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Apr 7th, 2009

Obama: Time for Iraqis to ‘Take Responsibility’

President meets generals, thanks GIs during unannounced Baghdad visit

Image: President Obama with troops in Iraq
President Barack Obama greets military personnel at Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq, on Tuesday, April 7, 2009. (Photo credit: Charles Dharapak / AP)

NBC News and The Associated Press
April 7, 2009

BAGHDAD — Cheered wildly by U.S. troops, President Barack Obama flew unannounced into Iraq on Tuesday and promptly declared it is time for Iraqis to “take responsibility for their country” after America’s commitment of six years and thousands of lives.

“You have given Iraq the opportunity to stand on its own as a democratic country,” the president said as he made a brief inspection of a war he opposed as candidate and now vows to end as commander in chief. “That is an extraordinary achievement.”

A total of 4,266 U.S. troops have lost their lives in Iraq since March 2003, and Obama said American forces had “performed brilliantly … under enormous strain.”…

‘I love you’

Inside a marble palace built by Saddam Hussein to celebrate Iraq’s war victory over Iran, Obama was interrupted repeatedly with cheers from the troops.

“I love you,” someone in the crowd shouted out. “I love you back,” the commander in chief replied.

Scores of troops held digital cameras above their heads, snapping pictures and recording video. Vice president Joe Biden’s son, Capt. Beau Biden, who is serving with the Army National Guard, was among the troops who heard Obama’s speech.

During his five-hour stopover, Obama also met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who said afterward that he had “assured the president that all the progress that has been made in the security area will continue.” …

Sgt. First Class Floyd Robinson, 38, from Bessemer, Ala., said he was impressed that Obama had visited Iraq within months of being elected. “Soldiers need to see their commander in chief,” Robinson said. “It gives everybody great pride knowing that he just took office, but he still stopped by to say a few words.”

Baghdad bombing

Obama’s gleaming white and blue Air Force One touched down hours after a car bomb exploded in a Shiite neighborhood of the capital city, a deadly reminder of the violence that still threatens the 139,000 American forces stationed in the country. …

Obama spoke favorably of political progress being made in Iraq but also expressed concern that recent gains could deteriorate with the upcoming national elections. …

Tuesday’s trip was Obama’s third to Iraq, and his first since taking office. He met with U.S. commanders and troops last summer while seeking the presidency. …

While U.S. casualties are down sharply from the Iraq war’s height, there were constant reminders of violence. A half-dozen bombs rocked Shiite neighborhoods on Monday, killing 37 people. There was no immediate death toll available from the car bomb incident that occurred a few hours before the president arrived on Tuesday. …

Little more than a week ago, the president announced a revamped Afghanistan strategy that calls for adding 21,000 troops, narrowing the focus from nation-building to stamping out the Taliban and al-Qaida and broadening the mission to include pressure on Pakistan to root out terrorist camps in its lawless regions. …


Obama Achieves Defining TV Shot in Iraq

Glowing reception a world away from shoe attack on war’s architect, Bush

Image: Barack Obama greets troops during a visit to Camp Victory
U.S. President Barack Obama greets troops during a visit to Camp Victory, near Baghdad, Iraq, on Tuesday. (Photo credit: Mandel Ngan / AFP — Getty Images)

Analysis by Steven R. Hurst

April 8, 2009


WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama went for the defining television shot in Iraq and got it: pictures of hundreds of U.S. troops cheering wildly as he told them it was time for the Iraqis to take charge of their own future.

The war zone photo opportunity produced a stunning show of appreciation for Obama from military men and women who have made great sacrifices, many serving repeated tours in a highly unpopular war.

The televised outpouring of affection probably will prove critical to the credibility of a new commander in chief as he tries to sell U.S. warriors and the American public on the grim prospects now facing them in Afghanistan. …

Throughout his run for the presidency, Obama set himself apart as a strong opponent to the Iraq war. He declared Iraq had forced the United States to take its eye off the real dangers in Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden is believed to have plotted the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. …

At Baghdad’s Camp Victory, … assembled U.S. forces mobbed Obama, snapping pictures and stretching out their arms for a handshake with the commander in chief who personally brought the message that they had “performed brilliantly” in a job that was nearly done.

“It is time for us to transition to the Iraqis. They need to take responsibility for their country,” Obama told a cheering crowd more reminiscent of adoring campaign supporters than soldiers meeting with their president. …

Obama’s reception as the president who is ending the highly unpopular Iraq war could not have contrasted more starkly with the staid, set-piece visits by the conflict’s author, former President George W. Bush.

On his last visit, Bush had to duck as a local journalist threw his shoes at the former president during a news conference with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The videotape continues to play repeatedly on cable television, interspersed for contrast with Obama working the crowd of 600 troops who assembled for a warmest of welcomes for a president who is sending them home.


Security Developments in Iraq

Following are security developments in Iraq on Tuesday, April 7, 2009, as reported by Reuters.

BAGHDAD – A car bomb killed 9 people and wounded 20 in the Shi’ite district of Kadhimiya, in northwest Baghdad, police said. The bomb occurred a day after a possibly coordinated series of explosions in the capital killed more than 30 people.

FALLUJA – A suicide bomber rammed his car into a police checkpoint and killed one policeman and wounded nine, including three policemen, at the southern entrance to the city of Falluja, 35 miles west of Baghdad, police said.


4/8/09 Update

Bomb Near Iraq Shi’ite Shrine Kills 7

April 8, 2009

BAGHDAD — A roadside bomb in the Shi’ite Kadhimiya district in northwest Baghdad killed seven people and wounded 23 on Wednesday, police said, a day after a bomb in the same area killed nine.

Kadhimiya is home to one of Shi’ite Islam’s holiest shrines, and officials said the blast bore the hallmarks of Sunni Islamist al Qaeda, which deems Iraq’s majority Shi’ites heretics and often attacks their mosques and religious festivals. …

Al Qaeda and other insurgent groups are still capable of frequent large-scale attacks, despite a sharp drop in violence in Iraq in the past year.

U.S. President Barack Obama hailed the improvement in security during a visit to Baghdad on Tuesday. …

A day before Obama’s unannounced visit, a series of seven car bombs killed 37 people in the capital. …

Thursday is the sixth anniversary of Baghdad’s fall to invading U.S. troops, when a giant Saddam statue was pulled down in Firdos Square. Huge crowds are expected to join protests against the U.S. military presence in Iraq.

Falluja locked down

The head of the Badr Organization, the armed wing of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (ISCI), denied reports from a security source that it might have been behind Monday’s bombs.

ISCI is a Shi’ite Islamist party allied to Maliki’s Dawa party in parliament, although they have lately become estranged.

“These accusations … are the price we pay for (our) steadfast position … against the … Baath party,” Badr leader Hadi al-Amiri told the ISCI-owned Al Furat TV station. “Al Qaeda and the Baath party lie behind the recent bombs.”

The current leader of the outlawed Baath party, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, the most senior of Saddam Hussein’s aides still at large, urged Iraqi insurgents to continue their struggle in a statement issued on Tuesday.

“I call upon you … to be unified to destroy what remains of the invading forces and their agents,” he said, an apparent reference to the U.S.-backed Iraqi government.

Iraqi police shut the city of Falluja on Wednesday, banning traffic and pedestrians as they hunted what they said was a group of al Qaeda militants carrying out bombings there. …

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