One of the people I always listen to on Iraq is Toby Dodge, who is now a member of the ruling elite at the London School of Economics.
The other day he was asked about comments by Senator John McCain busting President Obama for failing on Iraq. I've been pretty critical of old Obama lately, so I was interested to see Dodge come to his defense, according to the IISS website:
Dodge, calling it the "the myth of abandonment", explained that McCain was wrong for two reasons.
The first is that the structure of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in 2008, which formed the blueprint for US troop withdrawal, was negotiated under Bush's tenure. When the agreement was being negotiated, Iraq's leverage grew as the US's diminished; Maliki and the government -- buoyed by public support under the banner of nationalism and realising that Bush needed a deal before he left office -- would not accept the first draft of SOFA, which Dodge describes as "almost quasi-imperial". The SOFA that was eventually passed contained the non-negotiable 2011 withdrawal dates. "It was George W. Bush what done it," he observed.
Secondly, when then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates approached Maliki to ask permission to leave a residual force behind, the idea was roundly rejected. Maliki had made it clear that all US soldiers must be gone by the deadline.
"Maliki then sealed this by saying any amendments to the SOFA had to go through parliament," said Dodge, "and there was never going to be a majority there who would support a continued US military presence.
"This failure is a failure of neo-conservatism and regime change, and has very little to do with Obama," Dodge argued.