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A Shaky Iraq's Sovereign Step

Celebratory fireworks marked the withdrawal of U.S. troops from urban areas this week in Iraq, but mingling with the high spirits was unease in many quarters over the road ahead. As a number of analysts have noted, tensions between Sunni Arabs and Kurds in Iraq's oil-rich northern provinces remain high; power-sharing deals in Kirkuk languish; and violence in Mosul continues apace. In Baghdad, political tensions have hindered the passage of important legislation (NYT). Kenneth M. Pollack of the Brookings Institution points to security concerns as well as troubling political squabbles. "We're seeing all of Iraq's various political factions vying for power in a way that serves their short-term good, but not necessarily the long-term good of the country," he told CFR.org's Bernard Gwertzman. Pollack calls for flexibility on the part of the Obama administration regarding the timetable that calls for U.S. troops to leave by the end of 2011. CFR President Richard N. Haass also believes the administration should "think about conditions, not calendars," in planning for troop redeployments from Iraq. He told MSNBC's Morning Joe the true test of Iraq's ability to stand on its own will come when U.S. troops are slated to cease combat (in August 2010), and leave Iraq (in 2011). "This was the easy milestone," says Haass.

U.S. concerns remain about Iran's influence on Shiite factions and the lethality of groups like al-Qaeda in Iraq, underscored by a series of deadly bombings that killed hundreds in the days before the U.S. withdrawal from Iraqi cities. Even the economic front is shaky--budgetary constraints and a mismanaged oil industry have damaged revenue streams, while a much anticipated auction for oil and gas development rights yielded just one deal (Reuters).

At the same time, some experts...

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