Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi politician who played a key role in persuading the administration of President George W. Bush to invade Iraq and overthrow dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003, said Tuesday that it's time for U.S. forces to go home.
"Are Iraqis ready to carry the responsibility for their country?" he asked rhetorically during a panel discussion held with political supporters at his family compound in Baghdad. "Is Iraq ready to be its own master?" "We want to be the masters of ourselves and to carry our responsibilities in this region," Chalibi said.
Chalibi's presentation comes as Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki struggles with whether to ask the U.S. to stay on past the Dec. 31 withdrawal date both countries agreed to three years ago. Maliki has taken no position, but he promised last month to seek advice from military experts and Iraqi political leaders and to make a decision by July 30 on whether to ask U.S. forces to remain.
To date, only the followers of Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al Sadr had come out publicly opposed to extending the American stay, with most Iraqi politicians remaining mum on the topic. Whether Chalibi's formal opposition will matter is unclear. Although he's a member of Iraq's parliament from the largest political bloc, he doesn't lead that bloc.