Though the United States has been pushing for a new SOFA for more than a year now, the Iraqi government has been loath to act. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki came to power thanks to a Shiite coalition that includes elements like anti-American preacher Muqtada al-Sadr, who has been demanding a full US withdrawal from the country.
Some prominent Iraqi politicians are eager for an extended US presence. Among them is Iyad Allawi, the former exile whose bid for the premiership was blocked by Mr. Maliki. But there have been no signs of Iraq's parliament or political class taking action to extend the US presence as the clock winds down. A force of 3,000 however, which would probably just play a training role and be confined to a handful of major Iraqi bases, can probably be finessed – particularly since Iraq remains eager for US military assistance and hardware.
The New York Times followed Fox with a similar story this morning, saying that Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the American commander in Iraq, wants 14,000 to 18,000 troops to remain in Iraq. Last night, the White House denied that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is recommending a 3,000 member force, but it should be assumed that a plan for a force at least that small is currently in the drawer.