A response from Washington?
Although Iraq is not an issue in this year's US presidential elections, Washington may need to figure out how to deal with the growing mess in the country, writes Salah Nasrawi
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Firefighters hose down a damaged building after a car bomb attack in the centre in Kirkuk, on Wednesday
US President Barack Obama formally marked the end of the Iraq War last October, after nine years of costly conflict and occupation that left the country devastated and the United States Middle East policy in disarray and its regional influence eroded.
By turning the page on the conflict and proclaiming that the war in Iraq "will soon belong to history" Obama was fulfilling an election pledge to end the war in Iraq while refocussing US national security strategy on the broad goal of ensuring US security.
His predecessor, George W Bush, had hailed the invasion of Iraq, led by his administration in 2003 to topple the regime of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and end its alleged weapons of mass destruction programme, as an opportunity to set up a model democracy in the Middle East.
More than six months after the last US troops departed from Iraq, the consequences of the policy pushed by Obama on Iraq is being increasingly brought into question, especially in view of the increasing influence of Iraq's neighbours and the turmoil in the Middle East.
Iraq remains gripped by a serious political crisis and spiraling violence, fostering an overwhelming sense of pessimism about the future of the country. There are fears about whether the country can stay united and what the consequences of the turmoil will be on Iraq's neighbours, including some key US allies.
The Iraqi government is now split on mostly sectarian and ethnic lines over power-sharing and national wealth distribution as Sunni Arabs and Kurds accuse Shia Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki of trying to monopolise decision-making and move towards authoritarianism.
Sectarian violence across Iraq has increased in recent days, and hundreds of people, mostly Shias, were killed last week in a string of bombings aimed at pilgrims to a Shia shrine in Baghdad.
The violence has sparked fears of a renewal of the fighting between Sunnis and Shias in Iraq, itself triggered by the US-led invasion and the toppling of the Sunni-dominated Saddam regime. There are now fears that this conflict could spread into neighbouring countries.
Last week's lethal attacks highlighted the weakness of Iraq's security forces, which were unable to stop the bombings despite being beefed up with new recruits, weapons and equipment.
Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for some of the bombings, calling the attacks a "blessed conquest" and a "serious blow" to Shia security.
The ongoing governmental conflict in Iraq and the rise in violence in the country are a slap in the face of the Obama administration, which had repeatedly promised that the country would stabilise in a few months after the US withdrawal.
Al-Qaeda's growing activities in Iraq are another blow to the US global anti-terror strategy.
Senior US officials such as General Ray Odierno, the US army chief of staff and a former commander in Iraq, had previously insisted that Al-Qaeda's strength in Iraq was "steadily degrading" and had expressed confidence that "Iraqi security forces can handle the violence" following the troop withdrawal.
Probably fearing the implications of increasing instability in Iraq for Obama's re-election campaign, the administration last week dispatched the national security advisor to the vice president, Tony Blinken, to Baghdad to urge Iraqi leaders to move quickly to end the tensions.
The White House said Blinken's mission aimed to make clear to Iraqi politicians that they should seek a solution that "does not promote or lead to violence."
Yet, it seems that Blinken's two-day talks with Iraqi leaders did not accomplish what had been hoped for.
According to Al-Maliki's office, the prime minister told Blinken that "Iraq pursues an independent policy away from policies that aim at pitching Iraq against other countries."
A statement issued by his office said that Al-Maliki had told the American envoy that "thanks to its democratic system, Iraq is capable of solving all its problems and overcoming all obstacles."
Prominent Iraqi Sunni leader and speaker of parliament Osama Al-Nujaifi did not even meet Blinken, and he declined a request put to him by the American envoy by phone to meet Al-Maliki to solve the crisis.
Blinken's talks with Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani, behind efforts to unseat Al-Maliki, also yielded nothing.
In another blow to the White House as it sought to manage its post-war policies in Iraq, Obama's nominee for the new US ambassador to Iraq stepped down after strong opposition from Republican members of Congress over an alleged sex scandal.
Brett H McGurk, a former member of the Bush administration national security staff who helped negotiate the 2008 accords that set the terms for the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, was widely seen as having good working relations with Al-Maliki.
As a result of these developments, US policy on Iraq is increasingly coming under scrutiny, as its regional influence wanes and worries about Iraq's instability mount.
The US administration remains committed to its ill-defined approach to advancing America's national security interests by resorting to high-tech warfare to target what the administration sees as threats to US security.
The much-criticised strategy is relying on drone spy aircraft to attack perceived terrorists and viruses sent from computers to foreign networks, aiming to disable them. The US has also been sending in small teams of special operations forces to quietly train and advise foreign forces.
However, these covert operations have failed to calm fears about increasing threats, and they have led to charges that the White House is resorting to such tactics in order to bolster Obama's national security credentials and thereby improve his re-election chances.
In addition to criticism that such methods could blind the administration to the costs and unintended consequences of its actions, the question has been raised of how much these operations, including the killing of former Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, have in fact contributed to the defeat of Al-Qaeda.
Many critics believe that the war against the group has not been a success and that it is causing more chaos in the region.
There is mounting evidence that Al-Qaeda is taking advantage of the conflict in Syria and that it is already gaining a foothold in the latter war-torn country.
Numerous reports have showed that Al-Qaeda operatives are moving out from Iraq among a growing number of recruits from other Middle Eastern countries with an arsenal of weapons coming through neighbouring countries.
The overthrow of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and the breakdown of that country's security forces have also generated a significant flow of militants and weapons to Al-Qaeda networks in North Africa and Somalia.
Meanwhile, as Iran consolidates its influence in Iraq and talks over Tehran's nuclear programme remain in deadlock, the United States is being faced with the question of how to respond to Iran's increasing ambitions, which many believe could ultimately trigger a new conflict in the Middle East.
Iraq might not be considered as a defining issue in this year's US presidential elections, with Obama and his administration trying to deflect attention from the violence-battered country, but Washington may not be able to remain deaf, dumb and blind as Iraq plunges further into the abyss and introduces more uncertainty into the Middle East.
A report published by Congress on Tuesday raised these and other questions, asking how Washington will be able to cope with changes in the Middle East following the US withdrawal from Iraq and the turmoil caused by the Arab Spring.
Among recommendations made in the report is keeping some 15,000 US soldiers in Kuwait "to give flexibility to respond to sudden conflicts in the region".
However, to do so would mean that Obama's draw-down policy in Iraq was only electioneering and that the United States will be back to business as usual in the Middle East, including in terms of its military build up, this time aimed at Iran, once the presidential elections are over.