I always have mixed feelings about explosive reports about U.S. politics and policy coming from the British press. At their best, the UK papers cut through some of the baloney that mesmerizes the White House press corps; at worst, sometimes they don't seem to know what they're talking about.
That said, I give you this article from Patrick Coburn of the UK Independent, who's been around for a while:
A secret deal being negotiated in Baghdad would perpetuate the American military occupation of Iraq indefinitely, regardless of the outcome of the US presidential election in November.
The terms of the impending deal, details of which have been leaked to The Independent, are likely to have an explosive political effect in Iraq. Iraqi officials fear that the accord, under which US troops would occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations, arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, will destabilise Iraq's position in the Middle East and lay the basis for unending conflict in their country.
But the accord also threatens to provoke a political crisis in the US. President Bush wants to push it through by the end of next month so he can declare a military victory and claim his 2003 invasion has been vindicated. But by perpetuating the US presence in Iraq, the long-term settlement would undercut pledges by the Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama, to withdraw US troops if he is elected president in November.
The timing of the agreement would also boost the Republican candidate, John McCain, who has claimed the United States is on the verge of victory in Iraq – a victory that he says Mr Obama would throw away by a premature military withdrawal.
The news of this article -- if correct -- is explosive. As for the interpretation, am I badly misjudging the mood of America, or am I right in thinking that a revealed plan for a number of permanent bases in Iraq would NOT help John McCain capture the presidency? Wouldn't it cripple him with moderate voters who want to see almost all U.S. troops come home, if not on Jan. 20, 2009 then in relatively short order? Also, as I think the article strongly suggests, reaction to this plan in Sadr City will be more important than the reaction from voters in Peoria.
As this new poll out today shows yet again, George W. Bush is the most unpopular American president in our lifetime, and arguably of the last century. Would a long term deal between such a widely loathed lame duck president and a hanging-by-a-thread prime minister in Baghdad really work?
One other weird thing about the article: Nowhere does it mention the word "oil." Does anyone really think oil has nothing to do with our strategy over there?