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Even the heavily fortified Green Zone has not been immune to violence. A mortar round, apparently aimed at assassinating the speaker of parliament, was fired into the walled-off compound near the parliament building.
The threat to civil society posed by al-Qaeda and the Shia militias is why some lawmakers criticized the visit of Prime Minister Maliki. Senator John McCain said that “the meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Maliki today cannot obscure the fact that both men have failed in their responsibilities with regard to our shared security interests.” Those “shared interests” include trying to keep Iran at arm’s length in order to allow Iraq to develop without interference from Tehran. So far, Maliki has failed in that regard.
Iraq, along with Lebanon and Yemen, are the only members of the Arab League to oppose sanctions against Syria — the position taken by Syria’s strong ally Iran. Regarding Syria, there was a definite disagreement between the two leaders with Obama stating his desire for Assad to leave office and his support for tough sanctions against Syria for its brutal crackdown on anti-government demonstrators. Maliki would only say that “I do not have the right to ask a president to abdicate,” and added:
I’m concerned about the interest of Iraq and the interest of the security of the region, and I wish that what is required by the Syrian people would be achieved without affecting the security of Iraq.
Frankly speaking, because we suffered from the blockade and the military interventions, we do not encourage a blockade because it exhausts the people and the government.
Obama acknowledged a “tactical disagreement” with Iraq. But the Associated Press reports the president also engaged in some wishful thinking when he stated that he had “no doubt that Iraq was acting in its own interests and not under the meddling influence of Iran.” It’s this kind of magical thinking that that could result in an eventual catastrophe as Iran seeks to dominate the political life of Iraq as time goes on. Either by cowing the Iraqi government or by exercising control through their violent and radical militias, one way or another Iran will find themselves with a docile, compliant neighbor willing to support its foreign policy and hegemonistic goals.
To stave off this scenario, the president has been trying to work out an arrangement that would allow the US to continue to train the Iraqi army while supplying it with first class military hardware. To that end, the president will ask congress to approve the sale of another 18 F-16 fighters to rebuild the Iraqi air force that was destroyed during the war. A previous sale of 18 F-16’s was approved last summer.
As for security cooperation, very little was accomplished at the meeting that would allow US trainers to continue the necessary training of the Iraqi army. The president said, “We will be working to set up effective military-to-military ties that are no different from the ties that we have with countries throughout the region and around the world.” But while we have agreed to train the pilots who will fly the F-16’s, there was no definitive word on how the 5,500 remaining military personnel assigned to the massive US embassy in Baghdad will work with the Iraqi military to shape them into a force that could defend the country without US assistance.
The sticking point is still the desire of the US government to give our soldiers immunity from the vagaries of Iraqi prosecution, trying to prevent them from being exposed to a highly politicized and anti-American justice system. Until that arrangement can be worked out, Americans will not be training anyone.
The Post editorial says of the Obama efforts to forge a post-war relationship with Iraq that what is needed is “continued and concerted U.S. engagement, not rosy declarations about a mission accomplished.” If so, the president has stumbled going around the track taking his “victory lap.”
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