Iraq begins negotiations to keep US troop presence

posted at 2:10 pm on August 5, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

This story began four months ago, when then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates told troops in Iraq that the US would keep a troop presence there if requested to do so by the Iraqi government — which contradicted an avalanche of campaign pledges from Barack Obama.  Over the last few months, it became clear that the US wasn’t just open to considering a request, but actively trying to get the Iraqis to make one.  Yesterday, the Obama administration got its wish — by applying lots of pressure to get that request:

Under intense U.S. pressure, Iraqi leaders announced early Wednesday they had agreed to start negotiations on keeping some American soldiers in the country after the current Dec. 31 deadline for all U.S. troops to have left Iraq.

The decision was announced following more than four hours of closed-door talks led by President Jalal Talabani. Most reporters had rushed home to beat the 1 a.m. curfew still in force.

A U.S. embassy official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the Iraqi talks said that any agreement with Iraq to keep soldiers here would require immunity from criminal prosecution for all U.S. military personnel, an issue that would have to be approved by the Iraqi parliament.

It isn’t until the eighth paragraph that McClatchy mentions that this will violate one of the central tenets of the 2007-8 Obama presidential campaign:

President Barack Obama made withdrawing all U.S. forces from Iraq a campaign pledge but in recent months, U.S. officials have raised a variety of reasons, including threats from Iran, for why both the U.S. and Iraq would benefit from a continued American military presence.

Now, where have I heard that strategy before?  Oh, that’s right … John McCain.  He cited the need to keep a bulwark against Iranian aggression in the region by maintaining a peacetime presence in Iraq, on the same model we have used in South Korea and Germany.  How did the DNC react to McCain’s explanation of what amounted to strategic common sense?  They produced an ad accusing McCain of cheering for “100 years of war,” which the New York Times immediately defended in its usual hacktastic fashion.

The US wants to maintain a military presence in Iraq of less than 10,000 troops, a reasonable number for a strategic presence, if not an entirely tactical presence.  That would serve as a tripwire against Iranian aggression, but won’t be so intrusive as to be unnecessarily provocative.  It also won’t be robust enough to defend itself in a major incursion, but the US has enough logistical capacity to get support in a reasonably quick time frame.   A partnership makes good sense for the Iraqis, who still lack an air force of any significance, and for the US as well to keep Iran boxed in on both sides.

Obama won’t have any trouble selling this to conservatives.  He’s going to have some explaining to do to his base, who will react poorly to US troops remaining in Iraq, and to those independents for whom this reversal will mark Obama as an amateur and a flip-flopper.

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Cindy Sheehan hardest hit.

BobMbx on August 5, 2011 at 2:13 PM

The closer to the Iranian border the better.

redshirt on August 5, 2011 at 2:14 PM

Claude Rains could not be reached for comment.

Del Dolemonte on August 5, 2011 at 2:15 PM

And the Iraqis should pay for that protection.

And yes – with oil.

Ironic… eh?

Odie1941 on August 5, 2011 at 2:15 PM

President Barack Obama made withdrawing all U.S. forces from Iraq a campaign pledge

It’s the last thing he thinks about before going to bed and the first thing he thinks about when he gets up in the morning. Honest!

a capella on August 5, 2011 at 2:16 PM

If we stay who is going to pay? The Iraqis?

As I recall Harry Reid used the money saved, from us pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan as part of the spending cuts in raising the debt ceiling debate. If we are going to keep troops in Iraq, and the Iraqis are not going to pay – that leaves the American Tax Payer on the hook for the cost of keeping those troops in Iraq.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe the folks at the Pentagon we leave the Iraq government collapse.

What about some of that Iraqi oil revenue finally start going to pay for continued American military presences in Iraq?

Dr Evil on August 5, 2011 at 2:16 PM

The problem we have is all hell will break loose when we leave, especially for Iraqi Christians.

We may have been better off with Saddam in charge.

bw222 on August 5, 2011 at 2:20 PM

Regarding payment, do Germany or South Korea pay or compensate us in any way?

redshirt on August 5, 2011 at 2:21 PM

Claude Rains could not be reached for comment.

