It’s hard to see that happening now, with the situation tenuous. ... But it will have to get a lot worse to alter the timeline for withdrawal. The American public is ready to quit Iraq, and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki wants to prove he’s his own man before facing an election. ...
Maliki will do whatever it takes to avoid looking as if he needs the ‘‘occupiers’’ to return to the cities. He will work hard to maintain stability, and will likely show little tolerance for dissent. He is also expected to exhibit a growing coziness with Iran, whose tentacles into Iraq grow ever stronger.
The Iraq/Iran relationship must keep President Obama focused on achieving a regional solution to the area’s volatility. Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lashed out at Obama for criticizing the fraud in Iran’s recent presidential elections. But Obama shouldn’t give up on someday finding a way to gather the region’s nations for a conference.
Meanwhile, Americans will be hoping as much as the Iraqis that U.S. troops won’t have to be invited back into the cities to resume full combat operations.