The visit of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to Washington on Oct. 30 offers an unwelcome reminder of the bloody persistence of instability that has become the norm in Iraq in the wake of the US destruction of the country's core institutions a decade ago. In addition to endemic political warfare and a polarization of relations between Maliki's ruling party and disaffected and besieged opponents, Iraq has been caught in the maelstrom of bloodletting now dominating Syria next door. More than 7,000 innocent Iraqis are reported to have been killed this year in the streets and souks of Iraq, in a frenzy of sectarian terror led by Sunni jihadists of various stripes — all of whom share kinship with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's opponents across the border in Syria.
In Washington discussions about Syria it has been commonplace to advise policymakers to take a long look at US policies toward Iraq — then do the complete opposite. The Obama administration did not quite take this advice. Today, Iraq — which itself suffers from “a crisis of its entire political system,” according to the Iraqi prime minister — is also endangered by the destruction of Syria's state institutions, whose protection is now belatedly recognized in the White House as one of the key objectives of the stalled Geneva II negotiations.