IRAQ 2010-11
Latest December 14th 2011

JANUARY 23rd 2010

Now comes a real test. This is the start of a period in which we can begin to assess whether Iraqis will really have gained from the change of regime from Tyranny and sectarian domination to an attempt at Parliamentary Democracy. It may yet take some time.

US Marines' Iraq command ends; Biden in Baghdad

By ADAM SCHRECK, Associated Press Writer

RAMADI, Iraq – The U.S. Marines marked the end of nearly seven years in Iraq on Saturday by handing the Army their command of Anbar province, once one of the war's fiercest battlefields but now a centerpiece of U.S.-Iraqi cooperation.

The changing of the guard — overseen by military brass and some of Anbar's influential Sunni sheiks — signals the start of an accelerated drawdown of American troops as the U.S. increasingly shifts its focus to the war in Afghanistan.

American commanders are trumpeting security gains in places such as the western Anbar province as a sign that their partnership with Iraqi security forces is working, and that the local troops can keep the country safe.

But fears are growing about a possible resurgence in sectarian tensions — fed by the Shiite-dominated government's plans to blacklist more than 500 parliamentary candidates over suspected links to Saddam Hussein's regime.

In Baghdad, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden met with Iraq's leaders Saturday to try to alleviate the pressures. While he kept expectations of a breakthrough low — telling reporters after a meeting with President Jalal Talabani it was up to the Iraqis, not him, to resolve the issue — his visit alone underscored Washington's concern.

The White House worries the bans could raise questions over the fairness of the March 7 parliamentary election, which is seen as an important step in the American pullout timetable and a way to break political stalemates over key issues such as dividing Iraq's oil revenue.

"I am confident that Iraq's leaders are seized with this problem and are working to find a just solution," Biden said during his visit.

The Marines formally handed over U.S. responsibility for Sunni-dominated Anbar, Iraq's largest province, to the Army during a ceremony at a base in Ramadi, the scene of some of the war's most intense fighting. Overall control of the province shifted from the U.S. military to Iraq in September 2008, but the U.S. continues to provide support for Iraqi forces.

Iraqi and American color guards stood together at attention as both countries' national anthems were played by a U.S. military band.

As many as 25,000 Marines were in Iraq at the peak of the fighting, mostly in Anbar province. Fewer than 3,000 remain. All but a handful of those will ship out in a matter of weeks.

The Marines' extended stay in Anbar went against the grain of the Corps' usual role as a fighting force designed to quickly seize territory and then turn it over to the Army to maintain control from fixed bases.

Sharing the front row at the handover ceremony with American Army and Marine generals were some of Anbar's influential tribal sheiks in traditional checkered headdresses and gold-embroidered robes. Their decision to shift support to the Americans is credited with sapping the Sunni insurgency — including al-Qaida in Iraq — of much of its strength in areas near Baghdad.

Maj. Gen. Terry Wolff, the Army commander who assumed responsibility for the province, said he hoped security gains cemented by U.S. troops and their Iraqi counterparts would ensure a smooth transfer despite the overall drawdown in American forces.

"The goal that we all seek is the Iraqis securing their own election, and that the election is fair and the election is free," he told reporters after the handover.

If all goes as planned, the last remaining Marines will be followed out by tens of thousands of soldiers in the coming months. President Barack Obama has ordered all but 50,000 troops out of the country by Aug. 31, with most to depart after the parliamentary election in March.

The remaining troops will leave by the end of 2011 under a U.S.-Iraqi security pact.

The changeover at Ramadi, 70 miles (115 kilometers) west of Baghdad, leaves the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Division with responsibility over both Baghdad and Anbar, the vast desert province that stretches from western Baghdad to the borders of Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

The province was once the heart of the deadly Sunni insurgency that erupted after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. In the battles for control of the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, the Marines saw some of the most brutal and deadliest fighting of the war.

Violence began dropping off in the province in late 2006 when Sunni fighters — known as Awakening Councils — turned against al-Qaida and sided with the Marines to fight the insurgency.

The upcoming parliamentary election is considered an important step toward speeding the U.S. troop pullout and seeking progress on stalled political initiatives. Among them: passing laws clarifying the rules for foreign oil investment and dividing the revenue among Iraq's main groups.

