Iraq Update

| Tue Sep. 2, 2008 10:58 AM PDT

IRAQ UPDATE....McClatchy's Leila Fadel has good piece today about the state of play in negotiations between Nouri al-Maliki and the Bush administration regarding withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. You really should read the whole thing, but here's the conclusion:

Maliki is now demanding a firm timetable for withdrawal and jurisdiction over American soldiers outside their bases. The second demand has stalled the process and does not seem amenable to compromise.

For now, Maliki has achieved none of his demands, said Ali al Adeeb, a leading legislator in Maliki's party. The current wording in the agreement is that U.S. soldiers will withdraw to their bases by June 30, 2009, and leave by the summer of 2011 if conditions allow.

"What the Iraqis want is a firm date, and with all the insistence and persistence on our side, all we have is a firm date for restricting the American military to their bases," he said. "There is no overconfidence or arrogance in Maliki's insistence on his position. ... There is a clear indication that the Iraqi forces are now capable of providing the security services required. I think it's enough time, three years is more than enough time."

It really is hard to figure out what's going on here. My guess is that Bush is willing to compromise on the withdrawal language since, as a practical matter, (a) it's going to be conditions-based no matter what the text says, and (b) he's not going to be president when it happens anyway. But surely Maliki must know that Iraqi jurisdiction over U.S. troops is just a flat nonstarter. No American president in his right mind would agree to that, or even to anything close to it. Can he seriously be holding out for something more than language that guarantees "consultation" and "continuing progress toward full command integration"? If he is, he's deluded.

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