Iraqis celebrate U.S. exit but worry for future
The Iraqiya bloc narrowly won the most seats in last year’s parliamentary election. But its leader, Ayad Allawi, was unable to become prime minister, outmaneuvered by Mr. al-Maliki, who kept the premier’s post after cobbling together key support from Shiite parties.
That has left Mr. al-Maliki beholden to Shiite factions, including those led by radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose militiamen were blamed for sectarian killings during the worst of Iraq’s violence. Since forming his new government, Mr. al-Maliki effectively has controlled the Interior and Defense ministries, which oversee the police and military, while conflicts between Sunni and Shiite politicians have delayed the appointment of permanent ministers.
Many on both sides of the sectarian divide also worry that neighboring Shiite-led powerhouse Iran now will increase its influence in their country. Mr. al-Maliki’s party and other Shiite blocs have close ties to Tehran, but even some in the Shiite public resent the idea of Iranian domination.
“I am afraid that this occupation will be replaced by indirect occupation by some neighboring countries,” said Ali Rahim, a 40-year-old Shiite who works for the Electricity Ministry.
Omar Waadalla Younis, a senior at Mosul University, said that at first he was happy to hear the last Americans were gone and thought the city government should hold celebrations in the streets. Then he thought of the possible threat from Iran.
“Now that the Americans have left, Iraq is more vulnerable than before.”
AP correspondent Bushra Juhi in Baghdad contributed to this report.