Global Policy Forum

Iraqis Welcome Peace Plan but Look For Detail


By Alastair Macdonald and Mussab Al-Khairalla

October 3, 2006

Iraq's parliament on Tuesday welcomed an agreement designed to staunch sectarian bloodshed in Baghdad, but there was no sign of further talks to add substance to the prime minister's sketchy four-point plan. "I salute you brothers," Adnan al-Dulaimi, a leader from the minority Sunni Arab community, said of what some have dubbed the "Ramadan Agreement" to form neighbourhood committees in the capital to curb violence during the Muslim holy month. "We want to turn this pact from words into reality."

But talk of a follow-up meeting after Monday night's talks with Shi'ite Muslim Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki evaporated during the day, and several negotiators said no further detail would be put on the plan before Wednesday at the earliest. Any hope of success rests on securing the goodwill of leaders who actually control party and sectarian militias blamed for hundreds of death squad killings a week in the capital. But many gunmen behind mass kidnappings, assassinations and torture appear to be beyond the control of mainstream leaders.

Hadi al-Amery, a Shi'ite member of parliament and leader of the Badr Organisation which denies accusations of militia violence, said all leaders had to control their supporters. "Everyone is responsible," he told the chamber. Referring to a major Sunni party, he said: "We want everyone who signed the agreement to control their followers. I can control groups and so can the Islamic Party -- so we can end sectarian bloodshed."

Washington's ambassador and its top general in Iraq welcomed the pact as a significant step in the right direction. The U.S. military said eight soldiers were killed on Monday, four by a roadside bomb and four others by insurgents, taking the U.S. death toll to 15 since Saturday.

But several Shi'ite and Sunni leaders remained at odds in their interpretations of what was outlined by Maliki. One negotiator denounced it as a hollow sham. Another said it was merely a stop-gap to relieve U.S. pressure on Maliki.

The formation of local security committees for Baghdad is the plan's first initiative. The committees should involve political, tribal and religious leaders and the Iraqi military. But officials said the powers and make-up were still undecided.

Dulaimi said all the parties would sit on every committee, whatever the sectarian make-up of the neighbourhood concerned. But Shi'ite negotiator Abdul Kareem al-Anizi said the committees would reflect the local populations. For example, the Shi'ite militia stronghold of Sadr City would have few Sunnis on its committee. Such imbalances could be common -- in months of ethnic cleansing, thousands of Baghdad's 7 million people have fled areas where they feel in a minority.

The second point of the plan is a Central Committee for Peace and Security. The third element would be new oversight of the media and the fourth monthly reviews of the plan. One negotiator said Iraq's media, mostly controlled by rival parties, were less of a concern than international media, such as pan-Arab TV channels, which have already been punished.

U.S. and Iraqi officials trying to drive militants from the city say the "Battle for Baghdad" will settle the fate of Iraq. U.S. officials say they are uneasy that Maliki's unity cabinet has yet to act after four months to rein in party militias and other groups behind violence like two mass kidnaps this week -- crimes in which some police seem to be involved. U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad says Maliki has just two months to turn the tide. "We ... assure them of U.S. support," he said in a joint statement with U.S. General George Casey.

Sunni parliamentarian Hussein al-Falluji said the deal came after "huge U.S. pressure to do something about the militias". U.S. President George W. Bush, under pressure over Iraq in the run-up to congressional elections in November, has vowed to back Maliki if he stays on course to reconcile opposing factions. Many Americans are keen to bring home the 140,000 U.S. troops whose presence may be holding back a civil war that could split Iraq and drag in its Arab, Iranian and Turkish neighbours.

More Information on Iraq
More Information on Iraq's Government
More Information on Leaders and Occupiers in Post-War Iraq


FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.