Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama restated his vow to pull all U.S. combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this month, and the remaining U.S. garrison by the end of 2011.
Has America's long goodbye to Iraq really begun?
The 50,000 U.S. troops left until 2011 will supposedly "advise and assist" and perform "anti-terrorism" missions and training.
These troops will likely be six armor-heavy combat brigades, backed by warplanes from U.S. air bases in the Gulf.
A U.S. brigade withdrawn from Iraq will go to neighboring Kuwait. Most of the rest will transfer to Afghanistan.
No word about the 85,000 U.S.-paid mercenaries (a.k.a. "contractors") in Iraq.
In his impressive new book, Oil, writer Tom Bower notes America's trinity is "God, guns and gasoline."
Iraq's oil reserves are an estimated 112 billion barrels, the world's second largest behind Saudi Arabia. Canada ranks third.
Iraq also has vast natural gas reserves, an increasingly important fuel and raw material. Oil-hungry India and China are eyeing Iraq.
America's once mighty oil firms, the "seven sisters," have been elbowed out of most of the world's oil fields by nationalist governments.
Iraq's ex-ruler, Saddam Hussein, kicked foreign oil firms out of Iraq, and so sealed his fate. Big Oil moved back into Iraq behind invading U.S. troops in 2003, and is taking over Iraq's oil production and exporting.
It's unlikely the U.S. will cut Iraq loose.
Washington seems to be following the same control model set up in the 1920s by the British Empire to secure Mesopotamia's oil. Namely: Install a puppet ruler, create a native army to protect him, leave some British troops and strong RAF units in desert bases ready to bomb any miscreants who disturbed the Pax Brittanica - and keep cheap oil flowing.
Washington is building a $740 million US new embassy in Baghdad for 800 personnel, as well as giant new fortified embassies in the Afghan capital Kabul and Islamabad, Pakistan, (cost $1 billion) that may hold 1,000 "diplomats."
Osama bin Laden calls them, "Crusader Fortresses."
The U.S. hopes the Shia Maliki regime it installed in Baghdad will keep a lid on Iraq while allowing almost-independent Kurdistan to remain a Kuwait-like U.S. protectorate. But given Iraq's fractured history, this seems unlikely.
American "liberation" left Iraq politically, economically, and socially shattered. Republican crowing about victory in Iraq thanks to the famous "surge" hides the grim truth.
Reputable studies estimate Iraq's death toll at hundreds of thousands to one million, not counting claims by UN observers that 500,000 Iraqi children died from disease as a result of the U.S.-led embargo before 2003.
Four million Sunni Iraqis remain refugees, half abroad, victims of Shia ethnic cleansing. Death squads haunt the land. Large numbers of Iraqi doctors and scientists have been murdered.
A maze of U.S.-built concrete walls cut up and control major cities. Electricity only works a few hours daily in 40 C heat.
Cancers from depleted uranium fired by U.S. cannons are becoming epidemic.
"They create a desert, and call it peace," as Tacitus memorably said of Rome's solution for Carthage.
If all U.S. troops are removed, the Maliki sock puppet regime won't last long.
A real Iraqi regime nationalist would re-nationalize oil, rearm, rebuild the ruined nation and rejoin the Arab confrontation against Israel.
Or, Iran would end up dominating Iraq.
It's unlikely Washington would accept either outcome.
Iraqi resistance to foreign occupation has abated as the pullout date nears.
U.S. casualties have fallen sharply because U.S. troops are being kept on their bases.
But this could quickly change.
The highest-ranking surviving Ba'ath Party leader, Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, just declared a new push against the occupiers and their Shia allies.
The outlook for Iraq is probably more violence and turmoil.
U.S. troops may have to remain to protect America's oil companies and prevent Iraq from disintegrating.
The excuse, of course, will be "fighting terrorism," but the real reason, as in Afghanistan, will be oil which - of course - is next to God.