American armoured cars are an everyday sight on the streets of Iraq, but soon they will be gone. Baghdad and Washington have agreed that US forces will end their patrols of Iraqi towns and villages by next summer, and withdraw completely two years later.
“The Iraqi government has today overwhelmingly approved the withdrawal of American forces from our country,” said government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh. “The government is determined that this pact will safeguard the sovereignty of the country, and the interests and rights of all Iraqis.”
Not everyone agrees. Many Iraqi Sunnis want US withdrawal put to a referendum, while radical Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr wants the Americans to go immediately.
“The Iraqi people will regard this government as having violated our religion and our traditions by working with the foreigners,” said Sadr’s spokesman Sayeed Freed Al-Fadhili. “They have tried to appease the occupiers and this offends the people.”
Violence has dropped dramatically in Iraq this year, allowing US commanders to consider a pullout. But the danger is still there: a suicide bomber attacked a police checkpoint north of Baghdad, and killed at least 15 people.