Wash­ing­ton silent as US-crafted govern­ment un­der fire in Iraq

Muscat Daily - - REGION -

Bagh­dad, Iraq - It posted tens of thou­sands of troops in Iraq, hud­dled with its lead­ers and helped craft its laws - but with the coun­try swamped by deadly protests, Wash­ing­ton is stay­ing out of the fray.

Its ap­par­ent ab­sence dur­ing a key turn­ing point in Iraq lays bare how much its in­ter­ests and in­flu­ence have waned since the 2003 US-led in­va­sion that opened the door to fel­low Shi­ite-ma­jor­ity neigh­bour Iran.

“The (US-Iraq) gulf has never been so big, and keeps get­ting big­ger,” a se­nior Iraqi of­fi­cial said.

Af­ter the in­va­sion, the US ef­fec­tively dis­man­tled and re­built the Iraqi state, ush­er­ing in a new class of po­lit­i­cal elites with whom it crafted close per­sonal links.

It trained a new mil­i­tary, de­ploy­ing more than 170,000 troops to Iraq at its peak be­fore with­draw­ing in 2011.

Since then, Amer­i­can soldiers helped Iraq de­feat ex­trem­ists and US of­fi­cials con­ferred closely with their coun­ter­parts on the 2017 Kur­dish in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum, the 2018 par­lia­men­tary vote and the en­su­ing cabi­net for­ma­tion.

Now, pro­test­ers across Bagh­dad and the Shi­ite-ma­jor­ity south are de­mand­ing an over­haul of the US-crafted sys­tem, but the US has re­mained com­par­a­tively re­strained.

It has is­sued a half-dozen state­ments con­demn­ing vi­o­lence but stopped short of us­ing its diplo­matic mus­cle to re­solve the cri­sis.

In the past, Wash­ing­ton would have been ‘much more overt’, the top Iraqi of­fi­cial said.

“The US back in 2003 shaped this cur­rent Iraqi govern­ment struc­ture, which de­liv­ered this po­lit­i­cal class,” he said. “Do they want to be en­gaged in rec­ti­fy­ing it? I think the jury is still out.”

“The bot­tom line is that the US state-build­ing project in Iraq has failed,” said Kirk Sow­ell, an an­a­lyst who writes the In­side Iraqi Pol­i­tics news­let­ter.


Iraqi pro­test­ers march past a burnt-down build­ing near the cap­i­tal Bagh­dad’s Khal­lani Square on Sun­day

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