The United States took an important step yesterday toward leaving Iraq by moving combat troops out of Iraqi population centers in anticipation of the June 30 deadline specified in the U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).
This redeployment has focused attention on Iraq's current security situation and triggered stepped-up efforts by insurgents to undermine the symbolic importance of the transition, by launching attacks generally aimed at Shiite civilians. It has also provided fodder for those in the United States who wish todelay withdrawal.
However, looking at Iraq solely through the prism of short-term security trends clouds thinking about how the United States can best prepare for its exit from the country. It also obscures the enduring and fundamental disputes that undermine long-term prospects for stability. The United States should instead continue the transition toward diplomacy with modest goals and a focus on facilitating dialogue and negotiations on the most intractable issues facing Iraqis: governance, territory, and resources.