Obama: Time to ‘Turn a New Page’ in U.S.-Iraqi Relationship

BY Larisa Epatko  December 12, 2011 at 2:42 PM EST


Iraqi national police and army hold a joint parade in Baghdad in November. Photo by Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images.

It’s been nearly nine years since U.S. soldiers and Marines invaded Iraq. Now, with the last U.S. troops due to leave by year’s end, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met with President Obama in Washington to chart a new course for the two nations.

“A war is ending. A new day is upon us,” President Obama said after their meeting Monday.

The United States will work with Iraq to expand trade and commerce, ramp up oil production, provide assistance to make sure Iraq’s electricity is consistent, in addition to participating in joint military exercises and developing more educational opportunities for Iraqis in the United States, the president said.

“Our goal is to make sure Iraq succeeds,” he said, adding that an Iraq that is inclusive to all people and builds a nation together can act as a model for other countries in the region seeking democracy.

Al-Maliki said through a translator that he appreciates the U.S. commitment to Iraq, and the relationship will not end when the last of the American soldiers leave.

Iraq needs continued political, security and economic cooperation, and although the country has a lot of wealth, it needs experience and expertise, he said.

Reporters asked the two leaders about the conflict in Syria and how Iraq is responding. President Obama said al-Maliki has shown that he can make tough decisions for Iraq, even if they cause problems with his neighbors. View this press conference excerpt:

When asked if he still thought the war in Iraq was a “dumb” war — a term he used as a state senator in 2002 about the gathering Iraq invasion, President Obama said history will be the judge:

On Oct. 21, President Obama declared the end of the war in Iraq and said U.S. troops were leaving by year’s end. (Watch the video of his speech.)

Related Resource: What does it take to turn over a base to Iraqi hands? View a Q&A with a military official and a slide show.

When a NewsHour team visited Iraq in August 2010, we found that many Iraqis were concerned about the security of their country after the departure of U.S. troops. (View a video report). Even before the troops left, Iraqis were encountering improvised explosive devices on an almost daily basis, and young Iraqis felt like they couldn’t meet with their friends in the evenings because the risk was too great. See more of their responses.

In addition, Iraqis missed having a reliable source of electricity, they told us in August 2010, and the problem persists to this day. Iraqis said they made due by using generators to fill in the gaps in power, and concentrating their household chores, such as showering and laundry, during the times of day they knew they would have electricity.

Browse all Iraq coverage from the August 2010 reporting trip and follow us on Twitter.