Biden brings down curtain on US Iraq operations (VIDEO)
US military marked the end of its Iraq operations in a ceremony attended by Vice President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The remaining 13,000 US troops are due to withdraw by end of year.
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"The fair reviewer of history will record that collapsing dictatorship in our country was not only a turning point in Iraq," Talabani said, "but was the beginning of the uprising of nations against their oppressors in our region, and their demand for dignity, justice and equality, and participation in determining their destiny."Skip to next paragraph
Mr. Maliki likewise thanked the Americans. But he described the moment as the day that Iraq reclaimed all its national sovereignty. He said the disbanded Baath Party of Saddam Hussein bore "full responsibility" for losing it.
"The withdrawal of the friendly American forces will establish a new stage in the relations between Iraq and the United States," Maliki said.
"Completing the withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraqi lands will lift the cover [under which] the terrorist Al Qaeda organization, and the men of the dictator regime, and the rest of the insurgent groups, have conducted terrorist operations, for which the Iraqi people paid an expensive price in souls, property, and infrastructure," said Maliki.
Death and paralysis
His government has been fraught with divisions since March 2010 parliamentary elections, and political paralysis – along with a continuing toll from violence that claimed 258 lives in October alone – have left some Iraqis pessimistic about the future.
Such levels of violence are far lower, however, than they were during the 2006-2007 peak of the insurgency that targeted US forces and Iraq's nascent government, and the sectarian killing that brought ethnic cleansing to Baghdad's neighborhoods and Iraqi provinces.
Some of those months saw a Baghdad death toll of more than 3,000 per month.
The handover ceremony was greeted with little interest by most Iraqis, who could only watch proceedings on television hours after the ceremony. Loyalists of the anti-American cleric Muktada al-Sadr staged small protest rallies.
Half-page color advertisements have been running on the front pages of some Iraqi newspapers, highlighting the date the US withdrawal would be complete, and declaring that the Iraqi government and people, had worked as "one hand to kick out the occupiers."
Bahaa al-Araji, the head of the powerful bloc of Sadr loyalists in parliament, said in a statement that Biden's secret arrival was "not legal" and that he should be prosecuted for "acting as if [Iraq] were still an occupied state."
"Biden's visit is not welcome – especially at this time because it will influence the decisions of some of the political leaders...and give rise to discord amongst the parties," Araji said in a statement.
Acknowledging the political and sectarian divisions that remain in Iraq, even as American forces leave, the Iraqi premier called for unity.