But plans to ban hundreds of candidates have raised deep concerns in Washington that the voting could widen rifts between the majority Shiites who gained power after Saddam's fall and Sunnis who are struggling to regain influence.

Biden, who arrived late Friday, had a full agenda of meetings with Iraqi leaders, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has strongly supported the blacklist and has resisted attempts at possible American mediation.

Some Sunni leaders have accused the Shiite-led government of using the ban as a political tool. But al-Maliki insists that Iraq must purge all ties to Saddam's Sunni-dominated regime. A vetting panel has put 512 names on the blacklist and more are expected.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told The Associated Press that during the meeting with al-Maliki, Biden was careful not to "give the wrong message that America wants to interfere in the Iraqi affairs."

Biden later met with Talabani, who has asked for a legal review on the blacklist. The courts are expected to examine whether the vetting panel has legal grounding because it does not have formal parliamentary approval.

The panel includes two controversial Shiite figures: Ali al-Lami, who was once detained by the U.S. military over a 2008 attack in a Shiite district of Baghdad; and Ahmed Chalabi, who is blamed for supplying U.S. officials with faulty intelligence on Saddam's weapons program prior to the 2003 invasion.

Al-Lami is also a candidate in the March election — raising further complaints from Sunnis about possible political motives behind the list.


Associated Press Writers Matt Apuzzo and Bushra Juhi in Baghdad contributed to this report.

JANUARY 25th 2010

Blasts kill 37 in Iraq, 'Chemical Ali' executed

BAGHDAD – Suicide bombers struck in quick succession Monday at three Baghdad hotels favored by Western journalists in well-planned assaults that killed at least 37 people and wounded more than 100.

The attacks were another blow to an Iraqi government already struggling to answer for security lapses that have allowed bombers to carry out massive attacks in the heart of the Iraqi capital since August, raising serious questions about the country's stability ahead of the March 7 parliamentary elections.

The blasts were launched over a span of 15 minutes, shortly before Iraq announced it had hanged Saddam Hussein's notorious henchman "Chemical Ali" and gave rise to speculation about possible links to the attacks.

JANUARY 26th 2010

Car bomb hits central Baghdad, killing at least 18

BAGHDAD – A suicide car bomber killed at least 18 and injured dozens more Tuesday in a strike against a police crime lab in central Baghdad, a day after several hotels were also hit by suicide attacks, officials said.

The latest blast came as family members of the Saddam Hussein stalwart known as "Chemical Ali" arrived in Baghdad to collect his body for an afternoon burial. Ali Hassan al-Majid was hanged Monday after a series of convictions for atrocities that included mass killings and crimes against humanity.

MARCH 6th 2010
The hope is that gradually, starting with this election, Iraqis will increasingly elect candidates who are not fundamentally tied to one or other of the sectarian groups but have adminstrative capability and patriotic feelings for Iraq as whole. It may take years, but the one advantage of the terror they have been through, and the danger they are still in, is that there is a better future that can be reasonably aimed for.

Iraq PM seeks high vote turnout

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has called on voters to turn out in large numbers for parliamentary elections.

Making a televised address on the eve of the vote, Mr Maliki said voter participation would boost democracy.

Security across Iraq has been stepped up: the border with Iran is closed and thousands of troops have been deployed around the country.

The vote is the second parliamentary election since the 2003 invasion which led to fall of Saddam Hussein.

The previous election, in 2005, saw Mr Maliki become prime minister with Shia Muslim parties dominating the legislature.

Iraq's last elections were in February 2009, when voters chose local representatives.

'Important choice'

The election is taking place against a backdrop of hugely reduced violence, with casualty figures among civilians, Iraqi forces and US troops significantly lower than in recent years.

But hundreds of people are still being killed each month, corruption is high and the provision of basic services such as electricity is still sporadic.

