It looks like Bush is ready to eat crow. In the process, he just cut McCain's legs from under him. Wow!
Iraq and the U.S. are near an agreement on all American combat troops leaving Iraq by October 2010, with the last soldiers out three years after that, two Iraqi officials told The Associated Press on Thursday. U.S. officials, however, insisted no dates had been agreed.
The proposed agreement calls for Americans to hand over parts of Baghdad's Green Zone — where the U.S. Embassy is located — to the Iraqis by the end of 2008. It would also remove U.S. forces from Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009, according to the two senior officials, both close to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and familiar with the negotiations.
The officials, who spoke separately on condition of anonymity because the talks are ongoing, said all U.S. combat troops would leave Iraq by October 2010, with the remaining support personnel gone "around 2013." The schedule could be amended if both sides agree — a face-saving escape clause that would extend the presence of U.S. forces if security conditions warrant it.
U.S. acceptance — even tentatively — of a specific timeline would represent a dramatic reversal of American policy in place since the war began in March 2003.
It is possible the surge did work after all if political debate is replacing political violence in Iraq...or maybe not.
A growing number of Iraqi groups are choosing to pursue their agendas through politics instead of bloodshed, a trend that has helped bring down levels of violence. But as Iraqis leave behind the sectarian cataclysms of recent years, ethnic and regional political disputes in several parts of Iraq are becoming more pronounced.
In the south, the ruling Shiite parties are vying for electoral power against loyalists of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and Shiite tribal leaders. In the west, Sunni tribes are challenging the political control of established Sunni religious parties. And in the north, ethnic Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens are in a struggle for control of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.
"What we have now is people who know how to use weapons and who now want to play politics," said Mithal al-Alusi, an independent Sunni legislator. Even so, some leaders seem unable to decide whether to trust their fortunes to the ballot box.
The fight over Kirkuk is proving to be particularly intense. The dispute over power sharing in the ethnically mixed city triggered an attack by a suicide bomber and ethnic clashes that killed 25 people there last month. This week, Iraqi lawmakers failed to reach an agreement on provincial elections legislation, placing in doubt the timing of the vote and slowing political reconciliation.
"There is no doubt the violence will increase in Kirkuk if its case does not get solved," said Khalaf al-Elayan, a Sunni lawmaker who heads the Iraqi National Dialogue Council, part of the largest Sunni political bloc.
Iraqi lawmakers and U.S. officials say several factors are behind the shaky transition to more robust politics. Militant groups are tired of fighting U.S. forces and are joining the political process as a way to survive. With the Bush administration in its last months, Iraq's political parties, sensing the possible end of the U.S. presence in Iraq, want to consolidate their political standing. Others view political ascendancy as a way to exert pressure on U.S. troops to leave Iraq.
Now McCain will have include George Bush in his list of defeatists along with Obama, and the American people.
Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who has contended that Barack Obama is willing to lose in Iraq to win the election, on Thursday said his rival would forfeit the war as part of an agenda that also promotes big government and high taxes.
McCain told those gathered for a town hall meeting that Obama is a talented orator with an agenda that could be boiled down to simple policies the Arizona Republican opposes.
"Government is too big, he wants to grow it. Taxes are to high, he wants to raise them," McCain said. "Congress spends too much and he proposes more. We need more energy and he's against producing it. We're finally winning in Iraq, and he wants to forfeit."