Iraqis seem divided on who they would like to see as the next US president, but few believe that either will end the occupation. “The US administration has committed a big mistake in Iraq,” Adil Ibrahim, a local physician in Baquba, capital city of Diyala province, 40 km northeast of Bagdhdad, said. “We hope that whoever wins, the new administration can mend the huge mistakes of this one.”

Some wish for Barack Obama to win because he claims to represent a great change in the history of the US. “Being a black man, he definitely carries different thoughts about the world,” Ali Hussein, a city employee, said. “We sympathise with him since he has some kind of Muslim origins. He may view Arabs in a new and different way.” Adding to this view, Naser Mahdi, a secondary school teacher, said, “I feel he is totally different. The world needs new blood in rulers, and we hope that he might decrease the dominating authority of the US.”

But Abdulla Hamid, a city resident, expressed deep concern over Obama’s recent speech at the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the pro-Israel lobby in the US. “What hope is there in a man who wears the Israeli flag and calls for a Jewish state with a unified Jerusalem,” Hamid said. “Obama clearly couldn’t care less about us.” Hamid referred to the fact that Obama appeared at the speech with a lapel pin comprised of both the US and Israeli flags. Obama’s call for a unified Jerusalem omitted Palestinians’ demands for their share of Jerusalem. Like most US citizens, most Iraqis are not familiar with US foreign policy. While Obama, the Democratic presidential hopeful, calls for a shift in the US policy in Iraq, neither he nor his Republican rival, John McCain, talk about changing the National Security Strategy of the US, or the military document Joint Vision 2020, which calls for “full spectrum dominance” of the world by the US military by the year 2020.

‘Full spectrum dominance’ means not just total control of land, air, and sea, but also of information and of space. “The US strategy is firm and unchanging,” a political analyst at Diyala University said. “It makes no difference whether one wins or the other. The general strategy is well established, and is never affected by the changing of the president.” “I do agree with this point of view,” local merchant Abdul-Rahman said. “During the nineties we wished that Bill Clinton would win in order to stop the economic sanctions that caused us so much suffering. When Clinton became president, sanctions remained, and even worsened.”

Barak Obama has made public statements that he will withdraw US forces from Iraq. But his advisors speak of plans to keep at least 60,000-90,000 troops in Iraq, and at least until 2013. Many Iraqis appear skeptical of the promises made by Obama. “I’ll believe the troops are gone from Iraq when they are no longer on our streets and their warplanes no longer bomb our homes,” a local merchant said. “All politicians are liars, even school children know this.” — IPS