Iraq to U.S.: Don't ever leave

News of an “enduring relationship” broke in September when Bush mentioned it in his surge drawdown speech, but we haven’t heard much about it on the trail. That’ll change after this. The White House is emphasizing that the new agreement is just the first step in a process towards formalization that they’re hoping to complete by July, which puts the time horizon here squarely in the middle of the campaign. It also raises the specter of a treaty establishing a long-term U.S. military presence that the Senate would have to ratify by two-thirds. Bush will naturally try to avoid that requirement by using an executive agreement and the Democrats will just as naturally demand that it be done by the constitutional book. Scroll down towards the end of the fact sheet on the agreement to see how comprehensive it is; sure looks like treaty material to me, especially given the presumptive hostility to the idea of permanently stationing 50,000 U.S. troops in country among both the U.S. and Iraqi populations.

It’s a dynamite issue for the Dems in the general since the GOP will have to triangulate between winning the war/securing the peace and responding to the public’s war fatigue, so expect to hear plenty about it from the left once the nominees are set — starting with a demand for a formal treaty and Senate vote, which would give Hillary, Obama, Biden, and Dodd an opportunity to prove their anti-war bona fides to the base. In the meantime, America’s Greatest Patriot should be talking this up every chance he gets during the debate on Wednesday night.

Iraq’s government, seeking protection against foreign threats and internal coups, will offer the U.S. a long-term troop presence in Iraq in return for U.S. security guarantees as part of a strategic partnership, two Iraqi officials said Monday…

The two Iraqi officials, who are from two different political parties, spoke on condition of anonymity because the subject is sensitive. Members of parliament were briefed on the plan during a three-hour closed-door meeting Sunday, during which lawmakers loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr objected to the formula.

Preferential treatment for U.S. investors could provide a huge windfall if Iraq can achieve enough stability to exploit its vast oil resources. Such a deal would also enable the United States to maintain leverage against Iranian expansion at a time of growing fears about Tehran’s nuclear aspirations…

The Iraqi officials said that under the proposed formula, Iraq would get full responsibility for internal security and U.S. troops would relocate to bases outside the cities. Iraqi officials foresee a long-term presence of about 50,000 U.S. troops, down from the current figure of more than 160,000.

We protect the Iraqi government from Shiite fundamentalists, Sunnis, and Iran and in return U.S. businesses get first crack at the oil. That’ll be a fun media formulation for the Republican nominee to have to defend next year. He’ll have to play down the economic aspects of it and play up the strategic positioning it offers vis-a-vis Iran, although given the way the Shiite parties are going to demagogue the idea of permanent U.S. occupation, it may be to Iran’s advantage ultimately to have us there. As you see from the blockquote, the Sadrists are already objecting to the idea. They’re also raising hell about the de-Baathification law, a “largely symbolic” statute that merely recognizes publicly what the Iraqi government is already doing privately. One of the main currents in the improvements over the last three or four months is Shiite gangsters overplaying their hands, not quite to the extent AQ has in Anbar but enough that Sadr would order his ceasefire after this clusterfark in August. Pounding the table about Saddam’s henchmen returning to power or the U.S. hegemon setting up permanent bases is just what they need to try to rebuild their populist appeal.