Juan Cole writes about the national reconciliation conference in Cairo and the Iraqi agreement for withdrawal:
Al-Hayat gives the orginal Arabic wording of some articles of the agreement. One provision says, “We demand the withdrawal of foreign forces in accordance with a timetable, and the establishment of a national and immediate program for rebuilding the armed forces through drills, preparation and being armed, on a sound basis that will allow it to guard Iraq’s borders and to get control of the security situation . . .”
Sources at the conference told al-Hayat that they envisaged the withdrawal of foreign military forces from the cities within 6 months (i.e. mid-May?). They said that the withdrawal would be completed over a period of two years (i.e. November 2007). This timetable, al-Hayat says, appears actually to have been put forward by the Americans themselves. If that is true, we finally know exactly what George W. Bush means by “staying the course.” It is a course that takes us to withdrawal.
The Shiite United Iraqi Alliance list had originally called for an American troop withdrawal as part of its party platform, but that plank was opposed by Ibrahim Jaafari, and was dropped even before the January 30 elections, presumably because of American pressure.
Oh, what a difference a year makes. I’ll bet this very minute they are brainstorming in the White House over how to frame withdrawal so that it doesn’t sound like withdrawal. As soon as they’ve got that figured out, the Bushies will announce “withdrawal,” although they’ll call it something else. And I’m betting the announcement will come early next year, or even at the end of this year; between Christmas and New Year’s might be just the time. Nobody’s paying attention then.
One more time: If the Dems don’t show some leadership and get out in front with a withdrawal plan now, the Republicans will outmaneuver them again.
Over at BOP News, Stirling Newberry points to another sign that talk of withdrawal will soon become fact.
Sharon, whatever one may thing of his ideology, is an excellent strategist and tactician. He never lets anything get in the way of geographic, or chronological, realities. His breaking off to form the “Responsibility” Party is an attempt to destroy the socialist Labor, but also because he understands that America’s time in Iraq is running out. …
… With US involvement in Iraq, the resources have flowed to striking at the US directly. …
… Sharon has been pragmatic, the day that the US occupation of Iraq ends, all of those roadside bombs will be destined for Israel, and the apparatus based in Iraq will spill out over the roads, and reach into the heart of his state. He must have a final solution, and a palestinian buffer state. And his time to make that deal is dwindling. His own Likud Party was the major obstacle, his hope is to be able to form a minority government, and go to Likud for economic policy, and to Labor for foreign policy – balancing both against the other to prevent a no confidence vote.
So let us face reality, Bush is going to withdraw from Iraq – Sharon knows it – Bush’s problem is how to blame it, and therefore run the “stabbed in the back” play, on the Democrats.
If Dems don’t act now, that’s exactly what will happen.
The means for Dems to seize the issue and claim it as their own is right in front of them. Be sure to read “What Murtha Meant” by Fred Kaplain at Slate. Murtha’s plan is actually not a withdrawal, as is usually described.
True, his final line reads, “It is time to bring them home,” but his plan suggests he wants to bring, at most, only some of them home. The others are to be “redeployed” in the quick-reaction forces hovering just offshore.
Host Tim Russert never askedâ€”nor did Murtha explainâ€”what these forces will be doing offshore, or under what circumstances they might re-enter the conflict. But we can fill in the blanks by looking at a study, published last month by the Center for American Progress, titled Strategic Redeployment: A Progressive Plan for Iraq and the Struggle Against Violent Extremists, written by Lawrence Korb (an assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration) and Brian Katulis.
Korb and Katulis begin with the same premises that Murtha does: that the U.S. military presence in Iraq is inflaming the insurgency, uniting nationalists with Islamo-fundamentalists, and bolstering America’s terrorist enemies worldwide; that the Iraqi government is using U.S. troops as a crutch; that maintaining 140,000 troops for another year will destroy the U.S. Army; and that, therefore, on several grounds, it is best for all that we get out.
They call for a phased, two-year plan, drawing the troops down to 80,000 by the end of next year and dispensing with most of the rest by the end of 2007. However, they don’t call for a total withdrawal. By their plan, all 46,000 members of the Guard and Reserve will go home next year, but most of the active-duty soldiers and Marines will be “redeployed” to Kuwait or Afghanistan. Even after that, many American troops will remain to train, advise, help secure the borders, and provide logistical and air support to the Iraqi regime.
Murtha seems to have at least partly based his plan on the Korb and Katulis study, and partly on discussions with former and current Army brass.
In other words, we’ve got a plan that offers to both remove U.S. troops as an occupation force without abandoning the region to terrorists. Dems could use this plan to push for an honorable withdrawal and still be tough on terrorism.
Instead, so far we’ve got Hillary Clinton’s non-position.
Dems? … Dems? … Hello? …