With a number of crises in the Middle East developing with ever greater intensity, many Americans wish to turn inward. While the Obama administration wishes to turn eastward toward Asia and the Pacific, the problems of the Middle East will not allow it. Amid debates over Middle East policy, Iraq is a recurring subject. It is used as a warning, as a specter and even as a curse. Rarely is it cast as a U.S. interest, let alone as an ally. Yet Iraq is suffering its own crises, and it is largely forced to weather them alone. Buffeted by the events in the wider region, struggling with its own internal fissures, Iraq soldiers on.
Largely overlooked by Americans and most of the rest of the world, Iraqi oil production has expanded so that it is the second largest exporter in OPEC and as such a critical element in the health of the global (and American) economy. In the spring, Iraq held provincial elections that were remarkable for being free and fair, for delivering a striking political outcome and reaffirming the demand of the Iraqi people that their country cling to its nascent democracy despite the rising tide of violence. And lying on the eastern flank of the Arab world, spanning the ethnic and religious divides of the Middle East, almost alone among the states of the region, Iraq has sought to maintain some degree of neutrality in the fights that threaten to consume their part of the world.
Americans may wish to forget Iraq, but we should not. Iraqis cannot afford to forget about the United States.
On September 18, the Saban Center for Middle East Policy hosted His Excellency Lukman Faily, Ambassador of Iraq to the United States, for an address and discussion on Iraq’s current circumstances, events in the region and an outline of Baghdad’s thinking about a new partnership with Washington. Senior Fellow Kenneth M. Pollack moderated the discussion, as well as a question and answer session following Ambassador Faily’s remarks.