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 Iraq wants stable ties with Iran: Maliki

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Dr.Hannani Maya
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تاريخ التسجيل : 21/09/2009
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مُساهمةموضوع: Iraq wants stable ties with Iran: Maliki    الخميس 30 ديسمبر 2010, 17:22

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Iraq wants stable ties with Iran: Maliki

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says having “good and stable relations” with the Islamic Republic of Iran is in Baghdad's interest.“Iran is a neighboring country and we have historic ties and borders that stretch for 1,300 to 1,400 kilometers,” Maliki said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

“Of course it's in our interest to have good and stable relations with them,” he added.

Maliki also ruled out the continuation of the U.S. occupation of Iraq past 2011, and said when the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) “expires on December 31, 2011, the last American soldier will leave Iraq. The last American soldier will leave Iraq” as agreed, adding, “This agreement is not subject to extension, not subject to alteration. It is sealed.”

The United States invaded Iraq in 2003 under the pretext that the country was in possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), Press TV reported.According to the California-based investigative organization Project Censored, over one million Iraqis have been killed since then.The Iraqi Prime Minister explained that the SOFA is “not subject to extension, except if the new government with Parliament's approval wanted to reach a new agreement with America, or another country.”

After eight months of political deadlock, Iraq's main factions recently reached a power-sharing deal and agreed to form a national unity government.The deal on top government posts brings together Shias, Sunnis and Kurds in an arrangement similar to the previous Iraqi government, which can help prevent religious or ethnic conflict in the country.

According to the agreement, Iraq's incumbent prime minister's alliance will stay in office for another term, while Jalal Talabani from the Kurdish alliance will remain president.Iraqi military intelligence have laughed off Prime Minister Maliki’s assertion in a recent interview that there would be no U.S. troops in Iraq after the end of 2011, AHN reported.

The Journal cited the prime minister as stating, “The country’s security forces were capable of confronting any remaining threats to Iraq’s security, sovereignty and unity.”A senior Iraqi military intelligence officer called the statements from the prime minister in “variance with reality.”

Speaking to All Headline News on condition of anonymity, the officer said, “Iraq’s military and security forces are not, on their own, capable of fending off Iraq’s internal, nor external threats.”The officer said that in spring 2012, the U.S. troops will be in Iraq but the questions are: “how many, to do what, for how long, with answers dependent on what constitutes a troop and whether the road map now being put forward is being followed in squaring necessary political circles.”

On the country’s external alliances, the officer stated, “Iraq’s foreign alignments remain open.” The officer further noted “even feasibility of an alignment with Iran,” cannot be ruled out if the present trend is allowed to continue.Asked to comment on Maliki’s statement that his government had co-opted anti-American leaders such as the one associated with Moqtada al-Sadr, the intelligence officer said, “We know how this worked and through whom”.

“The Sadrist current is moving in a satisfactory direction of taking part in the government, renouncing violence and abandoning military activity and we welcome it,” Maliki noted, adding “ Our brothers on the other side, in the Iraqiya slate (of Ayad Allawi) also have an orientation. It too had people with activities, actions and resistance. They also have come and joined the government and will be committed. As a result, this will be reflected in (better) security and stability.”

The intelligence officer cautioned both Iraqi and American officials to concentrate on letting the Iraqi prime minister reach out to the White House with an honest assessment of on-ground situations.The officer called for a continuous presence of a large contingent of U.S. soldiers in the North, warning that, “a civil war along the trigger line will commence right at the point of 4th ID withdrawal,” as there is simmering tension between Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and smaller ethnic groups.

The senior Iraqi military officer welcomed the personal interest of President Barack Obama and the readiness of the White House to help when requested, but warned Iraqi government not to take things such as the continued presence of U.S. troops for granted.The officer minced no words, advising Baghdad to be clear in its requests to the White House for help in the national efforts for democracy building, avoiding the civil war as militias wait on the sidelines and evolving a new international equation for foreign relations of Iraqi foreign policy.

The Tehran Times Photo: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (Max Becherer/The Wall Street Journal)

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Bombers Kill Iraqi Commander .

BAGHDAD—An Iraqi counterterrorism commander based in the northern city of Mosul and renowned for his relentless pursuit of al Qaeda-linked militants was killed Wednesday by two suicide bombers, security officials said.

