A zero-sum game for America
By Hiwa Osman - for ekurd.net
December 9, 2010
The role of the US in Iraq is becoming less and less
relevant, and this is not because of the onslaught
Washington’s recent failed attempts to form Iraq’s
next government show less interest in the details of
Baghdad politics and more concern with finishing
what they have at hand.
The eye of the US is mostly on their withdrawal as
opposed to the future of the region. Given the fact
that this is President Barack Obama’s first term, it
is understandable that he is already planning his
election campaign and working on gathering numbers
and achievement for his re-election bid.
A colleague of mine who is an expert of US policy in
the Middle East said that over the next two years,
it is best to expect nothing from Obama.
Hiwa Osman, IWPR Iraq’s country director, previously
served as Iraqi president Jalal Talabani’s media
The White House will have a quiet
year ahead and will only focus on achievements to
boost the campaign in the year that follows.
If this happens, the US will be less and less
relevant in Iraq and the region. Other players like
Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey will take over. The
continued disengagement of the US in Iraq would
certainly be at the expense of the US’s status and
prestige in the region.
As things stand, the US does not scare anyone
anymore. In fact, it is much easier to attack the US
than most of our neighbors. If you attack the US,
they come after you to see what you want. If you
attack the others,www.ekurd.netthey
come after you and make sure you don’t do it again.
If you are friend of America, they ask you to make
concessions. If you are a foe, you are rewarded.
In this respect, some in the US think that if they
pull out of Iraq they will have more influence. They
The gap the US leaves behind would have to be filled
with a functioning state able to respond to various
threats and challenges, as well as being strong
enough to stand on its own.
Looking at the events of the past year and the
challenges that lay ahead, Iraq certainly does not
fit this definition of a functioning state.
By all measures, Iraq will not be ready by the time
the US forces withdraw in 2011 to withstand external
challenges and regional actors will increasingly
The US disengagement would be the start of real
failure and Iraq would slip into the hands of
America’s enemies and pseudo allies – both of which
are making sure that the US image in their media
remains abominable. This factor is contributing to
the rise of Islamic extremism in the Middle East.
For the US to withdraw, they need to leave behind a
functioning state and a political process that is
able to defend itself and stand alone.
What we see on the streets of Baghdad and TV screens
does not suggest at all that Iraq is capable of
The way the Iraqi government is configured is a
recipe for dysfunction. Bringing together opposing
parties in the same room is a good start for
reconciliation, but not for rebuilding a country.
The new Council for Strategic Policies, for example,
will only add another bureaucratic layer to the
already byzantine political and governmental
The key challenge for all of us is to separate
divisive politics from the management of affairs of
This is done by strengthening Iraq’s public service
sector and working strongly to promote good
governance, transparency, anti-corruption, strong
media and national reconciliation.
To be blunt, most Iraqis still need of America’s
help. We still badly need Washington to help
separate politics from governance.
The less politicized our public service and other
state institutions become, the more ready they will
be take over when the US pulls out.
is IWPR’s country director in Iraq, previously served as
Iraqi president Jalal Talabani’s media adviser. You
may visit Osman's website at http://www.hiwaosman.com/
Copyright © 2010 ekurd.net
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