In case you hadn't noticed, Iraq is back to square one. The Maliki government is widely regarded as the most corrupt in recent memory - corrupt, brutal and murderous. Disaffected Sunni and the Shia led by Muqtada al Sadr are believed to be ready to rise up against the central government.
Right now, all eyes are on the American forces of occupation. They're supposed to leave Iraq this summer but Washington really wants to maintain its military presence in Iraq. And now, apparently, so too does Nouri al Maliki.
The guy picked by Obama to take over as US defense secretary, Leon Panetta, says he expects Maliki to soon ask for American forces to stay in country.
"It's clear to me that Iraq is considering the possibility of making a request for some kind of (troop) presence to remain there, " Panetta said, adding that he had "every confidence " the request would be "forthcoming at some point ."
The outgoing CIA chief told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that the US should agree once the request is made.
"It really is dependent on the prime minister and on the government of Iraq to present to us what is it that they need, and over what period of time, in order to make sure that the gains that we've made in Iraq are sustained . " Panetta told the committee.
Outgoing US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has publicly suggested that Iran is another reason to keep US forces in Iraq.
Washington accuses Iran of supporting Shia groups, a charge Tehran denies, and Iraqi Sunnis view Iran's intentions in Iraq with enormous suspicion.
Gates said last month that a continued US military presence in Iraq would be "reassuring " to Gulf states.
If American combat forces do stay in Iraq, that could throw the switch for a resumption of the unresolved civil war. al Sadr is no fool. He would know a furious bout of violence would impact on American voters in the upcoming 2012 elections. The American people are war weary and the idea of going back to square one in Iraq might be almost too much for them to bear.
The idea the Americans would voluntarily abandon a major military presence in the heart of the world’s largest conventional oil region was always ingenuous. Like Guantanamo, another example of Barack Obama’s promises colliding with realpolitik.
I agree Bill that is where the supposedly largest untapped reserves of sweet crude lies and the reason they invaded in the first place. The US is looking for any excuse to remain there.
Meanwhile some Republican congress critter touring Iraq had the gall to suggest that Iraq should repay the US.
America has already elevated Iran to dominance in that region and fears nothing so much as an Iraq-Iran Shiite entente on the doorstep of Kuwait, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. How far will Washington go to prop up Maliki?
Any sign of weakness in Iraq could reverberate into Afghanistan where American geopolitical interests are directly contested by Russia and China. At stake there are the Caspian Basin oil and gas riches.
China already caught the US napping when it snatched up Afghanistan's major (and massive) copper field. The Chinese are even building rail line into Afghanistan.
With both Pakistan and India expected to be admitted to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization this summer, America's influence in South Asia is coming undone.
It's a mistake to underestimate the cooperation of thieves while they bamboozle the rubes with rhetoric.
Having it both ways
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"America's influence in South Asia is coming undone"
The almighty buck...isn't. Plus you seldom see it pointed out that the seesaw of 'war' makes for great games in the stock market for those 'in the know'.
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