Iraq ‘Deadline’ on US Troop Extension Set to Expire With No Decision

Maliki Hopes to Circumvent Parliament as US Demands Full Immunity

by Jason Ditz, July 21, 2011

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has just two short days remaining until the official “deadline” for requesting the US to keep troops in the nation beyond December, and it seems virtually a foregone conclusion that no decision will be made.

US officials have been pressing for a quick decision, so long as that decision is the one the Obama Administration wants, which would allow the eight year long war to continue for years to come. Several seemingly official rejections by top Iraqis, including Maliki himself, fell on deaf ears as US officials demanded that they “make a decision.”

Maliki seems more or less resigned to continuing the US occupation, but doing so will require him to tread some politically dangerous waters. Many parliamentary factions, particularly the Sadrist Trend, are determinedly against any continuation, and ideally the prime minister would like to avoid any vote at all.

This has been the source of the reports that the two sides are looking to keep “trainers but no troops” beyond December, as such a decision could theoretically come from the Interior and Defense Ministries without any vote.

The devil is in the details, however, and the US clearly would prefer to keep a large number of troops in Iraq, and is demanding blanket immunity from prosecution while they continue to operate in the country. This would almost certainly require a parliamentary approval, and an ugly debate.

In the end the Saturday deadline is entirely artificial, of course, and despite the months of US haranguing for a quick decision there is seemingly no effort toward ending the occupation, and the assumption, at least from the administration’s perspective, is that the Iraqis will eventually relent and give them everything they want, as they did in late 2008.

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