Am I the only one who finds this funny (albeit in a tragic way)? After five years of war, and with some 150,000 foreign troops in the country, the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, which has been propped up by a foreign power all along, suddenly finds that the demands of that power “hugely infringe on the sovereignty of Iraq”.
But of course he’s right. And I bet the Bush administration never thought this would happen — that a newly assertive Iraqi government would want to make a security deal not with America but (wait for it) Iran, and — gasp — that they might actually ask the U.S. to get the hell out.
I’ve been reading the reports written by the two Obama advisors who locked horns at CNAS yesterday, Brian Katulis and Colin Kahl. Even though Katulis’s paper — which recommends a “strategic reset”, i.e. quick disentanglement — is pre-surge, it makes more sense than Kahl’s “conditional engagement”, which sounds good but basically means the U.S. shouldn’t give a shit about what the Iraqis think. If nothing else, it sounds hopelessly outdated after what we’ve come to learn about the SOFA and SFA negotiations.
So what now? The Iraqis have already told the UN they don’t want the mandate renewed, so I guess that option is off the table. On the other hand, once the mandate expires, U.S. troops will be in Iraq as outlaws (kind of), and their presence will look like — ahem — occupation. Which means that Bush and Maliki will have to come to some kind of agreement regardless of how much that pisses off the Iraqi electorate — or the Iraqis will have to swallow their pride and go back to the UN.
All things considered, that would be the best way out, since it would give the new U.S. administration a chance to make their own deal. Except that the next president may well be John “100 years” McCain…