Obama tries to distance himself from Iraq



WASHINGTON // Americans, and the American media, are suffering Iraq fatigue. Mounting difficulties in Afghanistan and the increase in troops approved by the president now dominate public discussion about international affairs.

Barack Obama, the US president, has tried to distance himself from the Iraq war, which he branded the "wrong war" during his presidential run. US analysts acknowledge that Iraq has been relegated to lower priority after Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and the fledging Arab-Israeli peace process. "There is less presidential involvement in Iraq on a daily basis, and that was quite intentional," said Ellen Laipson, the chief executive officer of the Stimson Centre, a Washington-based think tank working on security issues.

But with nearly 120,000 troops still deployed there and a monthly expense of nearly US$8 billion (Dh29bn), the fates of Iraq and US policy in the Middle East remain deeply intertwined, US analysts said. "The way in which Iraq evolves and the manner in which the US withdrawal takes place will have an impact on regional stability and on US interests in the Middle East, for some time to come," Ms Laipson said.

The main reason for the lower-key US role in Iraq is the status of forces agreement (Sofa), signed last year, which provides a timetable for an orderly withdrawal. Sofa, negotiated in the waning days of the Bush administration but which adopted some of Mr Obama's ideas, has allowed the president to not have to define a new Iraq policy. US plans, inherited from George W Bush, now envision the presence of 50,000 troops in August 2010 and the withdrawal of most of the remaining forces by December 2011. The administration is now focused on staying on this trajectory.

Mindful of Iraqi sensitivities, Washington also wants to cultivate the perception that Iraq has become a truly sovereign state in charge of its domestic and international affairs. This means a lower profile for US regional diplomacy on Iraq, with Iraqi authorities taking control of their relations with neighbouring states. When the United States attempted to negotiate bilaterally with Syria this year over the continuing flow of foreign fighters across its border, the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al Maliki, rushed to Damascus to make it clear that Iraq itself would negotiate any agreement concerning its security. Later, the United States remained silent during the Iraqi-Syrian spat after Mr al Maliki blamed Damascus for harbouring Baathist leaders held responsible for devastating bombings since August.

US analysts say Iraqi authorities have reached direct understandings with Iran and Turkey, a far better outcome than having Iraq as a hostage to their contentious relations with Washington. Another factor that explains the more discreet US role in Iraq is the sense that Iran's interference there has peaked and is receding. The signing of Sofa, which Iraq approved despite Tehran's opposition, the defeat of Iranian-backed Shiite parties in the provincial elections of January, and the decision by Mr al Maliki not to join a unified Shiite list promoted by Iran for the coming elections are seen as evidence of declining Iranian influence.

Nonetheless, Daniel Serwer, a vice president at the US Institute of Peace, a research organisation funded by the US Congress, said he thought the administration was dedicating less political attention than warranted given the stakes. He said Washington "wants everything to stay on track: elections in March, drawdown by August, further drawdown before the end of 2011. But it seems reluctant to engage preemptively on political issues, like Arab/Kurdish territorial disputes, that may derail the [drawdown] process." He is concerned that a lack of progress on important political issues, from the status of Kirkuk to reconciliation, could hurt Iraq's promising recovery.

Analysts say that US influence in Iraq remains significant. It took a direct phone call from Mr Obama to Massoud Barzani, a prominent Kurdish leader with reservations over the electoral law, to remove that last obstacle to the holding of national elections in March. An Iraqi official, Krikor Derhegopian, was quoted in the Christian Science Monitor as saying: "The US role was monumental. They brought everyone together." US officials also point to the visit of the US defence secretary, Robert Gates, last week to Iraq as a sign of continued US engagement.

"US leverage in Iraq has been declining - but Iraq's leaders and the public still seem to want American engagement in many aspects of Iraqi life," Ms Laipson said. Another reason why the United States will remain engaged in Iraq is the absence of a credible military to ensure the country's sovereignty over its borders, air space and territorial waters. This task is currently fulfilled by the US military, which is also training and equipping the Iraqi army.

