NR: "As far as the Iraqis are concerned, this is the end of a foreign occupation."
June 30, 2009
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Michael proposes that as the Iraqis celebrate their National Sovereignty Day, Americans should also take a moment today to pause and reflect on the men and women who laid down their lives in Iraq.
BETTY NGUYEN: All right. We have watching developments out of Iraq, where you see celebrations are underway now that U.S. forces have left the major cities and towns.
Michael Ware joins us live from Baghdad to find out if Iraqi forces can step up now that those U.S. forces left. And Barbara Starr joining us live from the Pentagon to find out what happens if those Iraqi forces fail.
But here's what we know right now. U.S. troops are out of the bigger cities and towns in Iraq. They've left the security duties now to Iraqi forces. U.S. forces must now ask the Iraqi government for permission for any future urban operations.
And on the eve of the pullout, four American soldiers were killed in combat. U.S. military is only saying that they were with the MultiNational Division Baghdad. No other details are being released right now.
Well, the Iraqi government is hoping to cash in on their oil and gas fields today. They've opened up bidding to international companies for the first time in decades, but there may be worries over the security of the oil fields with the U.S. troops' withdrawal.
And as we said, Iraqis, they are marking the withdrawal with street celebrations. They've declared it a National Sovereignty Day.
CNN's Michael Ware is watching the action in the capital of Baghdad. He joins us now live. Michael, how do the Iraqis feel about this? We've seen the celebrations. But at all are they worried about security now that the U.S. forces have left those major cities?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Betty, first and foremost, I have to tell you the pictures that you're seeing of these celebrations, at least for now, really do tell the story. I mean, it's just extraordinary. The outpouring of joy and celebration.
I mean, whether from the Western side it was well-intended or not, as far as the Iraqis are concerned, this is the end of a foreign occupation. And they're celebrating that. There's no longer going to be foreign tanks in their streets, no longer will foreign troops drag their menfolk from their homes in the middle of the night and take them off to foreign-run prisons.
So, yes, this jubilation's the first thing, but of course, there is apprehension. We're in the midst of a long-running bombing campaign by al Qaeda in Iraq and its allies designed to return Iraq to the bloodbath of the sectarian civil war.
Iranian-backed Shia extremist militant groups, extraordinarily well-trained, continue to lob rockets and missiles occasionally on the U.S. embassy. So this isn't going to be easy, but no one knows that better than the Iraqis themselves.
Tens upon tens of thousands of Iraqis have died in these past seven years. The Iraqis know how fragile their security forces are, they know what the price for this sovereignty may be. So they certainly do have a sense of apprehension, that's true, Betty.
NGUYEN: Michael, I want to ask you about this, you talk about the Iraqis who have died, so have Americans. Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister there...
NGUYEN: ...talked about this being a day of celebration. Did he mention the U.S. sacrifice and the U.S. money that's been spent in Iraq?
WARE: Well, let's forget treasure, let's focus on blood. Okay? This was an Iraqi national holiday, okay? To end the American involvement -- certainly in a major phase or the American domination of the war here.
That's really stirred up mixed emotions in so many people involved in the American mission here. Certainly, I know that there were some in the mission who feel that such a national holiday belies the sacrifice of the 4,324 U.S. servicemen and women who laid down their lives here.
So it's been very complicated for some Americans here, and to be honest, I think America should pause for a moment today in silence to think about those who have laid down their lives here on Iraqi soil, Betty.
NGUYEN: That's a very good point. Michael Ware joining us live from Baghdad. Thank you, Michael.