Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has tried everything, including using very mild quasi-profanity. But Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki still isn’t requesting U.S. troops to stay past their scheduled December 2011 withdrawal. And a new, sneakier gambit by the Iraqis to extend their stay isn’t going to work.
The big message Panetta wanted to send to the Iraqis during his first trip to Baghdad was “Damn it, make a decision” on asking the U.S. to prolongue its Iraqi adventure. (It’s the quote that launched a million tiresome articles about Panetta’s “saltiness.”) That was last weekend. The snarled, fraught anti-American Iraqi politics that make it dangerous for Maliki to issue such a request have mysteriously yet to smooth out.
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But here’s how Maliki seeks to circumvent them. Now he’s saying that he doesn’t need parliamentary approval for the U.S. to leave behind some unknown number of troops to train their Iraqi counterparts in using all the F-16s and air defense systems the U.S. will sell Iraq. Clever!