The US suffered a major diplomatic and military rebuff on Friday when Iraq finally rejected its pleas to maintain bases in the country beyond this year.
Barack Obama announced at a White House press conference that all American troops will leave Iraq by the end of December, a decision forced by the final collapse of lengthy talks between the US and the Iraqi government on the issue.
The Iraqi decision is a boost to Iran, which has close ties with many members of the Iraqi government and which had been battling against the establishment of permanent American bases.
Obama told America not to look behind the curtain:
Obama attempted to make the most of it by presenting the withdrawal as the fulfilment of one of his election promises.
“Today I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over,” he told reporters.
But he had already announced this earlier this year, and the real significance today was in the failure of Obama, in spite of the cost to the US in dollars and deaths, to persuade the Iraqi president Nouri al-Maliki to allow one or more American bases to be kept in the country.
Obama has set the stage for Iranian dominance.
The Pentagon had wanted the bases to help counter growing Iranian influence in the Middle East. Just a few years ago, the US had plans for leaving behind four large bases but, in the face of Iraqi resistance, this plan had to be scaled down this year to a force of 10,000. But even this proved too much for the Iraqis.
This is not a little failure. This is a gigantic failure. Worst of all, it squanders the sacrifice made by so many in the US military.