Del Dolemonte on August 5, 2011 at 2:15 PM

Excellent

tomg51 on August 5, 2011 at 2:23 PM

What is all this talk? Didn’t ya hear? Jay-Z was at the White House!

reaganaut on August 5, 2011 at 2:24 PM

When are they going to start paying us? When is
South Korea, etc. going to pay us? Or are they already?
If they are it is probably not enough.

If we have the best military (and we do) and countries
want us to come and protect them, then they need to let
go of some cash. Let’s change this scenario around.

No military help and no billions in support unless we get
something for it. Our infrastructure is crumbling down
and we are over in Iraq, etc. building new bridges and
whole cities.

Enough is enough.

Amjean on August 5, 2011 at 2:24 PM

I guess this is another incentive for Democrats to abandon tax increases over he threat of sequestration; cutting $500B from defense will make it hard to justify Camp Obama in Iraq.

BKeyser on August 5, 2011 at 2:30 PM

over “the” threat…

BKeyser on August 5, 2011 at 2:30 PM

the US has enough logistical capacity to get support in a reasonably quick time frame.

Don’t we always have at least a couple of carriers in the Persian Gulf at any given time?

John the Libertarian on August 5, 2011 at 2:31 PM

Reality. It’s what’s for dinner. That with a side order of crow.

hillbillyjim on August 5, 2011 at 2:33 PM

Why would Obama want to keep US troops in Iraq? It is understandable why DOD, or even STATE would want a US presence in that country, but isn’t this another case of Obama voting ‘Ya, sure, whateva’? Why would anyone assume that a leader who leads from behind the pack would be insistent that a US military presence remain in a country that doesn’t want it there?

Skandia Recluse on August 5, 2011 at 2:34 PM

People told me if I voted for McCain that we wouldn’t be getting out of Iraq anytime soon, and they were right!

DrAllecon on August 5, 2011 at 2:35 PM

Why would Obama want to keep US troops in Iraq? It is understandable why DOD, or even STATE would want a US presence in that country, but isn’t this another case of Obama voting ‘Ya, sure, whateva’? Why would anyone assume that a leader who leads from behind the pack would be insistent that a US military presence remain in a country that doesn’t want it there?

Skandia Recluse on August 5, 2011 at 2:34 PM

I’m guessing it’s because that if Iran makes significant inroads in Iraq, the region becomes more volatile and he will look like a foreign policy neophyte.

However, given his penchant for wanting energy prices to “necessarily skyrocket” (his words), it does make one wonder.

hillbillyjim on August 5, 2011 at 2:39 PM

Obama will blame GWB, the Japanese tsunami and the ‘Arab Spring’.

Schadenfreude on August 5, 2011 at 2:42 PM

Will they be able to vote…?

Seven Percent Solution on August 5, 2011 at 2:50 PM

Regarding payment, do Germany or South Korea pay or compensate us in any way?

redshirt on August 5, 2011 at 2:21 PM

We pay rent on the land our bases are on in Germany. I would assume it’s the same in S. Korea.

milwife88 on August 5, 2011 at 2:53 PM

Actually IIRC Japan and RoK (South Korea) pay us to have troops there. I’ll try & find the source for it.

SgtSVJones on August 5, 2011 at 3:01 PM

He will have a hard time selling it to conservatives. Cash is becoming more urgent than ongoing military commitments.

Prufrock on August 5, 2011 at 3:03 PM

Don’t we always have at least a couple of carriers in the Persian Gulf at any given time?
John the Libertarian on August 5, 2011 at 2:31 PM

Probably not normally. There isn’t a whole lot of room there as far as a carrier group is concerned. I could be wrong, but I think they would rather be in the Indian ocean.

Count to 10 on August 5, 2011 at 3:10 PM

Gee, I thought that cut-and-run from Iraq was “Judgment to Lead”, and we could keep Iran out by profound soaring rhetoric with Ahmadinejad. Silly me.

Let’s see which of his campaign promises Obama will keep first: withdrawing from Iraq or closing Gitmo. In the Anointed One’s words, we’re not halfway there yet.

Steve Z on August 5, 2011 at 3:22 PM

They said if I voted for John McCain we’d be in Iraq for 100 years….

and they was right!

