Foreign Policy Blogs

Withdrawing from Iraq: The Question isn't "If," it's "When"

The latest news this week is Iraq's demand for a withdrawal timetable from US officials.  The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that Iraqi National Security Adviser, Muwaffak al-Rubaie, demanded the timetable, saying that Iraq is “impatiently waiting” for the withdrawal of US troops.  This comes after Prime Minister al-Maliki's same request, and was “the strongest demand yet by a senior Iraqi official” on setting “specific dates for the departure of US forces.”  He went on to say that Iraq would not accept any deal in which a time line is not specifically delineated. 

This seems, in my opinion, like a good sign: the Iraqi government appears to be tired of relying on the US, and further, must believe that they can do the job themselves.  I would trust the judgment of these high-ranking Iraqi officials– if the country explodes again, they know that their lives will be on the line as they avoid assassination attempts.  In the past, the quandary about a withdrawal has involved both the Iraqi government and the American people; the Iraqis wanted us to stay for protection and resources, and Americans were operating under the premise, “you break it, you buy it.”  But here's our green flag.  Here's W's chance to negotiate for Iraqi military bases while pulling out and still keeping some dignity in the history books.  So why is the Bush administration blowing this off? 

Further, statements made by US officials are both confusing and frustrating.  They were quoted in this article saying that al-Maliki's previous calls for a timetable “were aimed at local and regional audiences,” and that they don't “reflect fundamental disagreements with the Bush administration.”  However, how could the timetable demand not be directed toward toward the US government when it is being addressed in terms of our bilateral security agreements?  Additionally, Tony Fratto, White House spokesperson, said that talks of a withdrawal are not currently on the table because the Iraqi government “would not take an action that would destabilize the country.”  Meanwhile, media and government reports lead us to believe that the surge worked and that security is getting better each day.  “Destabilization” is not a word we hear now when the administration discusses Iraq.

To me, US officials are making a mockery out of Iraqi officials.  It seems that the Bush administration is treating the new government like a petulant child who doesn't know what it wants.  But even more, this offends me as a US citizen; these statements by the administration don't add up.  Americans have dealt with patronizing and conflicting reports like these for five years now, and so far most have fallen through (and this includes the motives for the 2003 invasion).  But the jig is up now: avoiding the truth with the American public is just not going to fly anymore. 



Jennifer Bushaw

Jennifer Bushaw holds an MA from the University of Chicago in Middle Eastern Studies with an emphasis on policy. She focused her research, including her Thesis, on modern Iraq and the Iraq war. She also has a Bachelor's in History from the University of Michigan. Jennifer is currently working as an Investigative Research Associate for a security advisory and management firm in Chicago, Illinois.

Areas of Focus:
Iraq-US Policy; Security; Coalition Operations;