Iraq Study Group

There's plenty to find disturbing in this NY Times report that the Iraq Study Group will recommend a gradual pullback of U.S. troops  in place of a timeline for withdrawal.  Cliff May and Rich Lowry make some key points, but I want to focus on another aspect of the article I found alarming:

A person who participated in the commission’s debate said that unless the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki believed that Mr. Bush was under pressure to pull back troops in the near future, “there will be zero sense of urgency to reach the political settlement that needs to be reached.”

This has been the argument of many advocates of a pullback or withdrawal, but there's a severe flaw with it. Yes, you could argue that the prospect of an American withdrawal will force Maliki to reach a political settlement, however,  it will make him far less likely to forge a settlement that  would be in  American interests and more likely to  accept  a settlement favorable to Iran,  insurgent groups, and militias–all of whom will still be there after Americans leave.  Evidence of this can already be seen by  the  contrast between Iraqi President Jalal Talabani crawling to Iran this week and  Maliki's snubbing of President Bush  at yesterday's summit. From a pure political standpoint, Maliki's moves make perfect sense. The stronger the signals  that  America is  on  its way out of Iraq, the more aggressively Maliki will seek out help from our enemies.

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