Ilan Goldenberg ably summarizes the current Catch-22 of Bush administration Iraq policy, which involves both pushing through a very unpopular (in Iraq) permanent basing agreement and pushing Iraq to hold parliamentary elections. In the face of the looming elections, however, it's very hard to get ISCI and Dawa politicians to support the basing agreement lest they get creamed by the Sadrists.
It's worth noting that the same basic dynamic could easily prove to be the Obama administration's saving grace. A huge proportion of the people I talk to seem to feel that following through on promises to withdraw troops will prove incredibly politically problematic for Obama come January/February of 2009. It seems to me that this neglects Iraqi dynamics. All he needs to do is to take advantage of the fact that the American presence in Iraq is wildly unpopular to negotiate some kind of timetable for withdrawal with Iraqi political leaders that will then be jointly announced and celebrated in both countries. The Bush administration has not only consistently battled anti-war political forces in the United States, it's also expended an enormous amount of energy in preventing anti-occupation sentiment in Iraq from coming to dominate Baghdad politics. But an American president who wants our troops to leave will be in line with both U.S. and Iraqi public opinion, and should have little difficulty finding Iraqi politicians willing to embrace his vision. Hawks, meanwhile, would be left looking incredibly foolish condemning a withdrawal schedule jointly approved by the American and Iraqi governments.
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