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We’re Staying

Eli Lake has an important piece in the New Republic on the realistic prospect of a long-term military partnership between the U.S. and Iraq. This was especially striking:

[B]oth the Kurds and Sunni Arabs in western Iraq, where the Al Assad Airbase is located, are likely to facilitate a U.S. military presence for a long time. A Washington representative for the Kurdistan Regional Government, Qubad Talabani, whose father Jalal is president of Iraq, told me last week, “As Kurdish leaders have said in the past, American forces will always be welcome in the Kurdistan region, and we look forward to working with our American friends within the framework of this law to discuss America’s long-term presence in our region.” Far from booting U.S. forces out of the country, he believes that the SOFA “gives America the legal cover for expanding their already good relations with Iraqi security institutions.” And the influential Sunni leader Sheik Ahmad Rishawi, head of the Anbar Awakening, told me in an interview in June that he had hoped a long-term treaty with America would be based on “mutual friendship” and compared the future SOFA to similar accords struck with postwar Japan and Germany, where American troops are garrisoned to this day. The committees established in the new agreement are expected to be the vehicles by which Sunni Arabs and Kurds negotiate longer-term leases for the U.S. bases in their respective areas.

In the unlikely event that Barack Obama insists on rebuffing our Sunni and Kurdish partners, he would establish the U.S. as a nation that’s indifferent to, indeed disdainful of, strategic alliances. Far from being the gesture of a “humble” country, such a rejection would mark a policy tilt toward unprecedented American arrogance. Remember, we are supposed to return to working together with allies. Turning down friends – in the Muslim world no less – is no way to signal America’s hope for cooperation among “the community of nations.”


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