The commander's slaying in this predominantly Sunni Arab city, which remains one of the most volatile spots in Iraq despite a sharp drop in overall violence, came two days after suicide bombers targeted government offices in Ramadi, another mainly Sunni city west of Baghdad.

Wednesday's attack happened at dawn and initially involved a group of four suicide bombers trying to infiltrate a base for Mosul's Emergency Response Brigade, or ERB, according to Maj. Gen. Abdullah al-Baider, deputy commander of a security taskforce in Mosul.

Guards manning watchtowers at the base shot and killed two of the suicide bombers, but the remaining two managed to run into a small building serving as the living quarters of Lt. Col. Shamel Ahmed Ugla, the ERB commander, Gen. Baider said.

He said the two bombers detonated their payloads inside while Lt. Col. Ugla was asleep, bringing down the entire building. Lt. Col. Ugla had escaped several attempts on his life in the past and in one incident three months ago personally tracked down and killed a suicide bomber dispatched for him, Gen. Baider said.

Meanwhile, Qasim Abed, the governor of Anbar province, said al Qaeda-linked insurgents were most likely behind Monday's attack near the provincial government's compound in Ramadi that involved one suicide car bomber and a suicide bomber on foot and killed nine and wounded 41.

"They are sending us a message that they're still around," Mr. Abed said.

Both the Ramadi and Mosul attacks come after a series of recent announcements by top officials at Iraq's interior and defense ministries touting the capture or killing of dozens of alleged al Qaeda fighters in Anbar, Baghdad and Mosul.U.S. military commanders have substantiated some of these claims but have warned against celebrating any premature victory over militants and insurgents in Iraq.

"From our perspective we are not across the goal line dancing in the end zone yet, we still have a lot of bad people out there," said Brig. Gen. Ralph Baker, former deputy commander for U.S. troops in Anbar and Baghdad before the end of his tour in Iraq this month.

SAM DAGHER —Munaf Ammar contributed to this article.

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'Torture troops' may yet be charged

Former and serving British soldiers are awaiting a landmark report into the brutal death of an Iraqi civilian which could lead to them facing criminal charges.Father-of-two Baha Mousa, 26, sustained 93 injuries while in the custody of 1st Battalion the Queen's Lancashire Regiment (1QLR) in Basra, southern Iraq, in 2003.

A major public inquiry into his death and the abuse of nine other Iraqi men held with him is expected to publish its findings in the spring.While the inquiry has no powers to accuse the soldiers of crimes, prosecutors could use its report as the basis for bringing charges.

Seven 1QLR soldiers, including former commanding officer Colonel Jorge Mendonca, faced allegations relating to the mistreatment of the prisoners at a high-profile court martial in 2006-07.

But the trial ended with them all cleared, apart from Corporal Donald Payne who became the first member of the British armed forces convicted of a war crime when he pleaded guilty to inhumanely treating civilians.The surviving detainees and Mr Mousa's father are optimistic that further action could still be taken against those behind the abuse.

Their solicitor, Phil Shiner, of Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers, said: "My clients remain hopeful that in due course all those responsible for the killing of Baha Mousa and the torture of the survivors will be brought to book.

"It is particularly important that a message be sent out that those in positions of command will be brought to book in the future. That will assist in ensuring that the moral compass must always prevail."

Mr Mousa was working as a receptionist at the Ibn Al Haitham hotel in Basra when it was raided by British forces in the early hours of September 14, 2003.After finding AK47s, sub-machine guns, pistols, fake ID cards and military clothing, Mr Mousa and several colleagues were arrested and taken to Preston-based 1QLR's headquarters.

Here the soldiers subjected the Iraqis to humiliating abuse,including "conditioning" methods banned by the UK Government in 1972 such as hooding, sleep deprivation and making them stand in painful stress positions, the inquiry heard.

Mr Mousa was hooded for nearly 24 of the 36 hours he spent in British detention. He died at about 10pm on September 15.His 22-year-old wife had died of cancer shortly before his detention, meaning his two young sons, Hussein and Hassan, were orphaned.

The wide-ranging public inquiry also heard evidence about the question of why British soldiers serving in Iraq used prisoner-handling methods outlawed over 30 years earlier.It was told that UK commanders had issued orders banning hooding in May 2003 and October 2003 but the practice continued to be used until the following May.

