Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Will Obama Back al-Maliki’s Seek of a Third Term in Iraq?

By Namo Abdulla - for Rudaw

Washington, D.C – Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, was here in Washington last week for the first time ever since the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Before saying anything about al-Maliki’s most recent visit, let’s take a look back at his previous visit:
On December 12, 2011, days before the last U.S. solider would leave Iraq, al-Maliki was standing with President Obama, who proudly declared that he was bringing “a responsible end” to a long and costly war in Iraq.

Obama didn’t leave his “a-responsible-end” phrase entirely unexplained: Iraq is now “sovereign, self-reliant and democratic,” he added.

He also praised al-Maliki as the leader “of the most inclusive government yet.”

But exactly six days later, upon al-Maliki’s return to Iraq, see what happened: Iraq’s Vice President, Tariq al-Hashimi, the highest ranking Sunni politician, had to flee to Kurdistan because the Shiite-led government sought to arrest him on terrorism charges.

Ever since the last U.S. solder left Iraq; al-Maliki has been accused of making several other attempts to sideline Sunni and Kurdish politicians. This has made many describe him as an authoritarian leader who prioritizes his sectarian identity over Iraqi nationalism.

This time, here in Washington, things seemed very different, too. Al-Maliki didn't receive the kind of warm welcome he was given two years ago.

As Iraqis are currently suffering a degree of violence not seen since the darkest days of the sectarian war, Obama didn't reiterate his 2011 claim that Iraq was “sovereign, self-reliant and democratic.”

He didn't hold a press conference either to allow reporters to raise questions like these ones:

- Mr. President; is Maliki still the leader of “the most inclusive government” in Iraq?
- Have you really brought a responsible end to the Iraq war?

So now what’s Obama’s policy towards Iraq, a Shiite-dominated, oil-rich nation where US interests are manifold? After the loss of thousands of American lives and billions of their dollars, can Obama draft a policy that helps Iraq emerge as a decent society for its citizens and a reliable ally for the U.S.?

To discuss this subject, Rudaw talks to:

- Zalmay Khalilzad, America’s former Ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan.

- Clifford May, President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. 

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