Analysis by Gareth Porter | IPS News, Sep 1, 2008
WASHINGTON,- Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki signaled last week that that all U.S. troops — including those with non-combat functions — must be out of the country by the end of 2011 under the agreement he is negotiating with the George W. Bush administration.
That pronouncement, along with other moves indicating that the Iraqi position was hardening rather than preparing for a compromise, appeared to doom the Bush administration’s plan to leave tens of thousands of military support personnel in Iraq indefinitely. The new Iraqi moves raise the obvious question of how a leader who was considered a safe U.S. client could have defied his patron on such a central U.S. strategic interest.
Al-Maliki declared Aug. 25 that the U.S. had agreed that “no foreign soldiers will be in Iraq after 2011″. A Shiite legislator and al-Maliki ally, Ali al-Adeeb, told the Washington Post that only the Iraqi government had the authority under the agreement to decide whether conditions were conducive to a complete withdrawal. He added that the Iraqi government “could ask the Americans to withdraw before 2011 if we wish.”
It was also reported that al-Maliki has replaced his negotiating team with three of his closest advisers.
These moves blindsided the Bush administration, which had been telling reporters that a favourable agreement was close. The Washington Post reported Aug. 22 and again Aug. 26 that the agreement on withdrawal would be “conditions-based” and would allow the United States to keep tens of thousands of non-combat troops in the country after 2011.
The administration had assumed going into the negotiations that al-Maliki would remain a U.S. client for a few years, because of the Iraqi government’s dependence on the U.S. military to build a largely Shiite Iraqi army and police force and defeat the main insurgent threats to his regime.
But that dependence has diminished dramatically over the past two years as Iraqi security forces continued to grow, the Sunni insurgents found refuge under U.S. auspices and the Shiites succeeded in largely eliminating Sunni political-military power from the Baghdad area. As a result, the inherent conflicts between U.S. interests and those of the Shiite regime have been become more evident.