"...In his remarks, Crocker downplayed Iran's role in Iraq, and he suggested that when the dust clears in the formation of a new government in Iraq that Baghdad would come to the United States to ask for an extension of the US military presence beyond the end of 2011. ..... Crocker said that it is "quite likely that the Iraqi government is going to ask for an extension of our deployed presence."
He also predicted that Prime Minister Maliki would return to that office, atop a broad-based government that would include Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. He outlined innumerable problems that Iraq faces—a refugee crisis, Arab-Kurd tensions, countless disputed internal boundaries, the leftover forces of the Sons of Iraq (the old sahwa or Awakening movement)—but he expressed optimism that Iraq will deal with each of these. And he called the United States the "indispensable outside power" that can "help to broker compromises." The notion that Maliki, who has recently established an alliance with Muqtada al-Sadr, can form a government that might include Sadr but exclude former Prime Minister Allawi and his Iraqiya bloc recently set off alarm bells in Washington. ....... it's likely that the Kurds, who hold the balance of power, will refuse to back Maliki unless the prime minister cuts a deal with Allawi, too, undermining Sadr's clout. The Kurds, though mostly pro-American, are heavily influenced by Iran, too, and are caught in the middle.
After the spoke, I interviewed Crocker. When I asked about the Maliki-Sadr pact, he said: "The Sadr-Maliki relationship is fundamentally difficult and unstable. It fell apart once before. We'll see how long it lasts this time. I'm not overly concerned about the Sadr-Maliki alliance." I asked Crocker about Iran's role. "Iran is going to try to control or dominate affairs in Iraq," he said. "But Iranian influence is self-limiting. The harder they push, the more resistance they get." ..... So far, unlike during the Bush administration, the Obama administration has chosen not to engage Iran over Iraq diplomatically. When he was ambassador, Crocker held a series of meetings with Iran's then-ambassador in Baghdad, a senior official of the Revolutionary Guard, to discuss US-Iran cooperation. When I asked Crocker about whether the resumption of such a dialogue might be useful now, he expressed some reservations. "The Obama administration has rightly said that it would agree to discuss a range of issues with Iran," said Crocker. But he said that Washington must be very careful about any effort that might make it look like Washington and Tehran were talking about Iraq's future without Baghdad's consent. "The Iraqis are very sensitive to that," he said. True enough. (Also, the Gulf Arabs, especially Saudi Arabia, are paranoid about better relations between the United States and Iran, since they think it might come at their expense.). ..."