  • Voting to elect 325-member parliament.
  • About 19 million eligible voters out of 28 million
  • 200,000 security personnel on duty in Baghdad
  • Key issues: Security, services and disqualification of alleged Baathists
  • Previous votes: Jan 2005 (transitional national assembly), Oct 2005 (constitution), Dec 2005 first post-invasion parliament, Feb 2009 (local elections)
  • Against that backdrop, 19 million Iraqi eligible to vote will be asked to elect 325 members of parliament.

    Some 200,000 security personnel will be on duty to ensure the day goes smoothly.

    Earlier on Saturday, a car bomb ripped through the city of Najaf killing several Shia pilgrims near the Imam Ali Mosque.

    In his TV address, Mr Maliki urged Iraqis not to opt out of the democratic process.

    "I call upon you to benefit from democracy with consciousness... you have to go to the ballots and take part in the elections actively," he said.

    "I also call upon you to choose well the one you choose for the next mission. The upcoming stage will be important and the one who you will choose will remain in power for four years."

    Expats crucial?

    The elections are being seen as a crucial test for Iraq's national reconciliation process ahead of a planned US military withdrawal in stages.

    Correspondents say Prime Minister Mr Maliki looks likely to retain power at the head of his Shia-led coalition.

    The key will be whether Mr Maliki can bring Iraq's embittered Sunni minority into his government and make them feel they have a stake in Iraq's political future again.

    Expatriate votes cast in Jordan and Syria could play a deciding role in a tight election race, counting for around 10 seats in the 325-member parliament, which will form the next government.

    They began voting on Friday, with security forces, detainees and hospital patients able to vote on Thursday.

    There was a reportedly high turnout, with estimates suggesting 800,000 people cast ballots.

    There has been pre-election violence in Iraq and insurgents have vowed to disrupt the poll.

    Travel around the country has been restricted and the authorities have cancelled all leave for security services.

    On Thursday at least 14 people were killed in Baghdad as suicide bombers attacked two polling stations in different parts of the capital. Earlier in the day, a mortar attack on a crowded market killed seven.

    On Wednesday, three suicide bombers attacked police and a hospital in Baquba, a city north of Baghdad, killing at least 30 people.

    MARCH 09 2010
    Iraq election voter turnout '62%'

    The voter turnout in Iraq's general elections was 62%, officials said, despite attacks that killed 38 people.

    Preliminary results are not expected for several days but the turnout figure is down from the 75% who voted in the 2005 general elections.

    Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's State of Law Coalition is widely expected to win the most seats.

    But it is unlikely one party will form a government alone and there may be months of negotiations on a coalition.

  • Voting to elect 325-member parliament.
  • About 19 million eligible voters out of 28 million
  • Around 6,200 candidates from 86 factions competing
  • 200,000 security personnel on duty in Baghdad
  • Key issues: Security, services and disqualification of alleged Baathists
  • Previous votes: Jan 2005 (transitional national assembly), Oct 2005 (constitution), Dec 2005 first post-invasion parliament, Feb 2009 (local elections)
  • Officials from the Independent High Electoral Commission estimated the turnout in Sunday's elections was 62% of the 19 million eligible voters.

    The final official results will not be declared until the end of March, though preliminary results are expected in two or three days.

    Mr Maliki's State of Law Coalition said it had done well, especially in Baghdad and in the Shia south of Iraq.

    Unnamed Iraqi officials told the news agency AFP that he was leading in nine of Iraq's 18 provinces.

    Mr Maliki faces competition from the Shia-dominated Iraq National Alliance and the secular coalition of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

    An official with Mr Allawi's Iraqiya alliance said the bloc was leading in the northern and western provinces.

    Election officials gave further breakdowns of the turnout by region.

    We are just tired from living in horror, we don't want to lose more people we love, this war was bloody and I just want it to end and be a bad memory in my life. I wonder if my relatives abroad will come back... Iraqis want their lives back… I can't wait till the day I'll wake up and open the curtains in my room and see life in my neighborhood again instead of a ghost city, I can't wait till the day that we'll remove the wood we placed over the windows...

    I want to hear good news about rebuilding my country... not how many people who were killed.  [an 18-year-old Iraqi blogger from the city of Mosul, who voted for the first time]

    Voter turnout was reported to be 61% in the mainly-Sunni province of Anbar, which sprawls from west of Baghdad to the borders with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

    In the northern Kurdish-controlled autonomous area of Dohuk the turnout was 80%, news agency AFP reported.

