Me too! Anyone else interested (besides many Iraqis) in holding Obama's feet to the fire to keep his promise to have all Military troops out of Iraq by the end of the year?
Iraqis wary of decision on U.S. troops
"The Obama administration is ready to play ball on keeping thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq beyond this year. But for Iraq's government, in the words of one lawmaker, the issue is like playing with fire.
No amount of advising, cajoling or even pushing by Washington so far has spurred Baghdad to decide if it really wants all 46,000 American troops currently in Iraq to leave by Dec. 31, as required by a security agreement. Negotiations between the two nations have not even started, and it likely will be weeks if not months more before they do.
Even if Iraq asks the U.S. to keep troops here, there are no guarantees Baghdad ultimately will let it happen. Iraq's parliament almost certainly will have to agree, and lawmakers are leery of embracing the American military.
"It's a fireball. No one can hold it," Sadiq al-Rikabi, an influential Shiite Muslim lawmaker and ally of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said Wednesday with a wan smile.
So far, al-Rikabi said, political enemies have used the troops quandary to taint their rivals: "The head of the political blocs want to throw it to another party to burn them."
The U.S. has made clear that President Barack Obama is seeking to keep thousands of American forces in Iraq past 2011 for the sake of security despite his campaign promise to bring all the troops home by the end of the year. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, speaking Tuesday in Washington, said "the United States will be willing to say yes" if Iraq asks for the troops to stay.
It's widely believed that Baghdad will, in fact, ask. But so far, "there is no negotiation," a senior diplomat at the U.S. Embassy said Wednesday. "There is no formalized or even informal request."
The White House is willing to keep 10,000 to 12,000 forces in Iraq for a limited time, according to a senior administration official in Washington. A senior U.S. military official in Baghdad said the administration is weighing what the troops' mission would be before setting a new deadline for them to go home.
A senior Iraqi lawmaker said the U.S. forces will remain on nine bases in hotspots across the nation and stay up to four years longer or right before Obama, if re-elected in 2012, leaves office.
All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the internal government talks frankly.
Iraqi Kurds and most Sunni Muslim leaders want American forces to stay, as do many Shiite politicians.
In an interview Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Hussain al-Shahristani said Iraq's air force and navy are not ready to defend the nation's air space or waters, leaving its lucrative oil exports vulnerable.
Within Iraq, security forces are still battling an active if weakened al-Qaida. They also have to contend with Shiite militia attacks on politicians and security forces, and the specter of ethnic violence between Kurds and Arabs over disputed oil-rich lands in the north.
But keeping American forces in Iraq risks the political and potentially lethal wrath of two of al-Maliki's most powerful if uneasy Shiite allies: Iran and the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Prodded by Iran, al-Sadr put aside years of fighting with al-Maliki and provided the crucial support to let the prime minister keep his job in a coalition government after national elections in 2010 resulted in no clear winner. Al-Sadr's supporters now control key government agencies and have threatened to revolt if the U.S. troops they term "occupiers" remain in Iraq in 2012."
Iraqis wary of decision on U.S. troops - The Times-Gazette - Hillsboro, OH