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February 28, 2009

Comments

"But it will, at last, be over for us."

I'm not so sure. Ricks seems to think we'll be there forever.

And lest you be happy today, the media did it's best to play up Pelosi and other congressional dems bitching up a storm there may be 50k residual troops until 2011.

I thought it was a happy day, too, until I saw Ricks, Olberman, Maddow, and Amy Goodman all bash Obama and then I realized he was not progressive.

jdw: I don't buy Ricks' line, because I think it just ignores the SOFA. It is not up to us whether or not we stay in Iraq past 2011. And while I could easily see Bush deciding to try to strongarm the Iraqis into "asking" us to stay, I don't see Obama doing that.

I think, and hope, we'll be in Iraq for so long as it serves our interests.

Our?

Some context on the 50k: The most gung-ho current estimates talk about a surge increasing U.S. forces in Afghanistan from 38k to 55k.

So 50k is a lot. It's a reasonable concern.

Fortunately, I don't have to live in an echo chamber to be happy.

" I don't buy Ricks' line, because I think it just ignores the SOFA."

around the ethers there's some scuttlebutt that the SOFA can be renegotiated. Plus, if McCain likes it, how good can it be?

I know, I know...I thought it was a good day, too. But then I had to leave the teevee on all day and get on the internets.


After we remove our combat brigades, our mission will change from combat to supporting the Iraqi government and its Security Forces as they take the absolute lead in securing their country.

And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.

I'm happy too. He's handling it very well, and I wouldn't be surprise if the guy yanks every soldier out, as the Bush agreement Iraq calls for.

I think he is sincere when he says we should leave Iraq to the Iraqis.

But I doubt ordinary Iraqis are going to hear a significant distinction in those forces that are part of brigade and those that are named something else.


the SOFA agreement was pretty emphatic. Obama's declaration today was really emphatic. This summer's referendum in Iraq will be icing on the cake. It's all down hill from here in a zero sum game, as "our" influence in Iraq becomes progressively more irrelevant - because who the hell is gonna stick his neck out now, when the short timers calender applies to everybody. Diplomats and Military scheduled to deploy be advised; take as many video games and CD's that will fit in the duffel, because (this time) there's going to be nothing but time to kill.

Eric knows more about the SOFA, but my impression has always been that it matters a lot to the Iraqis, and that the idea that we can renegotiate it at will might be true in the sense that being very powerful, we might be able to twist enough arms to get it renegotiated, but that that would be the end either of the Iraqi government that renegotiated it or of any aspirations it might have had to popular support. I think people here talk blithely about it because on some level they assume that we can do anything we want to without counting the cost. I do not think Obama shares that view.

As for disappointment: this is more or less what he said he would do.

I don't know what ordinary Iraquis think, of course, but I bet they have differences of opinion amongst themselves just like we do. It would not shock me if, during the next 3 years, a major Iraqui faction begged us to stay longer while another demanded we leave earlier.

Three years is a long time, and the world is not compartmented into Iraq and everything else. Three years from now, American troops may be gone from Iraq because we are in a Second Great Depression and we can't afford to keep them there. Or Pakistan may have collapsed. Or a world-wide economic recovery have sent oil up to $200/barrel. Who knows?

Obama gets my applause for avoiding words like "victory" and "the enemy" in today's speech and in general. Dick and Dubya's attitude seemed to be that "victory" meant staying in Iraq until there was no "enemy" left -- "the enemy" being anybody who tried to make us leave. Whatever else happens, that difference means a lot.

--TP

Actually, the legal basis for the US occupation of Iraq comes to an end in June 2009.

Whatever.

von: I think, and hope, we'll be in Iraq for so long as it serves our interests.

Yeah, who cares about the interests of the Iraqis or their neighbors: all in the service of the glorious American Reich.

The sad thing is, I fear you may be right, and the US has already slid too far down towards fascism to be able to climb back out of its own volition. Obama's condoning torture and extra-judicial imprisonment does speak volumes.

