Since the House Democratic leadership announced its package of amendments yesterday on the supplemental appropriation, the lion's share of attention, unsurprisingly, has been on the proposal to impose a withdrawal of all U.S. combat forces from Iraq by August 2008, with the White House issuing a veto threat and some progressive Democrats objecting that they don't want to be pressured to support the supplemental in order to get a deadline for withdrawing troops they consider eight months too late.
But regardless how this debate turns out - and I certainly hope the outcome includes the passage of a binding deadline for the withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops from Iraq - there are two other features of the proposed bill that deserve high praise, but have largely escaped notice in the debate over withdrawal.
As Jim Lobe reports for Inter Press Service, it prohibits the establishment of permanent U.S. bases in Iraq. As Lobe notes, this was a recommendation of the Iraq Study Group. It also something that peace groups have lobbied hard for, especially the Friends Committee on National Legislation.
If these provisions survive, it will force major changes in U.S. policy in the Middle East. Closing off the "option" of military escalation will force the Bush Administration to pursue serious diplomacy with Iran, Syria, and insurgent groups and militias in Iraq.
As the debate moves forward, it is important that those who wish to see a fundamental change in U.S. policy in the Middle East keep a protective eye on these provisions.
In particular, the Senate Democratic leadership has to include language barring an unauthorized attack on Iran in their version of the bill, as proposed by Senator Webb. You can ask them to do so here: