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Iraq after US pullout – not a doomsday scenario

President Obama met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki today in Washington to discuss the US-Iraq relationship after the final US combat troop pullout this December. Worried pundits foresee the return of rampant terrorism and insurgency, and an Iranian takeover. They're wrong.

President Obama (l.) and Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (c.) stand together after laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Monday.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

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As President Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki prepare for the withdrawal of American combat forces from Iraq by the end of this year, the chattering classes in Washington and the Middle East confidently predict the collapse of the democratic experiment in the "cradle of civilization."

They foresee the return of rampant terrorism and insurgency, and an Iranian takeover. Ethnically and religiously divided, Iraq, they say, can only be stable and at peace if ruled by a Saddam Hussein-like figure who personifies diversity – preferably a Sunni-Muslim general with Arab and Shiite-Muslim roots and a Kurdish grandmother.

But Iraq will survive. Iraqis have managed since the invasion of 2003 to form political alliances, hold relatively free and transparent elections, and negotiate deals among themselves and with neighbors and parts of the international community.

True, the country nearly fell into civil war – and many would argue it did. But it has since outmaneuvered both the political insurgencies and the US in their efforts to reinvent Iraq in their own image.

Still, Iraqis have some hard choices ahead.

First, who rules and how? This is a fundamental question, given the country's deep ethnic and sectarian divisions and its oil wealth.


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