General David Petraeus has taken over as commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, during a time that he called a "decisive moment" for the country's future. In an address at his official handover ceremony Saturday, General Petraeus said the prospects for ending violence are good. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from northern Iraq.
During Saturday's ceremony at the U.S. military's "Camp Victory" base in western Baghdad, General Petraeus told the audience that sharing the burden of creating security in Iraq is essential to the country's future. He said that if military forces and the Iraqi people can work together, then the prospects for success are good.
"Failing that, Iraq will be doomed to continued violence and civil strife, and, surely, that is a prospect that all must strive to avoid," he said.
General Petraeus takes command at the beginning of a new effort to rid Baghdad of the brutal sectarian violence that has purged neighborhoods of religious and ethnic minorities and crippled economic growth.
The U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed General Petraeus to lead the 135,000 U.S. forces in Iraq, even though many lawmakers oppose the security operation that he is expected to oversee.
Democratic Senator John Kerry on Saturday called the plan "an escalation of a misguided war."
"Another 21,000 troops sent into Iraq, with no visible end or strategy, ignores the best advice from our own generals, and isn't the best way to keep faith with the courage and commitment of our soldiers," he said.
On Saturday in Baghdad, a policeman searching cars at one of the new checkpoints that are part of the increased security said local people have supported the new measures.
He says, the people have been very cooperative and positive, and, so far, they have not had any problems.
But while some are optimistic about the plan's chances for success, many Baghdad residents are cautious after enduring years of violence. Abu Wasim is a businessman visiting family in northern Iraq this week to escape the near-daily shootings, bombings and kidnappings in his Baghdad neighborhood.
He says, "We must wait to see what happens on the ground, then we can see if the plan will succeed."
Wasim says he has seen attempts to improve security in Baghdad before, and yet the situation in his neighborhood is as bad as it has ever been.