Obama says US will be loyal partner for Iraq

WASHINGTON - With Iranian influence and Syria's instability looming over Iraq as US troops pack up to go, President Barack Obama assured Baghdad on Monday the United States would remain a strong partner beyond the withdrawal.
The removal of almost all US forces from Iraq by Dec. 31 has created uncertainty at a time when the region remains roiled by the Arab Spring, and amid fear that a bloody anti-government revolt in Syria could spread sectarian strife into neighboring Iraq.
But Obama, a fierce critic of the war who once warned that invading Iraq would be "dumb," told a news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki that the United States will remain a strong Middle East presence.