New commander takes over Iraq battle

A 54-year-old former paratrooper with an honours degree in diplomacy has taken over the toughest job in the US military, assuming control of the coalition in Iraq at a ceremony in one of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces.Lieutenant General David Petraeus has told dignitaries assembled at the ceremony on the outskirts of Baghdad that Iraq was “doomed” if they failed to restore order in the country, carved open by sectarian strife.

Lt-Gen Petraeus takes over from General George Casey as head of the 140,000-strong US-led forces in Iraq.

His chances of success will hang on the latest in a series of what have so far been failed US attempts to regain control of Baghdad and central Iraq, a region plagued by Shiite militias and roving gangs of Sunni insurgents.

“Now is the time for all Iraqis to reject violence and crime and corruption and to rise up against those who employ such methods to further their goals,” he said as he officially took control.

“The rucksack of responsibility is very heavy. In truth, it’s too heavy for any one person to bear, and we will all have to share the burden and move forward together,” he said, adding “the prospects for success are good”.

“Failing that, Iraq will be doomed to continued violence and civil strife,” he warned, promising to provide “the best leadership I can muster”.

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