John McCain may dismiss it as just politics, but there is growing evidence that recent calls for a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops made by Iraq's prime minister and national security advisor are reflecting a widespread view in that country.
As HuffPo's Seth Colter Walls reports today, both of Iraq's leading Shi'a parties are talking U.S. withdrawal:
In an interview published Thursday by the Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, Iraq's Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi said any renewed security agreement between Baghdad and Washington must "restrain or end the mission of multinational forces."
Abdul-Mahdi is a leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), formerly known as SCIRI, the main Shi'a rival to the Sadr Movement. Sadrists, unsurprisingly, feel similarly. As Walls notes:
Even among two rival Shiite political cliques, there is agreement over one thing: the potentially damaging influence of an extended American military presence, and their mutual willingness to consider doing without it.
Juan Cole adds another interesting detail to the mix, noting that yesterday's insistent comments about a withdrawal timetable for U.S. troops by National Security Counsellor Muwaffaq Rubaie came immediately after a consultation with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the most influential Shi'a leader in Iraq, and long thought to be a silent partner of the U.S.
Both Walls and Cole make it clear that Iraqi unhappiness with Bush administration demands for a long-term security deal is a big factor in the timetable for withdrawal talk. But if it's "just politics," it's real politics, and an important development that John McCain and George W. Bush ignore at their peril.