11/16/08

Iraq and What the Future Will Bring

Today, Iraq's cabinet approved a security pact that
provides for the departure of US forces from Iraq by the end of 2011 and gives Iraq the right to try American soldiers and defence contractors in the case of serious crimes committed off-duty and off-base. It also prohibits the US from using Iraqi territory to attack Iraq's neighbors, like Syria and Iran. (guardian)
And the Wall Street Journal adds that "American soldiers would leave cities by the end of June 2009."

As Matthew Yglesias reminds us, this is a significant paradigmatic shift--both in the U.S. and Iraq--from just a year ago; however, it's possible that this represents an even more dramatic recasting of the (increasingly) global war on terror.

If you've been keeping an eye on our never-ending war, then you're aware that the Bush administration, under the cover of an election year, has been quietly but consistently expanding the scope and dimensions of its military reach. As The New Republic reported in October:
In July, according to three administration sources, the Bush administration formally gave the military new power to strike terrorist safe havens outside of Iraq and Afghanistan. Before then, a military strike in a country like Syria or Pakistan would have required President Bush's personal approval. Now, those kinds of strikes in the region can occur at the discretion of the incoming commander of Central Command (Centcomm), General David Petraeus.
The security pact is not the law of the land just yet: it still has to pass the Iraqi legislature. But if it passes, will it affect General Petraeus' ability to strike without presidential approval? That is, if U.S. forces are not allowed to strike from Iraq, will that de facto eliminate the threat of military strikes into Iran and Syria? If so, the security pact may be even more significant in terms of scaling back the war on terror than the news clippings are currently reporting.

There is, of course, a deeper question mark underlying any discussion of the future of Iraq and the Middle East: the President-elect. We might be witnessing a timely end to the occupation of Iraq, but the question of how the Obama administration will conduct the war on terror very much remains to be seen.

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