U.S. fears Iraq election violence could slow pullout.
Certainly the US will, in spite of its denial, try to influence the horsetrading after the election. They already tried their best but unsuccessfully to derail Ahmed Chalabi's ban on many candidates. There is increasing violent and it would seem that Al Qaeda and allied groups are more active. It may be that they are being joined by disgruntled Sunnis.
U.S. Fears Election Strife in Iraq Could Affect Pullout
By HELENE COOPER and MARK LANDLER
WASHINGTON — The deadly suicide bombings in Iraq on Wednesday highlight the central quandary facing President Obama as he tries to fulfill his campaign pledge to end the war there: Will parliamentary elections, scheduled for Sunday, throw the country back into the sectarian strife that flared in 2004 and delay the planned American withdrawal?
Notes from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and other areas of conflict in the post-9/11 era. Go to the Blog »
Murky Candidacy Stokes Iraq’s Sectarian Fears (March 4, 2010)
Bombers Kill Dozens as Iraq Vote Nears (March 4, 2010)
Times Topic: Iraq Elections
Senior Obama administration officials maintained in interviews this week that Mr. Obama’s plan to withdraw all American combat troops by Sept. 1 would remain on track regardless of who cobbles together a governing coalition after the election. Under the plan, no more than 50,000 American forces would stay behind, mostly in advisory roles. (Now there are slightly more than 90,000 troops in the country, down from 124,000 in September.)
But administration officials also acknowledged that the bigger worry for the United States was not who would win the elections, but the possibility that the elections — and their almost certainly messy aftermath — could ignite violence that would, at the least, complicate the planned withdrawal.
In part for that reason, “we’re not leaving behind cooks and quartermasters,” Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said Wednesday in a telephone interview. The bulk of the remaining American troops, he said, “will still be guys who can shoot straight and go get bad guys.”
Gen. Ray Odierno, the top American military commander in Iraq, has drawn up a contingency plan that would keep a combat brigade in northern Iraq beyond the Sept. 1 deadline, should conditions warrant, administration officials said. Kirkuk and the restive Kurdish area in the north remain major concerns for American military planners.
At a time when Mr. Obama has already angered his liberal base by ramping up the number of American troops in Afghanistan and missing his own deadline to shut down the military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, even the appearance that he has fudged the troop drawdown in Iraq could set off a rebellion as Democrats face difficult midterm elections.
With no party expected to get a majority, or even a strong plurality, analysts foresee intense horse trading, with factions like the Kurds trying to play kingmaker as diverse groups attempt to cobble together coalitions.
Mr. Hill emphasized that the United States did not want to get drawn into postelection wrangling among Kurdish, Shiite or Sunni parties. He and General Odierno have already been criticized in some quarters in Iraq for speaking about Iran’s influence in the election process.
“Assuming that everything is going to go off fine, we will execute our withdrawal as we advertised,” Gen. James L. Jones, the national security adviser, said Tuesday in an interview. It would take a “proactive national decision” by Mr. Obama to divert from the withdrawal plan, he said, adding, “The military always thinks through different options in how we might react.”
Thom Shanker and Steven Lee Myers contributed reporting.