Monday, September 29, 2008

A Sense of Reality

A United States-Iraq status of forces agreement seems closer now, according to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki :

Answering questions in his office situated in Baghdad's heavily guarded Green Zone, al-Maliki underscored that he is firmly committed to reaching an accord that would allow U.S. troops to remain in the country beyond next year.

"We regard negotiating and reaching such an agreement as a national endeavor, a national mission, a historic one. It is a very important agreement that involves the stability and the security of the country and the existence of foreign troops. It has a historic dimension," al-Maliki said.

The talks have been snagged in recent weeks over Iraq's demand that it have legal jurisdiction over U.S. forces in the country if they are accused of wrongdoing. But al-Maliki signaled that he is now willing to accept immunity for U.S. forces when they are pursuing their official duties, and would only demand Iraqi legal jurisdiction over them when not.

If this issue is resolved, he said, he believed the other "hanging issues" could be solved quickly.

After seemingly ignoring the fact that the next president might not want any forces in Iraq at all, let alone want an agreement regularizing their status, Maliki seems to have had his mind focused. Maybe he reads political polling data from America.

I find it hard to believe that the Iraqis would risk losing our protection in the next few years. The Iraqis still need us. Their air force, for example, is just beginning to get the basics of air transport and now aerial reconnaissance, with Iraq buying small American aircraft for the mission:

The King Airs are small aircraft equipped with advanced aerial video technology enabling them to cover wide areas and send live feed to ground control centers, the Defense Ministry says. The twin-turboprop aircraft are produced by U.S. manufacturer Hawker Beechcraft Corp., based in Wichita, Kan.

Iraq once had a formidable air force, but it has been largely incapacitated since the 1991 Gulf War that followed Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government hopes to regain control of the country's skies as it eventually takes over authority from the Americans.

The Iraqi army, too, just now mastering light infantry, needs years to get a handle on conventional armored warfare against enemy brigades and divisions.

Maliki seems to get this finally, as the first article notes, after his boasting earlier in the year, and knows we need to be actively helping the Iraqis in the near term:

"This would not be in the interests of Iraq nor in the interests of the United States. Our need for coalition forces is decreasing — but it still exists."

We could still lose this war. Remember, when we left South Vietnam in 1973, the Viet Cong were defeated. In 1975, North Vietnamese armored columns conquered South Vietnam, making our defeat of the Viet Cong rather irrelevant.

We could still go that route. And you'd remember this if you've been reading our polls.

The Iraqis can be grateful that their oil wealth means that a complete cut off of American aid next year would not be as catastrophic as it was for South Vietnam.