People are crowding the streets of Iraqi cities waving flags and shooting fireworks into the sky to celebrate what Prime Minister Maliki terms “National Sovereignty Day.” Waleed al-Bahadili, a typical Iraqi citizen, told a reporter: “All of us are happy– Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds on this day. The Americans harmed and insulted us too much.” Iraqi forces assumed control of all major cities as Americans left to return to their bases. The question in the mind of the people of Iraq is can its government reduce violence and deal with al-Qaeda? The withdrawal is teh first step on the road home for American troops. The real question is will they board planes and ships to return home or will they board them to head north to Afghansitan?
Lingering in the background is the other issue-what happens if violence escalates in the coming months? Will the Maliki government ask Americans to return to the cities? What happens if Shiite-Sunni conflict escalates? And, what happens if Kurds take over major cities in their quest to control oil production?
There are fireworks in the sky. Will there be other fireworks in the sky in the days ahead?