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Iraq Celebrates U.S. Exit: ‘Dawn of a New Day’

Sunni Muslims celebrate the departure of U.S. troops from Iraq in a Baghdad neighborhood Friday.
Sunni Muslims celebrate the departure of U.S. troops from Iraq in a Baghdad neighborhood Friday, Dec. 30, 2011. (Photo credit: AFP / Getty Images via CNN)

December 31, 2011

BAGHDAD — Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki declared a new dawn on Saturday as Iraq celebrated the departure of American troops at a ceremony held amid tight security and without Maliki’s key political rivals.

Iraq was engulfed in its worst political crisis in a year after the last U.S. troops left on Dec. 18 when Maliki sought the arrest of Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, threatening a frail coalition government of Sunnis, Shi’ites and Kurds.

Saturday marked the end of the 2008 security pact agreed by then-President George W. Bush and was the last day for U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq, nearly nine years after the invasion that toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein and allowed the Shi’ite majority to take power. …

“I declare this day, the 31st of December, on which the withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq is complete, as a national day,” said Maliki in a televised ceremony, surrounded by security officials in dress uniforms.

“It is Iraq’s day. It is a feast for all Iraqis. It is the dawn of a new day in Mesopotamia … Your country is free.” …

In Babil province, south of the capital, an Iraqi flag was raised to the top of a 24-meter pole in a ceremony attended by Governor Mohammed al-Masoudi and about 500 guests.

Soldiers and police paraded with banners, one reading “Sovereignty day, a day of dignity for all Iraqis.” …

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Related report

‘Iraq Day’ Marks Deadline for U.S. Withdrawal

Dhirgham al-Zaidi, right, stands atop a pedestal that once held Saddam Hussein\'s statue as the Iraq flag is waved on Friday.
Dhirgham al-Zaidi, right, stands atop a pedestal that once held Saddam Hussein’s statue as the Iraq flag is waved on Friday, Dec. 30, 2011.
(Photo credit: CNN)

December 31, 2011

BAGHDAD — Television stations in Baghdad are calling it “Iraq Day,” the Saturday deadline for American troops to completely withdraw from the country under a U.S.-Iraqi security pact.

Stations aligned with Sunni and Shiite extremist groups, many of whom attacked U.S. troops, have dubbed it the “Day of Defeating the Occupier” — others have called it the “Day of Fullfillment” or “Day of Evacuation.” …

Under a security agreement signed in 2008, the United States agreed to withdraw its troops by the end of 2011. Negotiations to extend the deadline broke down in October after Baghdad’s political leaders refused to grant U.S. troops immunity from Iraqi prosecution, a move that Washington leaders said was unacceptable. …

Udey al-Zaidi, the brother of Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi who threw his shoes at then-President George W. Bush during a 2008 news conference in Baghdad [link added], … was among a small group of less than a dozen protesters who gathered Friday to mark “Iraq Day” in Baghdad’s Firdous Square — the place where Saddam’s statue was toppled in one of the most iconic moments of the invasion in 2003.

Al-Zaidi said they planned to burn the American flag at 2:15 p.m. — the exact time he says U.S. troops raised the flag in the square in April of 2003. …

Full story


Related reports on this site

A U.S. soldier secures the scene of a roadside bombing in Baghdad. Iraq wants nearly all U.S. combat troops to be gone by the end of 2011.
A U.S. soldier secures the scene of a roadside bombing in Baghdad in 2008, at a time when Iraqi leaders were demanding the withdrawal of U.S. troops by the end of 2011. (Photo credit: Khalid Mohammed /Associated Press)

End of Iraq War for U.S. (Dec. 18, 2011)

Obama Honors Promise to Withdraw from Iraq (Oct. 23, 2011)

Al-Sadr Threatens U.S. to Honor Withdrawal Agreement (Sept. 12, 2011)

Pro-Iran Pact Emerges in Iraq (May 5, 2010)

Iraq Exit Will Be Long and Hard (March 7, 2009)

GOP Support for Iraq Pullout (Feb. 27, 2009)

Election Foreshadows Iraq’s Future (Jan. 25, 2009)

Iraq: ‘Ten More Years’ (Dec. 13, 2008)

Iranian Approval for Iraq Security Pact (Nov. 18, 2008)

Iraqis Demand Withdrawal Date (Nov. 8, 2008)

Iran Presses Iraq on U.S. Troops (Oct. 9, 2008)

Image: Iraq Cabinet
The Iraqi Cabinet approved a U.S.-Iraq status-of-forces agreement Nov. 16, 2008, following months of difficult negotiations. (Photo credit: Iraqi Government / AP)


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