The Bush administration has pushed for an American presence in Iraq for at least three more years despite the presence of strong opposition to any continued US forces remaining in Iraq. Followers of Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, burned an effigy of President Bush to show their anger at the security pact. Thousands of Iraqis protested in a central Baghdad square where they placed the effigy of Bush in the same place where once stood a statue of Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi parliament is expected to approve the pact next week, but there still remains a large number of Iraqis who want a quick exit of American forces. Salah al-Obeidi, a spokesman for al-Sadr, emphasized, “this crown shows that opposition to the agreement is not insignificant and parliament will be making a big mistake if it chooses to ignore it.”
Barack Obama has consistently set an exit date closer to 2011 than to 2012. He might gain support from all sectors of Iraq if he urged the Iraqi government to have US forces leave in 2011. The danger is failure to address opposition feelings adds to the possibility they will resort to violence, an action which could delay and American exit.