Want a hyper-cynical take on SOFA? Here’s Andrew Sullivan’s:
[The hard right] will try to argue that Obama’s choice to withdraw has led to a victory for al Qaeda and that the Democrats have stabbed American troops in the back. (You can almost write Palin’s primary campaign message three years ahead of time.) But now that the Iraqis themselves have insisted on total US withdrawal by 2011 regardless, the neocons will not be able to play that card – or at leat play it with any credibility.
The looming civil war in Iraq will then be the Iraqis’ responsibility and Bush’s ultimate legacy in Iraq. Obama can avoid some of the blowback. And the genius of appointing Clinton as secretary-of-state is that she will have to absorb the blows of failure. Think of a possible Obama State Department offer to Clinton this way:
‘You voted for this bloody war. Now you can end it.’
And he will focus on the economy. Genius.
I’ve been trying to argue the opposite — that regardless of what one thinks of the war, one has to accept the fact that the U.S. needs to clean up the mess it made. I don’t see how this can be accomplished if, as Mike Mullen suggests, withdrawing all of the 150,000 troops now in country would take “two to three years”, which means the pullout would have to commence, well, right now.
Asked about a requirement that U.S. troops move out of Iraqi cities by mid-2009, Mullen said the gradual shift from urban areas has been the practice as Iraqi forces take responsibility for security in different provinces. But he said the Iraqi capital of Baghdad and northern city of Mosul were likely to pose special challenges.
‘Turning the security of Baghdad over in that requirement will be a big challenge,’ he said. ‘The other that is clearly not secure up north is Mosul. And we continue to be in a pretty tough fight up in Mosul,’ he said.
I hate vanity-quoting, but this is what I tried to say already in August:
[...] Pulling U.S. forces out of the cities as soon as June 2009 raises serious questions. It would presumably mean not only vacating the Green Zone but iraqisizing the COPs in contested cities like Mosul, and Baghdad, where sectarian fault lines have been reinforced with American-built walls. It’s a terrible idea, probably based on the hubristic assumption that the ebbing of one militant group’s fortunes means the country is on a straight road to lasting peace.
I can’t see how the Iraqi Army can possibly cope once the Americans are gone from the streets. They’re not ready, as they themselves readily admit, and a mere 12 months won’t make much of a difference — particularly as their foes, from AQI to militias and common criminals, will lay low, comfortable in the knowledge that they don’t have much longer to wait.
Spencer Ackerman already laments the death of SOFA in the hands of the brutish admiral:
Congratulations, Mike Mullen! You may have just guaranteed the rejection of the Status of Forces Agreement by the Iraqi parliament!
Remember that the document says the U.S. has to be out of Iraq — irrespective of conditions — by Dec. 31, 2011 and out of Iraqi cities and towns by mid-2009. It faces a dicey parliamentary vote in large part because the Iraqi people, and by extension the Iraqi parliament, fear that the U.S. won’t honor that commitment. That’s the main reason why Moqtada al-Sadr opposes the deal.
Now hold it right there, habibi. Even without privileged access to Muqtada’s thought processes I can pretty much vouch for the fact that he does not oppose the agreement out of fear for the U.S. not honouring it. He opposes it because he wants the Americans out immediately so that he can take on his Shia rivals without those pesky MRAPs on every corner. With SOFA signed and sealed “irrespective of conditions”, there is no incentive for Maliki to speed up political reconciliation, which makes the ultimate Shia vs. Shia slugfest all but inevitable.
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