Sgt Steve on August 5, 2011 at 3:24 PM

I think they would rather be in the Indian ocean.

Count to 10 on August 5, 2011 at 3:10 PM

Looks like the Navy agrees with you (note: the map is from Feb, 2011)

I just recall news of a second carrier stationed off Iran in the Gulf a few years back.

John the Libertarian on August 5, 2011 at 3:27 PM

Looks like Camp Obama is up and running.

BKeyser on August 5, 2011 at 3:33 PM

Unfreakingbelievable. Just what this country needs… another open-ended committment to defend people who really don’t give a damn about us, with an exit date of “When Hell freezes over”.

Super. Just super.

JohnGalt23 on August 5, 2011 at 3:39 PM

Frankly, I think we ought to call the Iraq bluff and threaten to pack up and leave. We should not have to put pressure or beg them. They know that they need us there. As for Obama going back on his promise to leave, who really believes any promise this man makes?

SC.Charlie on August 5, 2011 at 3:39 PM

If Dear Leader really were an Alinsky-ite Manchurian candidate, committed to making and breaking any promise, telling any lie, demagoguing every issue, with the sole purpose of fundamentally undermining our democratic republic, American culture, and economic liberty, how would he have acted any differently?

Knott Buyinit on August 5, 2011 at 3:50 PM

Has GITMO been closed?……………Where is the rabid left on this issue?

SC.Charlie on August 5, 2011 at 4:03 PM

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

Arab Spring leads to Persian Summer. A-jad and the mullahs have played Ojugears like a fiddle.

hillbillyjim on August 5, 2011 at 4:17 PM

The question is well stated.

Why should Obama want to keep our troops in Iraq? It’s not like a BBA that requires a war for deficit spending has been passed…

Scott H on August 5, 2011 at 4:24 PM

The way I remember it, his “bring the troops home now” is the only reason he ever beat Hillary. That he can flip on this one without anyone caring… it’s par for the course I guess.

Esthier on August 5, 2011 at 5:16 PM

. It also won’t be robust enough to defend itself in a major incursion,

Uh … what?

I actually laughed out loud. All due respect, Ed, but leave the soldiering to the soldiers.

10,000 U.S. troops would still be one helluva more than a speedbump in that part of the world. They could certainly defend themselves against any “major incursion” likely to pop up in that region. Hell, my 200 man troop held – alone – a 6 square mile FOB and there was nobody that was going to mess with us.

And that’s if you DON’T include naval and air power.

It ain’t North Korea. There aren’t a million fanatics poised at the border with pre-aimed artillery.

And even if the Iranians and Syrians all poured across the border, and even if somehow we completely missed the build-up, and even if our Air Force and Navy were all one strike that week for some reason …

… I can assure that 10,000 U.S. boots on the ground are “robust enough to defend themselves.”

Truly funny. My sides hurt. No offense meant, but seriously. Dude. 10,000 Americans with Bradleys and Abrams’ and MRAPs and HMMVW’s and all the organic weaponry?

Yeah. They’re “robust” enough. Don’t you worry about it.

Professor Blather on August 5, 2011 at 5:34 PM

It costs money to keep boots on the ground. Iraq could pay us in gold or oil.

Dandapani on August 5, 2011 at 9:54 PM

Yeah. They’re “robust” enough. Don’t you worry about it.

Professor Blather on August 5, 2011 at 5:34 PM

I agree with the professor. Let’s face facts, Ed.

We had been for the last 10 years involved in a brutally toughening process called war. We had gained confidence in our people, our combat leaders, our weapons and our tactics. Iran had not fought a war since their 8 year debacle with the Iraqis in the 1980s and their forces had been more active in the internal security arena. I can almost guaranteed that our men and women are going to demonstrate to be a tougher opponent that unarmed civilians.

My problem with this scenario is that our troops are likely to be ordered to stand down at the border after we make them run back to Iran with their tails between their legs.

El Coqui on August 5, 2011 at 10:07 PM

For purely pragmatic reasons, it’s probably a good idea to keep troops in Iraq and Afghanistan … if only because of what’s in the middle between Iraq and Afghanistan.

didymus on August 5, 2011 at 10:34 PM