Tuesday, July 12, 2011

That non-withdrawal withdrawal

The editorial board of the Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register notes US President Barack Obama's claims that combat operations ended August 31, 2010 in Iraq and that all troops will be out of Iraq at the end of this year, "None of it is true. Fifty thousand U.S. troops remain in Iraq. Combat deaths, including that of an Elm Grove native in late June, continue to occur regularly. And U.S. officials have said they are willing to keep combat troops in Iraq after the Jan. 31 withdrawal 'deadline,' if the government in Baghdad approves. But even if all troops are pulled out, the U.S. military role in Iraq will continue for years, perhaps decades, under an Obama administration plan." And the editorial board becomes one of the first in the country to explain the backup plan if Iraq doesn't agree to extend the US presence in Iraq under a SOFA or similar arrangement. They do so by using the public hearings in which the State Dept testifies. This isn't a secret, why so much of the media has treated it as such is a question to ask. But the editorial board walks you through how the war continues.

And speaking of hearings, there's one we attended yesterday that I'd like to note in the snapshot. Also there's are KRG developments and MEK that should go in the snapshot today if there's time and room. But back to the topic of withdrawal or, rather, non-withdrawal, how will it go over in the US if there is no withdrawal? Timothy Monroe Bledsoe writes the Augusta Chronicle to share his thoughts on such an outcome, "Now, the overpaid, underworked and clueless government officials in Washington, D.C., are continuing to force tens of thousands of American Troops into harm's way for absolutely no good reason! It is well past time for our so-called government officials to stop being war-mongers and bring all our troops home to safety and to their families, where they all belong."

Al Mada reports that Iraqi government sources confirm US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's visit to Iraq was about extending the presence of US troops in the country. Al Mada reports he was told that at Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's house last Saturday, political blocs signed onto an agreement to provide an answer as to whether or not to request the US military to stay beyond 2011 and to provide that answer within two weeks. MP Ibrahim Rikabi tells the paper that Panetta was most focused on what number of US troops would remain in Iraq and that other concerns included "Iranian extremists in Iraq." The article also references the memorandum between the US and Iraqi governments which Al Mada reported on yesterday -- a working memo which would allow US forces to remain in Iraq through the end of 2016. The World Tribune notes the two week deal but says Nouri has stated it will be August before any request is or is not made.

Of the two-week arrangement, Laith Hammoudi, Roy Gutman and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) report, "Yet Iraq's political impasse appeared no closer to resolution after Panetta met Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki and other Iraqi leaders. Over the weekend, during heated, top-level talks that lasted about four hours on Saturday, Maliki was unable to secure the agreement of Ayad Allawi, his key political rival, for a decision on whether to ask the U.S. to keep any of the 46,000 troops still in the country — all of whom are due to depart by Dec. 31 under a security agreement. Instead, the Iraqi leaders agreed only to meet again in two weeks and hold lower level talks in the meantime." Mohammed A. Salih (Rudaw) reports on the mood in Kirkuk:

Kirkuk officials are divided over whether US troops should remain stationed in Iraq’s disputed areas, a key concern as US President Barack Obama’s administration presses Baghdad to decide whether they want a limited American military presence in Iraq in 2012.
Rakan al-Jibburi, an Arab member of Kirkuk’s Provincial Council, is one official opposed to keeping US troops in his oil-rich province, which is claimed by Arabs, Turkmen and Kurds. If they stay, US troops are likely to be stationed in Kirkuk and other disputed areas.
Some Iraqi and Kurdish officials argue that the presence of US troops in the disputed territories will guarantee stability, but Jibburi told Rudaw that the presence of US troops only worsens the situation.

Kelly McEvers (NPR's All Things Considered) observed yesterday, "Even though it's been nearly eight months since political rivals in Iraq came together to form a coalition government, key positions in that government have yet to be filled, and political infighting continues." And that's going to be it.

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