“Prime Minister Maliki, May I?”

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Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo

A U.S. Air Force F-16 firing flares while flying over Iraq on Nov. 9, 2011

For nearly a decade, the U.S. Air Force flew anywhere over Iraq, whenever it pleased. For the decade before that – as it patrolled the northern and southern no-fly zones, over the top and bottom third of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq – it did the same, largely with impunity. But all that has changed following the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq two weeks ago.

Now U.S. military flights seeking to fly over Iraq have to ask the government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki for permission first. So far, there have been no denials. This shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. “These are the prerogatives of a sovereign nation, which we went to great trouble to create,” retired general John Jumper, Air Force chief of staff from 2001 to 2005, tells Air Force Times. “This is not a surprise.”