Since the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq in December 2011, US politics as a regular topic of conversation among Iraqis has waned.
Conversations in clubs and cafés, which used to revolve largely around US politics and the involvement between the two countries, have now turned to matters of Iraqi security and political issues, which are widely believed to have grown worse since the withdrawal.
The United States has played a large role in Iraq since Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent war. But Washington and Baghdad became allies after the 2003 overthrow of the Ba’ath Party regime, and the political involvement between the two countries has been designed to continue this on path.
However, some Iraqis are skeptical since the withdrawal and are growing more hopeless that the rebuilding of their country that they felt had been promised will not happen at all now, and that maybe their best interests are not being considered.
Many now feel deserted by the US, citing their continued lack of infrastructure, jobs and security as a sign that they have been left with a mess they can’t fix, and a formidable foe next door, against whom they cannot defend themselves alone.
“Iraq has a weak government now, so the outcome of the American election tells the future of our country,” says Dara Jabar, a Kurd from Erbil. “The next American president will say whether Iraq becomes a strong, independent country, or whether our neighbor countries have power over us.”
High school teacher Yussief al-Jbouri finds US foreign policy to be weak regarding this issue, and wants to see a change, regardless of who takes office next.
“My biggest fear is that the next American president will be as weak as Obama was toward foreign policy,” he says, “and that Iran will have a way to dominate us. They want our country, they want to limit Sunni power, and they want us as a backyard to do whatever they want.”
Adnan al-Sarag, a former military officer, agrees that the limits on Iran have not been strong enough, but thinks Pres. Obama can do a good job, if there is more focus on Iraq’s economy and independence.
“I hope we can build a strong economic relationship with the US, so we can rebuild our country,” he says.
Preference from Sunnis in the north and west leans toward Governor Mitt Romney as the next US president, as many of them believe he will limit Iranian power in Iraq.
Romney says he wants to back Israel’s use of force to stop Iran’s nuclear armament, while Obama wants to engage in talks with them. Many are worried that Iraq is going to become a war field between Iran, Israel, and the US.
In the meantime, many Iraqis just want to see that the US is on their side.
“We don’t want more destruction to our country,” says al-Jbouri. “But right now, there is no one to help us.”
Nizar Latif contributed to this report from Baghdad