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Monday, June 28, 2004

June 30

Woke up this morning, made some coffee, fired up the laptop and turned on the TV. I'd either slept longer than I thought, or something had shiftted. Allawi, speaking in front of an array of (the old) Iraqi flags. Official ceremony. Say, what day is it anyway?

So, went over to Back to Iraq and find out from Christopher Allbritton what's what:

BAGHDAD — Surprise! The Iraqi handover of sovereignty has occurred two days early at approximately 10:30 a.m. today because of security concerns. Iraq is sovereign again, more or less.

The news is just now filtering out on the various media here in Iraq, so there isn’t much reaction from the street. Many people don’t know it has happened. The ceremony was secret because of fears that militants would try to attack or otherwise disrupt the process. But now, Paul Bremer is leaving Iraq later today and Allawi is the prime minister. By all accounts, it was his idea to move the handover up.

A formal ceremony led by Allawi is expected later today to swear in the Iraqi ministers, and there likely will be quite a bit of activity tonight from the militants and celebratory Iraqis.

More on this later. I’m going out to get some reaction.

Just as an aside, Ahmed Chalabi was there, kissing cheeks and shaking hands. What changes now that, as CNN puts it, "The American occupation is officially over?" Well, Bremer goes home, Allawi is offering "amnesty" to insurgents willing to turn themselves in and provide information on the "terrorists." As far as I can tell however, 135,000-some-odd American soldiers will still remain. As Jon Stewart said on the Daily Show many weeks back, "After June 30 June 28, it'll just be Americans standing around with guns." Yes. Well put. Standing around with guns, patrolling, fighting, and unfortunately, targeted and dying. The insurgency (Allawi: "This so-called resistance.") will still feel seething anger against a puppet government installed by the Americans and they will not lay down arms. Nothing changes.

Well, there is the possibility that the level of raised expectations among the general Iraqi population, once the realization sets in that they will remain unfulfilled and the Americans won't be going anywhere, will come back to haunt the new Iraqi government, the US government, and worst of all, American soldiers and Iraqi civilians. When nothing cchanges, expect the insurgency to grow by leaps and bounds.

More later.

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