Al Sabaah reports that Nouri al-Maliki has stated that Iraq's political blocs are unclear about an extension. He has called for them to use the next weeks to figure out where they stand. The paper states that he's accused the political blocs of using the issue to attack one another and that he's asking them to come to an understanding before the issue goes to his Cabinet or to the Parliament. He also stated a need for US trainers. US troops were thought to be leaving by the end of the year. Some may, some may not. What the US administration wants is an extension of the SOFA or a new agreement.
Barring that, they will go with their back up plan of keeping "hundreds" (possibly "thousands") of US soldiers in Iraq but switching them from the DoD umbrella to the State Dept one. This in addition to the Marines who will guard the US Embassy in Baghdad -- as they guard embassies around the world -- and in addition to the contractors which will also be under State Dept control. As Congress continues to resist turning over billions to the State Dept for "Iraq operations," the back up plan becomes less and less attractive and the White House pushes harder for an extension of the SOFA.
Back to Al Sabaah which quotes Kurdish MP Hamid Adel stating that the depature would leave Iraq an easy target for regional countries. Adel states that they need from Nouri an update on the Iraqi military including whether the army can protect its borders and whether the air force can protect the skies. Since Nouri and the military have long ago stated that Iraq will be unable to protect its borders and since the Iraqi air force is not up and running, it's doubtful an update would provide any new information.
Al Rafidayn reports Jabbar Yawar, Secretary-General of the Ministry of the Pesmerga, declared in an Erbil press conference yesterday that, "We welcome the move to extend presence of US forces in Iraq." He stated that the army continues to need weapons, the air force continues to need training and that the country needs US military support.
To be the last to leave, the last to be gone,
stolen from the ones who hung on to it.
To be the last in line, the ones that live on,
silhouette of a dream, treasured by the ones
. . . who hung on to it.
-- "Fireflies," written by Stevie Nicks, first appears on Fleetwood Mac's Fleetwood Mac Live.
AP notes a send-off ceremony yesterday for 2,000 members of the Minnesota Army National Guard who "will be supporting Operation New Dawn". AP also notes, "A National Guard unit from Brookings will be activated June 9th for deployment to Iraq." And Manny Gamallo (Tulsa World) reports, "Some 448 soldiers from five Oklahoma Army National Guard units have been put on notice to begin preparing for deployment to Afghanistan, Iraq and the Horn of Africa."
Meanwhile British forces are kind-of-sort-of out of Iraq. Craig Mcdonald (Daily Record) reports, "Britain's eight-year military mission in Iraq finally ended yesterday - as more innocent local people were slaughtered. The last troops involved in Operation Telic - a group of Royal Navy trainers in the southern port of Umm Qasr - lowered the Union flag and prepared to fly home. But as they held their farewell ceremony, terrorists were killing at least 16 people in and around Baghdad." And, in related news, Daniel Martin (Daily Mail) reports, "The spy chief who helped Tony Blair write the ‘dodgy dossier’ which persuaded MPs to back war in Iraq has taken up a top job with an oil firm in the Middle Eastern country. Sir John Scarlett, who drew up the document which claimed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that could be deployed within 45 minutes, has been taken on by Norwegian firm Statoil."
Dar Addustour notes the big meet-up which is taking place in Erbil thismroning between the political blocs with the goal of ironing out the many problems (which result from Nouri's failure to live up to the Erbil Agreement).
Lastly, Al Sabaah is celebrating its eight anniversary today.
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