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March 4, 2006
Iraq: No Timetable

The president of Iraq stated that American forces will remain in Iraq as long as necessary to ensure stability, undercutting arguments that the Iraqis want the Americans out:

President Jalal Talabani on Saturday underscored the need for a unity government in Iraq after a spasm of sectarian killing and said he had been assured U.S. forces would remain in the country as long as needed — "no matter what the period."

His comments came after a bomb exploded at a minibus terminal during morning rush hour in a southeastern Baghdad suburb, killing seven people and wounding 25, one of a string of explosions in the capital and elsewhere. ...

Talabani spoke to reporters after meeting with Gen. John Abizaid, chief of U.S. Central Command.

The terrorists in Iraq want to drive the US out of Iraq in order to destabilize the new Iraqi security forces and initiate a dissolution of the civilian authority, including the presidency of Talabani. This strategy represents the last chance that the terrorists have of succeeding in Iraq, having failed to stop the last three elections and the creation of a constitutional government. The Zarqawi lunatics see their opportunity rapidly dissipating in Iraq and have exploithed the traditional Sunni-Shi'ite tension to touch off a civil war.

The problem is that the Iraqis didn't bite after the destruction of the Askariya mosque. The violence that resulted from that attack limited itself to the radicals on both sides and quickly settled down, and even the damage reported from the reprisals turned out to be somewhat exaggerated. The prospects for civil war certainly still exist, but having suffered through the first shock of the Askariya attack and remained united, Iraq may have inoculated itself somewhat t further provocations.

Talabani understands that the US has to show leadership on this issue. If we are seen to be retreating after the terrorist attacks, Iraqi confidence in the new government will collapse and people will start cutting deals with those who promise to wield the most power in the aftermath. We cannot abandon Talabani and the Iraqis to that fate.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 4, 2006 12:41 PM

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