This is from the Nation.
The U.S. media seems to be neglecting this developing story of the crisis in the US-Iraq treaty or Status of Forces agreement. For the Bush administration it is not a treaty. In fact as the article points out it is nowhere near being anything and may end up not being signed. That this should be regarded as a stunner is significant for what it shows about the U.S. frame of mind. There is never a thought that the Iraqis might determine when and at what speed the U.S. withdraws from Iran. Discussion in the U.S. is always between presidential contenders as to how the U.S. should withdraw as if Iraq had nothing to do with the matter except perhaps in terms of the readiness of their forces to take over security! The arrogance is stunning but completely below the radar of commentators.
Of course Maliki probably comes out with this pronouncement to bolster his political capital before the fall elections.
Maliki Stunner: He Wants US Pullout Timetable
posted by Robert Dreyfuss on 07/07/2008 @ 12:21pm
The long-running showdown over the proposed US-Iraq treaty, aimed at legitimizing the American occupation of Iraq, is coming to a head, and it doesn't look good for the United States.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki tossed a bombshell today. In a news conference about the still-secret US-Iraqi talks, which began in March, Maliki for the first time said that the chances of securing the pact are just about nil, and instead he said Iraq will seek a limited, ad hoc renewal of the US authority to remain in Iraq, rather than a broad-based accord.
More important, Maliki and his top security adviser, Mouwaffak al-Rubaie added that Iraq intends to link even a limited accord to a timetable for the withdrawal of US forces. Reports the Sydney Morning Herald:
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki raised the prospect of setting a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops as part of negotiations over a new security agreement with Washington.
It was the first time the US-backed Shi'ite-led government has floated the idea of a timetable for the removal of American forces from Iraq. The Bush administration has always opposed such a move, saying it would benefit militant groups.
Here's the quote from Maliki:
"The current trend is to reach an agreement on a memorandum of understanding either for the departure of the forces or a memorandum of understanding to put a timetable on their withdrawal."
Don't think for a minute that Maliki, or his Shiite allies, want the US forces to leave. But they are under a lot of pressure. First of all, they are under pressure from Iran, whose regime remains the chief ally of the ruling alliance of Shiites, including Maliki's Dawa party and the powerful Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), led by Abdel Aziz al-Hakim. Iran's goal is to neutralize Iraq as a possible threat to Iran, and Iran's leaders are pressuring Maliki and Hakim to loosen their reliance on the United States. Interestingly, Maliki reportedly told President Bush personally, in a video teleconference on Friday, that the United States cannot use Iraqi territory to attack Iran, and he added that "fomenting tension in the region and pushing for military action against Tehran could wreak havoc on the entire region, including Iraq."
Maliki is also under pressure from a broad coalition of Iraqi nationalists, from angry, disenfranchised Sunnis to Muqtada al-Sadr's movement.
But Maliki's statement is a big deal. At a minimum, it presents an enormous problem for Bush and John McCain, who are arguing for an indefinite US stay in Iraq til "victory," and who oppose a timetable. True, Maliki seems to be linking his timetable to Iraqi military success, which is not too different from the Bush-McCain formula. But inside Iraq, the pressure is building day by day for a US withdrawal, and Maliki is by no means in control of the process. The fact that both Iran and Sunni nationalists, who are on a collision course, agree that US forces need to leave Iraq, only means that pro- and anti-Iranian factions will settle their differences (either by peaceful diplomacy or by violence) once the United States is gone.