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BAGHDAD – American influence has so dwindled in Iraq over the last several months that Iraqi lawmakers and political leaders say they no longer follow Washington's advice for forming a government.

Instead, Iraqis are turning to neighboring nations, and especially Iran, for guidance — casting doubt on the future of the American role in this strategic country after a grinding war that killed more than 4,400 U.S. soldiers.

"The Iraqi politicians are not responding to the U.S. like before. We don't pay great attention to them," Shiite lawmaker Sami al-Askari, a close ally of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said Thursday. "The weak American role has given the region's countries a greater sense of influence on Iraqi affairs."

Vice President Joe Biden, the administration's point man for Iraq, has doggedly lobbied Iraqi leaders, both on the phone and in six trips here over the past two years.

Iraqis, however, measure U.S. influence largely by its military presence, which dipped by threefold from the war's peak to 50,000 troops in late August. As a result, Baghdad is now brushing off U.S. urgings to slow-walk a new government instead of rushing one through that might cater to Iran.

"The Iranian ambassador has a bigger role in Iraq than Biden," said a prominent Kurdish lawmaker, Mahmoud Othman. He said the Americans "will leave Iraq with its problems, thus their influence has become weak."

One problem which could worsen as a result is the sectarian divide — particularly if the secular but Sunni-backed Iraqiya political coalition, which won the most votes in the March election, is left out of a new Shiite-led government led by al-Maliki.

Many Iraqis, particularly minority Sunnis, would view such a government as "blessed by Iran and evidence of America's relative weakness," analyst Michael Knights wrote on the website of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. This perception could lead to a surge in violence.

Washington, which has its hands full with the war in Afghanistan and the hunt in Pakistan for Osama bin Laden, sees Iraq as "the bane of everyone's existence lately," said one senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the diplomatic issues.

But Iraq cannot afford to ignore completely what Washington wants. For one, that could bring the end of U.S. help and financial backing to broker $13 billion worth of contracts for military equipment.

It also would all but dash any hopes by Baghdad to re-negotiate a security agreement that is set to expire at the end of 2011 — a needed step to keeping some U.S. forces in Iraq to continue training its fledgling air force and protect its borders. A senior Iraqi military official predicted the new government, once it is settled, ultimately will ask U.S. troops to remain beyond next year.

U.S. alliances with Mideast nations to which Baghdad seeks to cozy up also cement American influence in Iraq, said Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center think tank in Doha.

"In that, I think the U.S. is still pretty well positioned in terms of getting its voice heard in Iraq," Shaikh said. But he agreed that the U.S. carries less sway in Baghdad than it used to: "If it was such an easy thing to exert influence, then wouldn't Iraq have had a government by now?"

More than seven months have passed since March 7 parliamentary elections failed to produce clear winners, and Iraqi politicians say they will pick new leaders on their own timetable.

Othman said the lengthy impasse, despite heavy U.S. pressure to form a government that includes all of Iraq's major political players, shows that Baghdad doesn't really care what Washington wants.

"Yes, the Americans have their view on how to form an Iraqi government," Askari agreed. "But it does not apply to the political powers on the ground and it is not effective."

U.S. officials initially encouraged the Iraqis to form a government quickly, but recently started pushing for a slowdown after it became apparent that a party led by anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was poised to play a major role.

The U.S. clearly hopes to stall the formation of a new government long enough for the deal unravel between al-Maliki and al-Sadr, whose hardline Shiite followers are close to Iran.

But the days of the U.S. calling the shots in Iraq are long over — largely because of President Barack Obama's intent to scale back America's presence more than seven years after the invasion which ousted Saddam Hussein's Sunni-led regime.

That's led Iraqi leaders to reach out to Mideast neighbors for support and advice on brokering a new government. Leaders from rival political coalitions in the last several months have been to Iran, Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia on official visits. On Thursday, al-Maliki was in Ankara to meet with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

It is Iraq's newly warmed alliance with Iran that worries the United States.

In a development that may have assured him a second term, al-Maliki this month won al-Sadr's backing. And this week, top Iranian officials gave al-Maliki their clearest nod of support yet during his trip to Tehran.

"Our concerns about Iran and its meddling in Iraq's affairs are long-standing," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters in Washington this week. "But that said, we would expect the Iraqi government to work on behalf of its own citizens and not on behalf of another country."

