Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Withdrawal and the SOFA

Eric Martin makes some important points about the current U.S. debate over the timeline for withdrawing forces from Iraq: everybody who's saying we can't pull out in 16 months, or two years, is ignoring the SOFA--Status of Forces Agreement--that the Bush administration negotiated with the al-Maliki government, which just had quite a strong showing in the recent elections.

Rather than delaying the commencement of withdrawal under the theory that we can, or should, ignore the SOFA, the US should put a downpayment on withdrawal by beginning the pullout now as suggested by Marc Lynch for the following reasons: (1) it would reassure the Iraqi people of our intention to leave Iraq, which would make the SOFA more palatable; (2) it would strengthen Maliki's hand, and the hand of those advocating nationalism/centralism without, in the alternative, empowering the extremism of some of the Sadrist elements; and (3) even if such overtures do not convince the Iraqi people to endorse the SOFA, withdrawal over 12 months will be easier to accomplish if we've already begun to pull out some of our forces.

Martin is fast becoming one of my favorites for his detailed and insightful analyses of Iraqi politics.

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