Is Obama Losing Iraq?

Seven months after Iraq's national elections, the US has publicly denied taking sides in the wrangling over who will be prime minister. Privately, however, the US is backing the incumbent, Nuri al-Maliki, a policy that is strengthening Iran at the expense of America’s Arab allies, undermining US efforts to forge a Middle East peace, and weakening Iraq’s nascent democracy..

BAGHDAD – The Obama administration’s Iraq policy is in chaos. Seven months after Iraq’s national elections, the United States has publicly denied taking sides in the wrangling over who will be prime minister. Privately, however, the US is backing the incumbent, Nouri al-Maliki.

The US has applied tremendous diplomatic pressure on Iraq’s Arab neighbors to get them to accept another Maliki term. Most have refused. Initially, the US backed Maliki in order to keep the Sadrist bloc from gaining a share of power. However, that has now backfired, since the Sadrists are the only group other than Maliki’s coalition of Shia parties that supports him.

One unsettling consequence of US diplomacy is that it has reinforced Iran’s role in Iraq, because Maliki is Iran’s preferred candidate for Prime Minister. Thus, at the very moment that the US is leading a global campaign to isolate Iran over its nuclear program, it is strengthening Iran’s regional position.

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