    There had been fears that Sunnis might stay away, amid feelings of widespread alienation from the political process after a widespread boycott of the 2005 elections.

    Some 500 candidates, mostly Sunnis, were banned from running because of their alleged connections to the banned Baath party of former leader Saddam Hussein.

    Despite the attacks in Baghdad and other cities including Mosul, Fallujah, Baquba and elsewhere, the election has been hailed as a "milestone" in Iraq's history.

    Insurgents had threatened to disrupt the elections, but there were no large-scale suicide bombings as many had feared.

    The most deadly strike was on an apartment block in Baghdad which collapsed, killing 25 people.

    "Today's voting makes it clear that the future of Iraq belongs to the people of Iraq," Mr Obama said.

    MARCH 26th 2010
    This is a great result for Allawi. There is an electoral commission charged with deciding of the election was free and fair, they must decide of there has to be a recount or not. I guess it might lead to a coalition, which will then engage in endless arguments over policies and implementation. Worst case for Iraqis, I would think, an INA+State of Law coalition taking power.

    Challenger Allawi takes most seats in Iraq vote
    By Suadad al-Salhy and Khalid al-Ansary

    BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Secularist challenger Iyad Allawi's coalition won the most seats in Iraq's election, according to preliminary results on Friday, but the tight race foreshadowed long, divisive talks to form a new government.

    The cross-sectarian Iraqiya bloc headed by Allawi took 91 seats with the State of Law coalition led by Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki close behind at 89 seats, a result that highlighted Iraq's sectarian gulf following a vote Iraqis hoped would stabilize their country after years of war.

    Allawi said in brief comments on television that he would extend "hands and heart" to all groups.

    "For all who want and wish to participate in building Iraq, we will together bury political sectarianism and political regionalism," he said.

    Sectarian violence exploded after the last parliamentary vote in 2005 as politicians took more than five months to agree a government.

    Nearly three weeks after the March 7 ballot, the final preliminary results showed Maliki taking ethnically and religiously diverse Baghdad and predominantly Shi'ite southern provinces, while Allawi dominated largely Sunni northern and western regions.

    Celebratory gunfire rang out in the streets of Baghdad after the results were announced.

    The Iraqi National Alliance (INA), a Shi'ite bloc with close ties to Iran, was in third place with 70 seats. The INA, an alliance which includes anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, is negotiating a merger with Maliki's State of Law. Maliki said he was on the way to forming the biggest bloc in parliament.

    But any attempt to sideline Allawi in what could be weeks or months of perilous negotiations to form a new government could lead to resentment among Sunnis shunted to the political wilderness when Iraq's majority Shi'ites rose to power following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.


    The United States congratulated Iraq for carrying out a successful election, and noted both international and domestic observers had reported no signs of widespread or serious fraud.

    "This marks a significant milestone in the ongoing democratic development of Iraq," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.

    But Maliki said he believed the results were not final.

    "For sure, we will not accept these results," he told a news conference.

    Tony Dodge, an analyst at the University of London, called the result a "damning indictment of the ruling party, the insiders that have dominated Iraqi politics for the last five years.

    "We just have to see if Allawi has the wherewithal to form a government," he said.

    The results released on Friday represented a 100 percent preliminary count of the votes, but the final results must be certified by a court.

    The potential power vacuum and likely instability during the coalition negotiations will be watched closely by Washington as the U.S. military prepares to formally end combat operations by September 1 and pull its troops out by the end of 2011, and also by global oil firms that inked multibillion-dollar contracts to refurbish Iraq's rich but dilapidated oilfields.

    Underscoring Iraq's fragile security and the tensions caused by the March 7 election, two explosions in the town of Khalis, in Iraq's mainly Sunni northern Diyala province, killed at least 42 people and wounded 65 just before the release of the results.

    The Sadrists' strong election showing gives Sadr, a Shi'ite cleric whose Mehdi Army fiercely fought U.S. troops, a potential kingmaker role in the new parliament. A merger of State of Law and INA would take the two blocs close to the 163 seats needed to form a government.

