Yesterday we posted a new analysis of the U.S.-Iraq status of forces agreement on the website of the Council’s sister organization.
The takeaway, if you don’t feel like reading the whole thing (it’s kinda long), is that a research and advocacy organization (aka us) that has opposed everything President Bush has done in Iraq has decided to support this agreement. We see it as the best way for the United States to promptly and responsibly leave Iraq.
The agreement represents a stunning reversal in policy for the Bush administration, which until now rejected any timeline for troop withdrawals. The Bush administration has fallen in line behind the policy of President-elect Barack Obama, who has proposed removing U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months.
It remains to be seen whether or not the Iraqi parliament actually will hold a vote on the accord before the end of the week, when many Iraqi lawmakers are scheduled to take a religious holiday. To pass, the SOFA needs to get 138 votes out of 275 Iraqi lawmakers and also must be ratified by the Iraqi presidential council.
Below are our topline conclusions. For a fuller examination of the agreement text, including some of its shortcomings, see the full analysis.
CONCLUSIONS IN BRIEF
* The agreement represents a stunning reversal in policy for the Bush administration, which until now rejected any timeline for troop withdrawals.
* The Bush administration has fallen in line behind the policy of President-elect Barack Obama, who has proposed removing U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months.
* While opponents of any long-term accord feared that President Bush was trying to tie the hands of the next president, the agreement eliminates that concern by giving President-elect Obama flexibility to change or cancel the agreement.
* The accord reinforces the views held by the majority of Iraqis and Americans that it is time for U.S. military forces to leave Iraq.
* The agreement bars permanent American bases in Iraq, prohibits the United States from using Iraqi territory to launch attacks against other nations, and bars any residual U.S. forces in Iraq beyond the end of 2011.
* Downsides include both the Bush administration’s refusal to send the agreement to Congress for approval and various ambiguities in the text that could lead to future disputes.
* Overall, the agreement marks the beginning of the end for major U.S. military operations in Iraq, with the pace and specifics to be worked out once the Obama administration takes office.