Many Iraq watchers in Washington are now focused on the March elections, the outcome of which could either consolidate or reverse US political gains in Iraq. Mr Serwer said: "It wants to see free and fair elections without violence so that the next government will be seen as legitimate. It is not, however, a big secret that Washington will want to see an Iraqi government with broad sectarian and ethnic representation, which fortunately is what most Iraqis will also want."

ehokayem@thenational.ae

Quick facts
  • Storstockholms Lokaltrafik (SL) offers free guided tours of art in the metro and at the stations
  • The tours are free of charge; all you need is a valid SL ticket, for which a single journey (valid for 75 minutes) costs 39 Swedish krone ($3.75)
  • Travel cards for unlimited journeys are priced at 165 Swedish krone for 24 hours
  • Avoid rush hour – between 9.30 am and 4.30 pm – to explore the artwork at leisure
The specs

Engine: 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8
Power: 620hp from 5,750-7,500rpm
Torque: 760Nm from 3,000-5,750rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
On sale: Now
Price: From Dh1.05 million ($286,000)

The Specs

Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cylinder petrol
Power: 118hp
Torque: 149Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Price: From Dh61,500
On sale: Now

The specs

Engine: 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6

Power: 540hp at 6,500rpm

Torque: 600Nm at 2,500rpm

Transmission: Eight-speed auto

Kerb weight: 1580kg

Price: From Dh750k

On sale: via special order

UAE v IRELAND

All matches start at 10am, and will be played in Abu Dhabi

1st ODI, Friday, January 8

2nd ODI, Sunday, January 10

3rd ODI, Tuesday, January 12

4th ODI, Thursday, January 14

Most ODI hundreds

49 - Sachin Tendulkar, India
47 - Virat Kohli, India
31 - Rohit Sharma, India
30 - Ricky Ponting, Australia/ICC
28 - Sanath Jayasuriya, Sri Lanka/Asia
27 - Hashim Amla, South Africa
25 - AB de Villiers, South Africa/Africa
25 - Chris Gayle, West Indies/ICC
25 - Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lanka/ICC/Asia
22 - Sourav Ganguly, India/Asia
22 - Tillakaratne Dilshan, Sri Lanka

MATCH INFO

Uefa Champions League, last-16 second leg
Paris Saint-Germain (1) v Borussia Dortmund (2)
Kick-off: Midnight, Thursday, March 12
Stadium: Parc des Princes
Live: On beIN Sports HD

GOODBYE JULIA

Director: Mohamed Kordofani

Starring: Siran Riak, Eiman Yousif, Nazar Goma

Rating: 5/5

Sarfira

Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5

MEDIEVIL (1998)

Developer: SCE Studio Cambridge
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Console: PlayStation, PlayStation 4 and 5
Rating: 3.5/5

DUBAI WORLD CUP CARNIVAL CARD

6.30pm Handicap US$135,000 (Turf) 2,410m

7.05pm UAE 1000 Guineas Listed $250,000 (Dirt) 1,600m

7.40pm Dubai Dash Listed $175,000 (T) 1,000m

8.15pm Al Bastakiya Trial Conditions $100,000 (D) 1.900m

8.50pm Al Fahidi Fort Group Two $250,000 (T) 1,400m

9.25pm Handicap $135,000 (D) 2,000m

 

The National selections

6.30pm: Gifts Of Gold

7.05pm Final Song

7.40pm Equilateral

8.15pm Dark Of Night

8.50pm Mythical Magic

9.25pm Franz Kafka

MATCH INFO

France 3
Umtiti (8'), Griezmann (29' pen), Dembele (63')

Italy 1
Bonucci (36')

THE SPECS

Engine: 4.4-litre V8

Transmission: eight-speed automatic

Power: 523hp

Torque: 750Nm

Price: Dh469,000

If you go

The flights

There are direct flights from Dubai to Sofia with FlyDubai (www.flydubai.com) and Wizz Air (www.wizzair.com), from Dh1,164 and Dh822 return including taxes, respectively.

The trip

Plovdiv is 150km from Sofia, with an hourly bus service taking around 2 hours and costing $16 (Dh58). The Rhodopes can be reached from Sofia in between 2-4hours.

