Yesterday’s vote by the Iraqi cabinet to approve a status of forces agreement confirms what most reasonable people had concluded this summer –that the battle for Iraq is over and the country is stable and secure even though its enemies remain in small enclaves within the country and across the border in Iran. It has taken five years and come at a high cost in American lives lost and in thousands of wounded soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.
It is, however, a crucial victory in the war against Islamist extremism and for stability in the Middle East. Only blinkered victims of Bush Derangement Syndrome would want to throw away the fact of a multi-party, multi-ethnic democratic government in the heart of the Arab world, one capable of countering Iranian influence in the region and one that partners with the West in the ongoing battle against al Qaeda. The new agreement calls for the full withdrawal of American forces in three years –an orderly exit that allows order to endure within Iraq.
Will President-elect Obama modify his rhetoric in order to preserve such an important victory, or will he rush the withdrawal and endanger the stability?
One key graph from the New York Times story:
“This vote shows that the Iraqis have figured out how to stand up for themselves, to Iran and to the U.S.,” said Michael E. O’Hanlon, a specialist on Iraq at the Brookings Institution. “They will have stared in the face at the various options and concluded that none are ideal, but the best for their security is an amount of ongoing but finite American cooperation, while also indicating their strong desire to run their own country on their own as soon as possible.”
George Bush leaves office with low approval ratings but with a record of having prevented terrorist attacks on the U.S. since 9/11 and of having removed one of the world’s most brutal tyrants, leaving a stable government in his place. Iraq is free and beginning to prosper. It is Barack Obama’s task to assure that this important strategic achievement is not thrown away.