Reinforcements Bolster Faltering Maliki
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
LONDON — The new Iraqi government is to bring in 4,000 more troops — including an American brigade — to Baghdad to bolster its faltering security plan, which has failed to stem mounting bloodshed in the capital.
The reinforcements, announced during a visit to London by the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, amount to a recognition that with deaths running at around 100 a day, the two-month-old government has failed in its first objective, which was to secure the capital.
According to the United Nations, 5,818 civilians were killed in Iraq in May and June, at a time when some areas of Baghdad are subject to sectarian cleansing and there is even talk of partitioning the capital between Sunni and Shiite Muslims.
The plan Mr. Maliki is taking to Washington involves American and Iraqi forces securing neighborhoods where people are being driven out for being of the wrong religion, then cordoning off the city to prevent armed men and explosives getting in.
Mr. Maliki ruled out any formal partitioning of the capital along sectarian lines and said, “Civil war will not happen in Iraq.”
But even though he has been in the job for little more than two months, time is already running out to prevent the slide to civil war.
On the face of it, Mr. Maliki has everything going for him: He heads a national unity government, with broad support for a national reconciliation plan. But there is no sign of him grasping the initiative.
Iraqi politicians are begging him to show more leadership, a view echoed during his talks with British officials and likely to be repeated when he flies to Washington today.”This government has an excellent chance to succeed, but this is the critical time, from now until the end of the year,” the Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, said. “We must be aware of the internal pressures in Washington and London. We cannot expect unlimited patience from these governments.”
The government’s first challenge is to put an end to the spiral of sectarian attacks, which has led to almost daily massacres and the expulsion of Sunni Muslims from Shiite areas and vice versa.
“Our problem used to be terrorists and foreign fighters,” Mr. Zebari said, “but now sectarian violence has spread to the local level. Both sides are involved.”
Powerful illegal militias still hold sway in parts of the country, but the government does not feel strong enough to challenge them until its reconciliation process, still boycotted by leading Sunni parties, gets under way.
The Lebanon crisis has raised the temperature of anti-Americanism throughout the Arab world, with President Bush and Prime Minister Blair cast as accomplices to the Israeli operations in Lebanon.
Mr. Maliki’s trip to London and Washington, at a time when security is collapsing at home, was criticized yesterday by MPs loyal to the radical Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr. “The diabolical trio of Israel, Britain, and the U.S. is working to harm the Iraqi people,”the head of the Sadr faction, Falah Hassan Shanshal, said.
Even more serious, Iraqi officials fear, is the risk that Iraq could follow Lebanon and become a battleground for the confrontation between Iran and America.
[Saddam Hussein’s half brother argued with the chief judge yesterday and accused a court employee of shaking down a relative for money as the trial entered its final phase without the hospitalized former president, the Associated Press reported.
Barzan Ibrahim, a former intelligence chief, was the only one of the eight defendants in court when the trial resumed after a two-week break to continue hearing final summations.
After summations, the five-judge panel will adjourn to consider a verdict, which could include death by hanging for Saddam and two co-defendants, including Barzan.
Saddam, 69, remained hospitalized yesterday, taking nutrition through a feeding tube, a court spokesman, Raid Juhi, said. The tube was inserted Sunday, the 17th day of Saddam’s hunger strike. Mr. Juhi said Saddam was now in stable condition and would be in court tomorrow when the trial reconvenes.]