THOUSANDS of Iraqis have been celebrating the victory of their resistance movement over the USA.
Thursday's triumphal event in Baghdad's Sadr City marked the pull-out of American troops.
And even mainstream US media were this week reporting "declining American influence in the country" as more cracks appear in the global neoliberal empire.
Anti-US cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said in a recorded message broadcast on a large screen at the celebrations: "The armies of resistance terrified the occupiers, so they left after they lost.
"The occupying forces were working for strife and destruction and to destabilise security. The occupier is not the one who can bring peace and safety to Iraq, but rather you, and only you."
At the urging of the cleric, his supporters shouted, "Yes, yes, to unity, yes, yes, to peace, yes, yes, to resistance."
Sadr also called on the Iraqi government to release imprisoned resistance fighters.
AFP reports that thousands of Sadr Movement members marched in formation with Iraqi flags at the event, while supporters gathered on the roadside, some holding banners reading, "No, no to America, no, no to Israel."
Among those attending the event, which was held under tight security, were cabinet ministers, members of parliament and religious figures, as well as representatives of some Arab countries.
Hazem al-Araji, one of the leaders of the Sadr Movement, told AFP that, "Today is the day of the real victory for the people and a message of unity that we throw in the face of the occupier."
Meanwhile the New York Times reports: "Less than two months after American troops left, the State Department is preparing to slash by as much as half the enormous diplomatic presence it had planned for Iraq, a sharp sign of declining American influence in the country.
"Officials in Baghdad and Washington said that Ambassador James F. Jeffrey and other senior State Department officials were reconsidering the size and scope of the embassy, where the staff has swelled to nearly 16,000 people, mostly contractors.
"The expansive diplomatic operation and the $750 million embassy building, the largest of its kind in the world, were billed as necessary to nurture a postwar Iraq on its shaky path to democracy and establish normal relations between two countries linked by blood and mutual suspicion.
"But the Americans have been frustrated by what they see as Iraqi obstructionism and are now largely confined to the embassy because of security concerns, unable to interact enough with ordinary Iraqis to justify the $6 billion annual price tag.
"After the American troops departed in December, life became more difficult for the thousands of diplomats and contractors left behind. Convoys of food that had been escorted by the United States military from Kuwait were delayed at border crossings as Iraqis demanded documentation that the Americans were unaccustomed to providing.
"Within days, the salad bar at the embassy dining hall ran low. Sometimes there was no sugar or Splenda for coffee. On chicken-wing night, wings were rationed at six per person. Over the holidays, housing units were stocked with Meals Ready to Eat, the prepared food for soldiers in the field.
"At every turn, the Americans say, the Iraqi government has interfered with the activities of the diplomatic mission, one they grant that the Iraqis never asked for or agreed upon. Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s office — and sometimes even the prime minister himself — now must approve visas for all Americans, resulting in lengthy delays. American diplomats have had trouble setting up meetings with Iraqi officials."
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