After a back and forth akin to a poorly-constructed Keystone Cops routine, the Nuri al-Maliki government has made it as clear as possible: call it what you want, but we want the U.S. troops out by 2010. That happens to be Barack Obama’s timeline, but any way you slice it, they want the U.S. out. As RT points out, you could hear a pin drop on the subject, here or nationally.
I think Josh Marshall has it about right: they may not want to make it look like they’re affecting politics in the United States, but the Maliki government has made the decision to support the Obama withdrawal timeline most likely in the hopes of exercising at least some control over the occupation and it’s eventual conclusion. Its a classic example of swinging the political discussion over to your own side of things, and they’re playing it beautifully. This is a full-scale defection from the Bush Camp in favour of the withdrawal supported not just by Barack Obama but by the Iraqi and American people, both.
So here’s a question which has proved historically entertaining for the last hundred and fifty years or so of American interventionism: what happens if the democracy we supposedly want to setup in Country X actually starts operating in the interest of it’s people – like a democracy should – against our interests? What if “The Surge” actually works? What will happen to the Bush agenda in Iraq? The McCain hopes of a Hundred Year Occupation?
Of course, this whole line of questioning is a bit tongue-in-cheek, anyway: even if by supporting withdrawal, Maliki is pleasing a majority of Iraqis, that doesn’t mean he can pull that coalition together around a stable democracy. My guess is that, regardless of when we pull out, some additional assistance will be required, hopefully from a more international or even largely-Arab force.
And, oh yeah: even if the press is trying its damnedest to ignore this turn of events at the moment, the long-term effect of this is going to be one more major plus for the Obama camp. Just wait till it’s time to start the debates.
Late Update: Oh, lame. Not only is the press trying to ignore the Obama/Maliki connection, but they’re even stooping to split hairs to make distinctions without difference.