Iraqi Prime Minister Awakens to Writing on the Wall

Recent comments made by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki indicate that the fledgling government is coming to terms with the possibility that American troops won’t be in his country forever. During a visit to the United Arab Emirates, which this week canceled nearly $7 billion in Iraqi debt, the Prime Minister said he favors including a timetable for the withdrawal of American forces in the security agreement being worked out between Iraq and the United States. This memorandum of understanding will take the place of the status of forces agreement, which neither country could agree upon. Mr. al-Maliki went on to say that rather than signing long-term agreements (such as a status of forces agreement) with the US, his government would rather set forth a short-term understanding (in memorandum form).

This is welcome news to many Democrats and a substantial blow to the Bush White House. Whereas troop withdrawal has been a dominant topic in this year’s presidential election, the President has vehemently opposed an established withdrawal timeline, fearing that such a move will only embolden insurgents, who could simply rest on their laurels until US forces have left. He has, on more than one occasion, vetoed war funding bills that included withdrawal timelines. On the other side, both Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama advocated for a timeline during their respective presidential campaigns.

Since Democrats took control of Congress in 2006, troop withdrawal has been a centerpiece of their agenda. While efforts have been made to bring American forces home, all have failed. In the nearly two years since the Democrats first proposed a timetable, the nascent Iraqi government has been silent on the issue. At last, Prime Minister al-Maliki has provided some input to the discussion. Hopefully all parties can now move beyond the political rhetoric and campaigning and sit down to meaningful discussions that will allow for US troops to return home without reversing the security improvements made in the last year.