As promised by President Obama, the U.S. Marines are moving out, marking the end of nearly seven years in Iraq on Saturday by handing the Army their command of Anbar province, once one of the war’s fiercest battlefields but now a centerpiece of U.S.-Iraqi cooperation.

The changing of the guard – overseen by military brass and some of Anbar’s influential Sunni sheiks – signals the start of an accelerated drawdown of American troops as the U.S. increasingly shifts its focus to the war in Afghanistan.

American commanders are trumpeting security gains in places such as the western Anbar province as a sign that their partnership with Iraqi security forces is working, and that the local troops can keep the country safe.

But fears are growing about a possible resurgence in sectarian tensions – fed by the Shiite-dominated government’s plans to blacklist more than 500 parliamentary candidates over suspected links to Saddam Hussein’s regime.

In Baghdad, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden met with Iraq’s leaders Saturday to try to alleviate the pressures. While he kept expectations of a breakthrough low – telling reporters after a meeting with President Jalal Talabani it was up to the Iraqis, not him, to resolve the issue – his visit alone underscored Washington’s concern.

The White House worries the bans could raise questions over the fairness of the March 7 parliamentary election, which is seen as an important step in the American pullout timetable and a way to break political stalemates over key issues such as dividing Iraq’s oil revenue.

“I am confident that Iraq’s leaders are seized with this problem and are working to find a just solution,” Biden said during his visit.

The Marines formally handed over U.S. responsibility for Sunni-dominated Anbar, Iraq’s largest province, to the Army during a ceremony at a base in Ramadi, the scene of some of the war’s most intense fighting. Overall control of the province shifted from the U.S. military to Iraq in September 2008, but the U.S. continues to provide support for Iraqi forces.


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Posted by on January 23, 2010. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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  1. MadMike

    January 23, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    Curiously, when a presidential promise if fulfilled no one comments? Whass’up with that??

  2. SJ

    January 23, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    @Mad Mike,
    sorry, I’m still having problems (part of this post was blacked out.)
    –Stranger still is that it’s getting no big media coverage. I thought at least the GOP would be declaring “Mission Accomplished” again or something stupid like that.
    I’m kind of wrapped up in the Supreme Court decision this past week. Don’t know if you heard the president’s weekly address this morning, he sounds justifiably and predictably pissed.

  3. MadMike

    January 23, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    I did hear it SJ and I agree he sounded pissed….I think, however, that Iraq has become the forgotten war, and I don’t even know what that means..Sad.

    BTW you are the only writer, commenter, subscriber, contributor, author that is getting blocked. But then again I don’t see the blocking. The Blocker-in Chief is letting you through. Might be on your end?

  4. MadMike

    January 24, 2010 at 9:21 am

    I wonder what is causing that problem SJ> I did a thorough diagnostic and couldn’t find anything on my end.

  5. Holte Ender

    January 24, 2010 at 10:01 am

    Sectarian tensions are not going away any time soon in Iraq, the big question is, can the Iraqi security forces step in and not take sides?

    • MadMike

      January 24, 2010 at 11:53 am

      Good point Holte.