Why Iraq Still Matters

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Washington, D.C. – In one of his last public addresses before retiring, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates affirmed the importance of sustaining the U.S.-Iraq relationship, speaking before a full house at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington on May 24th.
“Something we could not have predicted five months ago is that Iraq would emerge as the most advanced Arab democracy in the entire region.  As messy as it is, when you think back to the months and months that it took to form a government and the fact that the conflict was political, they weren't in the streets shooting each other, the government wasn't in the streets shooting its people -- so I think that sustaining that is worthy of an investment -- we've made a big investment already, a huge investment, in treasure and in lives -- and to sustain that, in some respects as a model for a multi-sectarian, multiethnic society in the Arab world that shows that democracy can work -- not exactly like ours, that -- there's some pros and cons associated with that -- but can sustain itself.”
-- Secretary Of Defense Robert Gates



On the heels of Secretary Gates’ comments, the Institute for the Study of War released a policy paper on the U.S. role in Iraq beyond the expiration of the current Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in December 2011 titled Policy Brief: Extending the U.S. Military Role In Iraq.
Authored by ISW Director of Research Marisa Cochrane Sullivan and Research Analyst Ramzy Mardini, the brief details Iraq’s current political climate, the current Status of Forces Agreement, why it’s critical for the United States to take on a proactive and leading role when engaging with Iraq’s leaders, and the need to communicate the value of a new security agreement.
The Policy Brief also outlines key policy recommendations for moving forward including:

•At the domestic level, the U.S. should adopt an integrated and bottom-up approach that focuses on building confidence and consensus amongst Iraq’s various actors.
•Engagement with the Iraqi leadership should involve discussions that unfold over an extended period of time, and not be curtailed by ultimatums by U.S. officials.
•On a broader level, the U.S. needs to better engage and induce the Iraqi people by framing the central rationale behind the U.S. presence as essential for laying down the foundation for a future where Iraq is a thriving power in the region.

Read more here- Policy Brief: Extending the U.S. Military Role In Iraq
In the News – In an op-ed published in Lebanon’s Daily Star last week, ISW’s newest analyst, Ramzy Mardini, discusses the shortcomings of Iraq’s coalition government and why Washington should be pushing in the opposite direction if they want to strengthen the Iraqi Parliament.  Read it in full here - “Iraqi Consensus Rule, a False Promise”.
For more on the current status of U.S. Advise and Assist Brigades currently in Iraq, see our most recent Iraq Order of Battle.

<p>Secretary of Defense Robert Gates speaking before a full house at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington on May 24<sup>th</sup>.</p>
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