ANALYSIS: Bush will hand his successor a fait accompli on Iraq

Bush shakes up ’08 Iraq debate

Camp Arifjan in the desert kingdom of Kuwait, America’s depot to the Iraq war, feels about as far away as you can get from South Carolina, Super Tuesday and the election-year squabbles back home. And George W. Bush, who is currently midway through his six-nation tour of the Mideast, is doing a good job of distancing himself from the politics of 2008. But as Bush rallied U.S. troops at the base here on Saturday with a “Hoo-ah” and conferred with his Iraq dream team, Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, he indicated that he was setting in motion policies that could dramatically affect the presidential race–and any decisions the next president makes in 2009.

In remarks to the traveling press, delivered from the Third Army operation command center here, Bush said that negotiations were about to begin on a long-term strategic partnership with the Iraqi government modeled on the accords the United States has with Kuwait and many other countries. Crocker, who flew in from Baghdad with Petraeus to meet with the president, elaborated: “We’re putting our team together now, making preparations in Washington,” he told reporters. “The Iraqis are doing the same. And in the few weeks ahead, we would expect to get together to start this negotiating process.” The target date for concluding the agreement is July, says Gen. Doug Lute, Bush’s Iraq coordinator in the White House–in other words, just in time for the Democratic and Republican national conventions. [complete article]

Vanishing act

What if the United States were at war during a presidential election — and none of the candidates wanted to talk about it? Iraq has become the great disappearing issue of the early primary season, and if nothing fundamental changes on the ground there — a probable result of current policy — the war may disappear even more completely in the new year.

The reasons for Iraq’s political eclipse begin with the unfortunate fact that candidates strive to create feel-good associations, and the war is a certain downer. The film studios could barely get a Middle East movie to break even in the past 12 months (“In the Valley of Elah,” anyone?), and the political image makers have apparently taken note. [complete article]

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