Under the Inquiries Act 2005, inquiry chairman Sir William Gage has no power to make a ruling on anyone's civil or criminal liability.But the law stresses that he should not feel restricted by the possibility that other authorities will infer liability from his findings or the recommendations he makes.

Sir William said at a hearing in July: "I read that as saying: I find the facts. It is for others to say what they constitute and label them, if they feel it necessary, an offence or civil liability but it is not for me to say."

Lawyers for Mr Mousa's father and the other detainees argued in closing submissions that the inquiry should rule that a group of six soldiers led by Cpl Payne killed Mr Mousa and that others were culpable for failing to prevent the violence against the prisoners.

They added: "Ultimately the CO (commanding officer) is to blame for what happened. The level of aggression which he allowed and sometimes encouraged his forces to exhibit are likely to have caused as many problems in Iraq as they solved."

Col Mendonca, who was cleared by the court martial of negligently performing a duty in relation to the abuse, told the inquiry in February that Mr Mousa's death was a "one-off" and insisted he left Basra a better place.

James Dingemans QC, representing a number of the soldiers, stressed to Sir William in closing submissions: "It is no part of a public inquiry to play around on the edges of criminal law and it is not the function of the procedures that have been given to you by parliament."

Sir William said at the start of the hearings that it was possible the inquiry could uncover "very serious misconduct" by British soldiers.However, former attorney general Baroness Scotland granted the troops immunity against criminal prosecution based on their evidence to the inquiry.

The Ministry of Defence also said it would not take disciplinary action against military personnel if their testimony suggested they earlier lied or withheld information.But Sir William rejected calls from the soldiers' lawyers for a guarantee that what witnesses told the inquiry would not be used as hearsay evidence in prosecutions.

The long-standing legal principle of "double jeopardy" prevents people being tried twice for the same crime.But the Criminal Justice Act 2003 introduced exceptions for serious offences, such as murder and manslaughter, when significant new evidence comes to light.

The Ministry of Defence agreed in July 2008 to pay £2.83 million in compensation to the families of Mr Mousa and nine other Iraqi men abused by British soldiers.

The Independent

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Iraq Wants the U.S. Out

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ruled out the presence of any U.S. troops in Iraq after the end of 2011, saying his new government and the country's security forces were capable of confronting any remaining threats to Iraq's security, sovereignty and unity.

Mr. Maliki spoke with The Wall Street Journal in a two-hour interview, his first since Iraq ended nine months of stalemate and seated a new government after an inconclusive election, allowing Mr. Maliki to begin a second term as premier.

A majority of Iraqis—and some Iraqi and U.S. officials—have assumed the U.S. troop presence would eventually be extended, especially after the long government limbo. But Mr. Maliki was eager to draw a line in his most definitive remarks on the subject. "The last American soldier will leave Iraq" as agreed, he said, speaking at his office in a leafy section of Baghdad's protected Green Zone. "This agreement is not subject to extension, not subject to alteration. It is sealed."

He also said that even as Iraq bids farewell to U.S. troops, he wouldn't allow his nation to be pulled into alignment with Iran, despite voices supporting such an alliance within his government."For Iraq to be dragged into an axis or an orbit, that's impossible, and we reject it whether this comes from Iran, Turkey or the Arabs," he said.

He added that a kind of "paranoia" about a Tehran-Baghdad alliance in the U.S. is matched by a fear in Iran about U.S. influence: "An Iranian official visited me in the past and told me, 'I thought the Americans were standing at the door of your office,' " he said.

In an interview in Washington, Vice President Joe Biden also said Iran had failed to buy influence during the election or to co-opt Mr. Maliki, who was among the members of the current Iraqi government who briefly took refuge in Iran during the reign of Saddam Hussein.

Mr. Maliki's new majority depends partly on followers of anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. But Mr. Biden credited Mr. Maliki for denying Mr. Sadr's bloc any control of Iraqi security, while forming a government with full buy-in from Iraq's main factions of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.

U.S. military commanders still accuse Iran of funding, training and providing sanctuary to Shiite militias, like Mr. Sadr's Promised Day Brigades, which they say are responsible for attacks against U.S. forces and gangster-style assassinations that continue to plague Baghdad and other areas.

