Wednesday, October 29, 2008


In yesterday's post on the ongoing SOFA/strategic framework saga, I mentioned that the Iraqi cabinet had submitted a revised draft of the SOFA to its American counterparts - this, after Robert Gates had declared that the US would not accept any substantive changes.

Today, Aswat al-Iraq is reporting (according to Marc Lynch) that, true to Gates' declaration, Bush administration officials have rejected the revised draft. Which brings us back to the question: What happens now?

There are only little over two months left before the UN mandate under which our forces are operating expires. If that happens without a replacement authorization, we'll have to remove all of our forces to bases and proceed to evacuate Iraq (or risk remaining in that country without legal authority and subject to Iraqi government jurisdiction). The other route, absent an agreement on the SOFA, would be a short term extension of the UN mandate.

But then, the UN mandate gives the US an extremely broad range of motion, much greater than that provided by the draft of the SOFA proposed by the Bush administration. So that wouldn't exactly be an attractive option for the Maliki government, and such a move could induce a potent public backlash - the type that Maliki and others have sought to avoid by agreeing to a US-friendly SOFA. Unless Maliki et al would be willing to swap the pain of a short term extension of the UN mandate for the benefit of negotiating the SOFA with the next (presumably Obama) administration.

Either way, how far we've come from the delusional grandeur of the Bush administration's neo-colonial agenda. The Project for the New American Century has been so thoroughly eviscerated that the once mighty doctrine has been shrunk down to something like The Working Paper for a New American Three Year Holdover if We Can Get the Iraqis to Agree on a SOFA and Promise to Leave Soon Regardless, Pretty Please.

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