Obama’s frantic foreign diplomacy drive incorporated a surprise visit to Iraq. While the US can point to hope and their “enormous sacrifice”, progress and national reconciliation in Iraq has clearly a long way to go.
US President Barrack Obama’s whirlwind eight-day foreign tour, encompassing six countries, ended with a surprise visit to Iraq and his first visit to a war-zone as commander-in-chief.
Obama met with key Iraqi leaders including Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Kurdistan Region President Massaud Barzani. The meetings aimed to enforce US-Iraqi relations in what is a critical year for Iraq, as well as to showcase appreciation for the US forces based in the country.
The US adventure in Iraq, six years since the downfall of Saddam Hussein, has not come cheap. While significant progress has been made in Iraq since 2003, the rewards are a scant consolation for the deep US involvement and the financial burden that George W. Bush in particular has paid in Iraq, with more than 4,000 US lives lost and in excess of US$600 billion dollars spent.
With the inauguration of Obama as president, this raised expectations that a new page can be turned in US foreign policy, where Iraq had become a symbol of its deficiencies and controversies.
Obama has made no secret of his desire to withdraw troops as soon as possible, alter the US mission in Iraq and also waste no time in realigning and leveraging US foreign policy and introduce a fresh impetus that is greatly needed to either mend or refresh ties with key global powers.
Perceptions of Obama in Iraq
Obama was generally well-received by Iraqis. Most Iraqis south of the Kurdistan border, prefer a speedy withdrawal of US forces and see Obama in a positive light compared to his predecessor.
The fact that Obama was against the Iraqi invasion from the outset and Iraq is deemed as Bush’s war, affords Obama an opportunity to revitalise Iraqi-US ties. Obama emphasised the need to transition to the Iraqis, after years of sacrifice and allow the Iraqis “to take responsibility for their country".
Clearly, not only does prolonged US engagement play into the hands of insurgents and hard-line elements of the Iraqi landscape, the US can simply ill-afford to continue to watch Iraqis reconcile at a leisurely rate, while there are issues on the US radar, such as an unprecedented global economic crisis, a forgotten war in Afghanistan and a US foreign policy vehicle in urgent need of repair. Moreover, the US can not take ties with traditional allies for granted. Put simply, Iraq is no longer the “make or break” headache it once was. The world has changed in the past six years.
Clearly some elements such as the Sadrist bloc favour nothing less than total US withdrawal and it came as no surprise when they attacked Obama’s visit as a “barefaced interference”.
The end of the beginning for Iraq
As the US slowly plans the end of its Iraqi adventure, the work for Iraqis has just begun. Six years of violence, sectarian feuds and lack of security, only veiled the fractured and deeply divided Iraqi social mosaic. Achieving true, elusive, national reconciliation is more than just achieving security and stability in the country.
Security and stability is just the bridge to national reconciliation, if there is indeed a strong deep-rooted desire for this concept among all the groups.
Discuss in our Forums
See what other readers are saying about this article!
Click here to read & post comments.