According to reports, the Bush team is working the phones hard today in order to get key congressional leaders on board for what appears to be a draft agreement with the Iraqis. Not sure you’ll hear John McCain bragging too effusively on this one: it apparently includes a hard timeline for withdrawal, and cedes some legal authority over US troops to the Iraqis:
Emphasis mine: The Bush administration has launched a top-level lobbying campaign to persuade skeptical U.S. lawmakers and disapproving Iraqi politicians to support a security agreement governing the continued presence of American troops in Iraq.
Although congressional approval is not legally required, U.S. lawmakers’ support is considered crucial for an agreement to go forward. In Iraq, where the deal must pass through several complex layers of approval, the going is considered even tougher.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Bush’s national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, are reaching out to key members of the House and Senate. Rice also is pressing senior Iraqi leaders to accept the deal.
The agreement includes a timeline for U.S. withdrawal by 2012 and a crucial but unpopular compromise that gives Iraq limited ability to try U.S. contractors or soldiers for major crimes committed off-duty and off-base, officials said Thursday. (snip)
Other provisions of the draft give Iraqis a far greater role in U.S. military operations than at any time during the nearly six-year war. American troops would no longer be allowed to detain suspects or search homes without Iraqi legal authorization except in active combat. In addition, anyone detained by the Americans must be handed over to the Iraqis within 24 hours, and all detainees currently held by the U.S. must be released or transferred to Iraqi control.
UPDATE: Meanwhile, daily life is so “normal” in Iraq that in the last week more than 6,000 Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes out of fear of Muslim extremists. These mostly Chaldean Christians have been on the run, really, since the war began, but this enclave in Mosul — home to an estimated 50,000 Christians — has accelerated into a more intensified, targeted harassment campaign just recently. In one NYT report, critics decried what they called a “cover-up” of the real security situation there:
“For Christians in Mosul this is a time for tears, because from the beginning we did not get support, least of all from state officials,” Msgr. Shlemon Warduni, the auxiliary bishop of the Chaldean Patriarchate, told the Shiite delegation during a meeting on Tuesday at the Virgin Mary Church in eastern Baghdad. “The government acted only belatedly,” he said.