More codes of honour
Al-Maliki continues to seek an end to violence, though little on the ground indicates that one will come, reports Nermeen Al-Mufti
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An Iraqi inspects the site where a roadside bomb targeted three trucks in the town of Ishaqi, 100 Kms north of Baghdad
There is no doubt in the minds of ordinary Iraqis that the violence in their country is part of the settling of US, regional and sectarian accounts. For a long time, the government refused to believe that. But finally Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki admitted that, "some people want Iraq to remain a place where others settle their scores."
The Iraqi prime minister made these remarks as he attended a conference organised by the Islamic Party for the major clans of Al-Anbar. The Islamic Party's press officer told Al-Ahram Weekly that the conference was a step towards "consolidating the initiative of national reconciliation". The Al-Anbar clan chieftains promised to fight all forms of sectarianism, terror and population displacement.
The conference, held in the Green Zone, recommended "the formation of a joint coordination agency bringing together members of the governorate council, local clan leaders and representatives from the defence and interior ministries. The agency would follow up on the security situation and get clan leaders to [help] the army and the police." Chieftains declared their support for the national reconciliation plan of Prime Minister Al-Maliki and the code of honour signed by various Iraqi parties in a bid to stem the bloodshed.
The code of honour was signed some 12 days ago. Since then, dozens of bodies have been found in Baghdad, most bearing signs of torture. Up to 250 civilians and 25 policemen are thought to have been killed in various parts of Iraq during this period. An Interior Ministry source said that 4,000 policemen have been killed since Iraq's "new" police force was formed in September 2003. A source from the Interior Ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Weekly that the chief of the eighth police division and his top aides were dismissed after 25 Sunni workers were abducted at a food plant in Al-Amel last week. Eyewitnesses claimed that the abductors acted under police protection. Adnan Al-Duleimi, head of the National Reconciliation Front, accused police of protecting death squads. Sunni leaders called for the resignation of the commander of the fifth division in Diyali for similar reasons.
Meanwhile, authorities have started to name 28 access points through which vehicles will be allowed into Baghdad. This is part of the third phase of Baghdad's security plan, also known as operation "Together Forward". Baghdad is still a ghost city in which life comes to a standstill at sundown. Some 9,000 people on the average are said to be fleeing Baghdad every week.
In the north, a ditch is being dug around the oil-rich town of Kirkuk after violence escalated there over the past few months. Operation Safety Key, which started last Friday, commenced with two days of curfew. Kirkuk police chief Torhan Abdul-Rahman told the Weekly that 14,000 policemen, National Guard and army personnel, backed by US forces and helicopters, conducted sweeping searches in the city. The operation resulted in the arrest of 150 suspects and the confiscation of 420 light and medium-calibre weapons, as well as seven vehicles. To restore order in the city, authorities have closed down the Kirkuk-Tikrit road until further notice.
Despite the unstable security conditions in Kirkuk, the Kurds -- citing Article 140 of the constitution -- want to start the normalisation process in the city. Torhan Katana, political advisor of the Turkoman Nationalist Movement, is critical of Kurdish actions. "The parliament has agreed to form a committee of 27 members to examine the constitution, which means that there is a possibility of omitting or changing certain clauses. So the Kurds have no right to cite a constitution that is liable to change... One of the stages of normalisation calls for evacuees to come back to the city... Let me remind you that Kirkuk, up to the day it was occupied on 10 April 2003, had 810,000 people living in it. Now we have over 1.5 million people in the city, due to the Kurdish influx."
A UN human rights report released in 2000, says that 11,800 Kurdish and Turkoman families were evacuated from Kirkuk on orders of the former regime. "Now the Kurds are trying to bring their own people into the oil-rich city, which used to be a town for all Iraqis, and definitely a town with a Turkoman feel," Katana added.
A Turkish parliamentary delegation arrived in Kirkuk last week. The chief of delegation is said to have ripped off the map of Greater Kurdistan from the wall of the Kirkuk Governorate Council and told his Kurdish interlocutors that "America is an occupying power, but Turkey is always going to be there." Needless to say, the Kurds were not amused.
Another peace conference is due to be held next week in Mecca. The Mecca Peace Conference, convened by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, will draw Sunni and Shia religious scholars in an attempt to stop sectarian strife in Iraq. A spokesman for Ayatollah Al-Sistani said that Al-Sistani wouldn't attend due to "health reasons".
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Iraq unannounced a few days ago. Political analyst Said Abdullah, told the Weekly that this was a "propaganda visit" aimed at boosting President Bush's chances in the mid-term elections. Secretary Rice is said to have urged the Al-Maliki government to enhance security. A congressional delegation visiting Iraq at the same time called for all militia to be disarmed.
US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad gave Al-Maliki two months to restore order and stop sectarian violence. It is not clear what he will do if violence continues past that deadline. Over the past three years, the Iraqis have signed over 500 "codes of honour", pledging an end to violence. Half of those codes were signed after the bombing of Samaraa's golden dome in February.