McCain: Bringing Troops Home From Iraq Is "A Serious Mistake"

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Over the weekend, Sen. John McCain criticized the Obama administration's announcement that troops were coming home from Iraq by year's end:

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the full withdrawal "a serious mistake" that he fears could increase Iranian influence in Iraq.

"I'm here in the region. And, yes, it is viewed in the region as a victory for the Iranians," McCain told Amanpour from Amman, Jordan. "And I'm very, very concerned about increased Iranian influence in Iraq."

Slate's Fred Kaplan responds:

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and some others have suggested that the sticking point was over a clause giving U.S. troops immunity from Iraqi prosecution for alleged crimes. This is a standard feature of such treaties, including of the earlier arrangement with Iraq. It’s true that the Iraqis refused to grant the immunity. But there was no leeway to negotiate an exemption, because the main sticking point was, and is, that the Iraqis simply do not want American troops in their country anymore. One U.S. official in Iraq said in a phone interview, “Even our erstwhile friends [among Iraqi politicians] want us out by the end of the year. None of them lifted a finger to keep us.”

Do Obama’s Republican critics, who have made such a big deal of Iraq’s bourgeoning democracy, really think Obama should (or could) have disregarded the democratically elected parliament of a sovereign nation—a sovereign ally, at that—in order to keep U.S. troops on that nation’s soil, allegedly for its own interest (as defined by us, not by them)? We would then become nothing but an occupying power, sure to trigger an escalation of armed resistance and appear hypocritical in the extreme.

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