Doubts, fears nag Iraqis as U.S. pulls out

BAGHDAD Thu Dec 15, 2011 5:51am EST

A man carries dry cleaning past blast walls that protect the dining facility inside the compound of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad December 14, 2011.  REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

A man carries dry cleaning past blast walls that protect the dining facility inside the compound of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad December 14, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

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BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Zahora Jasim lost two brothers to bombs and gunmen in the years of turmoil and violence that followed the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Now, as the troops leave for home, the Baghdad housewife fears her country's troubles are not over and wonders, like many Iraqis, if their fragile democracy will slide back into sectarian strife.

"The only images I have in my mind from these nine years are the deaths of my brother and his wife, of being forced from our homes, and the death of another brother in a bombing," she said.

"I don't think anything will really change. There will still be bombings, we will still have assassinations, and the government will not be able to do anything."

The U.S. military departure evokes mixed emotions. Some feel gratitude to the Americans for overthrowing dictator Saddam Hussein in the 2003 invasion. For others, a sense of sovereignty is tainted by sadness over lost relatives and memories of U.S. violations like the abuse of inmates in Abu Ghraib prison.

The last U.S. troops are rolling out of the country across the Kuwaiti border as President Barack Obama winds up the most unpopular war since Vietnam.

But Iraq remains uncertain in many ways. A power-sharing deal includes Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish parties, but the government struggles with sectarian tensions. Violence is down sharply but bombings and attacks remain part of daily life.

From the Shi'ite-dominated south to western Sunni strongholds, sectarianism bubbles just below the surface, and many are unsure their security forces can contain al Qaeda-linked insurgents and rival militias without U.S. help.

Bombings and attacks have eased since American and Iraqi security forces weakened insurgents. But roadside bombs, car bombs and assassinations still kill and maim almost every day.

A frail economy, constant power shortages, scarce jobs and discontent with political leaders all fuel uncertainty among Iraqis.

"Thanks to the Americans. They took us away from Saddam Hussein, I have to say that. But I think now we are going to be in trouble," Malik Abed, 44, a vendor at a Baghdad fish market. "Maybe the terrorists will start attacking us again."


With the fall of a Sunni dictator, Iraq's Shi'ite majority has risen and a fragile power-sharing government is led by Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. But for some Sunnis, there is no sharing.

"I think sectarianism will return, the struggle between Sunni and Shi'ite. It is clear from the struggle the government has," said security guard Mohammed Ibrahim. "I feel marginalized as a Sunni, there are no jobs for us in the government."

Falluja, the site of bloody urban fighting during the height of the war, has a distinct view of the American presence, with many questioning the massive U.S. military operations there.

Sitting in the Sunni heartland, Falluja was once the heart of al Qaeda operations in Iraq. U.S. troops used overwhelming troop force, gunships and jets to crush the insurgency there. Many still seek compensation.

A group of Falluja residents burned and stamped on U.S. flags on Wednesday in celebration over the withdrawal. Others waved pictures of dead relatives.

"No one trusted their promises, but they said when they came to Iraq they would bring security, stability and would build our country. Now they are walking out, leaving behind killings, ruin and mess," said Ahmed Aied, a Falluja grocer.

Even as their country shakes off the worst of its violence, memories of war leave old and young alike fretting over peace and stability.

"I was just a young girl when the Americans came. I used to walk with the U.S. soldiers and take pictures with them and they talked with me. They gave me pencils, and school books," said Roua Mansour, a young mother in Baghdad

"Now I am always scared. I prefer to stay inside at home. There was once a big bomb at the Sheraton Hotel and since then I have been frightened. A mortar landed in our garden once. I hope it gets better, but security still worries me."

(Additional reporting by Aref Mohammed and; Fadhel al-Badrani; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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Comments (3)
brian-decree wrote:

Please watch the REAL Iraq, and occupiers!!

Maliki won by less than 10% of the populations vote, he’s a US made dictator!

Dec 14, 2011 11:51pm EST  --  Report as abuse
oldschool wrote:
I feekl sorry for them, but in the long run, the Iraqis themselves have to find a way to resolve their religious strife. No one else can do it for them.

Dec 15, 2011 1:00pm EST  --  Report as abuse
NobleKin wrote:
They will continue to bring death to each other in the name of their views of Allah and the prophets they choose to follow.

The US has nothing to do with their minds. They have choice and self determination, and their future is whatever they choose to make it.

If they choose more hate and more killing in the name of God, that is what will be brought upon them.

But why does an almighty God need men and man made techology to kill in his name? What idiots would believe such nonsense?

An almighty God/Allah does not need men of course. Only in the minds of lesser men does such insanity exist.

When the majority of people (Muslims and Islamists) in the Middle East understand what freedom means (including freedom from the oppression of having to hate those who do not worship like you) and embrace a cultural shift to uphold equality, respect, peace and the rule of law from a secular and humane perspective, perhaps then they and the world will know lasting peace.

Alas, to this point in their history these societies and sects seem incapable of anything but more madness and plots to foment and execute yet more insanity in the name of their view of God.

One sect following this view is no different from the other.

Until they recognize their perpetually violent beliefs hold no future, and the insanity of their current choices to bring more death will only serve to invite more death upon themselves, they will never evolve.

Dec 15, 2011 8:47pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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