As President Obama hailed the end of U.S. military intervention in Iraq, Washington will continue to closely consult with Baghdad on regional security matters, including monitoring violence in Syria and the possible interference of Iran now that U.S. troops are departing.
"This is a historic moment," Obama said Monday during a visit by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. "A war is ending. A new day is upon us and let us never forget those who gave us this chance."
Speaking to reporters alongside Maliki, Obama said the Iraqi premier's decisions regarding the region were motivated by his sense of nationalism rather than any loyalty to his Shiite neighbor, Iran.
"Prime Minister Maliki has been explicit here in the United States, he's been explicit back in Iraq that his interest is in maintaining Iraqi sovereignty and preventing meddling by anybody inside of Iraq, and I believe him," Obama said. "He has shown himself to make very tough decisions in the interest of Iraqi nationalism, even if they cause problems with his neighbor."
Speaking on Maliki's sympathetic stance toward Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, currently under pressure from regional leaders because of his violent crackdown on antigovernment protesters, Maliki said he sided with the Arab League in issuing sanctions against Syria despite his own country's difficulties dealing with sanctions under the U.N. Oil-for-Food program following the 1991 Gulf War. Iraq abstained from the Arab League vote.
Obama declared that after nine years -- with more than 4,500 U.S. troops killed and tens of thousands wounded in addition to more than 100,000 Iraqis dead and millions displaced -- hostilities in that country were now over, but Iraqi-U.S. security cooperation would continue.