The current Status of Forces agreement calls for U.S. troops to be out of Iraq by the end of the year. The U.S. government wants to stay longer, and would seem to be pressuring the Iraqi government to ask them to do just that. But the Iraqi government hasn't done that yet–leading to stories like this one in theWashington Post by Karen DeYoung (7/10/11), headlined "Iraqis Fail to Reach Consensus on Longer U.S. Troop Presence."
The "failure" is that they haven't written a new agreement that would negate the current agreement. The Post presents this all as a strategic problem for the United States. Iraq's failure to change course is
leaving the Obama administration with an ever-shorter timetable to complete the withdrawal or manage the political fallout from staying.
It's not clear why this is a serious problem. The deadline has been well-known for some time; no one is shortening anything.
But the explanation of why this is a problem for Obama is totally baffling:
In the meantime, the indecision complicates an already vexing problem for Obama.
Despite his pledge of complete withdrawal, the administration has made clear its willingness to continue tasks such as training, air defense, intelligence and reconnaissance, as well as joint counterterrorism missions with Iraqi forces at a time of Iranian inroads, increased violence and ongoing political instability….
But the longer the decision takes, the less time Obama has to explain to the American public the importance of preserving a presence, and the more he risks clouding an election-year message that he has overseen the end of the Iraq war.
OK, let's follow the logic.
Obama promised to completely withdraw from Iraq. There is an agreement that would achieve that. But apparently he really wants to stay. But that isn't the "vexing problem." If the Iraqis don't make up their minds soon and extend the U.S. presence in Iraq, it makes it harder for Obama to "explain to the American public the importance of preserving a presence" in Iraq. Which would be contrary to his stated pro-withdrawal policy.
The article seems to push the idea (as the Post has in the past) that the best course of action would be for both the Iraqi and U.S. governments to violate the current plan. If that happens, it will be good for Obama, since it will remove the stigma of doing what he said he was going to do. Otherwise his message would be "cloudy."
Makes perfect sense, right?