Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, is visiting Washington to discuss the next phase in US-Iraqi relations as, after nearly nine years of war, the US prepares to pull the last of its troops out of the country.
While Iraq is now a democracy, security remains fragile and Major General Jeffrey Buchanan, the chief spokesman for US forces in Iraq, has warned that the country "remains a dangerous place" where al-Qaeda could experience a resurgence.
"We do have an interest but we don't have the ability to, ourselves, map out Iraq's future. This is a democracy. You may not like it, you may not like what the democratic process gives you, but it is a democracy."
- Richard Armitage, the US deputy secretary of state at the time of the Iraq invasion
The recent visit of Joe Biden, the US vice president, to Iraq to mark what he called "the end of an era" was met with protests.
Meanwhile the US and Iraqi governments have several issues pertaining to their future relationship to resolve. First among these is what role the 16,000 US personnel, including a number of contractors and diplomats, remaining in Iraq will play. And then there is the matter of the big oil firms, some of which have already angered Baghdad by cutting controversial deals in the north of the country. It is thought that the Iraqi government may want Washington to mediate in these matters.
And in a shifting Middle East, the US needs Iraq as a strong ally. Al-Maliki, though, also has close ties with Iran, Syria and Lebanon's Hezbollah.
On this episode of Inside Story Americas we interview Richard Armitage, the second highest ranking state department official during the Iraq invasion, about the level of US influence in the country and then host a discussion about what role the US should play in the new Iraq with guests: Hillary Mann Leverett, a former White House official; Raed Jarrar, an Iraqi political analyst; and Mark Kimmit, a former US military spokesman.
"[Iraq] is in a much better situation than it was as recently as five years ago. It is a democracy; it is at peace with its neighbours."
Mark Kimmit, a former US military spokesman
Source: Al Jazeera