PERMANENT PRESENCE….Juan Cole on Saturday:

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the Da’wa (Islamic Mission) Party has decisively split. It is the party of the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The new branch, Da’wa- National Reform, has been formed by former PM Ibrahim Jaafari…. Al-Hayat estimated that at least 10 members of parliament have also defected to the new party led by Jaafari.

Those 10 members of Da’wa- National Reform in parliament have joined a new political bloc consisting of the Sadrists (30 MPs), the Iraqi List (24), National Dialogue (11), Islamic Virtue Party (Fadhila) (15). These 90 MPs oppose the soft partition of Iraq and generally have a strong Iraqi nationalist orientation. Several have expressed opposition to the US-Iraqi security agreement now being negotiated.

In Iran on Monday:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki concluded a three-day visit to Iran after meeting Monday with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who warned that the continued presence of U.S. troops was “the main obstacle on the way to progress and prosperity in Iraq.”

….Khamenei and other Iranian politicians have repeatedly urged Maliki’s government not to sign a status of forces agreement being negotiated with the United States. The agreement would provide a legal framework for the continued presence of U.S. troops in Iraq after the United Nations mandate expires at the end of this year.

Later the same day in Washington:

The Bush administration is conceding for the first time that the United States may not finish a complex security agreement with Iraq before President Bush leaves office.

Faced with stiff Iraqi opposition, it is “very possible” the U.S. may have to extend an existing U.N. mandate, said a senior administration official close to the talks….Iraqi officials have raised a number of objections to the draft documents, both publicly and privately. And they are now suggesting that the latest proposal isn’t even worth submitting to their parliament for approval.

On Monday two Iraqi lawmakers who saw the proposed draft said the document, put forward Sunday, said it seeks to address some of Iraq’s concerns. It adds an explicit promise that U.S. forces in Iraq will not attack neighboring countries and that Iraqi authorities will be notified in advance of any action by U.S. ground forces, the lawmakers said.

….Hadi al-Amri, head of the Badr Organization, a pro-government Shiite party with close ties to Iran, said the latest draft was still unacceptable, and warned that the positions and interests of the two sides are so far apart that any kind of agreement is “impossible.”

There’s literally no one outside the Bush administration itself that supports any kind of permanent U.S. presence in Iraq. No one, that is, except for John McCain. But don’t call him McBush just because he supports Bush’s Iraq policy, Bush’s tax policies, Bush’s foreign policy, and Bush’s social policies. That would be unfair.

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