What We Left Behind in Iraq

Two years after the last American soldiers departed, it’s hard to find any evidence that they were ever there. Blast walls still stand outside office buildings, but only a handful of Americans remain, shuttling around the capital to help Iraqis use U.S. military equipment, and to drill for oil.

.. Roughly speaking, Sunnis moved to the west of Baghdad and Shiites to the east.

.. Frustrated, Khalilzad turned to the C.I.A. analyst assigned to his office, a fluent Arabic speaker whose job was to know Iraq’s leaders. “Can it be that, in this country of thirty million people, the choice of Prime Minister is either Jaafari, who is incompetent, or Ali Adeeb, who is Iranian? Isn’t there anyone else?”

“I have a name for you,” the C.I.A. officer said. “Maliki.”

.. Khalilzad emphasized that he did not choose Maliki; he had merely exerted American leverage to maximum effect. “We were trying to bring Iraqis together,” he said.

.. As Beals explained it, the Americans decided that waiting for an untainted partner was impractical: “A history of armed covert struggle against Saddam wasn’t a disqualifying factor.”

.. From the beginning, Maliki was fixated on conspiracies being hatched against him—by his Iraqi rivals, by the Baathists he imagined were still in the Iraqi Army, even by the Americans.

.. But, he argued, fanatical caution had served him well. “His secret? He is a very intelligent tactician—all politics is short term. He doesn’t have any vision for the state.”

.. In videos, Saddam’s executioners chanted, “Moqtada, Moqtada, Moqtada!,” a reference to Moqtada al-Sadr, the Iranian-backed guerrilla commander. Even the U.S. officials who had handed Saddam over said that the execution was a disaster for the country, both internally and abroad. “It was a lynching,” the former diplomat told me. “They basically martyred him.”

.. Shortly after the elections, an Iraqi judge, under pressure from the Prime Minister, awarded Maliki the first chance to form a government. The ruling directly contradicted the Iraqi constitution, but American officials did not contest it. “The intent of the constitution was clear, and we had the notes of the people who drafted it,” Sky, the civilian adviser, said. “The Americans had already weighed in for Maliki.”

.. “We used to restrain Maliki all the time,” Lieutenant General Michael Barbero, the deputy commander in Iraq until January, 2011, told me. “If Maliki was getting ready to send tanks to confront the Kurds, we would tell him and his officials, ‘We will physically block you from moving if you try to do that.’ ”

.. Mahdi, the former Vice-President, told me that almost two hundred and twenty billion dollars had been allocated to some six thousand projects for which little or no work has been done. About seventy billion dollars had been handed out in government loans that have not been repaid.

.. Many Iraqis were outraged that the Prime Minister’s son had been given such power, and saw it as a troubling sign that he is being groomed as a dynastic successor. The Iraqi official worried that, if Maliki wins the upcoming elections, “he will pass power to his son.”

.. Counterterrorism laws allow any Iraqi to be held indefinitely without charges, and human-rights groups estimate that tens of thousands of Sunni men have been detained, many of them for years, and often incommunicado

.. Maliki has even resurrected a Saddam-era law that makes it a criminal offense to criticize the head of the government.

.. Izzat Shahbandar, an old friend and a former ally of Maliki’s, suggested that the Prime Minister’s sectarianism was at least partly pragmatic. When Maliki and the other exiles returned to Iraq in 2003, they quickly concluded that they couldn’t establish an Islamic state, because the two sects had fundamental differences over the nature of Islam. “So these guys who had been working on, planning on, an Islamic state all those years, suddenly they came to a halt,”

.. “Did we just get it wrong with Maliki and Karzai