Sunday, January 14, 2007

Reactions to the Bush plan

Al-Hayat says the Saudi foreign minister in effect reserved judgment on the "new plan" for security on Iraq, pending "clarifications" from the United States on the nature of the plan. Saud al-Faisal made the remarks in connection with a meeting with his Italian counterpart in Riyadh. US secretary of state Rice is scheduled to visit Riyadh tomorrow (Monday).

But the main part of the Al-Hayat report this morning has to do with the stance of the Iraqi political parties with respect to the new security plan. And the gist of this is that the American plan, far from doing anything to blunt the momentum toward sectarian confrontation, has instead intensified it.

The reporter starts off by noting that spokesmen for the major Shiite parties that back the Maliki government expressed "reservations" about the plan, particularly on the question of disarming the militias. The reporter summarizes this way:
The Dawa Party urged patience before [concluding that] political methods have been exhausted. The Fadhila Party criticized the new strategy because it 'doesn't answer to the aspirations of the government or of the United Iraqi Alliance' (UIA, the Shiite coalition backing the Maliki administration). The Sadrist current criticized the plan for not giving the government the degree of authority it had been expecting, and warned of the upshot of confronting the Mahdi Army. And the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), led by Abdulaziz al-Hakim, has not expressed a clear position.
The reporter quotes two Dawa Party leaders by name with different emphasis. One said the new US strategy is completely in keeping with the government's strategy, particularly in the Baghdad-security part, while another warned against being too hasty in direct confrontation with the militias, because the Mahdi Army, which is particularly targeted, will not be easy to master.

As for reports of communication between Maliki and Sadr (for instance see the prior post with a report of this type in Elaph yesterday), the reporter has this to say:
Sadrist deputy Qasay Abdulwahab denied Maliki opened any channels of communication with Sadr to discuss disarming the Mahdi Army, adding Sadr considers this a closed door and he has refused any discussion, because the Mahdi Army is a group based on convictions (or "creed" or "ideology" if you prefer) engaged in self-defence. And a deputy in the Fadhila Party, Amar Taama, said "the strategy doesn't respond to the aspirations of the government or the UIA, and we view the clauses of this with apprehension and dread....[The Shiia majority] will not offer further concessions from what it has gained by by legal means and by the sacrifice of a lot of blood." Taama added: "The American administration has departed from reality in an attempt to please the 20% (Sunni) portion of the Iraqi population at the expense of the majority". And he said, "Pleasing that sector (the Sunnis) might ease the problems of the American forces in Iraq [referring to the Sunni resistance], but angering the other 80% will put an end to the entire American project in the region".
Only Adnan Dulaimi of the Iraqi Accord Front is quoted in unequivocal support of the new plan. Dulaimi is described as expressing "optimism" about it, and as insisting that the government respond positively to the plan and fulfill its obligations if it wants to stay in power. Otherwise, said Dulaimi, this government is "fated to disappear", and "the end of the militias is near".


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