The US will not be withdrawing from Iraq in the foreseeable future. Despite promises made by the Obama administration, and declining public support for the occupation, it is becoming increasingly clear that US control over Iraq is there to stay. A cynical person might suggest that this was pretty clear from the start, but I suppose there are those who genuinely believed in their government’s promises for withdrawal.
On Thursday (June 9th) the current CIA Director, Leon Panetta, told the Senate Armed Forces Committee that Iraq will request US military presence to remain in the country.
Panetta said: “It’s clear to me that Iraq is considering the possibility of making a request for some kind of (troop) presence to remain there (in Iraq).
“I believe that if Prime Minister al-Maliki – the Iraqi government – requests that we maintain a presence there, that ought to be seriously considered by the President” as the situation in Iraq remained “fragile,” he added.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in April that soldiers could stay in Iraq even after the withdrawal date, provided Baghdad made a request which is becoming a possibility.
The US currently has about 47,000 troops in Iraq, none in a combat role. Under a 2008 deal, they are expected to leave by 31 December 2011.
The BBC stated that it is likely that the US has offered Iraq some inducements to maintain its troop presence. This should come as no surprise given US commercial interests; last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton opened a business forum attended by senior executives from major US corporations that focused on discussing business opportunities in the “new Iraq”:
“According to the IMF, Iraq is projected to grow faster than China in the next two years. Now, let me repeat that, because when I read it I said, okay, are you sure because we always think of China as being the juggernaut? But no, indeed, Iraq is projected to grow faster than China,” Clinton stated.
Clinton also stated that “President Obama and I and our government believe strongly that expanding economic opportunity is as essential as building democratic institutions“
Not only are there business opportunities in war-torn Iraq (no better opportunities for growth than in a country decimated by years of war, eh? – Clinton and co. generally sound enthusiastic about the money to be made there), but Iraq is already sitting on the world’s third-largest oil reserves. No wonder the US is not keen to withdraw.
Even if there was a withdrawal of US soldiers (which is looking increasingly unlikely), the US would still maintain a powerful presence in Iraq, potentially controlling the power there still. As warcriminalswatch.org states:
“There are thousands of U.S. employees stationed in Iraq at the largest U.S. embassy in the world. Over 100,000 U.S. contractors are still present in the country. Many of these are armed mercenaries who have routinely killed Iraqi citizens. In addition, Iraq is surrounded by a massive U.S. military presence in nearby countries and seas. This includes air and naval armadas and tens of thousand of troops stationed within striking range of Iraq.”
- Iraq ‘to request’ US troops stay (bbc.co.uk)