The Iraqi government will not extend the June 30 deadline for U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq’s cities, a government spokesperson said today.

The deadlines are “non-extendable,” government spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh said, according The Associated Press. “This is consistent with the transfer and handover of responsibility to Iraqi security forces.”

Dabbagh was referring to the U.S.-Iraq agreement that specifies that U.S. troops will pull out of Iraq’s urban areas by the end of next month, and all U.S. combat troops will withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011.

Some U.S. military leaders have recently hinted at the possibility of keeping U.S. troops in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul beyond the June 30 deadline, where violence has flared.

Despite an increase in suicide bombings in Baghdad and elsewhere, targeting markets and Shiite religious gatherings, violence overall has declined since last year, according to many reports.

But Mosul, the capital of Nineveh province, in particular has been a center of activity lately for sections of Saddam Hussein’s former Baath party who are trying to fan violence in hopes of a comeback, Iraqis say. Political analysts say these forces fear they will lose out when the U.S. withdraws.

Just today, a policeman was killed by unknown gunmen in central Mosul, the Aswat al-Iraq news agency reported.

A member of the Nineveh provincial council from the moderate Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party said the recent “escalations” of violence there are the work of elements “benefiting” from the presence of U.S. forces there.

“I call on the Iraqi government to provide security in the province to throw a wrench in those parties’ plans,” the council member, Yahya Abad Mahjoub, told Aswat al-Iraq.

“We would never accept any steps that result in prolonging the presence of U.S. forces in the province of Ninewa beyond the date set in the status-of-forces agreement which was signed between the Iraqi and U.S. government,” added Mahjoub.

Political differences “provide a chance for some criminals to disrupt security,” he said “Accordingly, I appeal to the parties to the dispute to settle their differences, reach a solution for the interest of the province and start activating the economy and services.”

Ethnic, tribal and political disputes have dominated politics in the area since hotly contested elections brought in a new provincial council in January. But all reports indicate that here as throughout Iraq the top concern of the public is improving daily living conditions, basic services and employment.


Susan Webb
Susan Webb

Susan Webb is a retired co-editor of People's World. She has written on a range of topics both international - the Iraq war, World Social Forums in Brazil and India, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and controversy over the U.S. role in Okinawa - and domestic - including the meaning of socialism for Americans, attacks on Planned Parenthood, the U.S. as top weapons merchant, and more.