The Obama administration can-and must-be held accountable for its success in achieving "clear" and measurable successes in recovering from the past failures to implement a strategic framework agreement. It must take action to encourage real representative government in Iraq that actually bridges sectarian and ethnic differences on stable basis. It must make efforts to ensure that Iraq does not become a Shi'ite state or see a new strong man emerge in Maliki or some other figure, and it should take action to make the United States a leading investor in Iraq's oil sector and the rest of its economy.
The United States must succeed in limiting and countering Iranian influence in Iraq and in creating Iraqi forces that can defend the country. The United States must also restructure a mix of forward-deployed U.S. forces and ties to regional powers that can contain every aspect of Iran's military forces and political ambitions.
Creating a strong U.S. embassy and consulates, a military Office of Security Cooperation, and a State Department-led Police Development Program can help Iraq make the improvements it needs in governance and security forces-but only if Iraq is both willing and has political leadership that will act effectively.
The announcements that will be made during the Maliki visit describe the programs the United States needs to support Iraq, but it will take a consistent, high-profile effort over a period of years by the administration (and support from Congress) if they are to have any chance of achieving a meaningful level of strategic success.
At present, "success" consists of committee meetings, a far smaller advisory presence than the United States desired and planned, and arms orders. The United States not only does not have forces or facilities in Iraq that Iraq has agreed can be used to help deter and defend against Iran, but it has not announced any public plans for restructuring its security presence in the Gulf. It has talked broadly about forces in Kuwait, but not its overall security posture-with or without a really meaningful strategic framework agreement with Iraq.
More broadly, the Obama administration has not provided any picture of the strategy it now intends to adopt in the Gulf region as a whole, or how it will deal with any aspect of the threat posed by Iran. It has not announced the U.S. force levels that must stay in the rest of region after U.S. forces leave Iraq, or how it intends to deal with its de-facto allies in the Southern Gulf and the rest of the Middle East.
The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq is not a "victory" in a war that has been a costly strategic failure. There is no end state in Iraq, even to the point where it can ensure its own internal stability. There is no map of how the United States intends to force a new strategic structure in the region. These are the real tests of the U.S. ability to transform the war into any form of future success, and none of these tests has yet been met.