Thursday, April 28, 2016

Obama says that the U.S. will be in Iraq for a long haul

At a press conference during his visit to Saudi Arabia, President Barack Obama said the U.S. will continue its presence in Iraq over the longer term. He cited the country's political instability as showing that the U.S. needs to remain involved.

The U.S. has been increasing its military involvement in Iraq for some time, with 200 more troops sent recently. The number of U.S. troops in Iraq is now more than the cap imposed by the Iraqi government.
The political situation in Iraq is chaotic. Prime Minister Hader Abadi has been trying to have a reform cabinet of technocrats approved. The Shia mullah Moqtada al-Sadr has led huge demonstrations demanding reform. There have been fist-fights on the floor of the parliament. The speaker was sacked. The parliament has been suspended until further notice. In an attempt to force the parliament to act quickly, Obama said that increased funding for Iraq would be based on the ability of the government to get a cabinet in place. Obama said he was concerned that Abadi's hold on power was not very strong. Abadi is facing strong resistance from party members who prefer the old corrupt system which gives them more power and influence. For once, the fiercely anti-American al-Sadr and the Americans agree on something. However, Sadr is opposed to more U.S. ground troops in Iraq.
While visiting Saudi Arabia, Obama appealed to the Saudis and Gulf states to provide more financial aid for Iraq. However, the budgets of the rich oil producers are stretched by the steep decline in oil prices. The Sunni nations are not anxious to provide funds for their mainly Shia neighbor under in those circumstances. They also want the political situation to improve and Iraq to better integrate its Sunni minority into the government. Even Obama said:“Right now in Baghdad, there’s some big challenges. Until that’s settled, I think it’s important for us to make sure that any additional stabilization dollars that we put in are going to be effectively spent.”Obama has not been able to wind down U.S. involvement in the Middle East or Afghanistan, as conflicts continue. Many of Obama's Middle East allies are concerned that Obama is willing to make a peace deal in Syria that would leave Assad in power. Obama noted that the ceasefire seems to be breaking down.


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