Sunday, December 18, 2011

The US withdrawal from Iraq: End of an era

The United States of America is seemingly a panorama of paradoxes today. On domestic front, it is hit with a recession and diplomatically it has entered into a lasting war of wits with his longtime protégé Pakistan and last week Americans pulled down their flag and announced leaving Iraq.
Iraq is better known today as a war-ravaged country.
The end of the nearly nine-year war finally marked the departure of the US leaving just a couple of hundred soldiers at an embassy in Baghdad. Compare this with the scene when a time when there were nearly 1,70,000 troops on over 500 US bases across the country.
This is a significant development in the Arab world. Just as the US soldiers rolled out of bases jubilant and hugging each other, the country remains shattered. Importantly a question that’s looking for answer is whether Iraq would continue to remain a steadfast US ally. This is largely because, most common Iraqis blame the American military commanders and even common soldiers for everything bad that has happened since the invasion in 2003.

It’s altogether a different story that the US administration never conceded it to be an ‘invasion’.
On the contrary, the US establishment has reasons to claim that they turned Iraq into a democracy. Huge money has been invested as American army engineers worked overtime with generosity to provide clean water and a proper sewage system in many places.
The mission has cost the US nearly 4,500 American soldiers as well as more than 1 lakh Iraqi lives and 800 billion US dollars billion from the U.S. Treasury. However, at the end of all these nine years, international watchers still ask whether it was worth it all.
The Iraqis on their part acknowledge the contribution of Americans in changing the history of their country – for good or for bad.
They know pretty well it was the Americans who made it possible for the Shia majority to take over political power from the Sunni minority.

But the arbitrary and alleged autocratic style of US soldiers with the common citizens during their occupation leave permanent scar mark on people’s mind. Even harmless Iraqis driving too close to an American vehicle by accident was liable to be shot.
The democracy, as the term is understood, never came to their rescue. Therefore, it is not without good reason that Iraqis generally blame that out of a staggeringly high one lakh deaths, the vast majority were civilians.

The U.S. plans to keep a robust diplomatic presence in Iraq with an assured and lasting relationship with that country. But all that does not seem to be coming so easily.
A common refrain among several Iraqis as reported in the international media is that for the first time in many years; Iraqis are feeling a little gleam of optimism.

But suave diplomats that the Americans are, the US establishment knows it pretty. The US president Barack Obama in an interview has stopped short of calling the U.S. effort in Iraq a victory.
“I would describe our troops as having succeeded in the mission of giving to the Iraqis their country in a way that gives them a chance for a successful future,” quote unquote Obama merely said. In fact, he could hardly speak more eloquently for a decision taken by the erstwhile Goerge Bush regime to send troops to Iraq ostensibly to oust a nuclear-powered Saddam Hussein. Worst, the Saddam regime was never found with nuclear weapons and the decision has fetched much criticism at home too.
In fact, there are many factors those are weighing in Obama’s mind today. Obama met Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki recently as the two leaders tried to define the new relationship between the two countries.
The US officials are unhappy and modestly tensed as so far they have not been able to reach an agreement with the Iraqis on legal issues and troop immunity.
Finally, the world cannot ignore the fact that Obama was in tiring hurry to announce withdrawal of the forces from Iraq. The 2012 presidential race will obviously discuss and debate the US policy in Iraq.
But the internal tension in Iraq is far from over. There’s already a latent war among Shia and Sunni leaders. The Prime Minister has started making noise against a Sunni leader and the deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlak. The Sunni leader’s political bloc has announced boycotting parliament. This could be just the beginning of a new chapter.


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