Paris, (Le Monde) En ridges with an unprecedented political crisis, the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri Al-Maliki, announced on Monday 13 August, the holding of a summit, as soon as possible, of various factions of the country. The main Sunni, Shi’ite and Kurdish parties have already accepted it’s principe. Perhaps it would be the last chance for the Iraqi coalition to reconcile before 15 September. At this date, the commander of the American forces in Iraq, David Petraeus, and the American ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, will submit to the Congress a much awaited report which must re-evaluate the situation in Iraq.
This report, according to analysts, will be crucial to determine the support of American lawmakers increasingly hostile to the military presence in Iraq. It could constitute a disavowal of the "new strategy" of Mr. Bush, as announced on 10 January, which, in addition to the fight against Al-Qaida and the security of Baghdad, for which 17. 500 additional American soldiers were dispatched on the spot, had highlighted the importance of the process of "national reconciliation".
Named at the head of a government of coalition to stop violence between communities, Mr. Maliki added up the reverses.
Named in 2006 at the head of a government of coalition under Shi’a domination to stop violence between communities, Mr. Maliki added up the reverses. The law for the division of the incomes from hydrocarbons, presented by the American President as an important stage of reconciliation, is not yet voted by the Iraqi Parliament. Nothing would be done before September. In Baghdad, the deputies - in spite of the injunctions of the United States - indeed decided to go on holiday.
Another priority, according to Washington, the reform of the law known as of "debaathification" did not finalised. Supposed to allow the former members of the Baath party (in power under Saddam Hussein) to get their pension and, more generally, to facilitate the political integration of the Sunni community, this project of reform and various interpretations which it caused, are at the origin of the disintegration of the government of Mr. Maliki.
On first of August, the National Concord Front, the main sunni formation at the Parliament, announced the resignation of its six ministers. The reason: Mr. Maliki remained deaf to all their requests. Contained in eleven points, those included a general amnesty, the release of the Sunni political prisoners, the end of the massive arrests in the Sunni localities as well as a series of measures aiming at putting an end to the reign of Shi’a militia in the police force and the army. "We do not have a problem with the Shi’ites, the Kurds, nor even with the Parliament”, Karim Al-Sammaraï, a member of this Party told Le Monde by telephone. It is this Government that insists in keeping us away of the political process, in particular with regard to the security questions".
In the immediate future, the majority available to Mr. Maliki to approve his reforms is not threatened. But this defection of the Arab Sunni ministers nevertheless was a hard blow to the credibility of the man who had promised promoting the reconciliation. On 6 August, it was the turn of the five ministers of the Iraqi Unified List (a secular Shi’ite Party) to end solidarity by boycotting the government, aimed at sending "a warning to the Prime Minister who must follow the program of national reconciliation".
This climate of distrust also took over the Iraqi army whose chief of staff, Kurdish Babaker Zebari, resigned on 31 July with nine other generals, to protest against the "interferences of Maliki in our field of competence". As for the relations of the Shi’ite Prime Minister with the commander of the American army, General Petraeus, they are reported to be execrable.
The record of the American military in Iraq is hardly more brilliant. Safety in Baghdad, did not improve. If attacks by Al-Qaida have decreased in the rebellious Al-Anbar province with the local assistance of the Sunni tribal chiefs, they have redoubled elsewhere, in the province of Diyala and the periphery of the Iraqi capital.
On the political scene, Washington had put the Iraqi Prime Minister under pressure immediately after announcing its “new strategy”. "Mr. Maliki had promised that the political and community interferences will not be tolerated any more”, George Bush had then declared. “We were clear (with him), the engagement of America is not unlimited. If the government does not respect its promises, it will lose the support of the American people", he had added.
After the departure of the Sunni ministers, President Bush renewed his warning to the Iraqi government dring a videoconference: "We need acts, not words". To which the Iraqi Prime Minister responded: "I fully understood. We are acting".
"A fuse ready to jump": such is the fate many Iraqis, including among the ranks of Sunni Arabs, promises to Mr. Maliki.
"A fuse ready to jump": such is the fate many Iraqis, including among the ranks of Sunni Arabs, promises to Mr. Maliki, persuaded that the rise of the tensions between the United States and Iran plays against the Sh’ite Prime Minister. It is even the hope of Mohammed Ad-Dayni, a Sunni deputy from of the Committee For National Dialogue (11 seats at the Parliament), who was recently invited to speak at the Congress in Washington.
"It was the first time that an anti American Sunni deputy expressed himself in front of the members of the Congress, Le Monde was told. "I said to them: you are in full contradiction, you support the government of Nouri Al-Maliki which is, to our eyes, sectarian and pro-Iranian while condemning the interferences of Iran in Iraq". Mr. Dainy considered as “positive” the American reaction to his speech. "The Americans assured me that the Maliki government was not going to last. That the countdown had started.", he added. ENDS END OF MALIKI 16807
Editor’s note: The above article was posted by the influential French daily “Le Monde” on 13 August 2007.
Translation and highlights are by IPS