Features

Iraq's new day

Iraq

Issue: "Year in Review 2004," Jan. 1, 2005

With all the images of death and destruction, it's easy to forget there was good news in Iraq this year: Schools opened, embassies got to work, free presses flourished, oil moved on world markets. Most significantly of all, U.S. administrators formally handed over power to an Iraqi interim government on June 28, a feat many had predicted would prove impossible.

Home rule for the Iraqis didn't translate into homeward travel for American troops. (In fact, the Bush administration announced in November that thousands of additional troops would head to Iraq to prepare for January elections.) Still, the interim government showed that power could successfully be shared in a country with deep religious and ethnic divisions. It allowed critical European leaders to reestablish diplomatic and commercial ties. And it proved to skeptical Iraqis that America intended to keep its promises.

For the insurgents, all of that was bad news indeed. They responded with frequent attacks on representatives of the new government, killing the governor of Mosul, his counterpart in Nineveh, and a top official at the Ministry of Defense, among others.

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Despite repeated attempts, insurgents failed to kill their top target, interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. In an extraordinary speech before a joint session of Congress in September, Mr. Allawi vowed that nothing-including further assassination attempts-would derail next year's elections. "The Iraqi elections may not be perfect. . . . They will undoubtedly be an excuse for violence from those who disparage and despise liberty," he said. "But they will take place."

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