Sorry, Barack, You’ve lost Iraq.
Bush's efforts to negotiate a long-term U.S-Iraq pact may remove troops as an '08 election issue for Obama, Clinton.
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.
It is essential that Democratic presidential candidates should make it clear now that they will not recognize the agreement without congressional approval. The congress should make it clear that they will not recognize the agreement. With the real possibility of a Democratic President in 2009 it would be smart for the Republicans to join the Democrats regardless of how they might feel about the occupation of Iraq.
This will be an agreement between al-Maliki and Bush not between Iraq and the US. If the agreement is not meaningless now it will be when either one of them leaves office.
As you can see here this may not be as simple as I thought. The Iraqi legislature will not approve such an agreement and I see it probable that if al-Maliki approves such an agreement his government would fall. Furthermore much of the Iraqi population would be enraged at a long term agreement and violence against US forces would increase, al-Sadr who has been quiet during the surge would fight it as would the Iranian backed SCIRI party. Since the Iraqi Security Forces contain a large number of both al-Sadr and SCIRI members it would seem likely that US troops would come under increasing attacks like the one that resulted in the deaths of US troops in December. Keep in mind the Iraqi soldier responsible became a hero on the streets. The result could well be an even earlier US exit.
Of course there is also the possibility that al-Maliki knows all of the above and will simply lead Bush along until he leaves office and no agreement will ever be reached. This in fact may be the most likely.