Iraq after US pullout – not a doomsday scenario
President Obama met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki today in Washington to discuss the US-Iraq relationship after the final US combat troop pullout this December. Worried pundits foresee the return of rampant terrorism and insurgency, and an Iranian takeover. They're wrong.
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A second question to consider: Who are the winners and losers? The US-Iraqi relationship will have to shift from one based on military ties to one that's primarily diplomatic – a change that could easily prompt those inside and outside Iraq to look at this transition as a cast of winners and losers.Skip to next paragraph
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That paradigm should be avoided. There can be no winners and losers if Iraq is to survive as a united, independent, and transparent state under the rule of law and honoring international obligations.
For example, a US military drawdown should not be viewed as a sign of American weakness. The Iraqis have become increasingly responsible for their security and well-being, especially since the success of the Iraqi and American surge of 2007. They are making their own political, economic, and development decisions – without the hand-holding practiced by the British in the 1920s and the Coalition Provisional Authority managed by Paul Bremer after 2003.
One risk lies in how Mr. Maliki, or a successor, will use the instruments of national power. Will the counterterrorist military units he has created in the Army (which report only to him) come to resemble Mr. Hussein's Special Republican Guard?
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The Islamic Republic of Iran should not be viewed as a winner, as Iraq's long-term strategic partner, friend, or ally. Iran may have illusions of hegemonic influence over majority-Shiite Iraq: Their shared 900-mile border is porous, and Tehran has money, water, and electricity to invest in its isolated neighbor. But centuries of Persian-Arab/ Sunni-Shiite hostility, wars, and geopolitical rivalries are not erased with a few years of cheap power. Business in Iraq is not helped when Iran floods the holy cities with cheap goods made in China.
Despite claims of Iraq's pending doom after the US military withdrawal, political and economic trends indicate otherwise.
Federalism may have undermined Iraqi state unity, but it also has brought groups together in the most unexpected ways. Kurds, for instance, have allied with former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and his secular Iraqiya alliance to press their oil interests in the Baghdad parliament.