“No one, most particularly Iran, should miscalculate about our continuing commitment to and with the Iraqis going forward,” she told CNN’s “State of the Union” when asked whether Iran’s relationship with Iraq is a concern. – Clinton warns Iran against moving into Iraq

President Barack Obama talks with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of Iraq during a secure video teleconference in the Situation Room of the White House, Oct. 21, 2011. Seated at the table, from left, are: Tony Blinken, National Security Advisor to the Vice President ; National Security Advisor Tom Donilon; Puneet Talwar, Senior Director for Iraq, Iran and the Gulf States; Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough; and Chief of Staff Bill Daley. Pictured onscreen are: at left, Prime Minister al-Maliki, along with two aides; in center, Vice President Joe Biden; at right, General Lloyd Austin, Commanding General of U.S. Forces - Iraq and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

November 17, 2008 – Tina Susman BAGHDAD ““ Iraq’s Cabinet on Sunday overwhelmingly accepted a plan to end the U.S. military presence in Iraq by the end of 2011 and sent it on to parliament for approval, where it faces a fight from lawmakers who consider it a sellout to the Americans. T[…] The agreement is to replace the United Nations mandate expiring Dec. 31 that gives U.S. forces the legal basis for being in Iraq. […] The agreement calls for American forces to pull out of Iraqi cities by the end of June and fully withdraw from Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011.Iraq Cabinet OKs U.S. exit schedule

Before Barack Obama was inaugurated, the Iraq Cabinet voted and affirmed the U.S. military withdrawal of December 31, 2011. That means the timeline was formulated when Pres. George W. Bush was still in office. It seems collective amnesia has set it, with few remembering the facts. If we started talking about the details in Josh Rogin’s piece, “How the Obama administration bungled the Iraq withdrawal negotiations,” the reality beneath what we saw happen on Friday would unravel.

Spencer Ackerman joins Josh Rogin in reporting the outside elements swirling upon Pres. Obama’s announcement. Both reports come under damning headlines, with Rogin getting an adamant response from the White House after his went up. Rogin’s piece didn’t make anyone at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue very happy. Ackerman’s post likely pissed off the State Department too. Here’s an excerpt:

But the fact is America’s military efforts in Iraq aren’t coming to an end. They are instead entering a new phase. On January 1, 2012, the State Department will command a hired army of about 5,500 security contractors, all to protect the largest U.S. diplomatic presence anywhere overseas.

The State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security does not have a promising record when it comes to managing its mercenaries. The 2007 Nisour Square shootings by State’s security contractors, in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed, marked one of the low points of the war. Now, State will be commanding a much larger security presence, the equivalent of a heavy combat brigade. In July, Danger Room exclusively reported that the Department blocked the Congressionally-appointed watchdog for Iraq from acquiring basic information about contractor security operations, such as the contractors’ rules of engagement.

That means no one outside the State Department knows how its contractors will behave as they ferry over 10,000 U.S. State Department employees throughout Iraq ““ which, in case anyone has forgotten, is still a war zone. Since Iraq wouldn’t grant legal immunity to U.S. troops, it is unlikely to grant it to U.S. contractors, particularly in the heat and anger of an accident resulting in the loss of Iraqi life.

It’s a situation with the potential for diplomatic disaster. And it’s being managed by an organization with no experience running the tight command structure that makes armies cohesive and effective.

You can also expect that there will be a shadow presence by the CIA, and possibly the Joint Special Operations Command, to hunt persons affiliated with al-Qaida. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has conspicuously stated that al-Qaida still has 1,000 Iraqi adherents, which would make it the largest al-Qaida affiliate in the world.

So far, there are three big security firms with lucrative contracts to protect U.S. diplomats. Triple Canopy, a longtime State guard company, has a contract worth up to $1.53 billion to keep diplos safe as they travel throughout Iraq. Global Strategies Group will guard the consulate at Basra for up to $401 million. SOC Incorporated will protect the mega-embassy in Baghdad for up to $974 million. State has yet to award contracts to guard consulates in multiethnic flashpoint cities Mosul and Kirkuk, as well as the outpost in placid Irbil.

These reports are both important, because they give atmospherics.

It’s Ackerman’s “entering a new phase” analysis that I think is worth emphasizing.

I disagree with people who are not acknowledging the importance of what Pres. Obama announced, as well as the risks involved, which both reports I mention above reveal. Obama’s announcement is no small matter.

The bookend, however, is that we are entering a new phase of our relationship with Iraq’s government and people. Do people actually expect for the U.S. to go from preemption to no involvement at all? Certainly people’s intelligence for foreign policy isn’t that low.

Given that I’ve written about the mega-embassy in Baghdad, I’m not surprised at all there will be a multi-billion dollar expenditure to protect it after U.S. military forces withdraw. This was telegraphed long ago.

I’m wary of what awaits after we withdraw from Iraq, which is one reason I was against going in and said so at the time.

Both Ackerman’s and Rogin’s reports should be read as they are offered. Reporters doing their job informing people, at least those who are willing to listen to facts and realities on the ground in Iraq as the U.S. military prepares to leave.

What matters in the discussion is that our involvement in Iraq is not over. That’s the sobering and salient point that everyone needs to swallow.

Anyone focused on declaring any kind of “victory” or fixated on trying to claim credit for the current Administration doesn’t understand the collective breath-holding a lot of people will be doing once our troops begin withdrawing. This includes Pres. Obama, whose job it is as commander in chief to oversee the withdrawal that’s about to begin and the aftermath it leaves behind.

Meanwhile, the Republican snarls will rise to a crescendo as the 2012 smackdown gets closer.

President Obama’s astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of American men and women. The unavoidable question is whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government. The American people deserve to hear the recommendations that were made by our military commanders in Iraq. – Mitt Romney (via Ben Smith)

There is real risk to what Pres. Obama is doing on Iraq by following Bush’s timetable, though I’m certainly not suggesting we stay, because we must not. But if Obama’s poll numbers were better among his own base it’s my belief he would not be following it. The forces from the State Dept. Spencer Ackerman reports about points to a reality that leads to this possibility.

The final outcome of what Republicans and Democrats concocted through allowing Pres. Bush to choose preemption is something we may not know for many years.

As for the short-term, I’ve got my fingers crossed that Pres. Obama made the wise decision, which brings with it a shift to the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, something that doesn’t fill me with confidence. Secy. Clinton will have her hands full managing this feat, with the track record of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security nothing to laud. If you’re not worried about this development you don’t understand the magnitude of how badly things could go wrong and how very quickly, too.

What Bush wrought in Iraq is not Pres. Obama’s fault, the timeline Bush’s as well. However, once Pres. Obama makes the turn he’s planned, he’ll own what happens next in Iraq. Digest that.