The US and Iraq have signed a deal setting the foundation for a potential long-term US troop presence in Iraq.

Under the agreement, the US is expected to provide support for Iraq's economic institutions, and help its government train Iraqi security forces.

Political observers say the close US-Iraq relations in military, economic and political terms is crucial to the stability of Iraq and the Middle East as a whole.

However, critics charged the deal is tantamount to colonialising Iraq as in return the US has asked for a strategic partnership which includes preferential treatment for American investments.

Such a deal, they say, would enable the US to maintain leverage against Iranian expansion at a time of growing fears about Tehran's nuclear aspirations.

Inside Iraq this week examines the real issues and motives behind the US-Iraq long-term cooperation agreement.  

Our guests this week:

Retired General Richard Myers, former chairman of the chiefs of staff and As'ad AbuKhalil, a professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus and visiting professor at University of California, Berkeley.

Watch part one of this episode of Inside Iraq on YouTube

Watch part two of this episode of Inside Iraq on YouTube

This episode of Inside Iraq aired on Friday, March 21, 2008

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