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If the US Doesn't Pull Every Soldier from Iraq by Midnight, Dec. 31, 2011, Expect Serious Trouble

The tragic Iraqi chapter of the US worldwide empire of bases may be finally over.

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The SOFA itself was supposed to be approved by referendum (it never happened). In a nutshell, the only players who want the US to stay are the military in Iraqi Kurdistan - who fear they may be overpowered by Iraqi Arabs.

Essentially, Washington is bewildered in its reaction to the House of Saud's power-play in Bahrain - a ruthless counter-revolution imposing its intolerant/repressive/militaristic brand of Sunni Islam over Shi'ites all across the Gulf. The anger felt by Gulf Shi'ites is shared by Iraqi Shi'ites; but from that to assume that Iran will increase its influence with them is not a given. The Maliki government is close to Iran - but that does not imply that without US boots on the ground Baghdad will become a Tehran protectorate.

Shi'ite Iraqis also routinely accuse wealthy Wahhabis from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) of having funded hardcore Sunni guerrillas during the civil war in Iraq between 2005 and 2007 (a claim I confirmed at the time in Baghdad).

Most of all, Washington worries about the future of the US 5th Fleet in Bahrain. Judging by the Saudi power-play, it does not seem the base is going anywhere else; even if it did, bets can be made that Qatar or the UAE would be more than happy to welcome it.

The bottom line is that the majority of Iraqis, Sunnis and Shi'ites want the US to pack up and go on December 31. In the unlikely event Baghdad would want air security (against whom? The House of Saud?), the US could come up with an arrangement out of the al-Udeid base in Qatar. The Maliki government is not suicidal; forget about a SOFA extension. As of December 31, 2011, the tragic Iraqi chapter of the US worldwide empire of bases may be finally over.

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