U.S. soldiers lower the U.S. flag during a handover ceremony of Camp Bucca to the Iraqi government in Basra, 420 km (260 miles) southeast of Baghdad December 29, 2010. Camp Bucca, a sprawling complex in Iraqâ€™s southern desert near Kuwait that had a prison run by the U.S. military, will be turned into a commercial centre with offices, warehouses, and aviation and fuel services to support investors, an official at the Basra Investment Committee said on Wednesday.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said that all US troops must be out of Iraq by the end of 2011 as originally planned and that his new government and its security forces are capable of confronting any threats to the countryâ€™s security and unity, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Many Iraqis and international observers were concerned that the US presence in the country could be extended beyond the deadline because a nine-month stalemate stalled Iraqi politics following heated elections, but the stalemate has recently been resolved and a new government is in place.
Minister al-Maliki also addressed concerns that Iraq could align itself with Iran after being relieved of US oversight, saying such an alliance would be impossible despite supporters in the new government.
Vice President Joseph Biden echoed al-Maliki, saying the prime minister will not be co-opted by Iranian political interests despite the presence of a bloc of followers of anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in the new government, according to the Journal.
Iran has been accused of funding and training militias associated with al-Sadrâ€™s movement.
Minister al-Malikiâ€™s confident remarks on Iraqi independence were shadowed by a pair of deadly suicide bombings that claimed 19 lives and injured 45 people in the Iraqi city of Ramadi earlier today, according to The Washington Post.