From the New York Times. Supporters of radical cleric Moktada al-Sadr protest the continued presence of American troops in Iraq. As the 2012 American military withdrawal date quickly approaches, both American and Iraqi officials have privately acknowledged that, for the sake of national stability, a number of U.S. military personnel should remain in Iraq past the end of the year. However, for the U.S. military to maintain any presence past 2012 would require approval by a diverse Iraqi government, and would likely face opposition in Washington as well.
Influential political figures like Moktada al-Sadr, who during the most violent year of the Iraq war was the leader of the fierce Shia militia group the Mahdi Army, strongly oppose any continued American presence in Iraq, and have called on U.S. forces to leave immediately. THere are fears that any political arguments associated with this issue could lead to increased violence, or a breakdown of the tentative Maliki governing coalition.
Many believe that if the Americans were to leave, the Maliki government’s inability to crackdown on local religious militia groups might be compounded, especially as new evidence suggests that Iran has boosted its efforts to supply radical Shia militias with weaponry and explosives, explaining a recent spike in U.S. fatalities.