Iraq Is a Mess. But Leaving Was the Right Call by Douglas Ollivant.
Let us stipulate some ugly facts up front. Iraq remains a weak state. The political institutions are—charitably—immature. The business climate is not overly attractive and corruption is endemic. Were it not for oil, there would be no real economy. There is a serious terrorism problem. Relationships with all the neighboring states are problematic. Sectarian divides remain tense, with some key fault lines unresolved. The country’s armed forces remain incapable of defending its international borders. Given all these facts, it is still very possible that Iraq could revert to its previous state of dysfunction, or find a new variety into which to fall. The chaos of the last few days in Baghdad—in which the Shi’a Prime Minster has pursued charges against his Sunni Vice President, with the latter taking refuge among the Kurds—is likely a precursor of the sort of political drama we can expect for some time to come.
But with all this said, we should still sound a muted victory cheer and embrace the Iraqi decision to decline an extension of the U.S. military presence in Iraq (excepting a small detachment, the Office of Military Cooperation in Embassy Baghdad, as is typical of embassies everywhere). The departure of U.S. military forces will give space for Iraq politics—both domestic and international—to normalize, it will permit the development of a more normal bilateral relationship between the United States and Iraq, and it sends an important signal that the United States is not attempting to impose a series of “satrapies” in the Middle East and around the world.
More at TNR.