Not a Timeline, but Sounding a lot like Obama

TUCSON, July 18 — President Bush and Iraq’s prime minister have agreed to set a “time horizon” for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq as security conditions in the war-ravaged nation continue to improve, White House officials said here Friday.

The agreement, reached during a video conference Thursday between Bush and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, marks a dramatic shift for the Bush administration, which for years has condemned any talk of timetables for withdrawal.

But Maliki and other Iraqi leaders in recent weeks have begun demanding firm withdrawal deadlines from the United States. Bush said earlier this week that he opposes “arbitrary” timetables but was open to setting an “aspirational goal” for moving U.S. troops to a support role.

So, a “time horizon” is apparently different than a timeline, but this sounds an awful lot more like Obama’s Iraq policy than McCain’s. In reality, this sure seems like it is being driven by Maliki, who realizes that his constituents really would like the US to leave sooner rather than later, as opposed to Bush, who has always vociferously opposed this kind of move.

It will be interesting to see how McCain responds to this. McCain’s foreign policy platform thus far in the general has largely consisted of “Don’t surrender (read, withdraw any troops at all) in Iraq” and “Don’t negotiate with dictators.” In the past week Bush has now completely undercut that platform. He’s set a “time horizon” in Iraq and sent high ranking officials to negotiate with Iran. How does McCain respond to his foreign policy being mooted by Bush?

On the Obama side this couldn’t be timed better. He’s scheduled to head to Iraq this week, as well as to Europe and Israel, and this can’t come at a better time. Obama will meet with Iraqi leaders, who just embraced his position, and General Petraeus, who had to have signed off on this, putting Obama in a great position. Now, instead of meeting with officials who are publicly opposed to his position, he will be talking about to how to implement his plans, which aren’t substantively different from theirs.

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