Iraqi Lawmakers Push for US Withdrawal

May 14th, 2007 - by admin

Joshua Partlow, / The Washington Post & Sinan Salaheddin / AP & BBC News – 2007-05-14 22:46:11

Iraqi Lawmakers Push for US Withdrawal
Moves in Parliament Echo US Congress’ Efforts to Limit Bush

BAGHDAD (May 11, 2007) — A majority of Iraq’s parliament has signed a proposed bill that would require a timetable for the withdrawal of US soldiers from Iraq and freeze current troop levels, a sign of a growing division between Iraqi legislators and the prime minister that mirrors the widening gulf between the Bush administration and its critics in Congress.

The draft bill would create a timeline for a gradual departure, much like what some Democrats in the United States have demanded, and require the Iraqi government to secure parliament’s approval before any further extensions of the U.N. mandate for foreign troops in Iraq, which expires at the end of 2007.

“We haven’t asked for the immediate withdrawal of multinational forces, we asked that we should build our security forces and make them qualified and at that point there would be a withdrawal,” said Baha al-Araji, a parliamentarian allied with the anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose supporters drafted the bill. “But no one can accept the occupation of his country.”

In both Iraq and the United States, there is deepening frustration among lawmakers and the public over President Bush’s troop buildup, a policy that has yet to prevent widespread killing in Iraq. At the same time, Bush and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki are dispatching their emissaries in an urgent transatlantic gambit to shore up support.

Iraq’s national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, was in Washington this week to ask Democratic members of Congress to have patience with the “surge,” and to not abandon Iraq at such a precarious time. On Wednesday, Vice President Dick Cheney landed in Baghdad to press the government to act quickly on a host of divisive political issues the Bush administration deems necessary for long-term stability.

On his second day in Iraq, Cheney spoke to US soldiers at a base near Tikrit about the difficulties they face.

“We are here, above all, because the terrorists who have declared war on America and other free nations have made Iraq the central front in that war,” he said, according to a transcript of his remarks. “The United States, also, has made a decision: As the prime target of a global war against terror, we will stay on the offensive. We will not sit back and wait to be hit again.”

But as in the United States, Iraq’s lawmakers are moving further away from the views of the government, particularly on the issue of American presence in Iraq. The draft bill is being championed by a 30-member bloc loyal to al-Sadr, but it has also gained support from some other Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish legislators.

So far, at least 138 lawmakers have signed the proposed legislation, the slimmest possible majority in the 275-member parliament, according to Araji. Nassr al-Rubae, another al-Sadr loyalist, told the Associated Press that the draft bill had 144 signatures.

Several legislators, including those loyal to al-Maliki, doubted the effort would succeed at a time when Iraqi troops still rely heavily on US firepower.

The most prominent political parties in Iraq, such as al-Maliki’s Dawa party; the Shiite group known as the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq; the Iraqi Islamic Party, a leading Sunni group; and prominent Kurdish factions appear to not support setting specific dates for withdrawal.

And even if such dates were established, it is unclear whether that would compel the United States to obey them.

Ali al-Adeeb, a Dawa lawmaker and an aide to al-Maliki, said any timetable for American withdrawal should be accompanied by a timetable for training and equipping the Iraqi security forces.
“Pressures are increasing here in Iraq and also in the states for the withdrawal of the multinational forces … and it seems that keeping these forces here indefinitely won’t solve the problems in Iraq,” he said. “But it should happen gradually so that Iraqi forces can handle the security tasks.”

There was also some disagreement over the terms of proposed timetable legislation. Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman told the Associated Press he agreed to back the measure on the condition it include an accompanying timeline for the buildup of Iraqi forces, but this was not included in the draft, which he called a “deception.”
Hassan al-Shimmari, a Shiite who leads the Fadhila party in parliament, also signed the petition and had similar concerns.

“At the time being we can all see that it’s not possible for the American troops to leave, and that withdrawing right now would lead to a disaster in Iraq, because the Iraqi security forces are still very weak, and they are still controlled by their sectarian and factional loyalties,” Shimmari said.

The violence driven by such sectarian rifts continued on Thursday, as the insurgent group known as the Islamic State of Iraq, a coalition that includes al Qaeda in Iraq, posted an Internet video that purports to show the killing of nine Iraqi police and army officers.

The one-minute video shows the uniformed and blindfolded men kneeling in a row on a patch of dirt as a black-masked gunmen shoots them rapidly in the head one after another, saying “God is great” with each execution. The insurgents apparently demanded the release of prisoners before shooting the men, according to an earlier internet video.

The gruesome scene is similar to the apparent execution of 20 Iraqi soldiers and police on April 19, which the Islamic State of Iraq also claimed was their work.

On Thursday the US military said one Marine had been killed Tuesday during fighting in Anbar province in western Iraq. Two other US soldiers died Thursday from gunshot wounds, one in Baghdad, and the other in Diwaniya, south of the capital.

© 2007 Hearst Communications Inc. |

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Iraq’s Parliament Objects to Baghdad Security Walls,
Summons Prime Minister to Testify

Sinan Salaheddin / Associated Press

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s parliament objected Saturday to the construction of walls around Baghdad neighborhoods and called on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to testify about other security issues..

Construction of the walls — particularly in the Baghdad neighborhood of Azamiyah — has been criticized by residents and Sunni clerics who say it is a form of sectarian discrimination. Even followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr complained, fearing their strongholds in the capital will soon be split by the barriers.

