President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki agreed to expedite the handing over of control of Iraqi security forces to Baghdad, easing tensions between the two governments somewhat. Experts discuss the relationship as it now stands.
Read the Full Transcript
BETTY ANN BOWSER, NewsHour Correspondent:
In Baghdad today, more burying of the dead. This time, relatives gathered for the funerals of those killed in yesterday's suicide attack on a Shiite wedding party.
October was one of the bloodiest months of the war for Iraqi civilians. But amid scenes of sorrow and carnage, there were also scenes of Iraqis celebrating, as U.S. troops dismantled dozens of checkpoints in Sadr City that had been set up last week in the search for a missing U.S. soldier.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, asserting his authority as general commander of the armed forces, issued an order via press release yesterday afternoon "to remove all barriers and checkpoints and open all entrances in Sadr City and all other areas in Baghdad."
The decision came after radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr threatened more violence if the checkpoints were not cleared. Al-Sadr's militia, the Mahdi Army, controls the area, one of the most dangerous in the capital.
Iraqi's defense minister insisted the security changes were planned months ago to help ease traffic congestion.
ABDUL QADIR Al OBAIDI, Defense Minister, Iraq:
We have been working to fulfill this decision for more than two months and fulfill such a decision without affecting the security process. And we can set a checkpoint for the time we need it. We cannot put checkpoints on for 24 hours, especially in rush hour. We must open the roads, and we are working for that.
BETTY ANN BOWSER:
In Washington, White House Spokesman Tony Snow denied the change would jeopardize the U.S. mission in Iraq.
TONY SNOW, White House Press Secretary:
To deal with checkpoints does not necessarily change the situation in terms of how you deal with Sadr City. The prime minister has also said on a number of occasions, if you look at Sadr City, in his opinion, 90 percent to 95 percent are people who support the mission and are opposed to terrorism.
BETTY ANN BOWSER:
But in the Iraqi parliament, Sunni members of al-Maliki's government criticized his decision to bring down the barriers.