Iraq without U.S. troops

President Obama met with the Iraqi Prime Minister at the White House to mark the end of the war with Iraq and the withdrawal of U.S. troops at the end of the year.

President Obama marked the end of the Iraq war by meeting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki this week at the White House, where the two pledged that their countries would remain close allies after the last U.S. troops withdraw at the end of the year. Thanks to America’s sacrifice in blood and treasure, the president said, “we have now achieved [an] Iraq that is self-governing, that is inclusive, and that has enormous potential.” Obama said the U.S. would supply military hardware and training to Iraq for years to come. But the meeting failed to soothe the many tensions between the two countries. Maliki refused, for instance, to support Obama’s call for Syria’s brutal leader, Bashar al-Assad, to step down, saying, “I do not have the right to ask a president to abdicate.”

Obama has oversold the Maliki regime, said The Washington Post in an editorial. Rather than being “inclusive,” the Shiite prime minister has been concentrating power in his own hands and cruelly repressing minority Sunnis. When U.S. troops depart this month, the ethnic tensions fomented by Maliki could explode in a repeat of the “sectarian bloodletting that ravaged the country between 2004 and 2007.”

As the U.S. backs away, Iran will “fill any ‘vacuum’ with its own influence,” said Scott Peterson in Maliki’s refusal to get tough on Syria, a longtime Iranian ally, suggests he’s already in league with the mullahs next door. He’s also backing Tehran’s attempt to install a hard-line Iranian cleric—who is “very close to Iran’s absolute ruler, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei”—in Iraq’s holiest city, Najaf.

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But Iraqis won’t easily surrender their newfound sovereignty, said Robert Dreyfuss in The Nation. The country’s citizens are fed up with being dominated by the U.S. Maliki might try to build an authoritarian, Iran-friendly regime, but most Iraqis don’t want their neighbor telling them what to do, either. “With luck, Iraqi nationalism will reassert itself,” and the country will finally decide its own future.

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