Obama Victory Alters the Tenor of Iraqi Politics, title of article at NY Times;
BAGHDAD — Barack Obama may have been elected only three days ago, but his victory is already beginning to shift the political ground in Iraq and the region.
Iraqi Shiite politicians are indicating that they will move faster toward a new security agreement about American troops, and a Bush administration official said he believed that Iraqis could ratify the agreement as early as the middle of this month.
“Before, the Iraqis were thinking that if they sign the pact, there will be no respect for the schedule of troop withdrawal by Dec. 31, 2011,” said Hadi al-Ameri, a powerful member of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a major Shiite party. “If Republicans were still there, there would be no respect for this timetable. This is a positive step to have the same theory about the timetable as Mr. Obama.”
Mr. Obama has said that he favors a 16-month schedule for withdrawing combat brigades, a timetable about twice as fast as that provided for in the draft American and Iraqi accord.
Over all, however, there was a new tone of optimism. “The atmosphere is positive with the American attempt to preserve the sovereignty of the Iraqi nation,” the government’s spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, told the news channel Al Arabiya. He praised the inclusion of a new provision stating that Americans would not launch attacks on Iraq’s neighbors from Iraqi soil.
The Americans also added language to make explicit what kinds of troops would remain after the withdrawal in 2011, said a Bush administration official knowledgeable about the security pact. Those still in Iraq would be primarily trainers and air traffic controllers, the official said.
“There’s going to be a significant presence, but they are not going to be ‘combat’ forces,” said the administration official. The official said that the most recent talks with Iraqis had given American negotiators confidence that a final agreement was close.
Mr. Ameri, who is chairman of the security committee of Iraq’s Parliament, said that Iraqi politicians did appreciate the Bush administration’s commitment to Iraq. Signing the agreement while President Bush was still in office would be “a minimum sign of appreciation,” Mr. Ameri said.