Iraqis Divided Over U.S. Troop Withdrawal

Many Sunnis welcomed a U.S. congressional push to begin withdrawing U.S. troops by Oct. 1, but one Shiite grocery store owner expressed fear the move would "leave Iraq in the hands of al Qaeda."

Iraqis appear divided along sectarian lines over Thursday's Senate approval of House-passed legislation calling for U.S. troops to begin leaving Iraq by Oct. 1. President Bush has pledged to veto the measure, and neither body passed the measure with enough votes to override him.

A 42-year-old Sunni teacher in Baghdad said Friday that the idea had his full support, but he doubted it would happen.

"I think that yesterday's vote and the threats by Bush to use the veto are nothing but political games played in Washington, and we have been paying the price for these games since 2003. In fact, I see no U.S. withdrawal on the horizon," Assad Yassin said.

Majority Shiites and their Kurdish allies, meanwhile, echoed the opinion of the Shiite-led government, which warned the Oct. 1 start date was too soon.

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh also warned that the congressional decision "sends wrong signals" to militants.

Kamil Nassir, a 40-year-old Shiite who owns a grocery store in Baghdad, agreed and said he was hopeful it would be stopped.

"I do not think that the United States that has sacrificed thousands of soldiers and hundreds of billions of dollars is ready to leave Iraq," he said. "Whether Democrats or Republicans, the U.S. politicians are not ready to leave Iraq in the hands of al Qaeda. U.S. withdrawal will mean victory to al Qaeda and more problems for the Americans."

Many minority Sunnis have long opposed the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, which ended Saddam Hussein's mostly Sunni government and cleared the way for majority Shiites and minority Kurds to dominate government.

In other developments:

  • General David Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, told CBS News national security correspondent David Martin that the

  • The Pentagon announced Friday the capture of one of al Qaeda's most senior and most experienced operatives, an Iraqi who was trying to return to his native country when he was captured.

  • An active-duty U.S. Army officer has taken the unusual step of openly criticizing the way generals have handled the Iraq war, accusing them of failing to prepare their forces for an insurgency and misleading Congress about the situation here. "For reasons that are not yet clear, America's general officer corps underestimated the strength of the enemy, overestimated the capabilities of Iraq's government and security forces, and failed to provide Congress with an accurate assessment of security conditions in Iraq," Lt. Col. Paul Yingling wrote in an article published Friday in the Armed Forces Journal.

  • A Spanish judge indicted three U.S. soldiers Friday in the 2003 death of a Spanish journalist who was killed when their tank opened fire at a hotel in Baghdad.
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