Iraq assumes command of the last US military base in the country; Iraqiya bloc Premier Iyad Alawi: Iraqiya bloc rejects system of policy-making
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  • (December 12-18, 2011)

    According to reports, Iraq will assume command of the last US military base in the country, a day after US forces formally marked the end of their mission by bringing a divisive war to a low-key conclusion. Baghdad’s security forces will take over a sprawling installation on the outskirts of the southern city of Nasiriyah, a senior Iraqi official said, a final step ahead of a complete American withdrawal from Iraq in the coming days. Meanwhile, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and top US military officers took part in a subdued “casing of the colours” ceremony near Baghdad airport, the first site US forces occupied in Baghdad in 2003. All that remains of the American military in Iraq are around 4,000 soldiers, down from a peak of nearly 170,000 troops on 505 bases across the country. After year-end, the US embassy will retain just 157 US soldiers, for training of Iraqi forces, and a group of marines to secure the diplomatic mission. The withdrawal ends a war that left tens of thousands of Iraqis and nearly 4,500 American soldiers dead, many more wounded, and 1.75 million Iraqis displaced, after the US-led invasion unleashed brutal sectarian fighting. 1

    In another development, the secular Iraqiya bloc, which won most of the votes of Iraq’s disenchanted Sunni Arab majority, walked out of parliament sparking a political crisis days after US forces ended their mission. The bloc, led by former premier Iyad Alawi said it was suspending its participation in parliamentary business in protest at what it charged was Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki’s monopolisation of all decision-making. The Iraqiya bloc also said ‘Iraqiya rejects this system of policy-making that consists of ignoring other political parties, politicising the justice system, exercising sole power and violating the law.’ 2