by Michael Rubin*
US President Barack Obama’s plan to withdraw troops from Iraq is predicated on an assumption that Iraq’s stability is durable. On 29 January 2009, General Ray Odierno, commander of the Multi-National Force-Iraq, said: “We are getting close to enduring stability, which enables us really to reduce [US military forces].” Advocates of military withdrawal by the United States are optimistic: the 31 January 2009 provincial elections proceeded without much incident.
According to US government figures, violence is down to 2003 levels. Progress, however, has less to do with the governance system, and more to do with key personalities: President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, both of whom met Obama in Baghdad on 7 April, as well as Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani each conciliate crisis and reconcile disparate interests. Without them, stability and security in Iraq may not be sustainable.