Iranian influence within Iraq has also grown and continues to threaten American interests. The U.S. handed over the last of its detainees in Iraq to Maliki’s government at the end of 2011, including two important Iranian proxies — Qais al-Khazali and Ali Mussa Daqduq. Khazali, formerly a disciple of Moqtada al-Sadr, heads Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), which means “the League of the Righteous.” It is one of the most lethal Shiite militias. Daqduq, a senior member of Lebanese Hezbollah, went to Iraq to arm, train, and equip AAH and other militant Iranian proxies. Both were captured in an early-2007 U.S. raid after they led an attack on U.S. personnel in Karbala that ended with the execution of five American soldiers. Since his release, Khazali has brought AAH formally into the Iraqi political process without disbanding his militia as required by Iraqi law. Uniformed AAH members paraded in front of Khazali at the ceremonies for the opening of AAH political offices in Baghdad this summer. The Iraqis continue to hold Daqduq for the moment, but an Iraqi court dismissed the criminal charges against him in July and refused an American request to extradite him in August.
The resurrection of al-Qaeda in Iraq is a consequence of America’s failure to negotiate a long-term military partnership of the kind that was envisioned when the Strategic Partnership Agreement was signed in 2008. U.S. enablers — combat troops in small numbers combined with the precision-strike capabilities of American aircraft and special forces — could have continued, in cooperation with Iraqi security forces, to keep the pressure on AQI. Their presence would also have sustained pressure on Maliki to keep Shiite militias in check.