    Such an alliance could leave Sunnis vulnerable after they turned out in force at the polls. Their participation was considered a key to Iraq's future stability after the sectarian bloodshed that engulfed the country in 2006-07.

    Sunni insurgents are blamed for daily bombings and other attacks despite a significant drop in overall violence during the last two years.

    A merger could also leave Maliki exposed in his quest for a second term as prime minister. The Sadrists were infuriated when Maliki sent federal troops to crush their militias and authorities still hold hundreds of Sadrist prisoners.

    (Additional reporting by Rania El Gamal, Muhanad Mohammed, Aseel Kami and Ian Simpson; Writing by Jim Loney; Editing Jon Hemming)

    JULY 18th 2010
    I do not understand why, when they know they are a target for al Qaida, the militia supporting the elected government all queue up together to collect their pay at the same place and time, known in advance to all.

    AUGUST 3rd 2010
    This BBC report gives a comprehensive update on the position. Obama's speech is for public consumption to please his supporters. Let us hope it relates in some way to the reality in the coming months.

    Obama confirms plan for US troop withdrawal from Iraq

    President Obama: "Our commitment in Iraq is changing from a military effort"

    US President Barack Obama has confirmed the end of all combat operations in Iraq by 31 August.

    Some 50,000 of 65,000 US troops currently in Iraq are set to remain until the end of 2011 to advise Iraqi forces and protect US interests.

    Mr Obama proclaimed that the end of operations would arrive "as promised and on schedule".

    It comes amid a dispute between the US and Baghdad over the latest casualty numbers in Iraq.

    The thrust of Mr Obama's speech was the fulfilment of his campaign promise to end the Iraq war, which was a defining characteristic of his 2008 candidacy.

    Mr Obama made his announcement in a speech to the national convention of the Disabled American Veterans in Atlanta, Georgia.

    The remaining 50,000 troops will stay in the country in order to train Iraqi security forces, conduct counterterrorism operations and provide civilians with ongoing security, said Mr Obama.

    An agreement negotiated with the Iraqis in 2008 states that these troops must be gone from the country by the end of next year.

    But the president warned the US had "not seen the end of American sacrifice in Iraq".

    He added: "But make no mistake, our commitment in Iraq is changing - from a military effort led by our troops to a civilian effort led by our diplomats."

    Meanwhile, according to the US military, 222 people died in attacks last month. Baghdad says 535 lost their lives - which would make July the deadliest month in the country for more than two years.


    Barack Obama made his promise to end combat operations in Iraq last year - the purpose of today's speech was to remind America's voters that he is keeping that promise.

    By the end of the month 90,000 American troops will have been withdrawn and the 50,000 who remain will leave before the end of next year.

    By the end of the process, more than 350 bases and 3.5 million pieces of equipment will be closed down, transferred to the Iraqi security forces or redeployed to other American units.

    That's a logistical feat on a staggering scale but the president was careful not to repeat the mistake of his predecessor George W Bush who famously declared that America's mission in Iraq had been accomplished seven years ago - long before the violence and instability were ended.

    The US released its own figure after Baghdad's estimate prompted concern that insurgents were exploiting a post-election power vacuum - and would wreak more havoc as the US withdrew more troops.

    "The claim that July 2010 was the deadliest month in Iraq since May 2008 is incorrect," a US military statement said.

    The US offered no full explanation as to why its figures differed so markedly from those issued by the Iraqi authorities.

    As the November congressional elections loom, Mr Obama wants to continue to hail the progress his administration has made in Iraq as a success, analysts say.

    Ongoing uncertainty

    The BBC's Hugh Sykes reports from Baghdad that some Iraqis worry that attacks by al-Qaeda in Iraq are increasing again as the Americans leave.

    Two bombings and a shooting killed eight people in Iraq on Monday.

    Many Iraqis are also concerned about the failure to form a government, our correspondent says.

    Since an inconclusive legislative election in March, Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions that won most seats have disagreed about who should be the next Iraqi prime minister.

    Fears have been rising that the ongoing political uncertainty could hinder the plans for a full US military departure by the end of 2011.

