The US military command has given the Iraq government an ultimatum. Either accept the status of forces agreement on the table, which much of the Iraq government finds unacceptable, or the US will cease all operations on January 1, 2009.
In addition to halting all military actions, U.S. forces would cease activities that support Iraq’s economy, educational sector and other areas — “everything” — said Tariq al-Hashimi, the country’s Sunni Muslim vice president. “I didn’t know the Americans are rendering such wide-scale services.”Al-Hashimi said that Army Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, listed “tens” of areas of potential cutoffs in a three-page letter, and he said the implied threat caught Iraqi leaders by surprise.Odierno had no comment Sunday, but U.S. Embassy officials told McClatchy [New Service] that a lengthy list of the sort al-Hashimi described has been passed to the Iraqi government. Among the services the U.S. provides are protection of Iraq’s principal borders, its oil exports and other shipping through the Shatt al Arab into the Persian Gulf, and all air traffic control over Iraq.“It was really shocking for us,” he said. “Many people are looking to this attitude as a matter of blackmailing.”
The status of forces agreement being negotiated included an agreement that all US forces would be removed by 2011. Drafted to settle many issues it has caused a major diplomatic rift with the US and created a political crisis within Iraq.
Absent a status of forces agreement or a new UN mandate, US forces will cease operations and withdraw to their bases. [This is an amazing set of circumstances that may, in theory, bring our troops home much sooner than 2011.]