Been keeping special tabs on Iraq's Maliki since he declared Iraq's "great victory" over the United States on June 20.
But back to Iraq's "great victory." Now that the US has withdrawn from Iraq's cities (thank goodness; just wish they could keep going), what do the Iraqi-people say?
Oh, let's try to guess: ...."many Iraqis express their heartfelt thanks for everything the US has sacrificed to protect and liberate them?"
"....Many Iraqis said the government rhetoric was embarassingl and that Maliki should have thanked the United States?
The following is a selection of comments from the south to the north of Iraq. New York Times reporters surveyed about 35 people.
In BASRA, the mood was generally skeptical.
Haider Muhammed Ali, 31, a communications engineer:
“The withdrawal doesn’t represent national sovereignty because the troops will remain at the airport base and will stay inside Iraq.”
Samir Alwan, 28 years, owner of a mini market:
“They will not withdraw to their homes in their country. They will stay here and in emergency cases they would enter the city. So it is not national sovereignty according to my point of view, and I think the Iraqi Army is only able to control the southern areas. They are unable to make Baghdad and Mosul safe.”
Najim Salim, 40 years, a teacher.
“There is no doubt it is not national sovereignty because they will stay inside Iraq in military bases. The Government wants to convince the citizens that there is a withdrawal of foreign troops, although the Government could not protect citizens in some cities in Iraq even with the presence of U.S. forces. So the Government will fail to protect citizens after the withdrawal, and then the Government will ask the foreign troops to come back.”
Ayman Jasim, 37 years, a photographer .
“ I am happy for the withdraw of Americans it is national day and national sovereignty come back again to Iraq. I believe Iraqi troops will control the city and nothing will happen after their withdrawal.”
In BAGHDAD, where there are large numbers of Iraqi security forces, many of whom are glad to have the Americans out of the way so that they can run things themselves, there was a mix of excitement and caution.
Jassim Hassan, 26, a policeman, was dancing in the street as people drove by and threw candy bars at the policemen, an Iraqi custom.
“We are so happy. You can ot even imagine how happy we are.
“I am so happy you can feel me as I dance,” he said, and began to gyrate.
Sgt. Razzaq Jabbar, a policeman patrolling near Baghdad University: “We got orders from our commanders to celebrate and decorate our vehicle but we have not decorated the car yet, we could not go to buy such decorative things and leave the area.
“It will be dangerous to leave the area without a police patrol, you know security is still fragile.”
Arkan Khalaf, a traffic policeman driving a traffic police car decorated with plastic flowers in Jadriya, an affluent neighborhood of eastern Baghdad.
“I am afraid, it is not the time of withdrawal, I think the Americans will be back within few months.”
In Diyala, still one of the two most violent provinces, views were mixed.
Balqis Eidan, 30, an employee in a state company, said: “It is really a day of sovereignty. I agreed with Maliki, it is a very important day in our history. But we are still worried about security. We hope our forces will be able to handle security. The way will be a long one”.
Esam Khalid, 40, a lawyer: “It is not a day of sovereignty day. It is not complete sovereignty because the foreign troops will be few meters away from our cities.
“I will be the first one who celebrates on the day of real sovereignty. Armed groups are still active because neighboring countries do not want Americans to pull out of Iraq.”
Abdul Hussein al-Zebaidi, 50, a farmer: “Whoever believes that the American will pull back is crazy. The troops came here to stay, they will never get out unless they are forced out by armed fighters.”
Saeed Sabri, 22 years old, a student, saw a long road ahead, but ultimately a peaceful ending. “All resistance groups will lose their power. Probably the next stage will be kind of a difficult one; there will be many victims, but finally Iraqi will succeed.”
In the northern city of MOSUL, where there has been persistent violence, people were worried that the Americans were withdrawing before the Iraqi troops were ready.
Abu Ibrahim, 55, a businessman: “Political disputes are the main reason behind the last bombs, our politicians are the ones who established the country based on sectarianism.” he said,
“Unfortunately the great Iraq has a government which leads us to keep the occupation forces to protect us from each other. A full withdrawal will happen only in our politicians’ dreams.”
Um Youssef, 28, a housewife: “Shame on Maliki to call this fake withdrawal ‘sovereignty’. All their declarations are only for the media, nothing else.
“What kind of withdrawal is it when American forces can reach any place in only 30 minutes? There is neither sovereignty nor withdrawal. This is a victory to the American president Mr. Obama, who wants to tell the American people ‘Look, I have carried out my promises.’ ”