On Sunday, the Iraqi Executive Cabinet approved a timeline of American withdrawal from Iraq. Of the 28 ministers at the meeting, 27 approved the measure. This overwhelming support for the agreement from the Executive Cabinet marks positive possibilities for the passage of the plan by the Iraqi Parliament some time this week.
The agreement extends the presence of American troops beyond the Dec. 31st expiration date of the UN Resolution 1511. However, it requires a preliminary reduction of American troops on January 1st, 2009. Furthermore, it would put coalition-led missions under the guidance of the Iraqi military.
The time-line for withdrawal would continue in this way:
- Full withdrawal of American troops from Iraqi cities, villages and towns by July 1, 2009;
- A complete handover of all military bases to Iraqi military forces by December 1, 2009;
- A full withdrawal of all American forces from Iraq by December 31st, 2010.
These deadlines are non-negotiable. They will not depend on benchmarks. They will not depend on ground conditions.
The agreement is expected to succeed as the Shi’a and Kurdish blocs have agreed to pass the resolution. The Sunni minority bloc is currently split on the resolution, as many fear it would leave the future of Sunni security at the hands of the Shi’ite majority. The only Minister not to approve the agreement on Sunday belongs to the strongest Sunni party.
There has been much speculation that the Bush Administration has made major concessions in order to get the resolution passed before the transfer of American governance in January. This agreement has been pushed even further up as the Iraqi Parliament prepares to adjourn for the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca for the holiday Eid al-Adha.
There is some disagreement here in the United States on whether or not this agreement would need to be ratified by Congress before it goes into effect. If Congressional review is necessary, it would need to be put on hold until the 111th Congress begins its session. That would mean then-President Obama would have the pleasure to sign the agreement into reality. According to the New York Times and Washington Post, many in the Bush Administration want to skip the Congressional review so that the reduction of troops could begin within the tenure of the Bush Presidency.
If this agreement is passed by the Iraqi Parliament, there will still be a lot of work to do on the part of the peace community. First of all, these deadlines are hard and fast, but the agreement has not been passed yet. And if there is Congressional Review necessary for American participation, we will need to speak to our elected officials to make sure the agreement is ratified.
Furthermore, these deadlines are crucial for the Iraqi people to feel empowered as a sovereign nation. We must keep the Obama administration accountable to the needs and requests of the Iraqi government and military. The deadlines must be respected and honored.
We must also keep our government and military accountable for other military operations we are currently in. We must work with the Afghani government to make sure our withdrawal from their country is timely and accountable to them as well as us.
Finally, after our troops come home, we must continue to support them. We must call for a strengthening of our Veteran’s Affairs as well as improving the physical and emotional services the veterans require. Even after the war is over, we will have over 1.5 million Iraq War veterans to support. This will require extensive physical and emotional rehabilitation as well as giving them concrete job skills to compete in the struggling economy.
Overall, this is an exciting time for the anti-war community and we should not forget to celebrate our successes. With this agreement, the United States is well on the road to a complete and timely withdrawal from Iraq.