Thursday, April 17, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Staying connected: US-Iraq ties still evolving after war’s end

BAGHDAD — A year after the last American troops rumbled out of Iraq, the two countries are still trying to get comfortable with a looser, more nuanced relationship as the young democracy struggles to cope with political upheaval and the legacy of war.

The military pullout a year ago Tuesday did not end Washington’s engagement. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, a fortress-like campus as big as Vatican City, remains a highly visible reminder of America’s ongoing interest in Iraq’s future.

Several senior U.S. officials have visited Baghdad over the past year, and America’s role as Iraq’s biggest arms supplier ensures continuing ties to the Iraqi military for years to come.

U.S. companies are hunting for Iraqi oil, and Chevrolet Malibus and Dodge Chargers increasingly cruise Baghdad streets still dotted with checkpoints. Iraqi Airways just days ago got its first Boeing jetliner in three decades, and it’s waiting for dozens more.

But Iraq is at the same time busily pursuing its own interests – sometimes against America’s wishes – as it seeks to balance its position in a precarious part of the world and reestablish itself as a regional power.

“Since the U.S. withdrawal, Baghdad . . . has attempted to re-think its relations with the U.S.” said Maria Fantappie, an Iraq analyst at the International Crisis Group. She described the strategy as trying to establish a two-way, “non-exclusive relationship with the United States.”

Iraq’s desire to go its own way was on display last month when authorities freed a jailed Hezbollah commander that Washington had wanted to keep behind bars. The U.S. considers Ali Mussa Daqduq to be a major threat to Americans in the region and believes the Lebanese militant was behind a brazen 2007 raid on a military base that left five U.S. soldiers dead.

Iraqi courts determined there was insufficient evidence to keep him locked up, and the country’s Shiite-led government refused to extradite him to the U.S. to face further trials there.

Iraq continues to forge ever stronger ties with neighbor Iran, Hezbollah’s top patron, even as the United States and many of its allies work to isolate Tehran over its nuclear program. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is expected to make his second visit to Baghdad soon.

Iraq has done little, for instance, to halt flights suspected of carrying Iranian arms to neighboring Syria. Although Baghdad has searched a handful of planes, saying it found nothing, its reluctance to do more exasperates Washington.

A U.S. Embassy official recently said the Iranian flights continue.

“They need to stop flights at least frequently and randomly without advance notice to have a look. We believe these flights carry weapons, and not just humanitarian supplies . . . or flowers for the tabletops of Damascus,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter and insisted on anonymity.

American officials say their relationship with Iraq is improving nonetheless.

A number of senior officials have visited Baghdad in recent months, including Sen. John McCain and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey. Robert Ford, the ambassador to Syria, met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Monday to discuss efforts to resolve the civil war there.

Even so, the American presence in the country continues to shrink.

The number of U.S. government employees and contractors working at diplomatic outposts around the country has fallen below 14,000, according to figures provided by the embassy in Baghdad. That is down from about 16,000 earlier this year. It is expected to shrink to about 12,000 in 2013.

Even after the last American bases were handed over to the Iraqis and U.S. troops rolled out across the border with Kuwait on Dec. 18, 2011, a small number of military personnel stayed in Iraq as an arm of the American Embassy.

They are responsible for facilitating Iraqi arms purchases, including three C-130J transport planes handed over Monday, and training the Iraqis how to use and maintain the weapons. Fewer than 200 of those trainers and administrators remain in the country, and their numbers are expected to decline further into next year.

Iraq’s transition to a world without American boots on the ground has been rocky.

Political crisis gripped the country as soon as U.S. troops left, when the Iraqi government announced an arrest warrant against Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, one of the country’s highest-ranking Sunni politicians. Al-Hashemi is accused of orchestrating death squads – a charge he dismisses as politically motivated. Iraqi courts have since found him guilty in absentia and handed down multiple death sentences against him.

Al-Hashemi initially sought refuge in Iraq’s self-ruled Kurdish region, away from security forces controlled by the central government, and later traveled to neighboring Turkey, where he remains. The Kurds’ and Turks’ willingness to offer him shelter has helped sour Baghdad’s relations with both.

Other Iraqi officials also have been pushed from their posts amid allegations of wrongdoing, including the respected governor of the central bank, Sinan al-Shabibi. Critics see the moves as an effort by al-Maliki to marginalize perceived opponents. The government denies any such motive.

Ethnic tensions, meanwhile, are bubbling back to the surface. The Kurds, a different ethnic group from Iraq’s majority Arabs, last month sent additional troops to fortify their positions in disputed areas bordering the Kurds’ largely autonomous northern enclave.

