TIME ~January 26, 2009, less than a week after Barack Obama's inauguration:
".... Prospects for al-Sadr's militia, the Mahdi Army, and the political figures who stood at the edge of it have steadily dimmed since last spring, when government forces of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki emerged as the de facto victors in battles with the Mahdi Army across southern Iraq and Baghdad. Weeks of fighting in the early months of 2008 ended in a stalemate. Since then, Iraqi security forces have rounded up scores of Sadrists with the help of U.S. troops, effectively hollowing out the movement's street power and political influence....
.... In Iraq, several hundred Shiite hardliners protested in Baghdad's Shiite stronghold of Sadr City. The leader of an Iranian-backed Shiite militia that previously attacked U.S. troops, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, threatened anti-U.S. attacks.
The movie "will put all the American interests in Iraq in danger," the militia leader, Qais al-Khazali, told The Associated Press.
The warning capped a day of growing tensions in Baghdad, where hundreds of Shiite followers of the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr demanded the closure of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad over the anti-Islam movie.
Protestors burned American flags and carried banners reading, "We reject the attack on the Prophet Mohammed."
"No, no, to Israel! No, no to America!" thousands shouted in the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City in northeast Baghdad. "Yes, yes for Messenger of God!"
There was no immediate response Thursday from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
When the final U.S. troops left Iraq back in December, they left behind the largest U.S. Embassy IN THE WORLD.
.... There will be about 16,000 people working for the State Department at the embassy in Baghdad and consulates elsewhere in Iraq.
At least 5,000 of those in Iraq will be private security contractors, and there are lots of questions about whether the State Department is ready to run such a big operation in such a volatile country.
At the State Department in Washington, Undersecretary for Management Pat Kennedy has been getting contracts and other logistics in order for the embassy.
"This is something, clearly, that the State Department has never done before," Kennedy says....
One of Kennedy's predecessors, Grant Green, says there are some big questions hanging over this mission.
"What is going to be the will of our country and our Congress to support our activities there in the out years?" Green says. "Once the troops are really gone completely, other than security cooperation folks, but once they are completely gone, this turns into just another diplomatic post. And until there are some tragic events there, I think it is off the radar screen."