Remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Baghdad on Saturday and discussion among American military officials about "exceptions" to the troop pullout from Iraqi cities, do not square very well with President Barack Obama's pledge to close down the U.S. military presence there.
During her visit, Mrs. Clinton told the Iraqis, "We are committed to Iraq; we want to see a stable, sovereign, self-reliant Iraq." She also commented that Iraq relies on the United States for security, stability and economic survival. She made these comments in the face of an upsurge last week in sectarian violence, which was directed by Sunnis against Shiites, some of whom were Iranian pilgrims visiting religious shrines.
How she could believe that Iraq can achieve stability and self-reliance within the time frame that Mr. Obama has promised for U.S. withdrawal is difficult to imagine. If the president intends to keep his promise to the American people to end the war and the occupation, it is irresponsible on the part of his secretary of state to assure them of such a commitment to the future.
The U.S. military may also see matters differently from the withdrawal schedule that Mr. Obama has presented. For example, all U.S. forces are supposed to be out of Iraqi cities by June 30. However, the contested northern city of Mosul is now being put forward as a possible exception to the U.S.-Iraqi agreement on that subject.
Baghdad, the capital and Iraq's largest city, is evidently also considered an exception. A five-base group of installations, named Camp Victory, which includes a prison, will continue to be manned by U.S. forces. So will all or parts of four other Baghdad bases, although some of them are described as being on the outskirts of the capital.
It appears that suspicions regarding just what kind of double game the Obama administration may be playing - promising withdrawal on the one hand, while pledging support to the Iraqis and making military provisions to provide it - may be spilling over into Congress. Members, including some Democrats, are hesitating to approve Mr. Obama's request for another $83.4 billion to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - a massive sum on top of the already-proposed $500 billion Department of Defense budget.
It may seem tedious to continue to remind Mr. Obama that he won the election in part on the basis of the pledge he made to end the Iraq war. But that is the fact of the matter, and he may need to remind Mrs. Clinton of this promise and of the American people's expectations for him to deliver.