Iraq announced on Tuesday the return of hundreds of looted antiquities that had ended up in the United States...The latest trove reflects not only a history dating from the world’s oldest civilizations but also a more recent and tortured history of war, looting and international smuggling that began under Saddam Hussein, accelerated after the American occupation and continues at archaeological sites to this day.

Only in 15 months after his historical Cairo speech, there are alarming signs that President Obama’s new engagement policy with the Middle East may soon find its place in history’s dustbin. The Obama administration’s withdrawal announcement of U.S. “combat” troops from Iraq by the end of August is nothing more than a PR campaign to rename the occupation.

A U.S. “Legacy of Waste” in Iraq, by Liz Sly, Los Angeles Times, documents the culmination of seven years of failed public diplomacy...

One of the lessons of Iraq, he [President Obama] said, is that “American influence around the world is not a function of military force alone.” “We must use all the elements of our power, including our diplomacy, our economic strength and the power of America’s example, to secure our interests and stand by our allies,” he said.

Despite progress, Iraq still faces extraordinary problems with continued risks to US strategic interests as the county grapples with forming a new government, the new US ambassador said in his first public remarks since arriving here.

As the last U.S. combat troops prepare to leave Iraq this month, the State Department is struggling to implement an expanded mission that it has belatedly realized it might not be able to afford. Beginning in September, the State Department will take over all police training in Iraq from coalition military forces...

During the most violent years of the Iraq war, American commanders believed that neighboring Iran was behind insurgent attacks, as a way to keep the country unstable. As U.S. forces slowly depart Iraq, officials say Iran is moving toward a more soft-power approach, trying to influence politics, social services and the economy.

July 28, 2010

This year, team USA's strong performance in the World Cup inspired Americans to follow the sport in record numbers. Now that the sport has our notice, there is a good reason for us to keep paying attention. Believe it or not, that little black and white ball might just be the key to winning the peace in Iraq.