Stop Your Meddling, Iraqi Minister Tells US

March 13th, 2006 - by admin

Paul McGeough / Sydney Morning Herald – 2006-03-13 07:58:29

BAGHDAD (March 11, 2006) — Amid rising American frustration with the political deadlock in Iraq, the National Security Minister, Abdul Karim al-Enzy, has rebuked Washington for interfering in Iraq’s domestic affairs.

In a remarkable broadside against the US, Mr Enzy charged that it was deliberately slowing Iraq’s redevelopment because of a self-serving agenda that included oil and the “war on terror”.

The attack came as the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, told a Senate inquiry in Washington that Iraq’s political leaders needed “to recognise the seriousness of the situation and form a government of national unity that will govern from the centre, and to do it in a reasonably prompt manner”.

To that end, US diplomats have demanded a more generous sharing of key portfolios among Iraq’s religious and ethnic populations than the dominant Shiite religious parties are willing to concede.

In particular, they are urging the dismissal of the hardline Interior Minister, Bayan Jabr.

But in an interview with the Herald, Mr Enzy snapped: “The last time I checked, Bayan Jabr was Interior Minister of Iraq – not of the US or the UN. He is one of our best and this is interference in our business.”

Mr Enzy argued that if the US-led coalition in Iraq had been more serious about rebuilding the country’s security forces in the first year of the occupation, it could now be making substantial cuts in foreign troop numbers in Iraq. “We don’t want foreign forces here, but it’s impossible for them to leave now, because we’re on the edge of civil war,” he said.

“The truth is the Americans don’t want us to reach the levels of courage and competence needed to deal with the insurgency because they want to stay here.

“They came for their own strategic interests. A lot of the world’s oil is in this region and they want to use Iraq as a battlefield in the war on terror because they believe they can contain the terrorism in Iraq.”

Asked if the West — and the US in particular — understood Iraq and the region, Mr Enzy said significant differences of culture and tradition complicated the relationship.

“We don’t want to be a part of international problems — the US has a problem with Iran, but as an Iraqi government, we don’t. We are not a part of the Israel-Palestine problem, but the deployment of foreign forces in Iraq puts pressure on that issue.”

The minister’s spiel was symptomatic of a rising anti- American sentiment among Iraq’s Shiite majority. Mr Enzy said many Iraqis believed the US wanted civil war in the hope it would break the power of the religious parties still struggling to form a government.

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The National Strategy For Disaster In Iraq

Yesterday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee to request $65 billion in emergency security funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, on top of the $369 billion the United States has spent already.

This appearance came amidst deep dissatisfaction among the US public over the war (only 30 percent approve of President Bush’s handling of Iraq), increasing sectarian violence, and a troubling human rights situation.

The testimony by Rice and Rumsfeld did little to reassure the American people that the administration is using taxpayers’ money wisely, amounting to “more or less a recitation of the administration’s standard formulations on Iraq,” according to the New York Times. Rice and Rumsfeld’s testimony yesterday ignored the US responsibility for Iraq’s current state of instability. The administration’s post-invasion failure to aproperly train security forces, oversee detainee interrogations, and plan for reconstruction have left a situation of chaos and insecurity in Iraq. (American Progress has a plan to move forward.)

In yesterday’s hearing, Rumsfeld touted the progress of Iraq’s security forces, noting that Generals George Casey and John Abizaid “have been impressed by the work of the Iraqi security forces.”

As a sign of their increased capabilities, Rumsfeld said that in the case of a civil war, the plan would be “have the Iraqi security forces deal with it to the extent they’re able to.” But Rumfeld’s positive testimony focused primarily on the Iraqi Army and ignored the struggling — yet crucial — police force, which the United States has not prepared to restore order during a civil war.

Senior military advisors acknowledge that “[t]rying to reform the police forces could take years, because sectarian loyalties have become entrenched, and police officers are rooted in their communities.”

When Shiite militiamen attacked dozens of Sunni mosques after the February bombing of the Shiite Askariya shrine, many “police units stood aside, either out of confusion or sectarian loyalties, according to Iraqi witnesses.”

Rumsfeld’s testimony ignored the administration’s responsibility for the unprepared state of the police force, which has been “exacerbated by a lack of steady oversight” on the part of the United States. As of March 2005 — two years into the war — the Pentagon still had not developed a “system to assess the readiness of Iraqi military and police forces so they [could] identify weaknesses and provide them with effective support.”

Reflecting Rumsfeld’s blind spot on the Iraq army in his testimony to the Senate, ” US advisors to the police units have been stretched thin as the United States focused on training Iraqi army recruits.”

Two years after his promise to shut down Abu Ghraib prison, Bush will finally do so. Prisoners from Abu Ghraib — now called an “incubator for terrorists” by US commanders in Iraq — will be moved to Camp Cropper, where Saddam Hussein is being held. But closing the infamous prison will not erase the blight on the US human rights record, and many Iraqis were skeptical that it was anything more than a public relations stunt.

One Iraqi shopkeeper noted, “Closing Abu Ghraib will never improve the image of the Americans in Iraq. … I believe the Americans will close one Abu Ghraib and open a hundred new ones somewhere else.” The legacy of Abu Ghraib is also living on in the Iraqi police force, which a recent State Department report criticized for its human rights abuses.

In 2005, Human Rights Watch concluded that abuse by Iraqi police forces had become “routine and commonplace.” Last November, US officials discovered a secret prison run by Interior Ministry officials with links to a Shiite militia that had tortured and killed Sunnis. “US officials suspected that Iraqi police officers who worked at the illegal prison had received American training in interrogation.”

While Rice and Rumsfeld yesterday outlined the importance of additional security funding for Iraq, they ignored the country’s unfinished reconstruction projects.

Last week, Amb. James Jeffrey, Senior Advisor to Rice and Coordinator for Iraq, stated that the United States will not be seeking significant additional funding for reconstruction projects in Iraq — except for prisons. “And in fact, in these two budgets, the only new construction is related to prisons, you know, which we see as a rule of law, capacity-building. … There is no significant new money apart from that in our accounts for reconstruction in the narrow sense of building up the infrastructure.”

“For a country like the United States that is promoting the advancement of freedom, building jails is not necessarily your best image,” said Rick Barton of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

But just because the administration is requesting no new funding doesn’t mean that the projects are finished.

A recent report by Iraq’s Special Inspector General, Stuart Bowen, concluded that even the current $18.4 billion allocated for Iraq’s reconstruction will run out before projects are finished. “Of the 136 water projects first envisioned, only 49, or 36 percent, will be completed.

And only 300 of the 425 electrical projects will be completed. The goal of 3,400 additional megawatts of electricity will also be missed, with only 2,200 megawatts delivered.” Yet the United States cannot solely blame security problems for the slow pace of reconstruction.

Bowen also noted that the United States never built up a plan to rebuild Iraq after the invasion: “There was insufficient systematic planning for human capital management in Iraq before and during the US-directed stabilization and reconstruction operations.” (On the eve of the three year anniversary of the invasion, American Progress will host an event, “Iraq: Next Steps for US Policy,” featuring Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski.)