Sunday, December 28, 2008

Surprise! Foreign forces to stay in Iraq into next year and beyond

Western countries with troops in Iraq must have been gratified Sunday when the Iraqi Presidential Council granted final approval to a resolution allowing the forces to stay after the UN mandate expires Dec. 31. The resolution won parliamentary approval Tuesday, seemingly without the rancor that accompanied yearlong negotiations over the continued presence of more than 140,000 U.S. troops. That agreement was approved in November, according to the Reuters international news service. Great Britain has about 4,100 troops in Iraq and the other countries -- El Salvador, Australia, Romania and Estonia -- have several hundred troops. The resolution authorizes Iraq to negotiate bilateral agreements with the countries, Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman told Reuters. If it had not been approved by year's end, their troops would have been in Iraq illegally. The way it is now, British forces expect to complete their training mission by the end of May and withdraw completely by July 31. U.S. forces are expected to leave Iraqi cities by July and withdraw completely by the end of 2011. But, as we all know, the 400-pound gorilla sits wherever it wants, and U.S. troops are not going anywhere until the president of the United States orders it. The elected Shiite government in Iraq is fragile, as witnessed by attacks yesterday in Baghdad, Mosul, Fallujah and Ramadi, and it protests the presence of U.S. forces much too much. There are many, many things that could go wrong and make it too dangerous for those forces to leave, no matter what Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and U.S. President-elect Barak Obama say now.

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