Mr. Maliki suggested his government had co-opted militias like the one associated with Mr. Sadr. "The militias are now part of the government and have entered the political process," said Mr. Maliki. The Sadr contingent, he added, "is moving in a satisfactory direction of taking part in the government, renouncing violence and abandoning military activity, and that's why we welcome it."

Security is the new government's top priority, Mr. Maliki said, as in his previous term. Sectarian violence and suicide bombings continue to plague the country as the full withdrawal of U.S. soldiers nears. Almost a dozen people were killed in double suicide bombings on Monday outside provincial government offices in the city of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, according to security officials.

A resumption of more extreme violence, of course, could alter the thinking in Baghdad and Washington about the U.S. timetable.

But Mr. Maliki said the only way for any of the remaining 50,000 or so American soldiers to stay beyond 2011 would be for the two nations to negotiate—with the approval of Iraq's Parliament—a new Status of Forces Agreement, or SOFA, similar to the one concluded in 2008.That deal took a year of protracted negotiations in the face of vehement opposition from many among Mr. Maliki's own Shiite constituency, and no repeat is expected.

Mr. Maliki and U.S. officials have refrained for the most part from raising the issue publicly during the months of political wrangling in Baghdad, as Mr. Maliki negotiated with potential coalition partners, many of whom have adamantly opposed an extended U.S. stay.

A senior official in President Barack Obama's administration said Washington was "on track" to withdraw all its remaining soldiers in Iraq by the end of next year. That's the final milestone in the security agreement, following the reduction in American troop levels to below 50,000 in August and the pullout of U.S. soldiers from most Iraqi inner cities in June 2009. "The prime minister is exactly right," said the senior official.

During the interview, Mr. Maliki said he was heartened by America's "commitment" to honoring the agreements it reached with Iraq, and he laughed approvingly when told that U.S. Ambassador James F. Jeffrey keeps a frayed copy of the so-called Strategic Framework Agreement in his leather briefcase. That document calls, in broad terms, for long-term cooperation in security, defense, economy, energy and culture, among other areas.

In a briefing for Western reporters last week, Mr. Jeffrey said that despite the requirement to pull out all American troops at the end of 2011, the framework document and other agreements between Baghdad and Washington contain "a very robust security agenda."

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad will house a "significantly sized" office aimed at security cooperation, Mr. Jeffrey said, made up of about 80 to 90 military personnel that would take over most of the current functions of the U.S. military in advising, assisting, training and equipping Iraqi forces. That's similar to arrangements with other countries in the region, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The embassy would also oversee a major Iraqi police-training program.

Mr. Maliki played down Iraq's need for any major help from the U.S. military, even while acknowledging serious deficiencies in areas including control of airspace and borders. He said the days when ethnic or sectarian-based militias roamed the streets of Iraq and operated above the law were over.

"Not a single militia or gang can confront Iraqi forces and take over a street or a house," said Mr. Maliki. "This is finished; we are comfortable about that."He said full withdrawal of U.S. troops also will remove a prime motivator of insurgents—both the Shiite fighters tied to militia groups and Iran, and Sunnis linked to Mr. Hussein's ousted Baath party.

Mr. Maliki defended his political horse trading with rival factions, many of which are seen as far apart on several substantial policy issues. He called the post-election process—in which he managed to prevail despite his own party bloc failing to gain the most votes—"very arduous."

He acknowledged that he expanded the number of cabinet seats just to placate the squabbling parties that he eventually cobbled together into his governing coalition, arguably the broadest since the fall of Mr. Hussein.

"I mean seven to eight ministries are, allow me to say, ministries for appeasement purposes," he said.Mr. Maliki said he agreed to several Kurdish demands, including a referendum in contested northern regions, though he didn't think it was feasible without a constitutional amendment to accompany it.

Washington is so concerned about the standoff in the north—where Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and smaller ethnic groups have faced off—that a large contingent of U.S. soldiers continues to staff joint security checkpoints there, as diplomats work on political solutions.

The referendum was one of 19 demands made by Kurdish President Masoud Barzani in exchange for a power-sharing deal that ended the gridlock that followed the March elections. The resulting unity government headed by Mr. Maliki, a Shiite, includes Kurds and a Sunni-dominated bloc headed by the secular Shiite and former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.

