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Second, keep up the U.S. effort to encourage Iraqi political accommodation, to build effective Iraqi security forces and support Iraqi efforts to improve governance and Iraq’s economy. Iraq may now need far less U.S. money than in the past, but it clearly still needs as much advisory support as possible. It is time to stop simply talking about “smart” and “soft” power and actually show patience in exercising it. The more the U.S. does to support Iraq without trying to control it, the more influence the U.S. will retain and the more it will do to limit sectarian and ethnic struggles.

Finally, the U.S. should work with Iraq’s neighbors, the United Nations and other states to support Iraqi efforts to enhance its security, get outside aid and encourage development. One must beware of empty calls for regional cooperation and conferences, which will have cosmetic impact at best. Patient U.S. diplomacy with Turkey, Arab states and Europe, in cooperation with the United Nations, can have far more success, do more to moderate Iraq’s internal struggles and show Iraqis the value of U.S. support.

Even the best mix of U.S. diplomatic and aid efforts, and support to Iraqi force development will not shape the Iraq that the U.S. wants or will not prevent a decade to a quarter-century of uncertainty and instability. It does, however, offer the best real-world hope of turning the Iraq war into some form of grand strategic success.

Anthony H. Cordesman holds the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.