Von’s comment actually is a pretty good indicator of the main difference, IMO, between conservative and liberal thinking. Of course it would be nice to know what he defines “our interest” to be, but I will get back to that later.

Conservatives (in general, not totality) tend to be inner directed, thi8nking of what is best for themselves as individuals or “us” as a nation. However, the latter only comes into play in terms of international things, not domestic.

Liberals tend to be more other directed, thinking of what impacts people and countries around them. I am not saying liberals cannot be selfish and self-directed, simply that, again in general, look at things in terms of how it affects others and looking to have a positive impact on the most people.

So here comes von, saying he hopes we stay in Iraq as long as it is in our interest. Notice that he didn’t say “our best interest.” So long as it has a modicum of benefit to us we should stay there. Of course, the problem here is that he doesn’t define what “our interest” is, nor how being there serves our interest now. There are many people, myself included, who believe that if we use “our interest” as a guideline, we should never have invaded and shouldn’t be there now, as it is not serving our interest or the interest of the Iraqis.

Also, notice that he doesn’t appear to make a distinction between long term and short term interest, another, IMO, difference between liberals and conservatives. Conservatives live in the here and now, seldom looking at impacts long term, whereas liberals tend to think in weeks, months years ahead style. (Again, this is a generality and does not apply to each and every member of each group.)

There are, of course, people who tend to fall into each group depending on the subject at hand. But I do wish von would define terms more.

Miller, my comment reflects a realist fp. (I would regard myself as a neorealist, whatever that means.)

Liberal and coservative don't enter into it. In fact, to me, liberal internationalism and neoconservativism are two sides of the same coin.

Von, thank you for ignoring my basic request of you, defining what you mean by “our interest.”

Here's how it'll work out.

He'll reassign a few brigades to Afghanistan and "re-brand" the rest as "force protection" or some shit.

There is the little matter of the 14 "temporary" bases, and all the equipment (hint: "ZZOOOM") and ordnance (hint: "BOOOM") to protect.

And the present SOFA contains the exception of staying "by invitation."

There are gonna be USer boots (and blood) on the ground in Iraq past 2020, gayronTEED, chers.

my opinion = our "national interests"

This is a political identity equal in power to any accounting or mathmatical identity ever conceived, and equally universal.

I think, and hope, we'll be in Iraq for so long as it serves our interests.

Well, unless someone invents a time machine, that's not going to happen.

I hope woody is not right, but we shouldn't forget that what pisses-off al Qaeda is that among other things secular forces are so close to Mecca.

And as long as the US maintain bases in Iraq, they (and Iraqis) will continue to commit violent acts against US forces, whatever we call them.

It's hard to understand, then, how dizzy von could see maintaining the bases is in our interest, especially since the longer we stay the less likely future Iraqis will sell us their oil.

So if our interests have anything to do with peace and oil, I can't imagine how staying is in our interest.

Any further war and occupation in Iraq is against international humanitarian law. If Obama doesn't work for a full and rapid withdrawal from Iraq, he is a war criminal.

Hhmmm. If our interests and Iraqi interests coincided then staying to serve our interess would be a viable option. If the Iraqis want us to go, they staying to serve our interests would have to be done against thiers--an occupation, in other wors, imposed by some degree of force. Not, in my opinion, an option.

Remember, in '68, Nixon ran --and won-- on a pledge to end the war in Nam.

He did, too...

Five years,
30 thousand dead GIs
and countless dead and maimed Asians later...

Peace isn't an end for these fuckers, it's a domestic political tactic.

"Any further war and occupation in Iraq is against international humanitarian law."

How so, given the SOFA?


Would SOFA preclude any judgment that the initial invasion was illegal (should the U.S. ever appear before a tribunal competent to render such a judgment)?

If so, I don't see how.

We have not seen any evidence that Saddam's Iraq threatened the existence of the United States.

