US officials have been publicly escalating the pressure on Iraq to “decide” whether or not US troops will remain beyond December. The fact that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki flat out ruled this out has gone largely ignored by officials, who are still waiting for an answer, but which they of course mean a “yes.”
Iraqi officials say this probably won’t be forthcoming, saying the current situation makes such a vote “politically untouchable” for the next several months. Parliamentary speaker al-Nujaifi says Iraq is in “no hurry” for such a decision.
Not that the US warnings that they need to decide “within weeks” has changed anything. The Obama Administration seems to be making no moves toward reducing troop levels in the near term, and seem content to wait for the approval they demand.
Such approval would be difficult for Iraq to justify. Maliki has repeatedly ruled out extending the presence, and Moqtada al-Sadr, the head of a key bloc, has threatened open rebellion in this happens. The more interesting question is what the Obama Administration will do if approval isn’t granted, because there seems to be little political support for leaving, whether permission is given to stay or not.