So I spent this morning waiting to hear Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki talk to the U.S. Institute of Peace. He didn’t speak until 10, but we were instructed to get there by 8:45 to account for the latest in security measures. Not a bad deal in practice, though — herded into a room for about 90 minutes, I got to bullshit with Eli Lake about cooking and drugs; Matt Duss, Marc Lynch, Eli, Adam Serwer and myself discussed Marc’s Jay-Z-as-American-hegemony parable (get ready for Marc’s Weezy Corollary); and some other old friends stopped by.
Maliki’s remarks were flavored like Cream of Wheat — we beat terrorism, we want a productive relationship with the U.S., the international community should support Iraqi democracy, we’re working on economic reform, have you noticed our awesome constitution — as is to be expected, I suppose, when heads of state address foreign think tanks. So I asked him a question about a post-2011 U.S. troop presence and the prospects for renegotiating the Status of Forces Agreement, and this is what he said:
…Maliki said the accord, known as the Status of Forces Agreement, would “end” the American military presence in his country in 2011, but “nevertheless, if Iraqi forces required further training and further support, we shall examine this at that time based on the needs of Iraq,” he said through translation in response to a question from The Washington Independent. “I am sure that the will, the prospects and the desire for such cooperation is found among both parties.”
Maliki continued, “The nature of that relationship — the functions and the amount of [U.S.] forces — will then be discussed and reexamined based on the needs” of Iraq.
And you can read more of that at the Washington Independent. It’s especially noteworthy that Maliki thinks the "desire" for such a continued presence is "found among both parties" — that is, Iraq and the U.S. — when Obama signaled as hard and as explicitly as he could in their joint appearance yesterday that he has no such desire.
Update: Admittedly very funny line from Michael Goldfarb:
It’s a wonderful irony that Barack Obama will deliver us the permanent bases that George W. Bush never could.