U.S. and Iraqi officials have defended the construction of the barriers, which began last month, as a temporary measure to protect the neighborhood during the 12-week-old security crackdown in Baghdad. When the wall is finished, Azamiyah will be gated and checkpoints manned by Iraqi soldiers will be the only entries, the U.S. military said, stressing that the decision was made in coordination with the Iraqis.

Parliament took up the issue Saturday in a raucous session that included debate on the continuing U.S. military presence in Iraq, security raids and human rights abuses. Lawmakers interrupted each other and speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhdani struggled to maintain order..

“They (security walls) don’t protect residents because these areas are shelled by mortars and Katyusha rockets. … Will they build roofs too?” said Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman. “We must build bridges between the different groups, not build walls to separate them.”

The resolution, voted on by a show of hands, passed 138-to-88 in the 275-member house. The president and his two deputies must unanimously approve the legislation for it to become law, or else it will be sent back to the house for re-examination..

Last month, al-Maliki, a Shiite, said he had ordered a halt to the construction in Azamiyah, but his aides later said he was responding to exaggerated media reports and that construction would continue.

The house was about to vote on another resolution, this time to ban American forces from Baghdad, when officials announced the house no longer had a quorum..

The house also decided to summon al-Maliki and the defense and interior ministers to address other security issues, particularly in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad where there has been a spike in attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces..

The commander of U.S. troops in northern Iraq, Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, told Pentagon reporters Friday that he does not have enough troops to crush insurgents in Diyala and that he had asked for more.

Associated Press writer Hamid Ahmed contributed to this report.
Iraqi PM Criticizes Baghdad Wall

(April 22, 2007) — Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has asked for construction to end on a concrete wall around a Sunni enclave in the capital, Baghdad. Mr Maliki said there were other ways to protect the Adhamiya neighbourhood, which is surrounded by Shia districts. The US military, which is behind the project, has said the purpose of the wall is to prevent violence between Sunni and Shia militants. But Iraqi politicians have warned it will increase sectarian tensions.

Speaking in Cairo after meeting Arab league officials, Mr Maliki said: “I asked yesterday that it be stopped and that alternatives be found to protect the area.”
The prime minister said he feared the wall may have unintended consequences, in an apparent parallel to the former Berlin Wall that divided the German capital.
“I fear this wall might have repercussions which remind us of other walls, which we reject,” he said.

Construction of the 5km (3-mile) concrete wall began on 10 April and the US military says it hopes to complete the project by the end of the month. US troops, protected by heavily-armed vehicles, have been working at night to build the 3.6m (12ft) wall.

Earlier this week, senior Sunni politician Adnan al-Dulaimi, who heads the largest Sunni bloc in parliament, said the barrier would breed yet more sectarian strife.
Residents also said the wall would do little to improve bitter relations between the communities.

US and Iraqi troops have long built cement barriers around key locations in Baghdad and other cities to prevent attacks, especially suicide car bombings.
Iraq has been in the grip of raging sectarian violence since the bombing of an important Shia shrine in Samarra in February 2006.

US forces in Iraq have said they would respond to issues surrounding the barrier on Monday.

Sunni Leader Attacks Baghdad Wall
BBC News

(April 21, 2007) — A senior Sunni politician has condemned a US military project to build a concrete wall around a Sunni enclave in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. US forces say the wall, which will separate Adhamiya from nearby Shia districts, aims to prevent sectarian violence between the two communities. But Adnan al-Dulaimi, who heads the biggest Sunni bloc in parliament, says it will breed yet more strife.

Some Adhamiya residents have said the wall will make their district a prison.
“The Americans will provoke more trouble with this,” one resident, Arkan Saeed, told the BBC. “They’re telling us the wall is to protect us from the Shia militia and they’re telling the Shia they’re protecting them from us. “But it’s the Americans who started all the sectarian violence in the first place.”

Adhamiya lies on the mainly Shia Muslim east bank of the Tigris river and violence regularly flares between the enclave and nearby Shia areas. Construction of the 5km (three-mile) concrete wall began on 10 April and the US military says it hopes to complete the project by the end of the month. US troops, protected by heavily-armed vehicles, have been working at night to build the 3.6m (12 ft) wall.

When it is finished, people will enter and leave Adhamiya through a small number of checkpoints guarded by US and Iraqi forces. The US military says the barrier is the centrepiece of its strategy to end sectarian violence in the area but insists there are no plans to divide up the whole city into gated communities.

Senior Sunni cleric Adnan al-Dulaimi, who leads the General Council for the People of Iraq which is part of the Iraqi Accord Front, said the wall was a disaster. Speaking to an Iraqi news agency, he said it would separate Adhamiya from the rest of Baghdad and help breed further violence.

‘Maze of Walls’
Some residents said the wall would harden the already bitter sectarian divide. “Erecting concrete walls between neighbourhoods is not a solution to the collapse in security and the rampant violence,” housewife Um Haider told AFP news agency.
“If so, Baghdadis would find themselves in a maze of high walls overnight.”
Another resident, Mustafa, said: “I resent the barrier. It will make Adhamiya a big prison.”

Other residents also expressed alarm and said they had not been consulted before construction began. “This will make the whole district a prison. This is collective punishment on the residents of Adhamiya,” Ahmed al-Dulaimi told the Associated Press news agency. “We are in our fourth year of occupation and we are seeing the number of blast walls increasing day after day.”

US and Iraqi troops have long built cement barriers around key locations in Baghdad and other cities to prevent attacks, especially suicide car bombings.
Iraq has been in the grip of raging sectarian violence since the bombing of an important Shia shrine in Samarra in February 2006.


Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.