News Analysis: Iraq prepares for post-U.S. occupation era 2009-03-21 05:07:53   Print

Special Report: Tension escalates in Iraq 

    by Xinhua writers Fu Yiming and Gao Shan

    BAGHDAD, March 20 (Xinhua) -- Six years after the U.S.-led invasion on Iraq, which paralyzed the oil-rich Middle East country, Washington is determined to withdraw its troops out.

    With new U.S. President Barack Obama readjusted its policies toward Iraq in time of a global financial crisis and a "must-do" troop redeployment to Afghanistan underway, Iraq, after six years of turbulence, ushers in a new era.

    As Iraq prepares for its "post-U.S. occupation era," whether its security achievements can hold and what foreign policies adopted matter not just for this war-torn county but also the international community as a whole.

Soldiers patrol at Al-Mutanebi book market in Baghdad, Iraq, March 20, 2009, the day of the sixth anniversary of the start of the American-led Iraq war. (Xinhua/Gao Shan)

Soldiers patrol at Al-Mutanebi book market in Baghdad, Iraq, March 20, 2009, the day of the sixth anniversary of the start of the American-led Iraq war. (Xinhua/Gao Shan)
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    The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 unleashed widespread sectarian bloodshed, but violence has dropped dramatically in the past year and foreign troops are now preparing to leave.

    After a landslide victory in the provincial elections in January, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki led a series of reconciliation conferences attended by tribal leaders from both Sunni and Shiite Muslims.

    He appealed all parties to embrace nation reconciliation and unity. Apart from that, Maliki also welcomed the former Baath party members under Saddam's rule to return political life and rejoin the new Iraqi army.

    Some political parties indicate that Maliki's efforts were no more than just political show in favor of himself in the coming national elections in December, but most see it as an endeavor for national reconciliation in time of fierce political battles among parties as U.S. troops start to leave.

    While provincial parliaments are struggling recently for electing their leaders, signs of derailed conflicts emerge in some politically polarized provinces.

    In Karbala, Maliki's home town, provincial leader elections sparked mass-scale demonstrations; in still volatile Nineveh in north, Sunni Arabs who gained most seats claimed to contain Kurds expansion; elections in oil-rich Kirkuk were postponed, for the fierce struggles between Arabs and Kurds of its possession might upgrades to what most feared of a war after U.S. troops left.

    Given the current complicated political environment, competitions in December for seats of the president, vice presidents, prime minister and parliament speaker would be fierce, and might come as compromise and balance among different power groups.

    The current Shiite backed Maliki would seek being reelected of the position with the most power in practice. Meanwhile, President Jalal al-Talabani backed by Kurds has claimed he would not seek being reelected in December, leaving many uncertainties for the presidency.

    Iraq would face tough road ahead before achieving national reconciliation. That is possibly why Washington chose to call most of its troops back after the December elections.

Soldiers guard at the Firdos Square in Baghdad, Iraq, March 20, 2009, the day of the sixth anniversary of the start of the American-led Iraq war. (Xinhua/Gao Shan)

Soldiers guard at the Firdos Square in Baghdad, Iraq, March 20, 2009, the day of the sixth anniversary of the start of the American-led Iraq war. (Xinhua/Gao Shan)
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    What concerns most after U.S. troops pullout is the security situation that although improved greatly in the past two years, still poses threat.

    Maliki has adopted a series of measures to boost Iraqis' confidence on the worrisome security situation. And extended his confidence of Iraqis standing on their own safely.

    "When it comes to the withdrawal of American forces, I believe that the Iraqis will be capable of taking the whole situation in their hands," Maliki said early in Canberra when he visited Australia few days ago.

    "Notwithstanding the gruesome operations that took place and the large number of victims, al-Qaida extremists and terrorists in Iraq have lost their capabilities of confronting and challenging the security forces in Iraq," he said.

    Meanwhile, Maliki said that he did not want U.S. troops taken out of any area unless it is "considered 100 percent secure and under control." Otherwise, withdrawals will be postponed.

    As apart of U.S.-Iraqi 5 billion dollar arms deal, the first group of M1A1 battle tanks will be due for Iraqi army before next August, when most of U.S. troops left. Baghdad also announced recently a purchase of 125,000 U.S. made M-16 rifles to equip its nascent security forces.

    Additionally, Maliki administration will take control from U.S. troops of more than 90,000 Sunni insurgents, a move regarded by local media as vital for maintaining the long-term security and stability in Iraq.


U.S. anti-war demonstrators stage a protest in New York, the United States, March 19, 2009, marking the 6th anniversary of the start of Iraq war.(Xinhua Photo)
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    As security situation has been greatly improved, Iraq started to make use of its oil-diplomacy, attracting foreign firms from the "old Europe" in particular, in oil related business as well as its economic reconstruction.

    Attracted by profitable offers, France, Germany and Britain have separated sent high-ranking diplomats to Baghdad last month with huge business delegations and contracts. A series of business cooperation are expected in the future.

    In what is regarded as a full-swing diplomacy balancing Iraq's strong reliance on the United States, Maliki started his visit to Australia last Thursday, aiming at "activating the joint cooperation of agricultural, industrial, scientific, and improving political relations."

    He will also visit Russia, France and Britain in April to boost bilateral cooperation in fields like petroleum, hydroelectricity, industry, agriculture and science and technology.

    Additionally, diplomacy with its neighbor Iran is also high on the agenda. Maliki and President Talabani visited Iran in January and February respectively. Iran's former president and influential cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani also visited Iraq soon after.

    Such high-frequency bilateral visits between the two state are rare, which indicates Iraq's dire need of its neighbor's help to stabilize its Shiite dominant south after U.S. troops pullout.

    In relations with other neighboring countries, Talabani visited Turkey; Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed al-Sabah met Iraqi officials in February, in the highest level of Kuwaiti visit to Iraq since Saddam Hussein's forces invaded the neighbor in 1990;and Syria has sent its first ambassador to Baghdad in decades.

    Emphasized on strengthening ties with its neighbors, Iraq took the initiative to create a secure and stable environment for development. At the same time, by opening its oil and reconstruction markets to Western countries, it is guaranteed with more international assistance and investment for the nation's recovery and fast development. 

Editor: Mu Xuequan
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