Thursday 19 Jul 2018 | 00:52 | SYDNEY
Thursday 19 Jul 2018 | 00:52 | SYDNEY

Iraq ratifies security agreement: This is the end


Anthony Bubalo

28 November 2008 10:49

Overnight, the Iraqi parliament officially ended, for all intents and purposes, America’s war in Iraq (though not necessarily Iraq’s war in Iraq) when it ratified Iraq’s security agreement with the US (full and final text here). 

It doesn’t mean the fighting will end, or that US troops will leave tomorrow, and apparently there is still some question about how the agreement is being interpreted by the two sides. Nevertheless, the withdrawal of US combat troops is now largely a technical matter rather than a political one. And all this has happened without much fanfare on the American side – certainly no carrier landings by erstwhile national guard pilots or ‘mission accomplished’ bunting (there is a separate question about the future of US bases in Iraq but I will leave that for someone else to muse over).

There will be a referendum on the agreement in the middle of next year. If the agreement is rejected it would bring forward the deadline for withdrawal by 18 months (under the provision that the Iraqi Government would need to give the US a year’s notice of any request to leave). But by that stage I am not sure it would matter. 

According to the agreement, US forces are required to leave Iraq by 31 December 2011. More significantly, however, US combat forces are required to withdraw from all Iraqi ‘cities, villages and localities’ by 30 June 2009, a bit over six months from now. I am no military expert but, presumably, a significant number of the troops hitherto needed to conduct patrols and so on will now no longer be required and can be gradually withdrawn, leaving a smaller (but still significant) core force to conduct training, provide rapid reaction and hunt remnants of al Qaeda, among other things.

It is true there are caveats to the agreement, and some may argue that events could still conspire keep the US in Iraq for longer. But I don’t think so. America’s adversaries in Iraq either have no interest in prolonging the US presence by ramping up the conflict again (eg. Iran, Syria, Muqtadr al-Sadr) or lack the means to do so (al Qaeda). 

Against this background, Obama’s campaign promise of a 16-month withdrawal of combat forces, give or take a few months, is looking less like wishful thinking and more like the emerging consensus. It is also built upon a significant shift in the Bush Administration’s approach to Iraq over the last year and a half, for which it will no doubt receive little credit, beyond perhaps the implicit acknowledgement contained in Obama’s apparent decision to retain Robert Gates as his Secretary of Defence.

Beyond this I can offer no more useful analysis than the words of Jim Morrison in his epic song, ‘The end’:

This is the end, beautiful friend
This is the end, my only friend
The end of our elaborate plans
The end of ev'rything that stands
The end

No safety or surprise
The end
I'll never look into your eyes again

Can you picture what will be
So limitless and free
Desperately in need of
some strangers hand
In a desperate land

Lost in a Roman wilderness of pain
And all the children are insane
All the children are insane
Waiting for the summer rain
There's danger on the edge of town
Ride the king's highway
Weird scenes inside the goldmine
Ride the highway West baby

Ride the snake
Ride the snake
To the lake
To the lake

The ancient lake baby
The snake is long
Seven miles
Ride the snake

He's old
And his skin is cold
The west is the best
The west is the best
Get here and we'll do the rest

The blue bus is calling us
The blue bus is calling us
Driver, where you taking us?

The killer awoke before dawn
He put his boots on
He took a face from the ancient gallery
And he walked on down the hall

He went into the room where his sister lived
And then he paid a visit to his brother
And then he walked on down the hall
And he came to a door
And he looked inside
Yes son
I want to kill you
Mother, I want to.............

Come on, baby, take a chance with us
Come on, baby, take a chance with us
Come on, baby, take a chance with us
And meet me at the back of the blue bus

This is the end, beautiful friend
This is the end, my only friend
The end

It hurts to set you free
But you'll never follow me

The end of laughter and soft lies
The end of nights we tried to die

This is the end

Photo by Flickr user drobnikm, used under a Creative Commons license.