So, we've overstayed our welcome...like pesky in-laws insisting they hang around til after new years. Iraqi Prime Minster Nouri al-Maliki has stressed that the full US troop withdrawal will be completed by the end of 2011, as planned. "This agreement is not subject to extension, not subject to alteration."
But see, we're nervous. Iraq is getting ready to step out onto the global stage, without us holding their hand and pointing which way to go. Of course our main concern is Iran, to which al-Maliki just laughed. He says the feeling is mutual in Iran. An Iranian official recently visited, commenting "I thought the Americans were standing at the door of your office." Well, al-Maliki says he isn't about to let that happen. He is adamant about Iraq governing Iraq and us getting the hell out of dodge...and pretty much saying f-off to anyone else setting their sights on Iraq as a country fresh for the governing. "For Iraq to be dragged into an axis or an orbit, that's impossible, and we reject it whether this comes from Iran, Turkey or the Arabs." or the U.S.
I don't blame him. The stresses from foreign leaderships is great at a time like this. His governing coalition is a mish-mash of all kinds of interests and beliefs, including him, a Shiite, Kurds, a Sunni-dominated bloc lead by secular Shiite and former Prime Minster Ayad Allawi. Despite this fact, or perhaps because of it, he is prepared to govern this eclectic mix of a country without any interference from Uncle Sam.
As much as we'd like to stay, he's kicking us out. Although he admits some aspects of the Iraqi infrastructure are wobbly at best, (mostly our fault for destroying them) he remarks that much of the insurgent activity we've complained cost us valuable forward progress, will die down once we pack up the cavalry and ride off into the sunset. That's probably more true than we'd ever like to admit. What a concept...leave them the fuck alone to run their own country...hmmm...
Something must be done about our terrible withdrawal from our forced foster care babe...so of course, we'll be lurking here and there indefinitely. For example, the US embassy in Baghdad will house between 80-90 military personnel in charge of advising, assisting, training and equipping Iraqi forces. The embassy will also oversee a massive police-training program. Focus on the ones with guns, son :) And that's how we roll.
Between al-Maliki's independent personality and our unsettling fear that he'll run off to Iran the way he did when Hussein threatened to fillet him, there's no way we're just gonna let that country govern itself.
So no, this isn't goodbye. It's not even a see you later. It's a lengthening of a leash, an attempt to let the fangs wander a little further from our jugular while still holding the taser.
Ironically, as al-Maliki sits in his office, planning a future for a broken and battered country, he looks out on the pristine enclosures of our arrogantly constructed Green Zone.
You say goodbye, and I say hello...