[Marxism] Iraqi Factions Seek Timetable for US Pullout

Marvin Gandall marvgandall at videotron.ca
Tue Nov 22 06:26:53 MST 2005

(A concession to the Sunni parties participating in the runup to next
month's election in Iraq. The elections are key to the US strategy of
integrating supporters of the Shia Sadrist movement and the Sunni
Association of Muslim Scholars into the next government in order to isolate
and contain the armed resistance long enough to allow for a substantial
drawdown of US forces. The "timetable" is a rolling one, depending on the
formation of a stable government and progress against the insurgency. Thus,
"the closing statement...did not specify when a withdrawal should begin,
making it more of a symbolic gesture than a concrete agenda item that could
be followed up by the Iraqi government." It is not in contradiction to the
positions broadly expressed by the Bush administration and the Congress.)
Iraqi Factions Seek Timetable for U.S. Pullout
New York Times
November 22, 2005

CAIRO, Nov. 21 - For the first time, Iraq's political factions on Monday
collectively called for a timetable for withdrawal of foreign forces, in a
moment of consensus that comes as the Bush administration battles pressure
at home to commit itself to a pullout schedule.

The announcement, made at the conclusion of a reconciliation conference here
backed by the Arab League, was a public reaching out by Shiites, who now
dominate Iraq's government, to Sunni Arabs on the eve of parliamentary
elections that have been put on shaky ground by weeks of sectarian violence.

About 100 Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders, many of whom will run in the
election on Dec. 15, signed a closing memorandum on Monday that "demands a
withdrawal of foreign troops on a specified timetable, dependent on an
immediate national program for rebuilding the security forces," the
statement said.

"The Iraqi people are looking forward to the day when foreign forces will
leave Iraq, when its armed and security forces will be rebuilt and when they
can enjoy peace and stability and an end to terrorism," it continued.

The meeting was intended as preparation for a much larger conference in Iraq
in late February. The recommendations made here are to be the starting
ground for that meeting.

In Washington, Justin Higgins, a State Department spokesman, said, "The
United States supports the basic foundation of the conference and we
certainly support ongoing discussion among Iraq's various political and
religious communities."

But regarding troop withdrawal, he said: "Multinational forces are present
in Iraq under a mandate from the U.N. Security Council. As President Bush
has said, the coalition remains committed to helping the Iraqi people
achieve security and stability as they rebuild their country. We will stay
as long as it takes to achieve those goals and no longer."

Shiite leaders have long maintained that a pullout should be done according
to milestones, and not before Iraqi security forces are fully operational.
The closing statement upheld a Sunni demand for a pullout, while preserving
aspects of Shiite demands, but did not specify when a withdrawal should
begin, making it more of a symbolic gesture than a concrete agenda item that
could be followed up by the Iraqi government.

The statement, while condemning the wave of terrorism that has engulfed
Iraq, also broadly acknowledged a general right to resist foreign
occupation. That was another effort to compromise with Sunnis who had sought
to legitimize the insurgency. The statement condemned terror attacks and
religious backing for them, and it demanded the release of innocent
prisoners and an investigation into reports of torture.

Almost all the delegates belong to political parties that represent the
spectrum of Iraqi politics.

But while Sunni parties hinted at their lines of communication to
nationalist and tribal insurgents, none would admit any link to militants
like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who has led a wave of suicide bombings through
his group Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.

The wording was a partial victory for Iraq's Sunni politicians, who have
long demanded that the United States commit to a scheduled pullout.

While the wording stopped short of condoning armed resistance to the
occupation, it broadly acknowledged that "national resistance is a
legitimate right of all nations."

"This is the first time that something like this is said collectively and in
public," Muhammad Bashar al-Faythi, spokesman for the hard-line Sunni Muslim
Scholars Council, said Monday, referring to the timetable. "We managed to
convince them of the importance of a timed pullout."

On Monday, Iraq's interior minister, Bayan Jabr, said American-led forces
should be able to leave Iraq by the end of next year, adding that the
one-year extension of the mandate for the multinational force in Iraq by the
United Nations Security Council earlier this month could be the last, The
Associated Press reported.

"By mid-next year, we will be 75 percent done in building our forces, and by
the end of next year it will be fully ready," Mr. Jabr told Al Jazeera, the
pan-Arab news channel.

The Monday statement offered Shiite politicians concessions, too, by
condemning terrorism against Shiites, condemning trumped-up theological
arguments for attacks on Shiites, and legitimizing the political process
that has made Shiite leaders the dominant political force in Iraq.

"Some of the sides that were especially sensitive have opened up with the
support of the Arab League," said Sheik Humam Hamoudi, a Shiite who headed
the Iraqi constitution-drafting committee. "We now clearly see that Sunnis
have entered politics, and this meeting won't change that."

"If this meeting did anything, it was to comfort the Arabs and the Iraqi
Sunnis about the whole process," he added. "The solution first is that
Sunnis enter politics, then they enter government, then we deliver services
to their areas, and then we build a strong government."

The statement also called for the release of all prisoners who had not been
charged or were deemed innocent, and asked Arab League members to cancel
Iraq's debts and assist in building Iraqi security forces.

Perhaps the biggest winner of the meeting was the 22-member Arab League
itself, which has entered the political scene in Iraq hoping to repeat its
success in 1989, when it brokered an end to Lebanon's 15-year civil war in a
similar conference.

The Arab League's secretary general, Amr Moussa, said Monday that the
results of the meeting were a success, but he warned that expectations
should remain modest.

"This is a success for the most part," he told reporters. "We succeeded in
70 percent of the issues. We will move step by step, but what happened was
very significant."

The Iraqi politicians thrashed out their differences in the most open debate
about the country's future yet. Starting Saturday, they wasted no time
expressing their complaints and differences, after more than two years of
sectarian violence.

"Even if there is no agreement, we will have accomplished a conversation,"
Iraq's interim president, Jalal Talabani, said Sunday. Mr. Talabani and
other senior members of the government refrained from taking a direct part
in closed-door sessions of the three-day conference.

The meeting ultimately centered on Iraq's insurgency and its causes, seeking
to goad Sunnis to lay down their weapons and join the political system,
while forcing Shiite politicians to acknowledge Sunni grievances. On Sunday,
Mr. Talabani said he was willing to meet Iraqi insurgents if they dropped
their weapons.

>From the start, the meeting was beset by controversy as many, especially
Shiites, objected to plans to invite former Baath Party officials to take
part. Even the statement's release was delayed Monday because of last-minute
objections by Sunni leaders. But with some diplomacy, which included
shuttling from the general assembly to Mr. Moussa's offices for private
talks, a compromise was reached Monday evening.

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