The only way we are leaving Iraq is if the Iraqi population rises up en masse and drives us out, or the US suffers total economic collapse.

wonkie: If our interests and Iraqi interests coincided then staying to serve our interess would be a viable option. If the Iraqis want us to go, they staying to serve our interests would have to be done against thiers--an occupation, in other wors, imposed by some degree of force. Not, in my opinion, an option.

Dude, where have you been since March 2003?

I'm neither especially happy nor let down. This is what he said he would do. Though uninclined to celebrate every time Obama fufils a campaign pledge, I acknowledge that this is a major commitment. So I'm glad to see it reaffirmed with only minor backtracking (19 months for first-phase withdrawal vs. the campaign-envisioned 16).

This plan is actually an improvement over Obama's position before the election, which contemplated an indefinite residual force (of unspecified size, which I always assumed would be at least 30,000). The Bush-Maliki security agreement reached in late November made the difference.

Interestingly, the agreement was subject to ratification by the Iraqi legislature but not by our own Senate, despite its being in practice a treaty rather than a Status of Forces Agreement. The implied democracy deficit might be considered to be deepened by the additional requirement of the upcoming Iraqi popular referendum, or you could look at the November elections as our 'referendum' on the issue.

The summer Iraqi vote also provides an extra incentive to minimize abusive or criminal behavior on the part of U.S. troops, which I bring up only because I came to this post straight from reading about the conviction yesterday of a soldier for the assault and murder of an unarmed Iraqi detainee in May 2007, on top of last week's conviction of another soldier in the separate murder of four handcuffed Iraqis.

Does anyone know whether the security agreement covers the issue of the use of unmanned, armed U.S.-controlled drones in Iraqi airspace after 2011? How about unarmed intel-gathering drones?

woody: the posting rules forbid profanity.

"Would SOFA preclude any judgment that the initial invasion was illegal (should the U.S. ever appear before a tribunal competent to render such a judgment)?"

I don't think so, and I wasn't saying that. But that was then, and this is now.

"Remember, in '68, Nixon ran --and won-- on a pledge to end the war in Nam."

I have some trouble seeing Obama as having much in common with Richard Nixon.

"...on top of last week's conviction of another soldier in the separate murder of four handcuffed Iraqis."

That would be Sgt. Michael Leahy, who who was Scott Beauchamp's first sergeant, saying of Beauchamp:

[...] I appreciate all the support from home and I can assure you that not a single word of this was true. We’ve been fighting this fight for quite some time. Numerous soldiers within my unit have served on several deployments and this is my third year as a First Sergeant in this unit. My soldiers conduct is consistently honorable. This soldier has other underlining issues which I’m sure will come out in the course of the investigation. No one at any of the post we live at or frequent, remotely fit the descriptions of any of the persons depicted in this young man’s fairy tale.
Clearly a highly reliable narrator.

"Does anyone know whether the security agreement covers the issue of the use of unmanned, armed U.S.-controlled drones in Iraqi airspace after 2011? How about unarmed intel-gathering drones?"

Me, me, pick me!

Here is the SOFA.

[...] 2. With full respect for relevant rules of safety in aviation and air navigation, United
States Government aircraft and civil aircraft that are at the time operating exclusively
under a contract with the United States Department of Defense are authorized to over-fly,
conduct airborne refueling exclusively for the purposes of implementing this Agreement
over, and land and take off within, the territory of Iraq for the purposes of implementing
this Agreement. The Iraqi authorities shall grant the aforementioned aircraft permission
every year to land in and take off from Iraqi territory exclusively for the purposes of
implementing this Agreement. United States Government aircraft and civil aircraft that
are at the time operating exclusively under a contract with the United States Department
of Defense, vessels, and vehicles shall not have any party boarding them without the
consent of the authorities of the United States Forces. The Joint Sub-Committee
concerned with this matter shall take appropriate action to facilitate the regulation of such
traffic.


