Leaving Iraq the Wrong Way

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on October 22, 2011

I know that the Obama Administration wants us to believe that the decision to have troops leave Iraq is entirely in line with what the President and his national security team wanted, and I know that the decision to leave is in line with the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) negotiated between the Bush Administration and the Iraqi government. But in fact, the Obama Administration wanted to have troops in Iraq for a longer period of time, and the reason American troops are leaving is that the Administration botched the effort to give American troops in Iraq immunity.

The result of this? Well, as noted in the article linked above, we may now have a power vacuum in Iraq. And it may be filled by Iran.

This story backs the contention that the Administration wanted a troop presence to remain in Iraq, and that there is now concern in the upper echelons of the American national security establishment that a premature departure will compromise American national security interests.

Given that the economy is a disaster, it is increasingly likely that President Obama will run on his Administration’s foreign policy in 2012. The President is entirely within his rights, of course, to tout successes. However, the withdrawal from Iraq, and the process that led to it, should not count as something for Team Obama to brag about.

UPDATE: Kori Schake sums things up:

The president’s announcement on Friday that all U.S. troops would leave Iraq by the end of the year took many people by surprise, since both the White House and Pentagon had been repeatedly emphasizing that negotiations with Iraq were ongoing, that no decision had been made. In truth, the decision was made even before Barack Obama was president: he got elected campaigning that Iraq was the wrong war, not worth the lives and money.

He did what he said he was going to do. He set an end date for combat operations so that he could show “progress” before the midterm elections. Progress not toward consolidating our gains in Iraq, but toward being out of Iraq. Having appointed special envoys for every problem he considered important, there was no special envoy for Iraq, to help build fostering regional relationships and coordinate our policies. He appointed an ambassador who knew nothing about Iraq.

He allowed the political crisis to fester more than seven months after Iraq’s parliamentary elections, declined to put our considerable leverage behind a coalition of national unity, instead stood mutely by as Nouri al-Maliki subverted the electoral law to form a government and then did so with the vehemently anti-American Muqtada al-Sadr. That was the point at which the United States actually left Iraq — the withdrawal of troops is a lagging, not a leading indicator of the administration’s indifference.

A sorry spectacle all around. This is the change we were waiting for?

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