Iraq spurns U.S. resolution

Nonbinding Senate measure raises fears of political division, prolonged occupancy

October 01, 2007|By Ned Parker and Raheem Salman | Ned Parker and Raheem Salman,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD -- Iraq's divided political leadership, in a rare show of unity, skewered a nonbinding U.S. Senate resolution approved in Washington last week that endorses the decentralization of Iraq by making semi-autonomous regions.

The measure's advocacy of a relatively weak central government and strong Sunni Arab, Shiite and Kurdish regions has touched a nerve in the Iraqi political arena, stoking fears that the United States is planning to partition Iraq.

"The Congress adopted this proposal based on an incorrect reading and unrealistic estimations of the history, present and future of Iraq," said Izzat al-Shahbandar, a member of secular ex-Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's parliament bloc.

He was reading from a statement also signed by Iraq's preeminent religious Shiite Muslim parties and the main Sunni Arab bloc.

"It represents a dangerous precedent to establishing the nature of the relationship between Iraq and the U.S.A.," the statement said, "and shows the Congress as if it were planning for a long-term occupation by their country's troops."

The nonbinding power-sharing measure was approved in Washington on Wednesday, and resentment appears to be building daily in Iraq. Approved by a 75-23 vote, it supports a "federal system" that would create sectarian-dominated regions.

The genesis of the resolution is the proposal by Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., a Delaware Democrat, and Leslie Gelb, Council of Foreign Relations president emeritus. The pair advocated dividing the country along ethnic and regional lines.

The federalization idea, backed by some Democrats, is one of many proposals floated in the U.S., where the public has become disenchanted with the continuing violence in Iraq.

But whatever the effect Senate lawmakers intended by wading into the debate, the effort has backfired in Baghdad, where the resolution has been interpreted in light of Iraq's history of foreign occupation. Iraqi political parties that have been deadlocked for months have rallied to defend the country's sovereignty and to defeat any effort by another country to shape Iraq's fate.

"We refuse the resolutions which decide Iraq's destiny from outside Iraq. This is a dangerous partitioning based on sectarianism and ethnicity," said Hashim Taie, a member of the Iraqi Accordance Front, the parliament's main Sunni representation.

Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's political supporters joined their rivals in denouncing the Senate's measure.

Leery of American intervention, al-Sadr supporter Nasr Rubaie said the powers of the provinces and regional blocs should be defined once the United States has pulled its troops out of Iraq.

The U.S. Embassy in Iraq was rankled enough by the Senate proposal to distance itself, issuing a statement yesterday distancing itself from the Democrat-led Senate.

Meanwhile yesterday, a preliminary military court hearing for a second U.S. army sniper accused in a case involving the death of an Iraqi was postponed until Nov. 10.

Sgt. Evan Vela is accused of premeditated murder in the May 11 shooting. He is also charged with planting a weapon on the man's body, impeding an investigation and giving a false sworn statement. He confessed to the killing Thursday in the court-martial hearing of fellow soldier Jorge G. Sandoval.

Civilian deaths dropped to 884 in September , according to numbers obtained from the health ministry. It was the lowest death toll in Iraq since June 2006, when 887 civilians were killed. The U.S. military has announced that the death toll in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan has dropped compared with previous years, touting the dip as the fruit of having an additional 28,500 troops to Iraq.

Ned Parker and Raheem Salman write for the Los Angeles Times.

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