Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Reconciliation conference a failure

Security, Politics
The reconciliation conference the government convened to bring the disparate Iraqi groups together has failed. The organizers, in a bid to hide the failure, said the meeting was the first in a series of future gatherings aimed to reconciling Iraqis. There was no consensus even among the groups which attended the conference. Some factions withdrew as the conferees debated future moves while some key factions had already stayed away, particularly anti-U.S. groups.
The conference’s failure is yet another blow to U.S. strategy. President George Bush was keen to see the conference reach at least some form an agreement so that he could sell his new Iraq strategy to the U.S. public. But the president will have no encouraging signs that Iraqis were moving to put their house in order and the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki proves once again it cannot or is not willing to bring about national reconciliation.
There is little the U.S. can do to turn events around. The deployment of more U.S. troops will send a wrong signal to the armed groups bent on forcing the U.S. to cut and run. The government banned private reporters from covering the conference’s proceedings, limiting the coverage to state-run media. Analysts said the ban was yet another indication that the authorities wanted to keep the differences among the groups attending the gathering under wraps.
Sources close to the conference told Azzaman that there were more points of difference than agreement. The powerful faction of the radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr opted not take part, vowing to boycott any future gathering that calls for accommodating the Baathists. The influential Iraqi Muslim Scholars Commission, which reportedly wields immense power among Iraqi Sunnis, currently bearing the brunt of anti-U.S. resistance, now sees the U.S.-backed government as illegal and has openly asked for the scrapping of the whole political process since it is being carried out in the presence of U.S. occupation troops.

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