The trip was organised by Bulguides (www.bulguides.com), which organises guided trips throughout Bulgaria. Guiding, accommodation, food and transfers from Plovdiv to the mountains and back costs around 170 USD for a four-day, three-night trip.

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

MATCH INFO

Sheffield United 3

Fleck 19, Mousset 52, McBurnie 90

Manchester United 3

Williams 72, Greenwood 77, Rashford 79

Afcon 2019

SEMI-FINALS

Senegal v Tunisia, 8pm

Algeria v Nigeria, 11pm

Matches are live on BeIN Sports

Saturday's results

Women's third round

  • 14-Garbine Muguruza Blanco (Spain) beat Sorana Cirstea (Romania) 6-2, 6-2
  • Magdalena Rybarikova (Slovakia) beat Lesia Tsurenko (Ukraine) 6-2, 6-1
  • 7-Svetlana Kuznetsova (Russia) beat Polona Hercog (Slovenia) 6-4. 6-0
  • Coco Vandeweghe (USA) beat Alison Riske (USA) 6-2, 6-4
  • 9-Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland) beat 19-Timea Bacsinszky (Switzerland) 3-6, 6-4, 6-1
  • Petra Martic (Croatia) beat Zarina Diyas (Kazakhstan) 7-6, 6-1
  • Magdalena Rybarikova (Slovakia) beat Lesia Tsurenko (Ukraine) 6-2, 6-1
  • 7-Svetlana Kuznetsova (Russia) beat Polona Hercog (Slovenia) 6-4, 6-0

Men's third round

  • 13-Grigor Dimitrov (Bulgaria) beat Dudi Sela (Israel) 6-1, 6-1 -- retired
  • Sam Queery (United States) beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (France) 6-2, 3-6, 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
  • 6-Milos Raonic (Canada) beat 25-Albert Ramos (Spain) 7-6, 6-4, 7-5
  • 10-Alexander Zverev (Germany) beat Sebastian Ofner (Austria) 6-4, 6-4, 6-2
  • 11-Tomas Berdych (Czech Republic) beat David Ferrer (Spain) 6-3, 6-4, 6-3
  • Adrian Mannarino (France) beat 15-Gael Monfils (France) 7-6, 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2
The Gandhi Murder
  • 71 - Years since the death of MK Gandhi, also christened India's Father of the Nation
  • 34 - Nationalities featured in the film The Gandhi Murder
  • 7 - million dollars, the film's budget 
Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
Nick Diaz v Vicente Luque
Michael Chiesa v Tony Ferguson
Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae.

Scoreline:

Manchester City 1

Jesus 4'

Brighton 0

How Filipinos in the UAE invest

A recent survey of 10,000 Filipino expatriates in the UAE found that 82 per cent have plans to invest, primarily in property. This is significantly higher than the 2014 poll showing only two out of 10 Filipinos planned to invest.

Fifty-five percent said they plan to invest in property, according to the poll conducted by the New Perspective Media Group, organiser of the Philippine Property and Investment Exhibition. Acquiring a franchised business or starting up a small business was preferred by 25 per cent and 15 per cent said they will invest in mutual funds. The rest said they are keen to invest in insurance (3 per cent) and gold (2 per cent).

Of the 5,500 respondents who preferred property as their primary investment, 54 per cent said they plan to make the purchase within the next year. Manila was the top location, preferred by 53 per cent.

Destroyer

Director: Karyn Kusama

Cast: Nicole Kidman, Toby Kebbell, Sebastian Stan

Rating: 3/5 

UAE release: January 31 

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
UAE SQUAD

Jemma Eley, Maria Michailidou, Molly Fuller, Chloe Andrews (of Dubai College), Eliza Petricola, Holly Guerin, Yasmin Craig, Caitlin Gowdy (Dubai English Speaking College), Claire Janssen, Cristiana Morall (Jumeirah English Speaking School), Tessa Mies (Jebel Ali School), Mila Morgan (Cranleigh Abu Dhabi).

Company profile

Company: Rent Your Wardrobe 

Date started: May 2021 

Founder: Mamta Arora 

Based: Dubai 

Sector: Clothes rental subscription 

Stage: Bootstrapped, self-funded 


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