3. Surveillance and control over Iraqi airspace shall transfer to Iraqi authority
immediately upon entry into force of this Agreement.
4. Iraq may request from the United States Forces temporary support for the Iraqi
authorities in the mission of surveillance and control of Iraqi air space.
5. United States Government aircraft and civil aircraft that are at the time operating
exclusively under contract to the United States Department of Defense shall not be
subject to payment of any taxes, duties, fees, or similar charges, including overflight or
navigation fees, landing, and parking fees at government airfields. Vehicles and vessels
owned or operated by or at the time exclusively for the United States Forces shall not be
subject to payment of any taxes, duties, fees, or similar charges, including for vessels at
government ports. Such vehicles, vessels, and aircraft shall be free from registration
requirements within Iraq.

So, in other words, it's up to the Iraqis, but in practice it sounds like they're likely to grant permission, unless they get really pissed off.

Thanks for the airspace info, Gary.

I also appreciate you making the Beauchamp connection. I've done that several times before with reference to this case in comments here but didn't want to make my comment even longer and more negative than it already was.

redwood, "Would SOFA preclude any judgment that the initial invasion was illegal (should the U.S. ever appear before a tribunal competent to render such a judgment)?"
Gary Farber, I don't think so, and I wasn't saying that. But that was then, and this is now.

what's your 'but' doing, Gary? Are trying to plant in our minds that, even if the U.S. subjects itself to the jurisdiction of the ICJ, that some treaty or resolution would not allow the Iraqi government from filing a complaint over the 2003 invasion?

Gary Farber: That would be Sgt. Michael Leahy, who who was Scott Beauchamp's first sergeant, saying of Beauchamp:

Gary, I think the First Sergeant you are quoting was actually on of the others charged, John E. Hatley. At least, that's how I read this post, which I got to from your Balloon Juice link.

"Are trying to plant in our minds that, even if the U.S. subjects itself to the jurisdiction of the ICJ, that some treaty or resolution would not allow the Iraqi government from filing a complaint over the 2003 invasion?"

Yes, I'm part of a secret plot to legitimize the invasion, with my mighty mind-control powers, thanks to my payoff from the CIA.

Beware my awesome telepathic powers.


So in your view, SOFA doesn't change the fact that by invading Iraq, the USG broke the law?


Way up above J. Michael Neal treated the ACLU's desire to see a Supreme Court ruling as "bashing Obama whether he sticks with Bush DoJ arguments or abandons them", and I, so not a lawyer, posited (without having any real idea what it would be) that there is probably a way to get such a ruling without the Obama Justice Dept simply reasserting the Bush argument, while giving al-Marri his proper venue of civilian court trial.

It turns out that there may be, at least if the people discussing this at SCOTUSblog are correct, and commenter PeterG at TalkLeft is correctly conveying their points (I can't get SCOTUSblog to load tonight). They say that

Al-Marri's lawyers can plausibly argue that a criminal prosecution does not make his claim moot; after all, he was facing criminal charges several years ago, when the government just walked into court one day, dropped those charges, and "disappeared" him into the military brig based on W's unilateral declaration that he was an "unlawful enemy combatant."

The Court could agree that the risk of repetition keeps the case from being moot, or they could defer ruling on the [government's] dismissal motion until after the government files its brief -- thus forcing the Administration to take a position on the Bush claim of Presidential power.

Oh, hell. That last comment was supposed to go in the al-Marri thread.

Jes, I'm not a dude. A dudette, maybe.

Well, no not that either.

Just female. My cat, Wonkie, was a guy, though.


I was responding to von who seemed to think that we should stay in Iraq to advance some undefined interests of ours. My point was that staying without their permission and approval constitutes occupation which doesn't seem like a controversial observation to me, but might not be how von sees things. Yes, in my opinion we have been occupying Iraq for quite some time now.

"So in your view, SOFA doesn't change the fact that by invading Iraq, the USG broke the law?"

No, that's not my view. Or to explain it v...e...r...y s...l...o...w...l...y, I think the invasion was illegal.

A clue would be that I've never said otherwise, and it's best that people not hallucinate what other people might, in their hallucinations, think.

