President Obama announced the “end of America’s war in Iraq” on December 14, 2011, with the words, “We’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people. We’re building a new partnership between our nations.” These were the conditions that he felt allowed him to describe the completion of America’s military withdrawal as a “moment of success.” Nine months later, Iraq does not seem like a success, even in these extremely limited terms. It is neither sovereign nor stable nor self-reliant. Its government does not reflect the will of its people; Sunni officials have been marginalized and, in some cases, driven out of office. And it is not a partner of the United States on any of the key issues in the region: From its evasion of economic sanctions on Iran to its support for the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad, Iraq stands in Tehran’s camp, not Washington’s. The reality is that the United States has not achieved its national-security objectives in Iraq and is not likely to do so.
When President Obama took office, the U.S. had 144,000 servicemen and -women in Iraq. They were training and supporting Iraqi security forces fighting both al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and Iranian-backed Shiite terrorist groups. Today, around 150 American military personnel remain in Iraq. They are not training Iraqis or operating with them. The U.S. has withdrawn its military forces — keeping the president’s campaign promise, as the White House constantly reiterates. But what kind of Iraq have we left behind?