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U.S., Iraqi Leaders Mark 'New Day'

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki shook hands with President Obama in the Oval Office at the White House earlier today (Dec. 12, 2011).
Chip Somodevilla
Getty Images
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki shook hands with President Obama in the Oval Office at the White House earlier today (Dec. 12, 2011).

"A war is ending, a new day is upon us," President Obama said this afternoon at a joint news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki at which the two leaders are marking the departure of the last U.S. troops after nearly nine years in Iraq.

For his part, Maliki said the two nations' relations "will not end with the departure of the last American soldier ... it has only started."

Obama also said the sacrifices of so many should not be forgotten, including "the untold Iraqis who gave their lives ... nearly 4,500 fallen Americans who gave their last full measure of devotion" and "tens of thousands" of Americans who were injured.

We updated this post with more from the news conference as it continued.

Update at 12:58 p.m. ET. Was It A "Dumb War?"

In 2002, then-state Sen. Barack Obama said the Bush administration had led America into a "dumb war" in Iraq. Does he still think that?

"History will judge the original decision to go into Iraq," the president says, before going on to say that because of "enormous sacrifices" by American soldiers and civilians and by Iraqis, "what we have achieved is an Iraq that is self-governing, that is inclusive and has enormous potential."

Update at 12:50 p.m. ET. Obama Sees A "Comprehensive Relationship" With Iraq:

The future U.S.-Iraq relationship will be "comprehensive," Obama says. That means it will include "everything from expanding trade and commerce to scientific exchanges to providing assistance as Iraq is trying to make electricity and power generation consistent." And, the president added, the relationship will include "joint exercises, militarily."

Update at 12:45 p.m. ET. On Syria And Iraq's Independence:

Asked if he worries that Maliki is being influenced by Iran or other nations, Obama says he is confident that the Iraqi leader is making decisions based on what he thinks are the best interests of Iraq — not because of any outside influence.

That includes Iraq's position on Syria. Maliki says that while he is concerned about the right of Syrian people to express themselves peacefully, he believes he does not have the right to ask another nation's leader — in this case Syrian President Bashar Assad — to step down.

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