In turn, other people wouldn't have to get a bit annoyed at having to explain that other people are making up nonsense and projecting it upon them for no reason whatever.

Jeebus.

"Just female. My cat, Wonkie, was a guy, though."

And Wonkie is the former Lily. Does no one pay attention?

President Obama must be very unfamiliar with foreign affairs, especially when our military is involved. By experience only that you will see that making promises, and setting up deals in that part of the world usually end up in failure. You do not go in part of the world and tells them that you will have peace next year, or tell us that our troops will come home in 2010. If President Obama wants our troops out of Iraq, he should have authorize it now, or in a week, but not a year and half from now.

And Wonkie is the former Lily. Does no one pay attention?

I didn't realize we had established that.

"I didn't realize we had established that."

I quite remember where she said that, but that's me. (Setting aside that style and content made it completely clear, but where she said yes, of course.)

While we're wandering around idenity, I feel a need to say that I finally saw Synecdoche, NY today, and that's it's brilliant and wonderful, and hilarious, and funny, and sad and depressing, and everything in life, and everyone who can get it should go see it. So there.

Then we should have an open thread to talk about it.

Meanwhile, there's this.

But the movie is endlessly more.

And who shouldn't be moved?

my apologies, everybody, but I'm having trouble following Gary Farber:

redwood: So in your view, SOFA doesn't change the fact that by invading Iraq, the USG broke the law?
Gary Farber: No, that's not my view. Or to explain it v...e...r...y s...l...o...w...l...y, I think the invasion was illegal

I'm not sure what the 'no' is doing, but if you think the invasion was illegal, and that SOFA doesn't excuse the USG, why would you ask libhomo how the continued US presence is against international humanatarian law?:

libhomo: "Any further war and occupation in Iraq is against international humanitarian law."
Gary Farber: How so, given the SOFA?

Even if libhomo could link to an "humanitarian law," it wouldn't matter because the invasion itself is illegal, right?

"Even if libhomo could link to an "humanitarian law," it wouldn't matter because the invasion itself is illegal, right?"

No. Because something that was illegal in one year doesn't necessarily stay illegal in another year. Things change.

I don't say this out of any interest, or agenda, but as an observation of reality.

An illegal invasion of Iraq that is subsequently met with a duly legitimately elected government of Iraq which duly grants it certain current rights in Iraq is not in the same position it was years ago. That doesn't change the position it was in years ago, but neither does the current condition magically remain unchanged and identical to that which it was in the past. Time has effects.

That the past thing may remain illegal doesn't mean that subsequent events can't change its future illegality.

So far as I can tell, the SOFA was negotiated by a legitimate government of Iraq. That's debatable, but tell me if you're debating it. If they were legitimate, they granted certain rights. If I have this wrong, let me know.

If not, what they say goes at present over-rides and creates the current legal situation. That's all. Who has jurisdiction about past legal jurisdiction and crimes is another matter, and not one I'm apt to prescribe, myself.

Gary those are the saddest damn poems I ever read. .

wonkie: Jes, I'm not a dude. A dudette, maybe.

Sorry. My usage of the term "dude" to address people is idiosyncratic and not based on gender: in RL I never hear anyone referring to themselves (or to anyone else) as a "dude", and have no native-speaker sense of it as a gendered term. I feel differently about "Man" and "guys", both of which feel gendered, even when used in situations where the user seems to intend a genderless referent.

I attempt to think of all Internet people as genderless until preference is clearly indicated otherwise.

I was responding to von who seemed to think that we should stay in Iraq to advance some undefined interests of ours. My point was that staying without their permission and approval constitutes occupation which doesn't seem like a controversial observation to me, but might not be how von sees things. Yes, in my opinion we have been occupying Iraq for quite some time now.

