It was just weeks ago that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki absolutely ruled out the continued US presence in his nation beyond December. At the time, Maliki said Iraq didn’t need the troops anymore. In the wake of the comments, the US continued to press for “an answer,” ignoring what seemed to be a pretty clear one.
It seems this strategy has worked and that Maliki has backed off his previous comments. Now, the Iraqi PM insists he will not make any decision, but will engage in “consultation” with other ruling parties until a consensus is reached.
Such a consensus is likely to be virtually impossible. The Kurdistan blocs have been supportive to the continued occupation more or less unconditionally, while the Iraqi National Alliance’s leading Sadrist faction has ruled it out entirely, with Sadr openly threatening armed resistance if the US attempts to stay.
US officials have repeatedly insisted that it is vital they remain in the nation in 2012 and beyond. Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggested the US might remain basically forever.