Lots of people have said that, both in the US and world-wide (and 70% of Iraqis) but now it's not just the Iraqi man in the street, it's the Iraqi Man himself: Prime Minister Maliki.
In Stephen Lendmann's article in Op-Ed News (headlined 7/09/08), he points to the long and complicated negotiations that have been carried on by the administration, and provides in exhaustive detail what the Status of Forces Agreements typically entail. Clearly, American occupation troops are not something even long-time allies like the Japanese in Okinawa really want to put up with, what with the extraterritorial rights it gives American troops and private contractors; they are able to get away with murder (literally), and have done so on many occasions.
The SOFA under negotiation in Iraq, if Bush got his way, would give American forces (and private contractors like Blackwater) carte blanche not only in protecting their own forces, but in deciding both domestic and foreign security policy for Iraq. Given the egregious abuses that American forces and contractors have already committed there, it is not surprising that many Iraqis have balked. So, now, probably under pressure from Shiite leaders like al Sistani, Maliki has actually come out and said that it was unlikely that such an agreement would be signed during the current Bush administration.
What's a wannabe war-monger to do? It's the agreement that McCain was counting on, and it was the agreement that Democrats in Congress were insisting had to be voted on by them, while the Bushies were insisting it was just an executive agreement not subject to Congressional approval.
Maybe Maliki is posturing, simply maneuvering for better terms, but Iraqi-watchers point out that most of the people that enable Maliki to hold onto whatever power he wields (Grand Ayatollah al Sistani is only one of these) are dead set against giving the US an extension beyond the UN mandate (it expires at the end of the year).
So, how is McCain going to "win" in Iraq if the Iraqis aren't going to let him? Poor McSame.
Maliki's position does not mean that anything has been settled in Iraq. It doesn't mean that Sunnis and Shiites are going to sit down in a café to be cozy together. It doesn't mean that the Kurds and Arabs have agreed upon the powers of the Kurdish provinces, or on their boundaries.
People will still get killed: blown up, shot, executed; or driven out. There is a lot still to sort out in Iraq, thanks to the turmoil into which the US has driven it. And the oil companies can apparently get their way whether they deal with Americans or Shiites or Kurds.
One of the things that the "surge" has done, or General Petraeus has done, has been to legitimize, arm and organize many of the Sunni forces that were earlier beyond the pale as "insurgents." But that doesn't mean they're supportive of Maliki's government, or, especially, of Shiite control. For hundreds of years the Sunnis were top dogs and the Shiites were the underclass: not solid, not business-like, too mystical, too influenced by the Persians next door.
But now, thanks to the American upheaval, the Shiites are in power. Yet, because of the US alliances with Sunni nationalists (calling themselves Awakening, or designated as neighborhood watch organizations), the confrontation between the two groups is likely. Neither group will willingly give up power.
The US has been trying to use extortion to force the Iraqis hand: withholding some $50 billion of Iraqi funds held in the US Federal Reserve Bank in NY; that hasn't done it. The US may still try the one imperial maneuver it has used before: to set Sunnis against Shiites. But it may not work.
What Iraqis apparently have agreed upon, is that they don't want the US around to mediate their conflict. Why would they? Any occupying force in that position would be in the position of any classic imperialist: divide and rule: set the groups against each other and pick up the pieces.
The Romans may have invented that strategy, although other imperial powers even earlier probably used it, too. In any case, it was how the Romans conquered so many lands, how the British grabbed all of India, and how Europeans took over in the Americas.
What Maliki is signaling is that the Iraqis will settle their own disputes, thank you very much, and Americans should butt out.
It's a political development that Obama should welcome and McCain might try to ignore, but he doesn't have to. He might even neutralize the war issue by declaring:
"The Prime Minister's declaration means: We have won! Now Americans can come home."
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