Iraq: New government, maximum force

After more than five months of negotiations, Deputy Leader of the Islamic Dawa Party Nouri Al-Maliki was named as the new Iraqi Prime Minister last month, immediatedly promising to end the insurgency

Submitted by Freedom on June 26, 2006

Monday, June 26 2006 @ 11:32 AM GMT-1
Recently the Iraqi security services have been condemned for the widespread employment of death-squads, targeted assassinations and torture, with 1,000 bodies a month now appearing regularly at Baghdad morgue.

On the Saturday that Al-Maliki's appointment was approved by parliament, 56 people were reported killed, followed by 50 the following day. In the last two full months 2,449 (after suicide bombs at the Samarra mosque on February 22nd) death certificates were registered at Baghdad morgue for people killed, excluding those bodies that could not be identified. Around 85,000 refugees have been displaced in the eruption of sectarian violence.

Al-Maliki has also pledged to end the violence currently being perpetrated by pro-government militias such as the Badr Brigade (linked to the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq), as well as targeted killing by security forces and their auxiliaries, saying "militias, death squads, terrorism, killings and assassinations are not normal and we should put an end to the militias."

He has also been outspoken about the need for a withdrawal timetable for Coalition forces, surprising Tony Blair at a press conference by announcing that British troops would leave two provinces within a month, and that all forces would be out of the country within 18 months.

But it is the so-called 'El Salvador option', paramilitary violence by pseudo-official militia and other auxiliaries, which is now the cutting edge of violence against nationalist guerrillas and other obstacles to the coalition project in Iraq.

Groups linked to the governing parties are also being used to enforce religious law, prosecute inter-communal grievances and also as part of the widespread corruption and patronage network that now mark governance in Iraq. Al-Maliki's capacity and determination to deal with the problem are highly questionable, given his stated preference for ending the insurgency by overwhelming force.

Bayan Jabr, the Interior Minister and ex-Badr Brigade Commander, instigator (along with CIA advisors) of the brutal practices and human rights violations of that Ministry (which currently holds 5,047 prisoners, despite lacking the authority to detain suspects for more than very short periods), has merely been moved sideways to Finance.

The appointment of the Prime Minister has been treated as a victory for US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilad, who was apparently instrumental in forcing rejection of the pro-Iranian Ibrahim Jaafari. However, despite American objections, hardline Islamists have been awarded key roles in Education and Culture.

The apportioning of cabinet posts has resulted in 24 MPs withdrawing from government coalitions, and reduced the Prime Minister's supporters to just 115 of the parliament's 275 members. Many parties ensconsed in the green zone are now said to regard government positions as key sites of patronage and a way onto the corruption gravy train.

Sunni religious politicians expressed problems with the new government, "we have reservatons about the laws related to fighting terror, which do not distinguish between the Resistance, which plays a heroic role for the sake of liberating Iraq, and acts of violence that all reject." He added, "It was obligatory to specify the techniques to be used to dissolve the militias altogether, and to transform them into state institutions and to keep them from infiltrating the security apparatuses."

On the ground, guerrilla warfare continues across the country, with the fighting in Ramadi now described by US forces as a "full blown kinetic fight on a daily basis".

- Jack Ray -