Al-Ahram Weekly Online   30 November - 6 December 2006
Issue No. 822
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Will they talk of deaths?

Killings in Iraq accelerate as Bush meets Al-Maliki in Jordan, Nermeen Al-Mufti reports from Amman

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US Marines break the wall of an abandoned house after being targeted by small arms fire in the restive city of Ramadi, west of Baghdad.

Partition would push Iraq down the slope towards civil war. This was the message the prime ministers of Jordan and Turkey sent out at a press conference in Amman early this week.

Jordanian-Turkish talks set the stage for a meeting between President George Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki in Amman yesterday and today. In Iraq, sectarian violence has been spiralling, with hundreds killed in the last week.

In Jordan, the Iraqi community, displaced because of violence and the US occupation, is estimated to number 200,000. Many have residency but do not intend to stay permanently. What do they say about the current situation in Iraq?

Mohamed Bashar Al-Feidi, spokesman for the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS), accuses Shia militia of attacking Sunnis, despite all pledges that have been made foreswearing sectarian killings. For days Baghdad has been under total curfew. For Al-Feidi, curfew, "as usual", is but a chance to besiege predominantly Sunni areas. Responding to Shia demands that Sunni scholars issue edicts prohibiting the murder of Shias, Al-Feidi said the AMS has already done that.

Amal Al-Sharqi, a writer and journalist, is worried about sectarian violence. "What happened in Sadr City was a sign of the inability to integrate the young, especially those disbanded from the army, in economic life," she said. "Sectarian tensions were fuelled by class and cultural tensions and can only be resolved through economic and social programmes," she added.

An Iraqi politician who preferred to remain anonymous said that Turkey should take a firm stance on Iraq's unity and block any partition plans. The subpoena the Iraqi government has served on Sunni cleric Harith Al-Dari has undermined national reconciliation in the country, he added. Maliki must start disbanding the militia, he said.

According to another Iraqi politician who has just arrived to Amman, "the inhabitants of the Green Zone are becoming an extinct species." Corruption and violence are ripping the country apart while officials are fighting over turf, he said. Maliki must disband all militia. Leaders of the militia should be brought to trial, and militia members should not be integrated into Iraqi armed and security forces, he added.

Iraqis in Amman generally support the statement issued recently by Sheikh Jawad Al-Khalisi, a prominent Shia figure. Sheikh Al-Khalisi denounced the subpoena issued for Al-Dari and called for the formation of a broad front combining "all the parties that know the extent of Iraq's crisis". Al-Khalisi called on the Arab League, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and the UN to cooperate in bringing back stability to Iraq once occupation forces leave.

"The upcoming phase calls on all sincere Iraqi forces, officials, clerics, parties, and clans to forget about preconditions and abandon the negative suspicions left behind by the divisive era of occupation. Let's work together to make the unified national project a success."

Iraqi lawyer Iman Kazim holds that Maliki should ask Bush for a defined timetable for the withdrawal of foreign forces. The continuation of sectarian violence is in the interest of the US president, she said, for everyone is focusing on daily atrocities and forgetting the main issue, which is the US occupation of Iraq.

An Iraqi officer speaking on condition of anonymity suggested that Maliki ask Bush to train the Iraqi army without dividing sects. The Americans, he pointed out, separate Iraqi cadets along sectarian lines during training, which cannot but make things worse.

Nearly 3,790 civilians died in acts of violence in Iraq last month, according to UN figures. Two-hundred-and-sixty-five Iraqis died on US Thanksgiving Day alone.

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