How Do Iraqis Feel About The Troop Withdrawal?

How do Iraqis feel about the U.S. decision to withdraw all its remaining troops by the end of this year? The issue of a residual American force to train the Iraqi military was hotly debated in Baghdad.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Now, to a view of today's announcement from Iraq. Their officials were quick to make one thing clear. The agreement to pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq will not be renegotiated.

NPR's Kelly McEvers reports from Baghdad on the politics behind today's move.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken)

KELLY MCEVERS, BYLINE: Iraqi state TV broke the news by saying the 2008 agreement will now be activated.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken)

MCEVERS: A spokesman for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called it a victory for both sides. Right up to the end, most Iraqi officials privately said they wanted to keep some American troops here, particularly in the north where tensions between Arabs and Kurds still run high and to give Iraqis some assurances that violence between Shiites and Sunnis won't break out again.

But it was a very different story in public. In order for troops to remain into next year, a new agreement needed to be reached in Iraq's parliament to provide those troops with immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts.

This touched a nerve with the Iraqi people, especially with America's main enemy, the Iranian-backed cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Now that Sadr's party holds dozens of seats in parliament, it's thought that any extension of American troops in Iraq was a red line for him and for his backers in Iran. Analysts say the immunity question was enough to push public opinion in Sadr's favor.

SAMIRA JIHAD AHMED: (Foreign language spoken)

MCEVERS: Simra Jihad Ahmed's brother-in-law was driving down an alley one day back in 2004 and he was shot in the forehead and killed by an American soldier.

AHMED: (Foreign language spoken)

MCEVERS: We appreciate that the Americans got rid of Saddam and tried to bring us peace, she says, but it's also a question of dignity. We can't let them keep on hurting innocent people.

As of right now, there are about 39,000 American troops in Iraq. Base closings and handover ceremonies have become the norm. About 500 soldiers leave each day.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MCEVERS: At a recent ceremony, one American general directed his thoughts to his Iraqi counterparts. We have given you the gift of democracy and the chance to determine your own future, he said. That gift has come at a great cost.

Kelly McEvers, NPR News, Baghdad.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.