Dec. 14 - As the last U.S. troops prepare to leave Iraq after almost nine years, residents grow restless with the slow pace of development. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
On April 9, 2003, the US forces toppled a statue of dictator Saddam Hussein in central Baghdad, marking the end of more than 35 years of iron-fisted rule by Saddam's Baath Party. Then-U.S. President George W. Bush said Iraq could become a model of democracy in the Middle East. But nearly nine years after the invasion the review in Iraq are mixed. SOUNDBITE)(Arabic) ZIYAD Al-AJILI, DIRECTOR OF BAGHDAD-BASED JOURNALISTIC FREEDOM OBSERVATORY (JFO), SAYING: "I think that the only memory that will remain fresh in Iraqi people's minds after the withdrawal of the U.S. forces will be confined to the events happened at Al-Firdous Square. People will keep remembering how the U.S. forces toppled the most brutal tyrant in Iraq's history." Recalling those years, many talk about the prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib and what they call the United States' misuse of power. But some say that despite grave mistakes committed by the U.S. troops in Iraq, Iraqis would regret not having a long and strategic relationship with the United States. (SOUNDBITE)(Arabic) ANALYST IBRAHIM AL-SUMAIDAEI, SAYING: "I think that if we do not establish a strategic relationship with the United States, the second generation, or the post-U.S.withdrawal from Iraq generation will bite its finger in regret for not utilizing the U.S. presence in Iraq by them or the generation that precedes them to make Iraq the most important and the mightiest power in the Middle East." In Basra, where dozens of international oil companies signed up to develop some of Iraq's largest oil-fields, people are increasingly restless with the slow pace of development. (SOUNDBITE)(Arabic) ABU MAJID, CONSTRUCTION WORKER, SAYING: "I imagined that it (Iraq) will be better than the Gulf states after we got rid of the nightmare (Saddam) and Iraq was opened to the world. We are a rich country that has natural resources in addition to agriculture and industry, but we destroyed this wealth by our own hands. The people and the thieves destroyed our riches in collaboration with neighboring countries, let alone terrorism that has engulfed the country since 2005 until now." All U.S. forces are scheduled to leave Iraq by the end of the year. Deborah Lutterbeck, Reuters.