An unsatisfactory end-game in Iraq

The Washington Post reports that major Shiite parties in Iraq with close links to Iran have announced a new coalition that excludes Prime Minister Maliki, According to the Post, “if the new coalition remains intact and secures a majority of parilamentary seats in the Jan. 16 vote, Iraq’s next government probably will be run by leaders with deep ties to Iran, which would considerably curb U.S. influence here as American roops continue to withdraw.”
Just last January, in provincial elections, Maliki’s allies did extremely well, while the Iranian backed faction did poorly. What changed? Plainly, it was the security situation. Why did it change? In large part because American forces pulled back from the cities and Maliki has been reluctant to call for their help. As Max Boot notes, Maliki compounded the problem through foolishly over-confident measures like taking down concrete barriers in Baghdad.
To be sure, Maliki’s push to lessen the American presence helped account for his popularlity in the first instance. But he may discover that, though a clever move in the short-term, his approach to the U.S. ultimately was a bad bet for his political career, not to mention his country.
I’m not convinced that Iraq is about to become a colony of Iran, as some predict. The Iraqis strike me as too proud and quarrelsome to put up with Iranian domination for very long. But the future of Iraq doesn’t look at all bright now that the Americans are fading from the scene.
It’s unfortunate, but there’s nothing to be done. The Iraqi government wants us out, the American government wants to get out, and the Iraqi and American people are probably in accord with their respective governments. After six and a half years, these views are understandable, if misguided.
As our presence in Iraq decreases, or presence in Afghanistan grows. Iraq is a more important country than Afghanistan in just about every sense. It is also probably a more manageable one for us, especially now that we have finally gotten our strategy and tactics right. But from what I’ve heard, the Afghans are a more pleasant, more grateful lot, so at least there’s that.