The celebrations in the streets of Iraq last week, held largely on the government’s dime, tell the story of a nation which sees the US pullback from Iraq’s cities as a huge step toward the return of the nation’s sovereignty in the wake of the 2003 invasion.
But is that story real, or imagined? On the streets, many Iraqis are skeptical that the pullback means anything, particularly given that the soldiers are all still there, just along the outskirts of the city limits. The parties too are regarded with suspicion, as many see Maliki’s role in organizing and funding them as a transparent attempt to curry favor with the voters.
Since leaving the cities, US troops have adopted a strategy to “encircle” them. In practice, this means most of the troops remain within a few miles of the city limits, and can re-enter at a moment’s notice with the permission of the Iraqi military.
The US isn’t planning on having troops leave in signfiicant numbers for the rest of the year, and there is growing concern that the rising violence of recent weeks may lead the Obama Administration to once again revise his pullout strategy, already significantly slowed from what he promised in the campaign.