The two biggest and most influential parties – the State of Law coalition led by Prime Minister Maliki and dominated by his Islamic Dawa party and the al-Iraqia party led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, a secular Shia and former Ba’athist – were hesitant to declare a stance.
Maliki looked at the decision as a trap and wanted a faction-wide agreement before exposing his position while Allawi wanted to hear Maliki call for a withdrawal and then (promptly) get off the fence to the opposite side leaving his old enemy even more isolated than he was before.
Finally, the factions gave al-Maliki a mandate late in the summer but this was too late to request an extension for U.S. forces before the deadline and so Obama announced the withdrawal and the next chapter in Iraq’s history began.
This is a recipe for instability for quite some time ahead.
You have to read several sets of tea-leaves over several months in Iraq to understand even a fraction of what is going on; looking at one set of tea-leaves in isolation seldom points you in the correct direction and what we are seeing now is politically choppy waters and an almost certain increase in violence in the first few months of 2012.
Against this Exxon, Chevron, Tony Hayward and a couple of other “big fish” are lobbing jerry-cans of fuel into this political conflagration and threatening to open up blocks in Kurdistan. This is not a time to be aggravating the Iraqi political system; it is too unpredictable – it is a time for being quiet and trying to get a decent return on your investment.