In Cairo this week, al-Maliki predicted a new government will be formed soon. A senior Iraqi government official said that will happen regardless of whether the U.S. blesses it, though he acknowledged that Baghdad would be weak without American support. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions.

"There is U.S. influence in the political process and forming of the government, but less so than before," said Sunni lawmaker Osama al-Nujaifi. "As they (the Americans) begin to withdraw their military, the Iranians are taking advantage of the empty space, and are ready to fill the vacuum."


Associated Press Writer Mazin Yahya contributed to this report.

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This comes as no suprise since the average Iraqui citizen never wanted the American presence in the first place with an illegial war politically devised and executed by the Bush adminstration and his political cronies strictly for oil and profits.

Ousting, jailing and executing an innocent man: Iraqui President Saddam Hussein and his family for absoluty nothing that he did but wanting his eliminated in order to implant American's insatible greed for political power and control of it's rich and vast oil reserves in the Middle East in order to become a major player in that part of the country and the world......America, a Christain nation in the middle of the Muslim regions of the world while trying to change the dynamic of millions of years of Muslim lifestyle & culture and their surrounding regions to accept and embrace American "Christain values"...those same Christain values that killed, stole land and displaced Native Americans and enslaved Blacks...the same ole' song being played by America all over the world for generations......tyrin' to make other nations beholden, accountable and indebted to them in order to take control make a huge profit?

It failed. It did not work this time.

I for one, am glad that Iraq, the Iraqui people, it's government & all Muslims are slowly walking away from America's rhetoric and it's influence because in order for them to establish a government that work in Iraq with their people, other Muslims and their neighboring countries in that region, including Iran, then do what's best and tell the U.S. to back off since they still have a huge mess in all areas of iraq to fix that American purposely caused....combat operations are over, the troops are leaving and the American politicans who are still there tryin' to tell them what to do need to pack up and leave also....hovering over them will only make it worse.

We have caused enough damage to that country (killing millions of Iraqs) and our only job left to do is to fix the rebuild the infrastructure mess that still exists and provide security for it's people and those massive repairs.

The Shites and the Sunni will figure their government out that will best work for them and since the war is "technically" over and the soldiers are gone, get the American politicans out to.

And for the Obama adminstration, come to the realization and finally accept the hard and true fact that the Bush war plan to overthrow this country and take over for complete power and control did not work......they do not owe us, we owe them, we lied fron day one on them and about them, they did not lie about us (they were right about us) and we are and will be stupidly and foolishly forever in debt to them (via our tax payer dollars for decades) for purposely destroying and breaking what was not broken or in need of repair or change in the first place.
The Shites and the Sunni will figure their government out that will best work for them and since the war is "technically" over and the soldiers are gone, get the American politicans out to.

And for the Obama adminstration, come to the realization and finally accept the hard and true fact that the Bush war plan to overthrow this country and take over for complete power and control did not work......they do not owe us, we owe them, we lied fron day one on them and about them, they did not lie about us (they were right about us) and we are and will be stupidly and foolishly forever in debt to them (via our tax payer dollars for decades) for purposely destroying and breaking what was not broken or in need of repair or change in the first place.

But ... that's the thing, Cholly .... WILL they really be able to formulate some kind of functioning government??  And what if they don't??   What happens if they can't figure out a way to 'keep the peace' and make something workable happen??

The potential for chaos and confusion, death and destruction is increasing.  And, if they do not get a handle on it, it could eventually break out into something uncontrollable. 

And, yes .... I realize that technically, it's not 'our' problem.  They're over there ... we're over here.  Except that, as you say, "we" f*ked those people up ROYALLY ... for what turned out to be no reason, and through no fault of their own!!   "We" (the American people) were just as much victims as the Iraqi people ... held hostage by The Bush/Cheney Terror Coalition who destroyed their country for oil and profits that are likely to never be realized.  But ... "we" (s)elected them into office - twice, no less!! - allowing them to wreck (criminal) havoc for 8 years, and the cost of that has been devastation, both home and abroad.

And we can't deny that.  We ARE responsible for what has happened, is happening and will happen over there ... from this point on. 

Reading this story I could not help but think and ask the question ... "Is it going to turn out that all of this catastrophic madness has been for NOTHING???"    Will Iraq end up being even worse than it was before Bush put his bombs all over it?? 

