Here's a historic picture from AFP, via the NY Times - The Iraqi cabinet has approved the current wording of the so-called Status of Forces Agreement
November 17, 2008

Here's a historic picture from AFP, via the NY Times - The Iraqi cabinet has approved the current wording of the so-called Status of Forces Agreement between the US and Iraq, which will replace the UN mandate at the end of the year, with only one dissenting voice.

Spencer Ackerman writes:

The Bush administration intended the SOFA process to entrench the occupation. Instead it gave the Iraqi government the means to end it. And that's the best-possible way for the war to end: with the Iraqi government -- the one we've disingenuously told the world we're in Iraq to support -- showing its political maturation to get us out the day after tomorrow. And out actually means out. The SOFA demands that every last U.S. serviceman is on a plane by December 31, 2011. Obama's plan for a 30,000-troop residual force? Officially overtaken by events. As I say, the impact of this appears not to have sunken in. The Iraqis have forced an end to the war.

But the neocons are determined to get every last day out of their war. At Commentary, Abe Greenwald spins the cabinet's vote as favorably as he can:

What happens to the claim that Barack Obama’s drawdown plan was consonant with the hopes of the Iraqi leadership? The agreement calls for American troops to be in Iraq for three more years. That’s 36 months - more than twice the length of time Obama has proposed troops stay in the country.

Nevertheless, President Obama will heed the new reality.

There is far too much resting on the successful fulfillment of this agreement for Obama to defy it. For starters, it is a watershed moment for American-Iraqi relations and Iraqi sovereignty... Tearing up a cooperative agreement so delicately arrived at would go down as a diplomatic and geopolitical travesty for the Obama administration — proving, as it would, that America’s talk of freedom and democracy is piffle.

I'm not sure that Obama couldn't stick to his 16 month deadline, if he wanted to, without contravening the agreement. As far as I'm aware (and I only have leaks to work with - no-one's seen the final wording in public yet), the agreement only says US troops must withdraw no later than Dec. 31, 2011, and makes no mention of prohibiting an earlier withdrawal.

Spencer, who has really been on the ball covering this agreement's development, wrote back on 23 Oct that:

Instead of entrenching the occupation, a draft of the accord, dated Oct. 13 and currently being circulated by members of the U.S. House of Representatives, insists on a 2011 pullout date, with Washington “recogniz[ing] the Iraqi government’s sovereign right” to demand an earlier withdrawal.

...Rather than establish an open-ended presence, Article 25 of the Oct. 13 draft states, “the U.S. forces shall withdraw from Iraqi territories no later than Dec. 31, 2011.” U.S. combat forces must also pull back “from all cities, towns and villages” long before that — “no later than June 30, 2009.”

More than that, the text states that the Iraqis reserve “the sovereign right to request a withdrawal of U.S. forces at any time.”

Still, Kevin Drum argues that sticking to the deal would be good for Obama:

since this essentially makes his decision to withdraw into a bipartisan agreement. After all, conservatives can hardly complain about Obama following a timetable that was negotiated and approved by Bush. Obama has enough on his plate already, and taking this issue off the table ought to be a considerable relief to him.

Hmmm, maybe. But it wouldn't go down well with many progressives who expect Obama to stick to his promises to America before he sticks to Bush's promises to Iraq.

Crossposted from Newshoggers

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