The New York (NY) Times unveiled a secret agreement between the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Malki and US officials regarding the US forces remaining in Iraq beyond the end of 2011, the time limit stipulated in the articles of the US-Iraqi Treaty of Independence.
In a report published on its web site, the NY Times pointed to an increasingly high death toll among US troops in Iraq, anticipating severe consequences if an agreement is reached to delay the withdrawal deadline.
The report added that Washington is militarily capable of deterring the threat posed by Iraqi militias; moreover, it pointed to the inability or else the unwillingness of the Iraqi government and state security institutions to rein in the militias’ attacks.
On Monday, during his first visit to Iraq as secretary of defense, Leon E. Panetta also sounded an alarm, suggesting that the Iraqi government could do more.
Reports of a role Iran played in arming Shiite Iraqi militias accused of attacking US army personnel based in Bagdad may also be part of the reasons behind the reported agreement.
Adm Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters recently in Washington that any discussion with the Iraqi government to keep a force in Iraq “has to be done in conjunction with control of Iran in that regard”.
The NY Times concluded its report by suggesting that US troops staying in Iraq will be popularly accepted in Iraqi and even American spheres if a “political public relations game” took place. Be that as it may, the safety of the US soldiers in Baghdad will remain an unresolved dilemma.