IMAGE: U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker
T. Mughal  /  EPA
The new U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, seen here in Islamabad on March 8, is the former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan.
updated 3/29/2007 9:32:50 AM ET 2007-03-29T13:32:50

Ambassador Ryan Crocker was sworn in as the new top U.S. envoy to Iraq on Thursday, saying he was taking over the “most critical foreign policy mission” facing the United States.

The oath was administered by junior foreign service officer Tina Tran, who had served with Crocker in Pakistan and has been in the Baghdad embassy since last summer.

Crocker, who is fluent in Arabic, told Iraqi employees of the embassy in Arabic that “you are the heroes of the country, in the true meaning of the word.”

Taking up where his predecessor, Zalmy Khalilzad, left off, the 57-year-old Crocker warned Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that his government “must take all the necessary steps to unite the country.”

The new ambassador left no doubt of his commitment to the Bush administration’s policy in Iraq, which is under withering attack in the Democrat-controlled Congress.

“President Bush’s policy is the right one. There has been progress; there is also much more to be done,” he said.

After listing challenges faced in the coming months, including shepherding benchmark legislation through the parliament, Crocker said: “All of this will be very hard but if I thought it was impossible I would not be standing here today.”

'A tribute to your loyalty'
Crocker flew directly to Baghdad from his post in Islamabad, Pakistan, bypassing the usual Washington swearing-in ceremony.

Sitting next to Crocker at the ceremony in the U.S. Embassy, housed in Saddam Hussein’s former Republican Palace in the Green Zone, was U.S. commander in Iraq Gen. David Petraeus, who only recently took over military operations in the country.

“I also recognize our brave military colleagues who risk their lives each day to secure a better tomorrow for the Iraqi people, thereby serving the interests of us all. I look forward to working with Gen. Petraeus and all of you in the months ahead. And, general, I promise you a full unity of effort,” the new envoy said.

A military band played “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

Speaking of recent rocket attacks on the Green Zone, in which an American contractor and a U.S. soldier were killed, Crocker issued his condolences to the U.S. diplomatic community.

“In the past few days, all have been reminded of the dangers we face serving here. The losses to our community sadden us, but they also must renew our commitment to this mission. The sacrifices you are making for our country’s most critical foreign policy mission is a tribute to your loyalty and patriotism,” the rangy, gray-haired diplomat said.

Before his arrival, Crocker called several key diplomats to Baghdad, most of them ambassadors to Middle Eastern and Arab nations, to help with his transition and advise on future policy.

Among the group was Richard Ford, the U.S. ambassador in Algeria who also has served in Baghdad since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled the Saddam regime.

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