Sec. Rice Drafts Iraq Pull-Out Plan While in Iraq, Sec. Rice worked with senior Iraqi officials to draft a strategy for pulling out U.S. troops. Gina Chon, the Wall Street Journal's Iraq correspondent, discusses the negotiations.
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Sec. Rice Drafts Iraq Pull-Out Plan

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Sec. Rice Drafts Iraq Pull-Out Plan

Sec. Rice Drafts Iraq Pull-Out Plan

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From the studios of NPR West, this is Day to Day. I'm Alex Chadwick.


And I'm Alex Cohen. Foreclosures are wreaking havoc with the financial markets. Coming up, we hear how they could affect the presidential election, too.

CHADWICK: First, Iraq, where Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made an unexpected visit to Baghdad today. She was there to try to help the U.S. and Iraq reach an agreement about the future of American troops stationed there. The news wires have carried a flurry of reports on this early today, saying there's a deal in the works for a deadline for U.S. combat troops to come out of Iraq. Gina Chon is in Baghdad for the Wall Street Journal. Gina, I understand Secretary Rice, her plane has left Baghdad today. Is there a deal or no deal?

Ms. GINA CHON (Iraq Correspondent, Wall Street Journal): There isn't a final deal yet. There is a draft agreement that the negotiating team for both sides have put together, and that is now being circulated among the top leaders on both sides. So there is an actual draft document, but it still has to go through several layers of examination, especially on the Iraqi side, before it's formally approved. So it could still take some time.

CHADWICK: Well, do you know the terms of the agreement, and specifically, do you know, have they set a timeline for U.S. combat troops?

Ms. CHON: Well, they've set a goal date of 2011 for the withdrawal of combat troops in Iraq. Now, that's a goal. It's not a hard and fast date, so it could change if conditions on the ground here change, particularly if violence starts to increase again.

There's also a goal for the U.S. troops to leave cities and towns, basically the population centers, at the end of June 2009. And they would move to the outskirts of those areas, but General Petraeus, in an interview I had with him yesterday, pointed out that that's already been happening, particularly in the southern part of Iraq, where most U.S. troops are already out of those urban areas. And also in Umbar, which has been a very volatile area with al-Qaeda and Sunni insurgents, and now the routine becomes like Ramadi, actually remaining in control of Iraqi security forces.

CHADWICK: I keep reading statements on the news wires from the Iraqi foreign minister saying, we're very, very close to a deal. We've resolved almost everything. What are the sticking points? Why can't they get this done?

Ms. CHON: Well, the remaining sticking points are what had always been the major obstacles, which is immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law for U.S. troops, control over Iraqi detainees, and also, how much authority the U.S. has in conducting military operations here because, right now, if they wanted to unilaterally conduct any mission, and that's something that key Iraqis have a problem with.

CHADWICK: Those don't sound to me like minor kinds of details to be cleared up.

Ms. CHON: Well, they are looking at forming some joint technical committees that would handle these controversial cases when they arise. So it is something that's being hammered out.

CHADWICK: Would this final deal, do you know, need approval by the U.S. Congress, or is this something that the Bush administration can simply sign off on?

Ms. CHON: Yes, the Bush administration considers this to be an executive agreement, which does not need approval from the U.S. Congress.

CHADWICK: And do you have any sense of when this might go beyond a draft agreement? Any sense of a conclusion to these negotiations?

Ms. CHON: Well, the last step in the approval process on the Iraqi side is presenting this to parliament, and they don't actually reconvene right now until September 9th, although that also could change. So, at the very least, it's still going be at least until then until they can even look at it.

CHADWICK: Gina Chon in Baghdad for the Wall Street Journal. Gina, thank you.

Ms. CHON: Thank you for having me.

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