Tonight, President Obama will undoubtedly remind Americans he got us out of Iraq. What he probably won't mention is what that means for Iraqis who helped America achieve stability in the troubled state. Eli Lake reports that Sheikh Ahmad Abu-Risha, a major figure in helping beat back the Al-Qaeda based insurgency in western Iraq, "misses" the president who assured him America would fulfill its promises.
A little more than four years ago in western Iraq, then-Senator Barack Obama met for 90 minutes with a group of Arab sheikhs, allies of the U.S. military in the war against al Qaeda. Known as the Anbar Awakening, the tribal leaders are credited by the Marine Corps’ own official historian with helping turn the tide of the Iraq War and creating the conditions on the ground for the country’s fragile government to survive. During the meeting, the future president assured the group that there would be a long-term partnership between America and Iraq, according to two of the sheikhs who were there and a U.S. translator in the meeting.
Four years later, one of those sheikhs, Ahmad Abu-Risha, says he feels betrayed. Abu-Risha, the president of what is now known as the Iraqi Awakening Council, told The Daily Beast in a phone interview that he has not had any meetings with U.S. officials since American forces withdrew from Iraq in December. “President Obama said he would not forget all the sacrifices that were made,” he said. “Now we look back at that meeting and we think it was political propaganda. What he said, we don’t see it happening.”
If Abu-Risha were given a chance to speak to Obama, he says he would ask him, “Why did you leave Iraq to Iran? Why did you give up the many sacrifices that Americans made? You can still have a partnership with us. If you are going to be president for the next four years, bring Iraq back into a strategic partnership with the United States and remember the people who fought against al Qaeda with you.”