Mr. Allawi, whose bloc won the most seats in the election but couldn't form a majority, will chair a new National Council for Higher Policies, but won't be able to implement policies without broad government support.

By Sam Dagher for the
Wall Street Journal. You can contact the author at sam.dagher@wsj.com

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Labels: Iran, Iraqi Government, The USA, The Wall Street Journal

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The human toll of Iraq sanctions

Last week the U.N. Security Council voted to lift the sanctions that it imposed on Iraq 20 years ago. Vice President Joe Biden hailed the occasion as "an end to the burdensome remnants of the dark era of Saddam Hussein."

What he did not say was that the sanctions were more than burdensome. They triggered a humanitarian crisis that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children, and the collapse of every system necessary to sustain human life in a modern society. And he certainly did not mention that among all the nations on the Security Council, it was the U.S. -- and the U.S. alone -- that ensured that this human damage would be massive and indiscriminate.

All of this took place within an obscure committee of the Security Council, known as the 661 Committee. Few have heard of it. But it was this committee that determined whether Iraqis would have clean water, electricity in their homes, or fuel for cars and trucks.

It was a committee that met behind closed doors, and never made its records public. Within it, the U.S. had a unique role. As the humanitarian situation in Iraq deteriorated, support for the sanctions on the Security Council began to erode. When other members of the council sought to allow critical humanitarian goods into Iraq, the U.S. vetoed them. For the first eight months of the sanctions, the U.S. would not even allow Iraq to import food. Once the committee decided to allow food, the U.S. then objected to trucks needed to deliver food and other goods, as well as irrigation equipment to increase agriculture.

The U.S. policies were extreme and relentless. The U.S. blocked refrigeration for medicines, on the grounds that refrigerators might be used to store agents for biological weapons. The U.S. blocked things as innocuous as plywood, fabric, glue and glass on the grounds that they were "inputs to industry," which might be used to rebuild Iraq’s military.

The U.S. blocked child vaccines and yogurt-making equipment on the grounds that the Iraqi government might use them to make weapons of mass destruction. When Iraq tried to increase the number of small animals for meat, cheese and milk, the U.S. blocked goat and sheep vaccines, claiming that Iraq might use them as biological weapons.

The U.S. prevented Iraq from importing water tankers during a period of drought, while there were epidemic levels of sickness from drinking water unfit for human consumption. And water pipes for irrigation. And light switches, and telephones, and ambulance radios, and fire trucks, claiming that they might be used by Iraq’s military.

At one point, a U.S. official came before the 661 Committee with a vial of cat litter, and informed the members, in all seriousness: "This could be used to stabilize anthrax."

No one else found the U.S. justifications to be plausible. UNMOVIC, the U.N.’s weapons inspectors, disputed many of the U.S. justifications for blocking humanitarian goods. Even Britain, the U.S.’ closest ally on the Security Council, did not share the views of the U.S. Still, the U.S. rarely relented.

The U.S. insisted that these policies were aimed at Saddam Hussein. But it was obvious that they had little to do with him. Iraq’s political and military leadership, and the wealthy elite, were insulated from the hardship. But the population as a whole was not.

To destroy a country’s infrastructure, to reduce a nation to a pre-industrial condition and then keep it in that state, means precisely that it will be unfit to sustain human life. The reports of U.N. agencies and international organizations such as the Red Cross ensured that U.S. officials knew, with certainty, exactly what harm was being caused by U.S. policies.

While Vice President Biden tells the world that the end of the sanctions means that Iraq can now move forward to a bright future, what he does not say is that in fact there was damage that was irreversible, including child deaths and stunted growth from years of malnutrition. What he also does not say is that the rest of the damage -- the collapse of the infrastructure, the terrible deterioration in industry, agriculture, electricity, health and education -- was not just due to Saddam Hussein’s indifference. However much harm Saddam did to the Iraqi people, the U.S., for over a decade, made it far, far worse.

Joy Gordon, Ph.D., is a philosophy professor at Fairfield University. She is the author of "Invisible War: The United States and the Iraq Sanctions" (Harvard University Press).

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Iraq wants stable ties with Iran: Maliki
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