The Iraq war continues to grab at America as President Barack Obama proceeds with his plan to close down U.S. involvement there.
The current level of U.S. troops in Iraq is 120,000. It is intended that it stay at that level until Iraq holds elections Jan. 16. Then it will drop steadily until all 70,000 U.S. combat forces are out by Aug. 30. The remaining 50,000 U.S. troops will then continue to leave, with all of them gone from Iraqi soil by Dec. 31 of next year.
There is broad, general support among the American public and, reflecting that view, in the Congress for full implementation of that timetable.
Nonetheless, there are developments in Iraq itself which are leading some U.S. military leaders at least to suggest that it might be premature for the United States to end its stay -- which by the end of 2010 will be coming up to eight years in length -- in the Middle Eastern country.
The three "unpack" developments include, first, wrangling and at least a temporary stalemate in the Iraqi parliament over passage of the law setting the terms of the January elections.
The question is whether the new electoral law will provide for voting for individual candidates, or, as in the previous elections, voting instead for party lists. The idea is, if the parliament can't reach agreement on the electoral law, there can be no elections, and the U.S. troop withdrawal timetable will just have to be extended.
The second alleged show-stopper is so far unresolved wrestling among Iraqi Shiite, Sunni, Kurdish and Turkomen politicians over who will control the city of Kirkuk and the surrounding region, which has oil. The basic scrap over Kirkuk is between the Kurds and the other Iraqis. This is, needless to say, a very old, ethnic-based dispute, made worse by the war.
The third argument for U.S. forces to stay runs something along the lines of, "If you leave, we'll fight, including blowing things up." The most recent manifestation of that occurred Sunday when attacks on the Ministry of Justice and another government building in the center of Baghdad killed more than 150 and left them in ruins.
None of this, including continuing U.S. forces' deaths and the drain on America's financial resources represented by the continuing war, which has cost so far an estimated $700 billion, constitutes a valid argument not to complete full U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, leaving problems like the electoral law, Kirkuk, and Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence to be worked out among Iraqis. Enough is far more than enough.