    While the US has been scaling down its troop presence in Iraq it has been stepping up its military commitment to Afghanistan, with the president ordering a surge of 30,000 additional soldiers there.

    Iraq War Quick Facts 

    • 31 August will mark the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom
    • Baghdad reports 535 dead in July
    • 50,000 US troops to remain until end of 2011
    • US troops scheduled to occupy 94 bases in Iraq by the end of August

    "We face huge challenges in Afghanistan," said Mr Obama. "But it's important that the American people know that we are making progress and we're focused on goals that are clear and achievable."

    But some are saying Obama's plan to begin withdrawing troops in Afghanistan as early as next July could encourage the Taliban and other extremist groups.

    Although there has been an increase in US troops in Afghanistan, there are fewer troops in Iraq and Afghanistan today than when Mr Obama first entered the White House.

    The Obama administration says once the Iraq withdrawal is finished, there will be a total of 146,000 troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan - which is a drop from 177,000 in January of 2009.

    AUGUST 17th 2010
    For the third time I ask: why do people queue up for hours, in their hundreds, in a place where they know they will be the target of a suicide bomber? Recruitment can be handled differently.
    Neither the US forces or the Iraqi forces can stop this in an insecured area. Such events can have no influence on the date of US withdrawal one way or the other.

    AUGUST 27th 2010
    Paul Bremer was on the other end of some pretty scathing comments on this website concerning the lack of a postwar plan. Here I give him his space without comment, as reported by the BBC.

    Paul Bremer: 'US must not walk away from Iraq'

    Paul Bremer says "democratic rule in Iraq will not be easy, certainly no easier than it was in America"

    Paul Bremer was the top civil administrator in Iraq until transferring sovereignty back to the Iraqi interim government in 2004. He argues that, despite the good work done in Iraq, a continued role for US government officials in the country is vital to ensure an open, democratic nation.

    As American troops end their combat role in Iraq, Americans, and citizens of countries that fought alongside us liberating Iraq, can take a certain measure of satisfaction with the progress there.

    To be sure, anti-democratic extremists continue their attacks. Iraqis still struggle to establish a new government and to provide essential services, like electric power.

    But amidst the fevered commentary, a bit of perspective seems appropriate. Having lost many American and Iraqi friends in this war, I'm fully aware that every casualty is painful.

    But it's worth remembering that Iraqi and American casualties are 95% lower than three years ago. And while still below demand, electricity production is 40% above pre-war levels.

    We Americans, in particular, might moderate our criticism of the lengthy efforts to establish representative government. Remember: it took us seven years to win our independence, 12 years to write our constitution and 20 years before we even had political parties.

    Establishing democratic rule in Iraq will not be easy, certainly no easier than it was in America. But to say that something is difficult is not to say that it's undesirable or impossible.

    The bigger picture confirms that the vast majority of Iraqis want their country to be ruled by a government chosen by its citizens, not by a tyrant which, until liberation in 2003, had been Iraq's sad history.

    Over the past five years, millions of Iraqis have braved terrorist threats to vote in four elections and in one referendum, in which they approved the most progressive constitution in any Arab country in history.

    That revolutionary document acknowledges fundamental human rights, the equality of the sexes and freedom of religion.

    It establishes the rule of law, the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary.

    Of course, the constitution is only a document and must be respected in practice. Still, the bottom line: today for the first time in the country's history, Iraqis are citizens, not subjects, of their government.

    The delay in forming a government is frustrating, even disappointing.

    But the lively Iraqi debate about establishing a government is itself refreshing and, ironically, a measure of how far Iraq has come. Under Saddam, such talk would have resulted in torture or death.

    Today, nowhere else in the Arab Muslim world is this kind of open discussion encouraged or even tolerated.

    This underscores the stakes in Iraq.

    For if the ancient land of Mesopotamia can establish a representative government, guided by modern constitutional principles, the example shows that other Arab Muslim countries, too, can be ruled by their people.

    Democracy in a major Arab nation also refutes the claim by Islamic extremists that Islam is in fundamental discord with the modern world and must wage war on it.

