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February 26, 2009

Comments

von caught on to one essential fact about Obama: In many ways he is a cautious centrist.

It was obvious to me that he wouldn't rock the Establishment too hard when he voted for the new FISA that protected telecoms illegally spying on Americans.

Sully's still ignoring that pesky little fact:

The Iraqi people, and their elected government, have set a fixed timetable for the withdrawal of all troops. Obama's plan says nothing of indefinite deployment. It merely says that 30-50,000 will remain past his own imposed 2010 deadline.

But they can't stay past 2011 unless there is a new SOFA, or we intend to commit to an illegal occupation of a sovereign nation.

There will be a new SOFA, Eric. That portion of the SOFA was a pander to the Iraqi people. Since Maliki's Dawa party was one of the winners in the last election, we'll see the flexibility return. At bottom, Maliki will keep the US around so long as he needs the security (and a convenient foil).

or we intend to commit to an illegal occupation of a sovereign nation.

Gosh, that would never happen.

von, you are being optimistic regarding a new SOFA. First of all, the agreement still has to pass in a national referendum, and if it fails, we have to be out in 12 months.

Secondly, why would Maliki put himself at so much risk as to do a new SOFA, which would in all likelihood definitely not pass a national referndum?

And thirdly, why the heck would we agree to a new SOFA?

There will be a new SOFA, Eric.

Quite possibly.

That portion of the SOFA was a pander to the Iraqi people. Since Maliki's Dawa party was one of the winners in the last election, we'll see the flexibility return.

Maliki's party won razor thin majorities in many of the provinces - largely on the basis of his tough stance on the SOFA.

National elections are scheduled for December - and are more important to Maliki as he cannot remain in power without a strong enough showing in those. However, he will not fare as well if there is any indication that either the US is changing its tune, or he is, with respect to the SOFA.

Further, there is a national referendum on the SOFA this July. Sistani (and some reluctant lawmakers) demanded as much. If the Iraqi people smell a rat, they will likely defeat the referendum absent voter fraud - which is a possibility considering it was widespread in the recent "successful" elections. That would put us on a 12 month timetable for total evacuation.

The only if this SOFA is defeated in the referendum would be a new SOFA, or stopgap. But Maliki would have to negotiate one that is deemed acceptable to an Iraqi people that felt the prior version was too lax. With December's national elections looming, and other politicians taking advantage of the circumstances to push the nationalist line.

Along these lines, it is important to remember that any future SOFAs will still have to be negotiated in the context of our presence being so unpopular that politicians feel the need to "pander" to the Iraqi people by demanding strict terms.

At a certain point, the only feasible "pander" might be demanding the exit of all but a very small contingent.

Democracy has its drawbacks in terms of empire.

Should say:

"The only fix if this SOFA is defeated in the referendum would be a new SOFA, or stopgap

At a certain point, the only feasible "pander" might be demanding the exit of all but a very small contingent.

Eric,

In general all of what you've said above makes sense, but doesn't it really turn on how one defines "small contingent" (as in: we've established what you are, now we're just haggling over the price).

And doesn't the Iraqi perception of how "small" the US presence is in turn depend a good deal on what they are doing? It seems to me that say 30,000 troops more or less confined to various bases in support of IA training would have a rather different political footprint than the same number of troops out patrolling the streets and kicking down doors looking for anti-govt insurgents.

Thus it seems to me that these arguments should be as much about what missions our remaining troops will be tasked with as they should be about what number of them will still be deployed beyond date X.

I think both are important. I fear 30,000 might be too big, but that could change depending on Iraqi perception.

Keep in mind, for many if not most Iraqis, having ANY foreign troops on their soil will be a no-go.

Allow me to elaborate slightly:

A small contingent in and around the embassy will likely be OK. But that's in the hundreds, not tens of thousands. Beyond that, some air force advisors and trainers, hand full here, handfull there, and something between 5,000-10,000 could be - PERHAPS - sellable to the Iraqi people.

There will be a new SOFA, Eric. That portion of the SOFA was a pander to the Iraqi people.

And therein lies the entire problem.

The Iraqi people will still be in Iraq come July after the SOFA doesn't get ratified.

Damn those pesky Iraqi people.

"Beyond that, some air force advisors and trainers, hand full here, handfull there, and something between 5,000-10,000 could be - PERHAPS - sellable to the Iraqi people."

This poll of Iraqis from March, 2008 might be relevant. It included this:

[...]

Future role for U.S. % support
Security vs. al Qaeda in Iraq 80%
Training/weapons for Iraqi army 76
Reconstruction aid 73
Security vs. Iran 68
Security vs. Turkey 66

So, basically, there was, apparently, as of a year ago, support for U.S. forces to stay and do stuff other than run around Iraq. What wasn't desired was U.S. forces breaking down doors and doing armed convoys, etc., other than in specifically supporting the fight against al Qaeda-in-Iraq.

I'd love to see a more current poll of Iraqis, but I haven't spotted a relevant one. (I've seen several from before the most recent election projecting how people would vote, but not on the topic of the U.S. role.)

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