Bush's Occupation of Iraq Will Not Hold: Goons & Thugs Rule
Saturday's Conference of Reconciliation turned out to be a bust.
Bush promoted the gathering of political leaders inside Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone. It was billed as a conference of reconciliation, a key initiative to bring the mostly Shiite and Kurdish factions face-to-face with former Baathist adversaries.
But few extremist Shiite or Sunni factions responsible for most of the violence attended the closed-door meeting.
None of the 20 or so former Baathists and ousted generals expected to attend showed up, and none of the exiled Baathists thought to hold sway over some insurgent groups attended, even though the government offered to pay their way and provide security. Only about five former Baathist officials among the 200-300 or so attendees.
That's because they don't feel safe! Conference coordinator Nasser al-Ani cited security concerns as the biggest factor in keeping them away:
They don't feel safe. The situation is unstable, and there's a lot of mistrust. This is one of the missions of the conference, to build trust.Najib al-Salihi, a former army officer who heads a political group called the Free Officers and Civilians Movement, said he fears the reconciliation offer comes too late to bridge the vast divide that has emerged between a government dominated by religious Shiite parties on the one hand and an insurgency dominated by Sunni religious extremists on the other.
The political bloc loyal to anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, who is allied with al-Maliki and whose militia is blamed for many of the killings, boycotted the meeting, refusing to sit down with Sunni extremists.The Sadrists control 30 seats in the 275-member parliament, which makes them one of the three largest forces in Mr Maliki’s Shia-led coalition but belies their true strength as what is almost certainly Iraq’s largest mass movement.
Hadi al-Amiri, the head of the Badr Organization, the second-largest Shiite militia, said he doubted the reconciliation initiative would help end the violence soon.
We hope this conference will achieve good results, but that doesn't mean there will be an effect right away on the streets. Reconciliation . . . could take months, or years even.
One Sunni-led group represented in parliament, the National Dialogue Front, also boycotted the session, saying it would not "sit down with the people who are killing hundreds and hundreds of civilians every day," said the front's leader, Saleh al-Mutlaq.
The Iraqi National Accord, headed by former U.S. favorite Ayad Allawi, walked out of the meeting, saying the government had not extended invitations to enough political groups to make the conference worthwhile: few attendees had influence over the many armed groups constituting the insurgency.
Ayyad Jamaladeen, a member of parliament from a secular political bloc called the Iraqi List, said that before there could be reconciliation between warring factions who refuse to be a part of the political process, there has to be broader agreement between those in the government.
Leaders of the hard-line Sunni Muslim Scholars Assn. condemned the conference, releasing a statement that called it "a card played by Maliki in order to save Bush's face." Suleiman Harith al-Dhari, Iraq's leading Sunni cleric, is wanted under an arrest warrant issued this month for inciting sectarian violence, accuses the government of bias.
Salih Mutlaq of the National Dialogue Council, a Sunni Arab slate that includes former Baathists, said in a statement that the group would boycott the conference until the government dissolved sectarian militias, released detainees and restored former officials to their jobs.
The Congress of the Iraqi People of Adnan Dulaimi (fundamentalist Sunnis), boycotted, also.
Guerrilla leader Abu Wisam al-Jash'ami did not have a representative attending.
Abu Mohammed also did not represent the Iraqi Regional Command of the Baath (IRCB) at Bush's National reconciliation conference. The leader of the IRCB, Izzat Ibrahim, Saddam's former vice president is still a fugitive with a $10 million bounty on his head.
Nothing is said of Abu Deraa. As the self-appointed defender of his Shia kith and kin, his nom de guerre is "The Shield". But to his Sunni foes – and many of his own people – only one name does justice to the savagery with which Abu Deraa wages Iraq's sectarian war. His real name is Ismail al-Zerjawi; that's only one of the reasons he's thought of as the Shiite version of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi: his speciality is the electric drill through the back of the skull rather than a sword to the neck. Rumors persist recently of his death, but his current appearance is not known.
Nasir Ani, a parliament member on the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party slate, said he would urge former army officers to apply for military jobs so
we can make use of their expertise. . . We should help those who initiated this process. It is a step toward success.But the Iraqi army opened its doors to former officers more than a year ago, with no effect on the violence, and its ranks now are almost full.
And what about this army available to Maliki's control? In a countryside where there is no shortage of motivated and experienced - if undisciplined - armed groupings, militias, and criminal gangs, the so-called Iraqi army and the so-called Iraqi police have no armor or high tech capabilities. Their personnel have enlisted to serve and sustain massacres and mass kidnappings only because joining mass unemployment is the alternative. Money talks, but when the fighting starts, they walk.
And that's what our Anglo-American Coalition forces should do now. Walk, ride, fly back into deployment in Kuwait and Kurdistan. Or, as Rumsfeld would say, 'points east, west, south and north somewhat. . . .'