Plans to partition Iraq are causing a political earthquake, says Nermeen Al-Mufti
The Iraqi parliament is expected to reject a non-binding US senate measure calling for the country to be divided along sectarian lines into three parts. The measure, championed by democratic senator and presidential hopeful Joseph Biden, has finally managed to unify the Iraqis if only in opposition to it, with the exception, of course, of the Kurds.
Kurdish leaders called the measure a perfect solution to the country's multi-faceted problems. "The people and government of Iraq Kurdistan welcome the US Senate's decision to rebuild the Iraqi state on a federal basis, and finds this decision to be in harmony with the Iraq constitution," said the official website of the Kurdish northern government.
Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki lashed out at the Senate's decision. He told Al-Iraqiya television that, "those people who passed the measure should stand by Iraq and reinforce its unity and sovereignty instead of proposing a partition, which would be catastrophic not only for Iraq but for the entire region."
Ezzat Al-Shahbandar, deputy for the Iraqi List, read out a joint statement released by various Iraqi groups at a news conference. The statement said that the US Senate relied on an "unrealistic assessment of Iraq's past, present, and future." The Senate's measure, the statement added, "conflicts with international laws and the right of nations for self determination, and is in breach of the Iraqi constitution that guarantees the unity of Iraq."
The statement was signed by the Shia Iraqi Alliance Block, the Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front, the Iraqi List of Iyad Allawi, the Sunni National Dialogue List of Saleh Al-Mutalek, the Iraqi Turkoman Front, and other prominent figures.
Sheikh Abdul-Mahdi Al-Karbalaei, a top aid of Ayatollah Al-Sistani, said that, "those who proposed the measure claim that it is the best way of getting Iraq out of the current chaos, but it is not in the interests of this country. I call on all Iraqi officials, parties, civil society groups, and religious and cultural institutions to ditch any plan aiming to divide Iraq along sectarian or ethnic lines."
The Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars denounced the partitioning plan, calling on the international community and the Islamic world to stand against it. "The measure comes as no surprise. The US senate aims to partition the country under the guise of federalism [to satisfy] a certain wing within the current US administration and the Zionist lobby."
Although Shia leaders in the past demanded their own region in the south, they all rejected the decision, saying that the federalism they wanted didn't have any ethnic or sectarian connotations.
Torhan Al-Mufti, a key figure within the Turkoman Bloc, voiced opposition to the measure, warning that the Turkoman would ask for their own region should the country be partitioned. "The Turkoman Front is against the partitioning of Iraq, but if -- God forbid -- such partition took place, then it would be the right of all Iraqi people to demand their legitimate rights," he said.
Political activist Abir Ali, who is opposed to the US occupation, warned of the long-term implications of the scheme. "Let's keep in mind that the US Congress adopted in 1998 a non-binding decision calling for the invasion of Iraq. The US administration later on relied on that decision to invade our country."
Abu Hassan, a man known for his close connections with the Iraqi resistance, promised to undermine any attempt at partitioning. "The resistance is not going to allow the partitioning of Iraq. We will nip this scheme in the bud."
A classified US document accused Prime Minister Al-Maliki of resisting the formation of an independent agency to investigate corruption in the country. According to Radio Sawa, the US Embassy in Baghdad drafted a paper criticising the government for failing to stamp out corruption. The US Embassy in Baghdad declined to comment on the report.
Meanwhile, Iraqi local press cited officials at the Iraqi Probity Agency as saying that Al-Maliki's office obstructed the referral of Iraqi ministers and key officials for investigation of corruption charges.
The parliament has also to decide on the terms under which the mandate for the multinational forces would be extended till the end of 2008. According to Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister Labid Abbawi, the extension would be the last one to be granted for the coalition forces, totalling 160,000 troops." After that, Iraq would seek a long-term security agreement with the US to meet the country's security needs, Abbawi said.
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