Yes, I got that, and I was (sarcastically) agreeing/pointing out that occupying Iraq without the permission or approval of Iraqis is what the US - and to a lesser extent the UK and other nations - has been doing in March 2003. This has, in fact, served various US interests rather well - the oil reserves under Iraq, if not available to the US, have been made unavailable long term to anyone else; various large US corporations have profited enormously: and Von's belief that the occupation should continue so long as it serves those interests, is certainly "realistic" - it looks at the profit motive for occupying Iraq and presumes that will continue to override all other evaluations. Very conservative. Very right-wing. It's never called "class war" so long as the poor are the only ones dying in it.

I guess this is an examp;e of how, in the absence of facial expression or voice tone, comments can be misinterpeted.

Anyhoo I hope Gary got some sleep.

Re: the SOFA and its effect on the legality of the invasion and occupation . . .

Imagine a guy who burglarized your house years ago. But he's reformed now, he takes his meds regularly, and you invite him over to dinner. He can accept your invitation without being guilty of committing burglary again. At the same time, inviting him over doesn't somehow retroactively legitimize the burglary years ago.

wonkie: I guess this is an examp;e of how, in the absence of facial expression or voice tone, comments can be misinterpeted.

Yeah. My bad.

We have not seen any evidence that Saddam's Iraq threatened the existence of the United States.

Something threatened the existence of the United States...

A Democratically-controlled White House did. A Democratically-controlled Congress did. A putatively Democrat-filled Supreme Court did.

So we had to invade Iraq. There was no other choice. The alternative -- higher marginal rates of income tax, gay marriage, intact wetlands, regulation of the securities market, Title IX restrictions on men's college sports, smoking bans -- were simply unacceptable.

Iraq was never so much a war as the world's most expensive campaign commercial.

It turns out that there may be, at least if the people discussing this at SCOTUSblog are correct, and commenter PeterG at TalkLeft is correctly conveying their points (I can't get SCOTUSblog to load tonight).

Nell, you aren't even characterizing the part you quoted correctly. Even there, they say that, if the Obama administration renounced the power, there would be no court case. The only way it can continue is if the government continues to assert that it has the power to hold individuals within the United States as enemy combatants. That was exactly my point.

Further, I find the proposition that you would welcome the Obama administration doing so to be highly dubious. Had they done what you now claim you wish they had done, you would have been apoplectic with rage. Had they stood up in court, and said that they agreed with the Bush position, in order to allow the case to continue, you would have accused anyone who suggested that their motive was simply to produce a ruling against of being an apologist for Obama continuing illegal Bush practices.

I find your intellectual honesty here to be rather less than convincing.

@J. Michael Neal: I've responded in the al-Marri thread.

@OCSteve: Please also take a look at that thread if you haven't already seen my reply to your last comment there.

around the ethers there's some scuttlebutt that the SOFA can be renegotiated.

Of course the SOFA can be renegotiated. Any contract or treaty can. But the problem is as follows:

The US can't renegotiate unilaterally. They need to come to an accord with the then-standing Iraqi government.

But Grand Ayatollah Sistani* (the most respected Shiite cleric in Iraq) demanded a firm date of withdrawal. He is very wary of a long term US presence, and he holds the cards (with respect to the Shiites, at least, who are the majority group).

Maliki will not cross Sistani on this, nor will any other major Shiite political leaders/parties. Such an act would cost them dearly at the polls - they wouldn't stand a chance.

Further, a firm date of withdrawal is very popular in non-Kurdish Iraq. Such that Maliki took a hard stance on the SOFA in order to bolster his electoral chances, and it paid off in the provincial elections (they even changed the name from SOFA to Agreement for Withdrawal).

If Maliki were to change course, he'd have to figure out how to convince Sistani and the Iraqi people, or his government would collapse. Challengers in parliament would unseat him.

And the present SOFA contains the exception of staying "by invitation."

That's just a different way of saying that the terms can be renegotiated. See, above for a response.

(*The real wild card here is the fact that Sistani is old, and not necessarily in very good health. His death could create a short term power vacuum in the clerical elite, but the likely successors are, generally, not more amenable to a long term US military presence).

around the ethers there's some scuttlebutt that the SOFA can be renegotiated.

