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OCCUPATION....Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki plays hardball:

He says the initial framework agreed upon was to have been an accord "between two completely sovereign states." But he says the U.S. proposals "do not take into consideration Iraq's sovereignty."

The prime minister said Friday "this is not acceptable." The American demands "violate Iraqi sovereignty. At the end, we reached a dead end."

Well, there are dead ends and there are dead ends. Until Maliki tells us in no uncertain terms that he wants all U.S. troops to withdraw ASAP, I imagine that talks will continue.

At the same time, the U.S. requirements really are so fundamentally incompatible with Iraqi sovereignty that it's not clear what kind of agreement can be reached. Both Bush and Maliki are pretty seriously constrained by institutional and political realities at home, and there really might not be any acceptable middle ground. This is, unfortunately, what comes of occupying a country while insisting over and over that you're not really occupying a country. At some point, you just can't keep up the charade.

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