Monday, June 26, 2006

Iraq Withdrawal Date? 

Screwy asked an interesting question on another thread. He links to this:

If this Newsweek story is correct, the war is over. Iraqi PM Nouri Al Maliki will present a reconciliation plan tomorrow that essentially uses anti-occupation sentiment to unite the country, which means offering the Sunni insurgents amnesty for anti-U.S. attacks and demands a timetable for U.S. withdrawal. President Bush will be put in the position of either endorsing precisely what he has for over a year defined as defeat or defying what he insists is a sovereign government on the most important aspect of sovereignty there is.

Screwy asks, "Any word on whether THIS is true? If so, then the Iraqi government is now for "retreat and defeat", asking the United States to "cut and run", and aligning themselves with the Democratic Party on how the U.S. ought to conduct troop withdrawals"

Well not exactly. If you recall, the adminstration has been saying we will withdraw as soon as conditions permit safe withdrawal. Democrats like Murtha and Kerry, on the otter heiny, want a date certain. Moderate Democrats have refused to support the Murtha/Kerry initiative so far, which in my mind just confirms their good sense. At any rate, I saw a similar post this morning at 4 am which said something to the effect of, "Remember when Bush said we wouldn't leave until the Iraqis asked us to? Well, they're asking".

Of course the link was to an article speculating about what *might* be in Maliki's plan, not actual proof that the Iraqis had asked us to withdraw. And, in an even more amusing development, the post itself has been "disappeared".

So what does the news say? The Post coverage contains nothing about a timetable, but can't wait to tell us their eponymous Abdul-on-the-street "doubts" the Plan.

Check. The second WaPo article is more informative:

The reconciliation plan, which also called for strengthening Iraqi armed forces in preparation for the departure of U.S. troops, received hearty applause and expressions of support from parliament members representing disparate factions in Iraqi politics.

But the initiative as presented Sunday provided few details about how the reconciliation process would unfold or who, specifically, would be pardoned. Maliki said the "reconciliation will be neither with the terrorists nor the Saddamists," referring to supporters of former president Saddam Hussein.

The plan called for pardoning detainees "who were not involved in crimes, war crimes and crimes against humanity" and for forming committees to secure the release of innocent prisoners as quickly as possible.

"The launch of this national reconciliation and dialogue initiative should not be read as rewarding the killers and criminals or accepting their actions," he said. "There can be no agreement with them unless they are punished with justice.

Later on, the fears of some in Congress appear to be unfounded:

The reconciliation plan has gone through several revisions. Earlier proposals suggested offering pardons for those who attacked Americans, but Maliki's plan offered Sunday did not make a distinction between crimes against U.S. troops and crimes against Iraqis.

Al-Reuters reports Observers greet PM's reconciliation plan with cautious optimism. At least one of their experts, however, believes the violence won't end until Coalition forces leave Iraq:

A national reconciliation plan proposed on Sunday by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki represents a positive step towards ending sectarian violence, according to experts.

"The reconciliation plan is an important step towards promoting peace in the country," said Ayar Muhammad, professor of political science at Baghdad University, "especially if it opens the door for negotiations with armed groups, which have been looking for a way to be heard." Excluding certain groups from the political process in the past, he added, has only served to promote the insurgency.

Al-Maliki's 24-point plan aims to promote dialogue between the country's various armed factions by way of a national reconciliation committee, set to include representatives of the three main branches of government, spokesmen for armed militias, civil society officials and tribal and religious leaders. The plan does not, however, call for dialogue with groups such as al-Qaeda, allegedly responsible for numerous civilian casualties.

MSNBC has a draft of the Plan:

The plan also calls for a withdrawal timetable for coalition forces from Iraq, but it doesn't specify an actual date—one of the Sunnis' key demands. It calls for "the necessity of agreeing on a timetable under conditions that take into account the formation of Iraqi armed forces so as to guarantee Iraq's security," and asks that a U.N. Security Council decree confirm the timetable. Mahmoud Othman, a National Assembly member who is close to President Talabani, said that no one disagrees with the concept of a broad, conditions-based timetable. The problem is specifying a date, which the United States has rejected as playing into the insurgents' hands. But Othman didn't rule out that reconciliation negotiations called for in the plan might well lead to setting a date. "That will be a problem between the Iraqi government and the other side [the insurgents], and we will see how it goes. It's not very clear yet."

Pardon the heck out of me, but from where I'm sitting, a conditions-based timetable is not substantively different than what President has been advocating all along: "as they stand up, we'll stand down".

The Times Online mentions the timeline but omits any reference to it being conditions-based or lacking a concrete date. It also crows that amnesty is being offered to the insurgents:

The draft marks the first time the Iraqi Government has endorsed a fixed timeline for the withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq, a key demand of the Sunni insurgency.

“We must agree on a timed schedule to pull out the troops from Iraq, while at the same time building up the Iraqi forces that will guarantee Iraqi security and this must be supported by a United Nations Security Council decision,” the document reads.

One insurgent group involved in the discussions told The Times that the timetable for withdrawing foreign troops was key. “We are not against the formation of the new Iraqi goverment, but with certain conditions, which are to put a timetable for the pullout of US Troops," Abu Fatma, from the Islamic National Front for Liberation of Iraq, said.

Interestingly, the Times includes this quote, which would seem to contradict the WaPo's contention that the amnesty draws no distinction between crimes against Iraqis and those committed against coalition troops:

“There will be a general amnesty to release all the prisoners who were not involved in the shedding of innocent Iraqis’ blood.”

So it would appear that both sides of our national war debate can declare victory.

If you believe that the Iraqis' entirely natural desire to see Coalition troops leave their country as soon as the IA and IP can handle the insurgency amounts to hatred of us and all we stand for, have a beer on me.

If, on the other hand, you infer from the refusal to set a date certain or to draw the line between crimes committed against US troops and Iraqis, have a beer on me. :)

Either way, I'm going to have a beer. No one wants us to stay in Iraq one moment longer than necessary. The only question is whether setting an arbitrary date is wise. For now, the Iraqis and the administration appear to be on the same sheet of music.

UPDATE: in relating all this to my long-suffering spouse this evening, I remarked that the Iraqis, at every turn, have shown an amazing ability to compromise between a multitude of factions (both foreign and domestic) with seemingly irreconcilable differences. And these folks aren't "ready for democracy"?


By Blogger cakreiz, at Tue Jun 27, 09:40:00 AM:

And these folks aren't "ready for democracy"?

Are we really supposed to feign excitement about establishing an anti-western democracy in Iraq? Is that what this was all about? I guess the freely-elected governments in Palestine and Iran are also praiseworthy. This merely evidences the intellectual vacuity of 'democracy for democracy's sake'.  

By Blogger Cassandra, at Tue Jun 27, 10:35:00 AM:

I suppose I don't see the evidence that the interim government is anti-Western.

Some compromise is always necessary to form broad-based support - at every step the Iraqis have surmounted huge obstacles and managed to find a middle ground. If we're going to judge Iraqi democracy by the standards of a 200+ year old democracy, it's going to be a long, long time before we ever leave Iraq.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Tue Jun 27, 07:57:00 PM:

Wow... did you just refer to the Iranian Majlis as freely elected?


I've... never pondered that particular absurdity before. It's stunning, really.

The PA elections were a little better. On par with, say, Venezuela. Still have vote buying, intimidation, and chronic corruption, but at least there's not a roster of individuals are are flat not allowed to run for office, period. (that I know of)  

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