The US troop surge in 2007 helped quiet Iraq's bloody civil war. But it failed to deliver on what US officials and officers said was crucial for Iraq's future at the time: sectarian reconciliation. Rather than forging a new national identity out of the horrors of Iraq's war, Iraq's Shiite and Sunni Arabs and ethnic Kurds sullenly retreated to their own sectarian corners, and the country's political parties remain vehicles for ethnic or sectarian interests. The next year is probably going to be the most crucial for determining the future of Iraq since the US-led invasion of 2003, as Iraq's various political factions compete for power and influence without foreign troops getting in the way. Here are a few of the major players.
Territorial gains by Kurdish fighters and relief for stranded Yazidis follow the first days of US military intervention in Iraq. Britain and France are also getting involved. But the Islamic State remains a potent threat.
Iraqi Kurdistan is moving ahead with independence plans. With Kurds also holding an important swing vote in Iraq's parliament, this is a problem. A big one.
The Iraqi central government and authorities of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government put together a seven-point deal last week that could see the Kurds resume oil exports to Iraq in return for a revision of the Iraqi 2013 budget, Alic writes.