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Daily Column
US Papers Mon: US Searches for Influence
Diplomats Are Casting About to Find a New Formula to Influence Politics in Iraq
By DANIEL W. SMITH 07/06/2009 02:00 AM ET
Well, US papers relied largely on wire stories today for their Iraq material. For original work, we have only the New York Times, with a “where we are now” piece worth reading.

From Baghdad
Alissa J. Rubin gives us some analysis of an emerging Iraq with everyday decisions increasingly being made by Iraqis, instead of the guests who invited themselves over six years ago.

Now more than ever, American military and civilian officials do not have the daily contact with national, local, military and tribal leaders, decreasing their influence greatly. Iraqis are operating without their English-speaking buffers, now somewhat out of the loop – something neither side is very used to.
As they deal with Iraqi politics, the Americans must find a new tone. They have a reputation for being heavy-handed, for telling Iraqis what to do rather than asking what they want — a legacy of the period when Americans were in charge as an occupying force. Now that Iraq is in most respects a sovereign country, that approach only generates hostility.
Rubin discusses an Obama administration Iraq policy that has seemed distant to many Iraqis, and Vice President Biden’s trip this week, intended to counter that impression. The big fear, as always, are sectarian divides.
National parliamentary elections set for January already look likely to be run along sectarian lines. Shiite parties are leaning toward forming a united coalition with only nominal Sunni support. That could push Sunnis to run together in order to maximize the number of seats they get — perpetuating a Lebanese style of politics, with ministries and other posts divided along sectarian and ethnic lines.
Christian Science Monitor, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, no original Iraq coverage.
Comments on the US Papers roundup are welcome at


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