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Last US troops leave Iraq, new beginning for businesses
The US military pullout in Iraq is the fulfillment of an election promise for the US President. For foreign companies in the country, how will the US pullout affect business?
December 18, 2011 2:37 by Reuters
…barbecue sauce on slabs of ribs brought in from Kuwait and laid them on grills alongside hotdogs and sausages.
The last troops flicked on the lights studding their MRAP vehicles and stacked flak jackets and helmets in neat piles, ready for the final departure for Kuwait and then home.
“A good chunk of me is happy to leave. I spent 31 months in this country,” said Sgt. Steven Schirmer, 25, after three tours of Iraq since 2007. “It almost seems I can have a life now, though I know I am probably going to Afghanistan in 2013. Once these wars end, I wonder what I will end up doing.”
NEIGHBOURS KEEP WATCH
Foreign companies are already helping Iraq develop the vast potential of the world’s fourth-largest oil reserves, but its economy needs investment in all sectors, from hospitals to infrastructure.
Iran and Turkey, major investors in Iraq, will be watching with Gulf nations to see how it handles its sectarian and ethnic tensions, as the crisis in neighbouring Syria threatens to spill over its borders.
The fall of Saddam allowed the long-suppressed Shi’ite majority to rise to power. The Shi’ite-led government has drawn the country closer to neighbouring Iran and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, who is struggling to put down a nine-month uprising.
Iraq’s Sunni minority are chafing under what they see as the increasingly authoritarian control of Maliki’s Shi’ite coalition. Some local leaders are already pushing mainly Sunni provinces to demand more autonomy from Baghdad.
The main Sunni political bloc Iraqiya said on Saturday that it was temporarily suspending its participation in the parliament to protest against what it said was Maliki’s unwillingness to deliver on power-sharing.
A dispute between the semi-autonomous Kurdish region and Maliki’s central government over oil and territory is also brewing, and is a potential flashpoint after the buffer of the American military presence is gone.
“There is little to suggest that Iraq’s government will manage — or be willing to — get itself out of the current stalemate,” said Gala Riani, an analyst at IHS Global Insight.
“The perennial divisive issues that have become part of the fabric of Iraqi politics, such as divisions with Kurdistan and Sunni suspicions of the government, are also likely to persist.” (By Patrick Markey and Joseph Logan; Additional reporting by Rania El Gamal; writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Tim Pearce)
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