Recently, I wrote about a report from the Brookings Institution, in which that think tanks organized a task force calling on President Obama to make a take-it-or-leave-it offer to Iraq to extend America’s military deployment there.
And before that, I published an interview with Ryan Crocker, the former US ambassador to Iraq, who suggested that leaving thousands of troops in Iraq for many years is an idea whose time has come.
But the New York Times has thrown cold water on the idea.
In a page one piece on December 19, headlined “Politics in Iraq Raises Questions on US Presence,” reporters Steven Lee Myers, Thom Shanker, and Jack Healy write:
"The protracted political turmoil that saw the resurgence of a fiercely anti-American political bloc here is casting new doubt on establishing any enduring American military role in Iraq after the last of nearly 50,000 troops are scheduled to withdraw in the next 12 months, military and administration officials say."
The number of US forces in Iraq is scheduled to drop to zero by the end of next year, and it appears that Admiral Mullen is getting impatient with Iraq’s pesky business of creating a new government, since it means that the United States has no one to negotiate an extended stay with. The Times quotes Mullen:
“I think everybody understands we can’t wait until the end of the year, and also that whatever agreement we are going to reach, we need to start working on that as soon as possible. There’s a finite amount of time. There is a physics problem with this, a mechanical problem, to physically move people and equipment out.”
At least one highly informed source that I’ve spoken with says that there is a very real chance that Iraq might seek Russian weaponry rather than be dependent on the United States. And the resurgent forces of Muqtada al-Sadr, happily backed by Iran, are now part of the government of Iraq—and they don’t want American troops around past 2011.