Iraqi Leader Reconsiders U.S. Troop Withdrawal In recent weeks, Iraq's prime minister has done a turnaround, saying he'd support keeping some U.S. troops in the country beyond the withdrawal deadline. But in order to become prime minister in the first place, Nouri al-Maliki had to promise people like the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr that American troops would leave.
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Iraqi Leader Reconsiders U.S. Troop Withdrawal

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Iraqi Leader Reconsiders U.S. Troop Withdrawal

Iraqi Leader Reconsiders U.S. Troop Withdrawal

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KELLY MCEVERS: Maliki outlined his position in an hour-and-a-half long press conference. He said he's willing to meet Iraq's elected officials and consider whether some U.S. troops should stay beyond December.

NOURI AL: (Arabic language spoken)

MCEVERS: What they'd be, says Thar Fayli, an influential member of Maliki's party, is technical experts.

THAR FAYLI: If we going to build Iraq, still we need experts, still we need technical support. Germany, full of American experts now; Turkey, lots of experts, they're not occupiers. Japan, they have American engineers, experts, even troops there - nothing wrong with that.

MCEVERS: Fayli says Maliki didn't change his position. He just added to it. And that he says, is what politicians have to do sometimes.

FAYLI: And this is not just the politicians. This is in any field. If I'm a businessman, I put one product today. I don't say my next product in six months.

MCEVERS: Moqtada al-Sadr doesn't see it that way. He's launched an information campaign of his own.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MCEVERS: The militia fought American and Iraqi troops on several fronts during the last eight years, and was instrumental in the sectarian bloodletting in 2006 and 2007. The group put down its weapons in 2008.

MOQTADA AL: (Arabic language spoken)

MCEVERS: In an interview with the BBC's Arabic channel, Sadr reiterated previous threats to re-activate the Mehdi Army, if U.S. troops stay. Attacks against American interests have already increased in recent weeks.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTESTERS CHANTING)

MCEVERS: After the march, Sadr's followers said American troops aren't just technical experts like the Russians or French experts who trained the Iraqi military in the past.

KARIM FADHIL: (Arabic language spoken)

MCEVERS: Kelly McEvers, NPR News.

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