Both sides have agreed to withdraw their forces eventually. Still to be resolved are deeply entrenched disputes over the contested areas as well as how to share wealth and manage oil resources.

Securing Iraq, as always, remains a challenge as well. Although the bloodshed is not so rampant as it was during its peak in 2006 to 2007, deadly attacks against civilians remain painfully common. Iraqi security forces still struggle to gather intelligence on militants and prevent attacks – a task made harder without help from the U.S. military.

While many Iraqis were happy to see U.S. forces leave their country after eight long years, some say they now regret that the American soldiers departed when they did.

“We now wish that the Americans would have not left us so soon,” said Ibrahim Karim, a 35-year-old government employee in Baghdad. “The Americans left Iraq as a playground for neighboring countries and full of chaos and violence.”

On Monday alone, a wave of bombings struck a number of targets, including areas disputed by Arabs and Kurds, killing at least 25 people.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Supervisor candidates square off at forum

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1, 5 Comments | Gallery

 
Carli takes oath, now Vacaville’s 14th police chief

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Huge jump in Solano median home price

By Brad Stanhope | From Page: A1, 3 Comments | Gallery

Donate a car, help build a house

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Solano DA hosts workshop to fight human trafficking

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3, 1 Comment | Gallery

Suisun water rates won’t rise this year

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3

 
 
Fairfield town hall on crime delayed

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4, 4 Comments

Railway museum offers wine-tasting rides

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

 
 
Drugs topic of cardiac class

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

Weather for April 17, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B12

 
Fairfield police log: April 15, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: April 15, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Fairfield police log: April 14, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun Police log: April 14, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
.

US / World

Armed robber was never told to report to prison

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Body of California man who jumped into river found

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Lost sea lion in California found mile from water

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Seabird from Atlantic spotted on Alcatraz

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Ex-Bell city leader gets 12 years in prison

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
California delays decision on protecting gray wolf

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Court rules for environmentalists in water fight

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Governor calls special session on rainy day fund

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

Denver police eye 911 response time after killing

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

 
Man charged with marathon hoax is held on bail

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Geneva talks on Ukraine face steep hurdles

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Pro-Russian insurgents seize armored vehicles

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Ferry sinks off South Korea; 6 dead, 290 missing

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
NATO ups military presence amid Russian threat

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

.

Opinion

In support of Pam Bertani

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 6 Comments

 
Parenting demands responsibility

By Ruben Navarrette | From Page: A11, 1 Comment

 
Let’s stop Fairfield’s future thugs

By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A11, 6 Comments

Obamacare news you probably missed

By Martin Schram | From Page: A11, 2 Comments

 
Editorial Cartoons for April 17, 2014

By Kim Durbin | From Page: A11

.

Living

A lesson in household budgeting

By Chris Erskine | From Page: A2

 
Today in History for April 17, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Community Calendar: April 17, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Horoscopes for April 17, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

 
.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Daniel Radcliffe on why New York audiences rock

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Alicia Silverstone out with book ‘Kind Mama’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Jenny McCarthy announces engagement on ‘The View’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Ailing Malcolm Young taking break from AC/DC

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Disney Channel’s ‘Jessie’ breaks romantic ground

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

.

Sports

Vacaville’s Peralta to wrestle at San Francisco State

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

 
Angels beat A’s 5-4 on Iannetta’s HR in 12th

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

MEL, SCAC tangle in hoops all-star games

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1

 
Sharks take goalie questions into rematch vs Kings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Crawford’s 41 points leads Warriors over Nuggets

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

IndyCar driver Saavedra fined $10K

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Sandoval’s single lifts Giants past Dodgers, 2-1

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Officer: Sharper’s DNA found on 1 Arizona victim

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Jets sign former Titans RB Chris Johnson

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Spieth ready for more after Masters success

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Backup QB Matt Flynn returns to Packers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Atlanta lands MLS expansion team for 2017

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Bucks owner Herb Kohl reaches deal to sell team

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Sidney Rice agrees to terms with Seahawks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Goodwin helps Suns to 104-99 win over Kings in finale

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
.

Business

Yellen: Fed stimulus still needed for job market

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Some exempted from minimum wage, increased or not

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Fed survey: Growth picks up across most of US

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Bank of America posts loss, hurt by legal charges

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

IBM posts lower 1Q earnings amid hardware slump

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Google’s 1Q earnings disappoint as ad prices slip

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9