    America must not walk away from the still-limited success in Iraq. Iraq lives in a dangerous neighbourhood. The ancient pre-Islamic frontier between Arab and Persian civilisations runs along its eastern border.

    With a population of only 30 million, Iraq will never be able to generate conventional forces alone able to balance Iran with twice the population base. And a nuclear-armed Iran, which the American government rightly declares "unacceptable", would threaten Iraq, the entire region and broader American interests.

    So America has ongoing interests in Iraq's success and stability.

    Our security agreement calls for the withdrawal of all American forces by the end of next year. But that agreement also provides that the two countries can undertake "strategic deliberations" about defending Iraq against internal and external threats.

    The American government should soon begin quiet discussions with the Iraqis about how, after next year, we can continue to support Iraq as it moves along the difficult road to an open, democratic society.

    This essay was broadcast on The World at One on BBC Radio 4 and is now available to listen again on iPlayer.

    AUGUST 30th 2010
    I recommend this article. You can also read the comments by those who disagree or have reservations.

    War is ugly. But Iraq’s tyranny was even uglier

    Graeme Lamb

    "This conflict was not about revenge, religion or oil. It was about choice and that is a cause worth fighting for....."

    The author is now to head the programme for reconciliation with the Taleban

    AUGUST 31st 2010

    Iraq 'independent' as the US combat operation ends

     US troops will now provide support for the Iraqi security forces

    Iraq's prime minister has said the country is "independent" as the US formally ends combat operations.

    NOVEMBER 4th 2010
    Al Qaida is now launching an all-out attack on Christians in Iraq. Shia in Baghdad are also targetted.

    NOVEMBER 11th 2010
    The eleventh hour, it would seem, in Baghdad; and a ray of hope as after months of stalemate the recent disastrous attacks by al-Qaida may have been the triger for progress. Let us hope Iyad Allawi has some influence in the direction of policy.

    Iraq MPs meet to vote on Maliki-led government

    Nouri Maliki gradually gained the support of parliament's smaller factions

    Struggle for Iraq

    Iraq's parliament is voting on a deal on the formation of a new government.

    It comes after the main parties reached an agreement ending eight months of deadlock since elections in March.

    Nouri Maliki, a Shia, will remain as prime minister while the the Kurds will get the presidency.

    Iyad Allawi, leader of the main Sunni faction al-Iraqiyya, will head a new council for national strategy while Iraqiya member Osama Nujaifi

    DECEMBER 21st 2010
    Iraqi parliament approves new government
    One more chance. For God's sake take it!

    NOVEMBER 14th 2011
    ONE YEAR LATER. Obama put December this year as the date for the US to leave. As the time approached, he gave the Iraqis the option of keeping the training mission on in Iraq, with an obvious security element attached, but only if US troops retained immunity from prosecution. No agreement was reached on this so the U.S. will pull out and the training will have be located elsewhere. Critics are saying it Iran who influenced Iraq in this decision and, to an extent, that is true. But it also proves Iraq can take its own decisions. It is a sovereign state, however imperfect its democracy still is at this stage, and there is no tyrranic domestic terror as in the days of Saddam, not is Iraq a threat to its neigubours. At huge cost, progress has been made.

    DECEMBER 15th 2011
    As America moves out, I will leave the commentary to John Simpson and others. My own view remains the same as it was at the start of all this. Saddam and his family had to be removed as the least bad of some awful alternatives. It was terribly mishandled, by America through ignorance and by the UK through the inability for us to declare the objective (Regime Change) and insist on proper preparations for the aftermath and make these a condition of support for the operation.

    There was no way to tell if Saddam had WMD as he had no proof of what he had done with them, retained a development program, and spread the news inside Iraq that he still had them. Hans Blix's opinion was of no account, as concealed WMD could have been impossible to find in Iraq even if they had existed in huge quantities and all sorts. Those who protested in the UK against an operation that was inevitable are largely to blame for its abysmal execution - a fact I warned on at every stage. Tony Blair did not lie to the public, but the UK press misled the naive on the sort of WMD that could be readied quickly and used against the UK. Simpson summary Gatehouse on the future  Women's outlook