Editor’s Note: Under pressure from U.S. neoconservatives to continue at least some form of the Iraqi occupation, the Obama administration is signaling that it is willing to maintain a significant military presence there after the scheduled troop departure at the end of this year.
The neocons want this continued toehold in Iraq both for the future projection of U.S. power in the region and to sustain the image of their “surge” victory, but there is strong popular opposition inside Iraq to allowing any American troops to stay, as Gareth Porter reported for the Inter Press Service:
President Barack Obama has given his approval to a Pentagon plan to station U.S. combat troops in Iraq beyond 2011, provided that Iraqi Premier Nouri al-Maliki officially requests it, according to U.S. and Iraqi sources.
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And it is no longer taken for granted by U.S. or Iraqi officials that Maliki can survive the rising tide of opposition through the summer.
As early as September 2010, the White House informed the Iraqi government that it was willing to consider keeping between 15,000 and 20,000 troops in Iraq, in addition to thousands of unacknowledged Special Operations Forces. But Obama insisted that it could only happen if Maliki requested it, according to a senior Iraqi intelligence official.