More Calls for Withdrawal
What has become an onslaught of good news for both Senator Obama and President Bush may be a poison pill for Senator John McCain. President Bush has suffered in popularity and approval ratings polls largely for his failures in Iraq, while Senator Obama has taken criticism for his calls of a sixteen month withdrawal. While under heavy debate in the United States, Iraq and U.S. leaders have taken some big steps in recent weeks. First, the surge has quelled violence in hostile areas, which now leaves the Iraqi parliament breathing room to establish a stronger national government, and last week there was a mutual agreement to a general “time horizon” for troop withdrawals.
This can come at a huge cost for both President Bush and John McCain. President Bush can reclaim some of his lost credibility with a strong finish in Iraq, and declare success if he is able to withdraw troops and leave Iraq a standing, sovereign nation. However, fellow Republican, John McCain has called for a troop presence with no expectations for withdrawal. So any acquiescence on a position of withdrawal or troops presence will come as an advantage to Senator Obama, who as advocated a timeline for quite some time. Senator Obama has been criticized for his inexperience over the past few months; however, in a recent shift, the Bush Administration has seemed to become more aligned with Obama’s foreign policy strategy. First, there was an agreement on a general “time horizon,” and then the open negotiations with Iran, both of which Obama has called for. And earlier last week, John McCain followed Senator Obama’s lead on a call for more troops in Afghanistan. This has left McCain in a virtual dead man’s land, and focusing more on the success of the surge, rather than foreign policy on a large scale.
Last week Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, was quoted as supporting a withdrawal more aligned with Senator Obama’s plan. And this week, an Iraq government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, said he believes “U.S. combat forces could be out of the country by 2010.” American officials have been scrambling to make a deal before their UN-mandated date, which is set to expire December 31st.
In another article, this was “underscored last week when Maliki during a landmark visit to the United Arab Emirates asserted that any agreement would have to include either a timetable for withdrawal or full withdrawal of US forces.
His remarks were later echoed by several of his Shiite aides. "The Iraqi negotiators enjoy the trust of their people and can crush the unrealistic ambitions of the Americans in this agreement," boasted Hassan al-Snaid, one of Maliki's senior partisans, on state-owned Iraqiya TV.
A US official concedes that Washington may have overplayed its hand with some of its opening positions in March, which he says gave opponents of the treaty, particularly Iran, ammunition to "poison" the talks.
"Some of our opening positions were up here," he says. "It looked like we were trying to lock up the status quo through this bilateral arrangement."