Despite Condi Rice's prevarications, it's now looking certain that the US will be forced to accept Iraqi demands that any new "status of forces" deal
August 21, 2008

Despite Condi Rice's prevarications, it's now looking certain that the US will be forced to accept Iraqi demands that any new "status of forces" deal be for only 3 years and to stipulate all US troops out of Iraqi urban areas by 2009. A draft of the agreement is being circulated to Iraqi political leaders for their approval and it says that while there will be no firm schedule for a U.S. withdrawal, they want U.S. combat troops to go home by the end of 2011.

Obama already has his statement out, and it's a doozy. (H/T Spencer Ackerman):

"I am glad that the Administration has finally shifted to accepting a timetable for the removal of our combat troops from Iraq. Success in Iraq depends on an Iraqi government that is reconciling its differences and taking responsibility for its future, and a timetable is the best way to press the Iraqis to do just that. I welcome the growing convergence around this pragmatic and responsible position.

"This agreement is still draft and vital pieces of it must be finalized, so I will reserve final judgment on the agreement until it is complete. The agreement needs to be carefully reviewed, and must include immunity for U.S. troops and Defense Department personnel from Iraqi jurisdiction. I continue to believe that in consultation with our commanders and the Iraqi government, we can safely redeploy at a pace that removes our combat brigades in 16 months, with a residual force to target remnants of al Qaeda; to protect our service members and diplomats; and to train Iraq's Security Forces if the Iraqis make political progress.

"Senator McCain has stubbornly focused on maintaining an indefinite U.S presence in Iraq, but events have made his bluster and record increasingly out of touch with reality. While Senator McCain continues to offer unconditional military and economic support for Iraq, I strongly believe that we need to use our leverage with the Iraqi government to ensure a political settlement. In addition to a timetable, we should only train Iraqi Security Forces if Iraq's leaders reconcile their differences, and we must insist that Iraq invests its $79 billion surplus on rebuilding its own country. It's time to succeed in Iraq and to honor the sacrifice of our servicemen and women by leaving Iraq to a sovereign Iraqi government.

"Ending the war in Iraq responsibly is in the broader strategic interests of the United States. It's long past time to drawdown our troop presence and to stop spending $10 billion a month in Iraq so that we can increase resources for the mission in Afghanistan, rebuild our military, and invest in our struggling economy at home," said Senator Obama.

Spencer's bang on when he says this hits all the right notes.

First, it makes the point that the administration came around to the wisdom of Obama's position after exhausting the alternatives. Second, it portrays Obama's position as the consensus view. Third, it puts McCain on the horns of a dilemma: Either endorse Obama's consensus position -- and thereby flip-flop and concede his opponent's judgment is superior -- or be out of the responsible mainstream. Third-and-a-half, if McCain stays consistent, the Obama line draws a wedge between Bush and McCain.

But there's a fourth reason, and it's the most crucial of all. Did you notice how Obama is talking about "success in Iraq"? He's taking that concept and giving it a common-sense meaning: getting out responsibly -- that is, leveraging withdrawal into a diplomatic strategy with the Iraqi government and the region -- is what success means.

A definition of success that actually works and a plan that even the Bush administration has come around to, albeit very reluctantly. That shows both leadership and judgement.

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