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Iraq after US pullout – not a doomsday scenario

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That paradigm should be avoided. There can be no winners and losers if Iraq is to survive as a united, independent, and transparent state under the rule of law and honoring international obligations.

For example, a US military drawdown should not be viewed as a sign of American weakness. The Iraqis have become increasingly responsible for their security and well-being, especially since the success of the Iraqi and American surge of 2007. They are making their own political, economic, and development decisions – without the hand-holding practiced by the British in the 1920s and the Coalition Provisional Authority managed by Paul Bremer after 2003.

One risk lies in how Mr. Maliki, or a successor, will use the instruments of national power. Will the counterterrorist military units he has created in the Army (which report only to him) come to resemble Mr. Hussein's Special Republican Guard?

The Islamic Republic of Iran should not be viewed as a winner, as Iraq's long-term strategic partner, friend, or ally. Iran may have illusions of hegemonic influence over majority-Shiite Iraq: Their shared 900-mile border is porous, and Tehran has money, water, and electricity to invest in its isolated neighbor. But centuries of Persian-Arab/ Sunni-Shiite hostility, wars, and geopolitical rivalries are not erased with a few years of cheap power. Business in Iraq is not helped when Iran floods the holy cities with cheap goods made in China.

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