January 1, 2009 – Sovereignty Day in Iraq

Republican Palace Iraq
Photo by Robert Smith

AP reports that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
will propose Jan. 1 be declared a national holiday to commemorate what he called “Sovereignty Day” — the day Iraq took the lead in security away from U.S. forces, regained control of its airspace and reclaimed a wide swath of Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone including Saddam Hussein’s former Republican Palace which housed the U.S. Embassy. The United States returned the Republican Palace to the Iraqi government as the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Meanwhile, Mike in Baghdad, Baghdad Anne’s A100 classmate writes about the diplomats’ move to the New Embassy Compound:

On December 13, my office moved from its old premises in the Palace to its new space in the “New Office Building” (NOB) in the New Embassy Compound (NEC). The move also represents a turning point in the U.S. relationship with Iraq. On December 18, the Ambassador and the rest of the Embassy front office will move, after which we will close out our presence in this remnant of the Saddam regime and return the Palace to the Iraqi government. The transfer of the Palace will accompany the implementation of the Security Agreement and provides a strong signal of the diminished role the U.S. government will play in the running of Iraq’s affairs.

[…]There were a number of other small problems, primarily because we were working against a deadline to move entirely out of the Palace by the end of the year, so the move occurred before everything was quite ready. We’re often doubled up in cubicles, but the cubicles haven’t been provided with extra telephones and still lack the additional computer terminals. We were also told that we would have to choose between the telephone and the terminal because each cubicle only had one extra electronic outlet. I share a waste basket with the next cubicle. I also expect the extra set of drawers that we were promised will be a long time arriving.

The lay-out really sucks. I have to know three combinations to get to my office. My section has also been divided up into two different office spaces, which are actually a fair distance apart. Because of the silly security rules, no toilets could be installed in the classified space where I have my office, so I have to walk around the corner, through two sets of doors, and walk to the far corner of the building before I get to the toilet. We’re not allowed to keep our office door open, so we’re walking down anonymous corridors of locked doors and, once through the doors, find ourselves in a Dilbert cartoon of cubicles with no privacy.

Continue reading Mike’s Farewell to the Palace here. You can also see 13 photos of the new embassy compound here.