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Bush Shakes Up '08 Iraq Debate

Apparently, Bush has a plan to take away the Democratic frontrunners' plans to use Iraq as a campaign issue. Of course, the Republican candidates are

Apparently, Bush has a plan to take away the Democratic frontrunners' plans to use Iraq as a campaign issue.

Of course, the Republican candidates are entirely unaffected--seeing as they want to stay away from Iraq as much as possible--but Bush's actions are non-political, make no mistake about that.

(A)s Bush rallied U.S. troops at the base here on Saturday with a "Hoo-ah" and conferred with his Iraq dream team, Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, he indicated that he was setting in motion policies that could dramatically affect the presidential race--and any decisions the next president makes in 2009.

In remarks to the traveling press, delivered from the Third Army operation command center here, Bush said that negotiations were about to begin on a long-term strategic partnership with the Iraqi government modeled on the accords the United States has with Kuwait and many other countries. Crocker, who flew in from Baghdad with Petraeus to meet with the president, elaborated: "We're putting our team together now, making preparations in Washington," he told reporters. "The Iraqis are doing the same. And in the few weeks ahead, we would expect to get together to start this negotiating process." The target date for concluding the agreement is July, says Gen. Doug Lute, Bush's Iraq coordinator in the White House--in other words, just in time for the Democratic and Republican national conventions.

Most significant of all, the new partnership deal with Iraq, including a status of forces agreement that would then replace the existing Security Council mandate authorizing the presence of the U.S.-led multinational forces in Iraq, will become a sworn obligation for the next president. It will become just another piece of the complex global security framework involving a hundred or so countries with which Washington now has bilateral defense or security cooperation agreements. Last month, Sen. Hillary Clinton urged Bush not to commit to any such agreement without congressional approval. The president said nothing about that on Saturday, but Lute said last fall that the Iraqi agreement would not likely rise to the level of a formal treaty requiring Senate ratification. Even so, it would be difficult if not impossible for future presidents to unilaterally breach such a pact.

As far as the number of U.S. troops that would remain in Iraq under such a pact, the administration is considering changes that could also pre-empt anything the Democrats have in mind.[..] In fact, one Pentagon contractor who is working on the long-term U.S. plans for Iraq says that the administration is considering new configurations of forces that could reduce troop levels to well under 100,000, perhaps to as few as 60,000, by the time the next president takes office.

The upshot is that the next president, Democrat or Republican, is likely to be handed a fait accompli that could well render moot his or her own elaborate withdrawal plans, especially the ones being considered by the two leading Democratic contenders.

It's not bad enough the damage he's done in the eight years he's occupied the White House, he needs to continue the damage beyond his term.

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