Following hours of meetings overnight, Iraqi political leadership agreed to allow Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to begin talks with the US regarding the terms of a continued occupation beyond the December deadline.
President Jalal Talabani reported that the agreement was virtually unanimous, with only the Sadrist Trend rejecting the notion of the talks. According to other officials, the talks are set to only discuss the issue of trainers.
Foreign Minister Zebari insisted that the talks were still preliminary, and that it was still possible that the Maliki government might not agree to allow the US troops to stay. Still, it seems the political leadership is falling away from opposition in the face of repeated US demands for a “request” to stay.
The US Embassy in Baghdad welcomed the call for talks, saying that they are “committed to a broad and long-term partnership” in Iraq. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates previously suggested the US might keep troops in Iraq for years to come.