Isn't this a rather unilateral way of looking at the situation?

President Obama should also get some kudos for his unilateral troop withdrawal from another devastated, corrupt, seemingly ungovernable region that occurred just this morning, albeit with little fanfare.

Yes, like Iraq, President Obama had the resolve not to abandon New Orleans, or worse yet, go with the original Biden plan of partitioning the city into autonomous enclaves run by Crips, Fortunetellers, Latin Kings, Vampires, Bloods, Goths, and cajuns. Had the new President simply acquiesced to political pragmatism, the Big Easy almost certainly would not have healed to once again shine as the gem of the deep south. . .

Sarcasm, of course!

"Gary those are the saddest damn poems I ever read. ."

Songs, if you click on the YouTube links.

Yes, they're sad, but not entirely. This part isn't all sad:

And somewhere, maybe someday,
Maybe somewhere far away,
I'll find a second little person
who will look at me and say,

"I know you
You're the one I've waited for.
Let's have some fun."

Life is precious every minute,
and more precious with you in it,
so let's have some fun

We'll take a road trip way out west.
You're the one I like the best.
I'm glad I've found you,
Like being around you
You're the one I like the best.

They do very much express my mood these days, though. Don't get me started. I identify all too much with Caden Cotard's sadness and loneliness.

Sorry for the thread diversion.

Some more context on the 50K residual force.

For almost 40 years we had around 35K troops stationed in Korea. We have about 45K in Japan and around 70K in Germany after 60 years.

We have a very long tradition of leaving large residual forces behind. We've benefitted significantly by having bases in those countries, both militarily and diplomatically. Having a reasonably large non-combat force in place (training bases, and the like) helps a nation struggling to get on its feet train up their military (we still train with NATO in Germany) and causes neighbors to think twice about exploiting the weakened state, since the US would invariably identify itself as a target of any incursion by neighbors.

Expect Iraq to be yet another regional stronghold for the US for the long term, assuming we can maintain good relations with the Iraqi government and they invite us to stay. Done right on our part it can be good for all involved and hopefully good for the region.

Martin: Expect Iraq to be yet another regional stronghold for the US for the long term, assuming we can maintain good relations with the Iraqi government and they invite us to stay. Done right on our part it can be good for all involved and hopefully good for the region.

But how on earth could any American with any knowledge about what the US occupation has been doing in Iraq suppose that it could be "done right"?

For nearly six years, the US has been torturing, "disappearing", imprisoning without trial, and raping, and casually murdering Iraqis. Certainly an Iraqi government could be intimidated by the US into extending an "invitation to stay" to lend faux-legality to the situation. After all, the Iraqis have no power to make the US leave if the US intends to stay. But the time to "do it right" was in 2003.

Iraq can become a "regional stronghold" for the US, of course: that was the justification for Bush giving Osama bin Laden what he wanted, withdrawal of troops from Saudi Arabia. Like Israel, the US could find itself mired in perpetual military occupation, without even the remotest excuse that Israel has. Whether this would "serve US interests" is questionable: it would certainly not serve Iraqi interests...

the most significant aspect of SOFA is the provision that US forces will be out of Iraq's cities by the end of June.
_
Now, I don't know about you, but I don't understand why we need more than 50,000 troops in Iraq once we're out of the cities -- for all intents and purposes, our "combat mission" is done at that point (what are we going to do, occupy the suburbs and villages?) Nor do I understand why, when moving troops out of the cities, we can't move them out of Iraq entirely -- the logistics challenges aren't that different, nor is the "safety" issue.
_
BTW, the SOFA agreement is all about Maliki -- he knew that without a firm date for withdrawal of all US troops, he was toast in the upcoming elections, and the Sadrists would take over (they still might).
_
IMHO, Obama's Iraq strategy is about his re-election. The final result in Iraq will be a Shiite controlled "islamic state" far more closely allied with Iran than with the USA. Obama wants to delay that from happening until after November 2012, so "who lost Iraq" is not a campaign issue

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