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
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)
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
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.
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)
What concerns most after U.S. troops pullout is the
security situation that although improved greatly in the past two years, still
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)
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
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.