weren't clear Wednesday night, and the deal's final status likely will remain unsettled for at least a few more weeks.

Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council, cautioned that the deal was not yet complete. "Discussions are ongoing with the Iraqis to finalize a bilateral agreement," he said. "We are working to complete the agreement, but it is not final yet."

I hope so. Getting out is the best worst outcome, since we can't unring the bell. Be can't uninvade the country, unbomb the cities, resurect the dead, undo the ethnic cleansing, restore the limbs of the get my drift - as we can't undo any of that stuff, getting out and letting Iraq engage in self determination seems reasonable to me. But then, I'm not a wingnut chickenhawk.

The deal is virtually guaranteed acceptance by the United States, but in Iraq it is a different story. It has to go through several layers of the Iraqi government, and several members of the cabinet have objected to elements of the agreement, and it also has to gain the approval of the Parliament, and Parliament is on vacation until next month.

I hope it is accepted and implemented, but I am not breaking out the bubbly just yet. I know all too well how tenuous such agreements are, and there is a lot of opportunity for things to go wrong, and there are people with a vested interest in trying to make sure that is the case.

The agreement removes immunity for mercenaries, but I wish it went further. If both sides are serious about ending this thing, the mercenaries need to start leaving within 24 hours of the deal being inked. Companies like Blackwater will cease to make money of the US withdraws, so if the US is serious about leaving, the mercenaries have to all be gone by March, every last one of them, with no exceptions for the State Department.

But on a cheerier note, its a godsend to Barack Obama. McCain has spent the last two weeks talking about "legislating defeat" and all that nonsense; and right before the Democratic convention, negotiators hammer out a deal that is in keeping with his vision for the region, and not McCain's.

And hey! If the same guy who started the war is the guy who accepts the end is nigh and signs the aggreement to end it. In addition it certainly cuts the legs from under the dolschtosselegende the right has ben practicing for several years.

No, it ain't over yet, but this agreement can not be seen as anything but a step in the right direction.