As the United States heads for the door after seven years of a war it shouldn't have seen at all, the Iraqis may be running a game on America that they must not win.
The March 7 general elections were not the model of democracy that the Bush administration told Americans the war would establish there, but they weren't bad. The most obvious flaw was the action by the government of Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki to disqualify more than 500 opposition candidates due to their supposed cooperation with the former Saddam Hussein regime's Baath Party.
Mr. Maliki's party finished second to a coalition of parties led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Then began the process that should result in the formation of a coalition government. It has already taken seven weeks to produce nothing. Instead of that, a "special elections court" whose membership Mr. Maliki controls is now busily disqualifying winning candidates of Mr. Allawi's group.
That has nothing to do with the United States as long as President Barack Obama does not veer from his schedule of withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, which stand at 95,000. That number is to be cut by Aug. 31 to 50,000 noncombat troops to train Iraqi security forces, with the rest withdrawn by the end of next year.
Hints by U.S. military leaders suggest the withdrawal might be delayed if the Iraqis don't assemble a credible government soon. But that plays right into the hands of Iraqis and business interests that want U.S. funds -- about $2 billion a month -- to continue to flow there, and those, starting with Mr. Maliki, who want to maintain the protective American shield around themselves and their government.
America's interest is to withdraw according to schedule. There is no good reason to divert from that plan.