I can't even begin to fathom that possibility.    All of our soldiers who lost their lives .. arms, legs, eyesight ... sanity .... and in the end it turns out that they shun and disregard us, go back into civil war ... maybe even another dictatorship ... or under the control of Iran .... making these 8 years of war totally useless with no positive outcome whatsoever???

I just don't need that kind of heartbreak.
Here's one thing I've never understood.  Most countries with democratic governments -- in fact, it seems like pretty much ALL of them -- use the parliamentary system.  And with that system, I always seem to hear about how there's a need to "form a government," or "form a coalition," and what not.  It seems like a really unpredictable, chaotic way to run a country.  It may work for long-standing, stable societies like many in Western Europe.  But the American system -- with a Congress divided into two houses, one head of state who's also the head of government, three separate branches -- seems a lot more stable, if nothing else.  I would think that if you're looking to form a new democracy in an area where stability is hard to come by, you'd go with a system based more on the American one than the European one. 

Does anybody know why that is?  What reason would places like Iraq and Afghanistan have for going for the parliamentary system over the one the US uses?
Quote by ER: "WILL they really be able to formulate some kind of functioning government??  And what if they don't??

Yes they will and they have the option to formulate any type of democrcy that they want (they deserve that) and the reason that it's differcult is because of our continued meddling presence hovering over them hoping that they don't go in the opposite direction that we don't want them to.

Almost 10 years and ths is where they are with our "help". You know that America does not give a damn what the Iraquis's all about setting it up specifically for us.

The nation of Iraq has to live an function in the middle east.....a new western style "democracy" totally surrounded by Iran and Saudi Arabia etc; all traditional cultural non-democracies smack dab in the middle east and America's position?....establish that democracy that will, over time, hopefully and politically spread democracy throughout the middle east, changing the entire dynamic of hundreds of thousands of years so that America and it's allies can completely get their hook in and take over...sounds familar?....isn't this how this country was built?...Massive death and destruction via the Christain religion and overwhelming brute force at the end of a gun barrel?

And for those thousands of US soldiers killed and wounded? I feel as deeply for them as anyone and it also breaks my heart that they had to be in a illegial and wrongful situation not of their own doing but only following those illegial orders from the Bush White House that permanently changed their lives and the loved ones lives forever (they were the pawns in this game) but I will not allow this pain that we have to live with to allow this country to continue to fyck over others; the constant lies, rape, robbery, conniving and stealing from Iraq when the bigger and long term picture was always about the money, the corruption, the greed, the power, the oil and the control throughout the middle east and if we establish a "democracy" of some type in that region and things begin to get completely out of control with two cultures and political philosophies clashing, then we will be back in that region, at war this time with iran and their allies.

With the establishment of an Iraqui western style democracy, is Iran supposed to finally "see the light" and change their political philosophy and structure also?  Fat chance of that happening.

Despite all the mess that we created, American politicans still have an itchy trigger finger eyeing Iran for a fight since all they have to do is make a decision to send troops back into war without any conscious or regards for what right and the troops that they would be sending.

Let them do what they need to do, we continue to rebuild and provide security and overwatch since we destroyed it and just leave them alone...will their be violence, indifference and misunderstanding?...yes, it can't be avoided but let them go though it and handle those issues because if we continue to direct and dictate, it will only get worse.

They want us's just that simple.

They will make the correct decision and get it done for themselves...we are just and had always been, directly and indirectly, in the way. 

We lost in Vietnam, allowed our ego with Operation Desert Storm's three months of air dropping bombs and a "100 Hour" ground war" to believe that Iraq could be ours by brute force and finally we lost in Iraq...and all they had to defeat us was AK47's, RPG's, IED's, booby traps, home field advantage, the will to fight, to win and the will to not be enslaved by America.....the very same as the Vietnamese....Just accept it and just move on.
Last edited by Cholly
They want us's just that simple.
True. And for good reasons. Wasted billions of American taxpayer dollars, American lives and innocent Iraqi civilians killed, tortured and horribly crippled for life and what do we have to show for it? Viet Nam did not teach us the lesson we should have learned. Strangely, Karl Rove, Sarah Palin and Sean Hannity would tell you otherwise. Talk about denial of reality......

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