Erbil, May 14 (AKnews) – While publicly calling for US withdrawal from Iraq, most Iraqi leaders prefer the extension of U.S. forces stay in Iraq, says Ali Hussein al-Tamimi, an Iraqi member of parliament.
Tamimi, an independent MP who belongs to the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, states that politicians favor a longer U.S. mission to secure their own careers.
"Under the pretext of training the Iraqi security forces, political leaders in Iraq are calling for the extension of U.S. forces in the country, in order to maintain their own power", said Tamimi, who has no prior record of statements on this issue.
The "U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement" (SOFA) from 2008 has set a time-table for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. According to SOFA, the last U.S. soldier has to leave by December 31st, 2011.
Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki, though he did not publicly state his position towards a U.S. military extension, said on Thursday, the decision would be up to the political leaders.
Maliki said, the government would ask parliament to vote for a resolution on this issue, if a majority of the leaders wants to keep U.S. forces beyond 2011 and has made a decision about the details – such as the number of troops and where they will be stationed.
Iraqi parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi and Iraq's military chief Babakir Zebari have already voiced their support for the U.S. stay extension.
Zebari, chief of general staff of the Iraqi army, said in an interview with AKnews earlier that the withdrawal of the U.S. forces from Iraq before 2020 will greatly harm the country because Iraq can not protect its air space, waters and borders at least for another nine years
Persistently voicing calls for the U.S. withdrawal are the Sadrists – followers of the hard-line Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
Last month, Sadr threatened to mobilize his frozen Mahdi Army – a militia strictly loyal to Sadr, which was engaged in deadly clashes with the U.S. and Iraqi forces in southern provinces following the 2003 closure of Sadr's newspaper and attempts to arrest him.
Sadr froze the Mahdi Army in 2007 as a precondition to engaging in the political process
A member of the Sadr Current's Ahrar Bloc, Amir al-Kinani, told AKnews that "the security situation in Iraq will improve upon the US forces withdrawal".
"Iraqi military commanders, throughout history, have been fighting to liberate their land from foreign invasion and not been calling for an extension of their stay", he said in reference to Zebari's concerns about the US forces departure.
"Eight years after the fall of the Iraqi regime, the security forces should be ready to maintain security and protect the country", Kinani said.
The United States have currently 47.000 soldiers in Iraq, about a fourth of its force level during the invasion of 2003.
Writing by Raber Y. Aziz, contribution form Karzan Karim