"The White House says President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the timing of troop reductions should be part of a broader security agreement being negotiated between Washington and Baghdad." NY Times
Bush’s White House probably thinks it has outplayed the Iraqis in this matter, but the Iraqis are likely to see the situation in exactly the opposite way.
Having pressured the occupier (muhtalil) into conceding this much, the Maliki government will "pocket" the result and this expectation of US withdrawal at a pace satisfactory to the Iraqi government will become the "starting point" for future pressure on the US to pull its combat units out of the country gradually on a schedule that the Maliki government thinks will preserve its power.
If Obama is elected, the Baghdad government will find him accommodating in giving them what he already wants to give them.
If McCain is elected,(still a 55% probability IMO) he will have a very hard time denying them what they and the American people want. Since AQI is largely a "dead duck," and likely to stay that way, it would seem likely that the other contestants for power in Iraq; Sunni groups, Shia parties, Kurds, etc., will be quiet enough to set the stage for that. The Kurds will get some sort of overt assurance from the US. The Sunni Arabs will be helped as well, but much less visibly, and not just from the US. Their Sunni brethren will "sign up" for that help. Iran really wants a deal with America. How they will behave in the context of an American withdrawal from their backyard is unpredictable in detail. IMO, they prefer it that way. I would do the same thing, but their behavior would be altogether predictable in the context of a putative Israeli or US/Israeli attack on their homeland.
Nevertheless, I think that this "agreement" is the beginning of the end for a large scale American troop unit presence in Iraq. There will be a residual presence in Iraq for some time (several years) doing all the things that are endlessly talked about, but Admiral Mullen’s statements about the unavailability of troops for Afghanistan should be taken seriously.
Get over it, neocons! You like to talk about Saddam being gone. Savor that thought! Revolution in the Middle East was always a bad idea. There are no good Islamist governments. How you could have thought there might be is a mystery which points unmistakably at the depth of your illusions about the region. pl