Monday, January 26, 2009

Iraqi Leader: Internal Strife Could Destroy Iraq

If anything can destroy the new Iraq, it will be the internal strife that has always plagued that country. (A prior Shiite demonstration is pictured above.) No matter how hard America and its Coalition partners tried or how heavy the loss we sustained, we can’t force the Iraqis to get along with each other. Only the different Iraqi factions can find the common ground that must hold their nation together:

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Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)
January 26, 2009

Sectarianism A 'Rotten Thing,' Iraqi Leader Says

By Associated Press

BAGHDAD — Iraq's prime minister on Sunday blamed sectarianism for destroying the country, as he tried to tap into a backlash against religious parties before next weekend's nationwide provincial elections.

Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, has been delivering numerous speeches in the days leading up to Saturday's provincial elections in a thinly veiled effort to rally support for the candidates running under the umbrella group that includes his Dawa party.

"Sectarianism is behind the destruction of the country," al-Maliki told academics and sportsmen at a forum in Baghdad. "It is natural that we have different views, but we are all representing a unified Iraq that is not ready for division."

He appeared to be distancing himself from the major religious parties, particularly his governmental ally the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, after years of violence between Shiites and Sunnis.

He told the forum that sectarianism is a "rotten thing" and that Iraqis must focus on rebuilding efforts.

Al-Maliki isn't running, but his pictures have been plastered on campaign posters throughout Iraq, and he has campaigned extensively as he seeks to solidify his power base before national parliamentary elections later this year.

For years, al-Maliki himself had a reputation as a hard- line Shiite nationalist. But there are signs the public, especially in Baghdad and other major cities, has grown weary of the religious parties that have dominated national politics since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Al-Maliki's criticism of sectarian politics appeared to be an effort to tap into public discontent against parties run by clerics, such as the Supreme Council.

The prime minister also favors centralized rule and opposes a bid by the council, the country's biggest Shiite party, to establish a self-ruled region in the Shiite south modeled on the autonomous Kurdish administration in the north.

Voters on Saturday will be choosing ruling councils in 14 of the country's 18 provinces. It will be the first nationwide balloting in three years. A strong showing by al-Maliki's Coalition of the State of Law would bolster him against political rivals.

(Above article from Associated Press.)

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Charles M. Grist

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