Last U.S. Troops Leave Iraq, Ending Bloodiest U.S. War Since Vietnam


Sectarian issues at senior levels are expected, but if not checked, they can quickly spill into violence at the street level. This week in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad, local Sunni leaders voted to seek autonomy from Baghdad -- and Shia protestors took to the streets. The departure of the Iraqiya bloc from parliament was a form of solidarity with Diyala's local rulers.

Senior officials in the government urge patience. Just because the war is finished, they say, doesn't mean the peace can be built overnight. The wounds of the war are still fresh.

"We are very happy for these young men and women to go back safely. We share their sorrow and grief for the ones who have fallen in Iraq and we do believe that Iraqis, on their own, could not have freed themselves from Saddam's tyranny," Deputy Prime Minister Hussain al-Shahristani said in a weekend interview with ABC News. "The Iraqis will remember all that. But that is not to say that some serious mistakes were not made on the ground. There have been many people, Iraqi people, that have been killed unnecessarily, and of course that has left some sorrow and grief among the Iraqis."

For many in Baghdad, the main concern isn't political instability or even the return of violence. Attacks have become accepted in Iraq right now, to a certain extent -- down 90 percent from the peak of the war, but still as high as a few dozen on a bad day. More of a concern, many resident say, is a lack of basic services.

The electricity service is rated as "bad" or "very bad" by 79 percent of households, according to data released by the United Nations this week. On average, they only receive 14.6 hours of electricity every day, and 90 percent rely on a generator, according to the U.N. Fifty-nine percent say their water and sanitation facilities are "bad" or "very bad," and that number rises to 85 percent in rural areas.

The numbers do not reflect a shoddy electrical grid or poor sanitation infrastructure as much as they reflect Iraqis' booming desires and demands. Analysts say the electricity output since Saddam Hussein was overthrown has doubled -- but demand has tripled.

Part of that is a product of being able to watch satellite TV and go on the Internet for the first time -- two actions forbidden under Saddam Hussein. But if the government cannot quickly deliver on these increased appetites, the hunger could turn into frustration.

In that sense, Iraqis are hungry for more -- a healthy demand despite the psychological scars of the war. But if the government cannot quickly deliver, the hunger could turn into frustration.

In the interview, Shahristani admitted as much, saying that people needed to be patient.

"Things take time," he said.

He argued that life had dramatically improved for many people since the invasion, despite the continuing violence.

"There is a huge difference and people can see that. If you go to a village or a small town or even the capitol you will see people with satellite dishes, with mobile phones and see the number of new cars on the roads," he said.

That success is visible nearly everywhere in Baghdad, and many say it is irreversible. But that doesn't mean that people aren't worried about instability returning.

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