Middle East

Mid-East papers apprehensive at US Iraq withdrawal

Army soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division walk to a waiting bus as they leave customs for a ride to the airport to fly back to Fort Hood from Kuwait after exiting from Iraq
Image caption American troops are preparing for a complete withdrawal

Several Middle Eastern newspapers raise concerns about the impact of the imminent withdrawal of US troops from Iraq on the security of the county and the wider region. Two Iraqi papers see an enduring US role as essential, while some papers question whether the US is genuinely withdrawing from Iraq at all.

A writer in the independent Iraqi daily al-Mustaqbal al-Iraqi accuses Iraq's leaders of being unable to resolve domestic issues because of their "incessant political wrangles", let alone defend the country. Alaa al-Khatib says that this why "US assistance is essential... to fend off the influence of regional powers... on the seemingly often pliant and feckless Iraqi government".

He asks how critics of the US troop presence can insist that Iraqi security forces are able to maintain order "while they admit that Iraq is still incapable of protecting its airspace, shores and land borders from foreign aggression". He accuses these critics of naivety in saying that Iraq will "avoid being attacked by any of its neighbours as long as it continues to embrace pacifist policies and refrains from threatening its neighbours".

Nasir al-Hajaj, in the independent Iraqi daily al-Aalam, praises the Iraqi government for seeking greater US investment, and asks the opposition - armed and otherwise - to "offer Iraq half as much as the United States is willing to offer it, and to defy them to lure Iraqis with some useful merchandise, other than their routine supply of empty slogans, baseless accusations and endless obstructions, to say nothing of their lethal supply of car bombs and suicide attackers".

Mr Hajaj says that opponents are trying to "incite the American public against Prime Minister Nouri Maliki by branding him an Iranian proxy", and accuses some countries of seeking to "monopolise" access to cutting-edge US technology at Iraq's expense.

"The best thing Maliki can do to put such adversaries in their place is to challenge them," he concludes.

'Concealed occupation'

The hardline Iranian newspaper Jomhuri-ye Eslami questions whether there will be a real US withdrawal, accusing Washington of "hiring of thousands of people for security" at its Baghdad embassy as a way of maintaining a large armed presence.

"The approval of the continued presence of thousands of Americans in Iraq clearly makes their claim of leaving the country no more than a lie," the paper says, adding that neither the US nor Iraqi public will be pleased with more of a "deadly swamp swallowing US assets and soldiers... and causing instability, terror incidents and the violation of Iraqi sovereignty and independence".

The US withdrawal also attracts comment in the press of the United Arab Emirates.

The centre-left al-Khalij takes a similar line to Jomhuri-ye Eslami, saying that the US is "replacing an overt kind of occupation with a concealed one, because it is still thirsty for Iraq, its wealth and strategic location".

"Such staff numbers exist in no embassy anywhere in the world, especially as they enjoy diplomatic immunity," it says.

Commenting on the Iraqi quest for US investment, the pro-government UAE newspaper al-Bayan laments that as a result of the US occupation, a "once wealthy" Iraq now "stands in need of everything from power and fuel to foodstuffs".

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.

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