View Full Version : Iraq Battles For Peace Three Years After U.S. "Victory"

05-01-2006, 11:32 AM
Iraq battles for peace three years after US 'victory'



43 minutes ago

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Three years after US President George W. Bush declared an end to major combat, a raging insurgency and bitter sectarianism have engulfed Iraq as leaders struggle to form the first full-term post- Saddam Hussein government.

On May 1, 2003, Bush declared that the war which toppled Saddam was over, giving hope to 27 million Iraqis that peace would finally prevail.

"Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed," Bush triumphantly told some 5,000 sailors aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier.

But after three years, an estimated 35,000 civilian and 2,400 US military deaths, Iraqis are still waiting for a day without bombings and a night of steady electricity.

A raging Al-Qaeda-led Sunni-backed insurgency and bitter Shiite-Sunni sectarian violence have left thousands of families homeless and turned hundreds of children into orphans or cripples.

"The US authorities and Iraqi leaders have failed the people of Iraq," said Mahmud Othman, a Kurdish lawmaker in the country's 275-member parliament.

"We as leaders have been unable to give security or basic services of life to our people."

On April 9, 2003, as Iraqis pulled down the huge Saddam statue in Baghdad's central Firdoos square -- now seen as a symbol marking the regime's toppling --- Saddam loyalists gathered across the country to launch a guerilla war against US forces.

The post-invasion insurgency not only continues to kill innocent Iraqis, but has drawn more and more groups into its fold.

The US military classifies Iraqi insurgent groups in three categories -- Al-Qaeda-led foreign fighters, groups loyal to Saddam and "rejectionists" who simply oppose a US presence in Iraq.

But the grim scenario facing Iraqi leaders is the continuation of bitter sectarianism that has threatened to push the country into a full-fledged civil war.

The bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in February triggered the country's worst communal bloodshed since the March 2003 invasion.

Hundreds of people have died in tit-for-tat killings by once powerful Sunni Arabs and the newly dominant majority Shiites.

Dozens of bullet-riddled bodies surface almost every day across Iraq in apparent sectarian killings, while thousands of families have traded in their homes for make-shift tents in camps out of fear of their neighbors.

"The number of Shiite and Sunni families displaced in different regions has touched 13,875," outgoing Shiite Minister of Migration and Displacement Suhaila Abed Jaafar told AFP last week.

Conservative estimates translate this figure into at least 70,000 individuals.

To take on the insurgency, the US-led coalition forces are building-up the Iraqi security forces, now numbering a quarter of a million, but they still require the support of multinational troops for any major security operation.

Since 2003, Iraq has had two one-year governments and is currently forming the first full-term post-Saddam cabinet under the premiership of hardline Shiite MP Nuri al-Maliki.

Four months after the elections, Iraqi leaders are still struggling to give shape to a new national unity government which the US has lauded as the first true attempt to usher in democracy in an Arab country.

The squabbling of leaders over key ministerial posts has delayed the government's formation, which Washington says has to happen before it can begin thinking about pulling out its 132,000 troops.

In April, the US military saw one of its deadliest periods in Iraq since the invasion, with about 70 servicemen killed in rebel attacks.

President Jalal Talabani on Monday however expressed optimism during a speech marking May Day labor celebrations.

"With the dictatorship falling, new horizons have opened for workers to actively contribute to the new democratic Iraq," Talabani said in a statement.

"The Iraqi worker who participated in the struggle against dictatorship and oppression is today participating in building a new Iraq that will guarantee everybody the dignity of work."

On Sunday he said an accord was being reached with seven armed groups to end violence.

"The Americans have entered into negotiations with some of these groups with my blessing and I think it is possible to reach an agreement with the seven armed organizations," Talabani said.

"We want to have a dialogue with them and they can join the political process."

"They visited me and I met them. As there is broad freedom to express opinion, there is no justification for armed action," said the president, who is himself a Kurdish former rebel leader.