— Iraqis say they hope Sunday's visit to Baghdad by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will help revive ties they say have languished since the withdrawal of the last American troops more than one year ago.
Iraqis reacted positively to the visit Sunday by Secretary of State John Kerry. In Baghdad's Karada district, coffee-shop owner Raid Fahmi said stronger ties with the Americans would help Iraqis deal with their many problems.
“The Iraqi people hope [the Americans] can bring better security, jobs, electricity, clean water, things like that," he said.
Singer Raed Fakher noted that there have been clashes between Sunnis and Shiites in parts of Iraq. And bombings by Islamic extremists continue to kill Iraqi civilians.
He was glad Kerry voiced concern over the violence.
“The Americans can force Arab countries that are supporting the terrorists to stop their interference in Iraq. And they have the power to do it," he said.
The U.S. withdrew the last of its combat troops from Iraq 15 months ago. A reporter for Al-Mada newspaper, Sarmad al-Ta'ee, said Iraqis have not forgotten the abuses during the eight-year occupation. But now, he says, U.S. involvement is needed to prevent abuses by the Iraqi government.
“We have a million-man army that is armed with American weapons. Maybe we need some support in intelligence and information, but not the military. We want the Americans, now, back politically on the Iraqi scene," he said.
Kerry's visit was the first by an American secretary of state in four years. Baghdad University Professor Muntasser Idani says the U.S. needs to re-engage with Iraq in order to balance growing influence by regional powers like Turkey and Iran.
“Iraqis do not receive signals about USA policy and international policy in Iraq. And Iraqis see only Iranian signals in Iraq and Turkish signals in Iraq. And this is very dangerous," he said.
He says more forceful U.S. diplomacy is also needed to address the Syrian conflict, which is aggravating Sunni-Shiite divisions across the Middle East.