US and Iraqis Close to Troop Withdrawal Agreement

The US and Iraq are moving toward an agreement that would establish a "very clear" timeline for pulling out our troops. This according to the Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari:

In an interview with Reuters, Zebari said the agreement, including the timeline, was "very close" and would probably be presented to the Iraqi parliament in early September.

Asked if Iraq would accept a document that did not include dates for a withdrawal, Zebari said: "No, no. Definitely there has to be a very clear timeline."

"The talks are still ongoing. There's been a great deal of progress. The deal is very close. It is about to be closed," Zebari said of the agreement, which will replace a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the U.S. presence, which expires at the end of this year.

A sticking point in the negotiations is Washington's wish that its troops be immune from Iraqi law. In July, Iraq's deputy speaker of parliament told Reuters lawmakers would likely veto any deal if this condition were granted.

Other hurdles include the power of the U.S. military to detain Iraqi citizens, and their authority to conduct military operations, Zebari said.

One of the more revealing facets of the Iraqi government asserting its independence is to see those who just weeks ago were referring to them as "puppets" of America now cheering them on because their position matches that of Obama. No more talk of a "puppet" regime. Now they are just another soveriegn nation wanting to kick American troops out.

My what a difference a few weeks and a successful military strategy makes, eh?

At any rate, even if there is a date set for US withdrawal, the chances of following such a timeline to a "T" are remote. Hence, the "time horizon" agreed to a few weeks ago is the much more practical eventuality. A hard and fast date will be for internal Iraqi political consumption (and leftist celebration in this country) rather than a realistic assessment of the possibilities of withdrawal.

Next month, General Petreaus is scheduled to meet with the president and give his personal assessment of the situation along with probable recommendations for a troop reduction. Don't expect a lot from Petreaus who has been rightly cautious about progress in Iraq and will resist any calls to accelerate troop withdrawals beyond the few battallions he will recommend be home by the end of the year.