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US forces gone but Iraqi problems remain
by Staff Writers
Baghdad (AFP) Dec 16, 2012

Key dates in Iraq since US withdrawal
Baghdad (AFP) Dec 16, 2012 - In the year since the departure of US troops, Iraq has faced political turmoil and deadly attacks:


- December 18: The last US soldiers cross into Kuwait from Iraq, completing the withdrawal after and ending a nearly nine-year war.

The withdrawal comes as Iraq struggles with renewed political deadlock as its main Sunni-backed bloc says it is boycotting parliament and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shiite, moves to oust one of his deputies, Sunni Arab Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlak, a member of the secular Iraqiya party, after Mutlak accused him of being "worse than Saddam Hussein."

- December 19: Iraq issues an arrest warrant for Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi on anti-terror charges. Hashemi's party, Iraqiya, says it is boycotting the cabinet. Hashemi takes refuge in the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq.

- December 22: Rush hour attacks in Baghdad claimed by Al-Qaeda's Iraq franchise kill at least 60 people, while violence elsewhere in Iraq leaves seven dead.


- January 31: MPs from Iraqiya return to parliament and end their boycott of the government on February 7.

- May 15: A trial opens in absentia of Hashemi, who has taken refuge in Turkey.

- June 9: President Jalal Talabani says Maliki's opponents lack the votes to oust the premier in a vote of no confidence.

- June 13: A wave of apparently coordinated bombings and shootings rocks Iraq during a major Shiite religious commemoration, killing at least 72 people and wounding more than 250, many of them pilgrims.

- June 24: Powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr says Maliki needs to be removed for reforms to take place.

- July 23: Twenty-nine attacks in 19 cities, claimed by Al-Qaeda front group the Islamic State of Iraq, kill 113 people and wound more than 250.

- September 9: Hashemi, who dismisses the charges against him as politically motivated, is convicted in absentia of murder and sentenced to death, as a wave of more than 30 attacks kills 88 people and wounds more than 400.

- September: The formation of a new federal military command covering disputed territory in northern Iraq sends already-poor relations between Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdistan region plummeting.

- September: The most deadly month in Iraq in two years, with 365 killed, according to Iraqi government figures.

- October 11: Washington's new ambassador to Iraq, veteran diplomat Stephen Beecroft, arrives.

- November 10: Baghdad cancels a $4.2 billion arms package with Russia citing graft concerns.

- December 4: Iraq bars a plane carrying Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz from landing in Kurdistan, where he was travelling for the completion of an energy deal.

Ties between Baghdad and Ankara have been strained by issues including Turkey's refusal to extradite Hashemi.

- December 13: An Iraqi court hands down a fifth death sentence for Hashemi.

Abu Mohammed loudly laments that problems in Iraq, from violence to unemployment, have not improved since US forces departed a year ago, as he displays a grey jacket to customers at a Baghdad market.

"Whether the (US) occupation was here or not, for us, nothing has changed," said the 59-year-old who sells used clothes from a cart in the crowded open-air Bab al-Sharji market of central Baghdad.

"During the occupation, there were explosions and today there are explosions. Unemployment is still the same, the situation is still the same," Abu Mohammed said.

The Americans' "treatment of Iraqis was not good, Iraqis were like slaves for them," he said. "They only left fear inside Iraqis. What do we remember about them? Nothing good."

The last in a convoy of American armoured vehicles rolled across the border into Kuwait on the chilly morning of December 18, 2011, marking the completion of the US withdrawal from Iraq.

A US-led coalition invaded Iraq in 2003, toppling dictator Saddam Hussein and beginning a conflict that cost the lives of tens of thousands of Iraqis, thousands of Americans and hundreds of billions of dollars.

Almost 10 years later, many Iraqis still lack basic services such as consistent electricity and clean water, and though levels of violence are down, insurgents continue to carry out bombings and shootings almost every day.

In Khilani Square near Bab al-Sharji, 48-year-old Mahmud Yassin, who sells tyres and vehicle batteries, expressed satisfaction that US forces are gone.

"I walk and I see no Americans; that makes me feel better," he said. "Who likes to see occupation? Any patriotic person will not accept foreigners in his homeland."

"We Iraqis are known for our pride; we do not accept occupation."

But aside from the satisfaction of having the US gone, Yassin said there is little else to celebrate: "Nothing changed since their withdrawal," except that "the situation went from bad to worse."

"We are two states in one state," he said, hinting at the dispute between the federal government and the autonomous Kurdistan region in the north, which are at odds over issues including territory, oil and power-sharing.

"Security might be better if the Americans were ... controlling the situation more, but despite that, their departure must be permanent," Karim Gata, a tailor specialising in military uniforms, said in his small shop in Bab al-Sharji.

"They did not understand us, and we did not understand them. They came for special interests, and oil is the most important," he said.

Abed Alayan, 47, was seated surrounded by cardboard boxes holding clothes and other goods on sale on the side of a street near Khilani Square.

"Our aspirations and wishes are very simple but they were not met," he said.

"I say to the American occupation that when the English occupation was here in the 1920s ... they built new bridges and streets for us, but you did not build us anything," Abed Alayan said.

"You took everything and went, and left pain and suffering for us."


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Iraq: The first technology war of the 21st century

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Political turmoil marks Iraq's first post-US year
Baghdad (AFP) Dec 16, 2012
In the space of a year since the departure of US forces, Iraq has faced political turmoil including calls to remove the premier, a top official being sentenced to death and rising Arab-Kurd tensions. Disputes among Iraqi politicians escalated as US troops departed on December 18, ending a nearly nine-year war that cost the lives of tens of thousands of Iraqis, thousands of Americans and hund ... read more

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