Obama already affecting Iraq policy

OBAMA ALREADY AFFECTING IRAQ POLICY…. Barack Obama’s victory this week generated international acclaim, but the impact in Iraq was of a more practical nature.

As recently as last week, Iraqi officials were reluctant to sign a security agreement with the Bush administration, even with a troop withdrawal timeline, because they knew Bush would be gone soon, and weren’t sure what kind of commitment they could count on from the next president.

Then Iraqi officials saw what happened on Tuesday. Now, they’re feeling better.

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.”

Jabeer Habeeb, an independent Shiite lawmaker and a political scientist at Baghdad University, put it simply: “Obama’s election shifts Iraq into a new position.”

Spencer Ackerman added:

[T]he agreement really does guarantee U.S. troop withdrawal by 2011 and U.S. withdrawal from Iraqi cities and towns by next spring. In other words, it ends the war, and ends it in stages.

Obama won’t be able to enter office with the Iraq problem solved. But it will be well on its way to being solved. The strategic framework for his desired withdrawal will be in place. And since he and the Iraqi government see eye to eye on the issue, Obama will have the credibility in place to work toward a political compact among the different Iraqi factions — something the Bush administration hasn’t ever had and a McCain administration wouldn’t ever have had.

That’s not to say Obama will achieve it, just that the stars are better aligned now.