In U.S. Exit From Iraq, Failed Efforts and Challenges
The request was an unusual one, and President Obama himself made the confidential phone call to Jalal Talabani, the Iraqi president.
Marshaling his best skills at persuasion, Mr. Obama asked Mr. Talabani, a consummate political survivor, to give up his post. It was Nov. 4, 2010, and the plan was for Ayad Allawi to take Mr. Talabani’s place.
With Mr. Allawi, a secular Shiite and the leader of a bloc with broad Sunni support, the Obama administration calculated, Iraq would have a more inclusive government and would check the worrisome drift toward authoritarianism under Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.
But Mr. Obama did not make the sale.
“They were afraid what would happen if the different groups of Iraq did not reach an agreement,” recalled Mr. Talabani, who turned down the request.
Mr. Obama has pointed to the American troop withdrawal last year as proof that he has fulfilled his promise to end the Iraq war. Winding down a conflict, however, entails far more than extracting troops.
In the case of Iraq, the American goal has been to leave a stable and representative government, avoid a power vacuum that neighboring states and terrorists could exploit and maintain sufficient influence so that Iraq would be a partner or, at a minimum, not an opponent in the Middle East.