What happened
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told tribal leaders that all U.S. troops have to be out of Iraq by 2011, and that an unconditional timetable for withdrawal needs to be part of any U.S. security agreement. The U.S. and Iraq announced last week that all U.S. combat troops will leave by 2011 if the security situation merits it, but that 40,000 intelligence and training troops would stay behind. (The Seattle Times)

What the commentators said
What an embarrassment for President Bush, said The Boston Globe in an editorial. Bush’s key condition was that there not be a “firm date for withdrawal,” but the U.S. has little choice now that Maliki has signaled his “utter rejection of the Bush formula.” Bush has to give Iraq's elected government what it wants or “make a mockery” of his rationale for invading Iraq: to create a democracy.

Maliki is clearly “throwing down the gauntlet as time runs out” for the stalled deal, said Tina Susman in the Los Angeles Times’ Babylon and Beyond blog, but the U.S. should be worried about the clock running out, too. If Iraq’s parliament doesn’t ratify a new agreement by Dec. 31, when a United Nations mandate expires, it will “effectively leave U.S. forces without a legal reason to be in Iraq.”

Nothing will be resolved so long as U.S. policy is controlled by people “harboring neo-imperial fantasies,” said Matthew Yglesias in the blog Think Progress. But “smart political leadership” would see Maliki’s insistence on full withdrawal for what it is: “a way to extricate ourselves from Iraq in an honorable and relatively painless manner.”