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The complicated politics of Iraq withdrawal
What to do when Iraq asks the U.S. to leave
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hat happened
Iraqi national security adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie said Iraq would not accept any security agreement on U.S. troops in Iraq that did not contain a specific timetable for their withdrawal. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki made similar comments a day earlier. (The Washington Post)

What the commentator said
The “election-year debate” over keeping troops in Iraq, or not, “usually seems like a purely American conversation,” said USA Today in an editorial, but now Iraq is reminding us that its domestic politics play an important role, too. With 72 percent of Iraqis opposed to the presence of U.S. troops, and elections there in the fall, it’s no surprise al-Maliki’s “pushing U.S. forces out.”

The fact that Iraq is engaged in its own “robust democratic debate” over withdrawal is a good sign for the country, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial, as is al-Maliki’s new assertiveness. He clearly believes Iraq is becoming stable, thanks to both U.S. and Iraqi troops.

Regardless of what he thinks, al-Maliki’s put John McCain “in a box,” said The Economist’s Democracy in America blog, and handed an “unsolicited gift” to Barack Obama. McCain has “criticized those who even utter the word ‘timetable’,” but has also said that America would have to withdraw if Iraq asked it to—so what now?

Well, if Obama wins in November, said Kevin Drum in Washington Monthly’s Political Animal blog, he plans to start withdrawing troops immediately. President Bush, like McCain, opposes a timetable. But it might now be shrewd for him to negotiate with al-Maliki a “slower and more flexible” timetable for withdrawal before he leaves office.

If done right, a withdrawal timetable holds “solid logic” for both sides, said Matthew Yglesias in The Atlantic. Iraq gets real sovereignty and continued U.S. military support, and the U.S. gets a set amount of time, and maybe even “an added degree of public support,” to “leave the best possible situation behind.”

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