The US military withdrawal from Iraq has accelerated and almost all the troops will have left the country by the end of next month. This follows the breakdown in talks between the US and Iraq in October on a continuing military presence. It contrasts hugely with expectations of a substantial long-term military presence as recently as a few months ago. Leaving behind a troubled country, the withdrawal raises questions over its reasons and the future of the US security posture in the region. Above all, it has implications for Iranian influence in the Middle East which, in turn, raises concerns in a number of countries, most notably Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Expectations and Outcomes
This series of briefings started in May 2003 in the immediate wake of the termination of the Saddam Hussein regime and at a time of positive expectations on the part of the Bush administration. The war had started in late March of that year and US troops moved rapidly to occupy Baghdad within three weeks. President Bush made his “mission accomplished” speech on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln on 1 May, expressing some caution over the levels of stability, yet confident that the war was over. With Saddam Hussein gone and Afghanistan rid of the Taliban, the future looked bright after the catastrophe of the 9/11 atrocities. Furthermore, much of the optimism stemmed from the belief that the termination of the Saddam Hussein regime, the establishment of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) under Pentagon control, and the building of several large US bases would all constrain Iran.
Although there was a widespread belief, especially in the United States, that the war had been a great success, some independent analysts saw it differently. The first of the briefings from Oxford Research Group, in May 2003 - Mission Accomplished? - expressed this caution in its conclusion: read more>>>