Iraqis greeted the withdrawal of US troops from their cities this week by dancing in the streets.
They hope that the “drawdown” of combat troops will mean an end to the violence that follows US patrols, and an end to the shootings at checkpoints.
But the withdrawal does not mark the end of the occupation.
Under the Status of Forces Agreement signed by the Iraqi government last year, occupation forces will simply redeploy to large bases on the outskirts of urban areas.
US soldiers will still conduct raids, seize suspects and “support” Iraqi security forces – only now they will require Iraqi government permission first.
Under the agreement all US troops should leave the country by 2011. Yet US secretary of state Robert Gates admitted that he expects tens of thousands of troops to remain.
A provision in the agreement allows troops to re-enter the country if it is “threatened by insurrection”.
The US wants to stabilise Iraq in order to shift troops to Afghanistan. The military hope that by lowering the profile of the occupation it can claim that the country has regained its sovereignty.
But the move simply embeds the occupation.