Where is Iraq going while we are pretending to be out of the war?
Here's one answer. Ms. Liz Sly (great six-letter byline) of the Los Angeles Times reported that neighboring countries were sliding in to fill the vacuum being created by the partial U.S. withdrawal. "It is very dangerous," Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told her. "It's a zero-sum game for these countries. Everyone wants to knock down the other one's policy."
Speaking of Iran, Joel Wing had a nice profile of Tehran's new ambassador to Baghdad, a general in the Qods Force who, interestingly, was born in Baghdad and fought on the Iranian side in the Iran-Iraq war. Iraqi President Talabani isn't even waiting for Uncle Sam to leave to start warming up to Iran. Another returnee from Iran is the sadistic Shiite militia leader who was into using electric drills on the kneecaps of his enemies. And the oddest wrinkle of the month was old Tariq Aziz, ex-BFF of Saddam, criticizing the United States for bugging out.
And here is probably the best summary of the month's Iraq news. But a bit over-optimistic.
Bottom line: The Iraqi mess is far from over, and I don't think the Americans have extricated themselves. The best we may have done is reduce the American presence sufficiently to let natural political forces begin to work and Iraqi politicians to break through the current stalemate. This is likely to be a violent process.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.