President Barack Obama speaks in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Oct. 21, 2011, where he declared an end to the Iraq war, announcing that all U.S. troops would be withdrawn from the country by year's end.
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
"The Problem With Obama's Decision to Leave Iraq"
How to Salvage the Relationship Between Washington and Baghdad
Op-Ed, Foreign Affairs
October 28, 2011
Author: Meghan L. O'Sullivan, Jeane Kirkpatrick Professor of the Practice of International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: The Geopolitics of Energy Project
In April 2008, Ryan Crocker, who was then the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, told Congress, "In the end, how we leave and what we leave behind will be more important than how we came." Given President Barack Obama's announcement last Friday that all U.S. troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year, it is more important than ever to answer Crocker's implicit question about what, exactly, Washington will be leaving in its wake.
There is reason to worry. Iraq faces multiple political, security, and diplomatic challenges, and it is unclear how well it can meet those threats. Eight years after the toppling of Saddam Hussein, the country remains a fragile and complicated place. When pressed, Iraq's new political class has been able to forge compromises over contentious issues such as the role of Islam in government and how to ratify a new constitution. The Iraqi people resisted the worst forms of Iran's predations when they backed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's crackdown on Iranian-affiliated militias in 2008.
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