Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Seeing the Light

I'll give credit to the Obama administration for this news:

The United States told the Iraqi government last week that if it wants U.S. troops to remain in Iraq beyond the deadline of Dec. 31, 2011, as stipulated by the current Status of Forces Agreement between Washington and Baghdad, it would have to inform the United States quickly. Unless a new agreement is reached soon, the United States will be unable to remain. The implication in the U.S. position is that a complex planning process must be initiated to leave troops there and delays will not allow that process to take place.

What is actually going on is that the United States is urging the Iraqi government to change its mind on U.S. withdrawal, and it would like Iraq to change its mind right now in order to influence some of the events taking place in the Persian Gulf.

The problem complicating our withdrawal is Iran. Without our continued robust presence in Iraq until Iraq's government is truly stable enough to stand on its own (and I consider 25,000 US forces is a minimum to be credible), Iran could undermine Iraq, reverse our progress there, and extend Iran's influence around the Gulf region and cause or exploit unrest.

Secretary Clinton has been off the radar screens completely. Let's hope she is in Baghdad convincing the Iraqi government to openly call for US troops to remain after this year.

I hope the Obama administration is successful in this effort and that it is not just going through the motions of trying to stay to insulate the administration should Iraq falter without our military presence. Of course, the irony of the situation is that the anti-war left would never have let McCain do this if had won the 2008 election. President Obama, he who won the Nobel Peace Prize and bombs an Arab oil-producing country with his left base only quietly seething, could get away with keeping our troops in Iraq for another decade.

I wish the Obama administration good luck and will gratefully sing praises to President Obama if we succeed. Although my praise will be tempered by how many fewer than 25,000 remain.

UPDATE: Arggh!! It's like coaxing a wary squirrel to take a cracker from your outstretched hand. On the one hand, Maliki admits:

"The internal security situation does not need this," he said. "As for the external defense of Iraq's sovereignty, then Iraq still suffers from shortages."

Good. A plausible reason to keep American troops in Iraq. But then Maliki backtracks:

"There is no one from Iraq's neighbors who is thinking of sending his troops to Iraq. So, Iraq's sovereignty is protected by the fact that there is nobody in the current circumstances who would violate Iraq's sovereignty," he told reporters at a press conference.

Maliki knows better than to think he doesn't need us. He has faced down the Sadrists and their Iranian backers before. Can he do it again?