On one hand, many people feel that the US should stay in Iraq to ensure that Iran does not take over Baghdad completely. On the other hand, many Iraqis believe that the US should stay in Iraq to ensure that Saddamists do not return to dominate. In an email exchange with my friend Alaa the Mesopotamian, he wrote:
I have lived with Baathists in Iraq and worked with them. I must admit that like most people in Iraq today we would be prepared to forgive many of them if they really felt that there was something wrong of the Baathist era. Some are quite normal people and had to join the party as we all know, for purely opportunist reasons. Some could not avoid it, for sure because of Baathist policy of demanding membership for army people, for University teachers, for a teaching job etc. etc. So like they say, if these were not involved in any crimes, I suppose they have to be reintegrated and given their civil rights. The problem is that the Baathists as a whole cannot be trusted. Their pretense of wanting to join the political process is not just innocent desire to join the new democratic process. Mostly it is an attempt at infiltration with a coup in the back of their minds. Believe me no one knows them better than me. I managed to avoid joining for years despite the fact that I used to be employed in the most sensitive kind of jobs.
I dont really believe, that anyone who does not really want to join couldnt avoid it. However, it will be most gratifying and a dream if these people can really change. The most terrifying thing from my perspective is the question of what will happen once the Americans do withdraw as is expected. I have talked about that and I am very apprehensive about the future. You left Iraq early in your life and you dont really know these people. In the words of someone I knew who was himself a high ranking member and left them, words that I cannot forget: "The Baath party is an organisation for criminals". Who do you think is doing all these acts of terrorism in Iraq? Al-Qaeda? AQ was always a tool in their hands, admittedly once out of control, but nowadays almost insignificant and what remains of them are entirely in the service of the Baathists and their allies. The Iraqi AQ members themselves were mostly ex-regime members. This is a fact that everybody knows and amply proved from the many arrests that have been made.
Well, with the Americans around, they will not dare stage any coup; but with the Americans out - Allah Yustur. [God have mercy]'
I believe we should be careful when labeling people "Baathist" and we should remember that the majority of Baathists did not participate in violent crimes. However, I can understand Alaa's perspective and I share his fears. I believe the Iraqi government should allow the neo-Baathists to run and participate in government, but the US should stay in Iraq until Iraqi security forces can stand on their own and can defend against any threat.
Even in the case of a complete withdrawal from Iraq, the US military will not be far away in Kuwait and Qatar.