Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The big questions about Iraq

by Patrick Cockburn

Will Iraq disintegrate if the United States withdraws its combat troops?

The US and Iraq are close to agreeing a security accord under which the US would pull its combat troops out of Iraqi cities, towns and villages on June 30, 2009 and out of Iraq by December 31, 2011. This will only happen if a joint Iraqi-American ministerial committee agrees that security in Iraq has improved to the point where the half million strong Iraqi security forces can take over. Other aspects of the draft agreement show that the government of Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki is increasingly confident of its own military and political strength. The accord now close to being agreed is very different from the one the US proposed as recently as March which would simply have continued the US occupation, much as it has been under the UN mandate which runs out at the end of the year. The main point about the agreement, if it is implemented as expected, is that the US will cease to be the predominant military power in Iraq from next summer for the first time since the US-led coalition overthrew Saddam Hussein in 2003.

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