With Ali al-Fadhily
BAGHDAD - The security conference held last Saturday in Baghdad produced statements,
drew mortar fire, and brought little hope of security.
The conference attended by representatives from 13 countries, including Syria,
Iran, and the United States, was held inside the heavily fortified "green
zone" in central Baghdad.
Representatives from Iraq's six neighboring countries (Iran, Jordan, Saudi
Arabia, Turkey, Kuwait, and Syria) and delegates from the five permanent UN
Security Council countries (the United States, Russia, China, Britain, and France)
were present along with several Arab representatives.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was reported to have observed the conference
on video from his bed at the al-Hussein Medical City in Amman, Jordan.
International media were invited to show that the meeting was intent on bringing
security to Iraq. That plan backfired after mortar shells landed within 50 meters
of the conference center, shattering glass panes in the building.
Conflict arose within the conference itself. Iran demanded a timetable for
U.S. withdrawal. The United States accused Iran of assisting Shia militias.
"The whole world was there including some resistance fighters who, for
the first time, responded to an Iraqi government call to attend a meeting,"
Yassen Abdul Rahman, a lawyer and anti-occupation activist who attended the
conference, told IPS.
"The heroes of the resistance were represented by the shower of mortar
missiles that broke the glass that separated the conference from the reality
of the situation outside."
Iraqis seemed as usual divided over the value of the conference.
"We cannot afford to give up hope," activist on women's issues Ahlam
al-Lami told IPS. "Those at that meeting are representatives of the whole
world, and they are responsible for bringing back life to us. We might just
give them an excuse to escape their responsibility if we say there is no hope."
Others were less optimistic.
"Those who met inside the green zone are so persistent at keeping [Iraqi
Prime Minister] Nouri al-Maliki and his gang in power in Iraq that they are
polishing their U.S.-made shoes with international wax for a better appearance,"
health expert Dr. Abdul-Salam al-Janabi told IPS.
Some Iraqi leaders accused the U.S.-backed Iraqi government at the conference
of exploiting sectarian and ethnic differences to the advantage of the occupation
"It is the same sectarian picture given once more by the Iraqi government,"
a senior staff member of the Iraqi ministry of foreign affairs told IPS.
United Iraqi Alliance leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who also leads the Supreme
Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shia group close to Iran, accused
some Arab countries of supporting "terrorism."
In a speech before the conference, Hakim attacked Arab League Secretary-General
Amr Mussa, who had called on the UN Security Council to support a proposed amendment
of the new Iraqi constitution. The amendment move, backed by opposition groups,
could lead to a challenge to the legitimacy of the Iraqi government.
Mussa had also called for disbanding of the local militias and expansion of
political dialogue in order to achieve more balance in Iraq.
The ruling coalition is showing cracks. Hakim's Shia coalition members have
developed serious differences in strategies. These led recently to withdrawal
of the al-Fadhila Party from the prime minister's United Iraqi Alliance. Party
leaders quit, citing "faulty sectarian policies."
The move destabilized Iraq's teetering government further.
Many Arab political analysts believe that this conference was yet another attempt
by the U.S. administration to buy time in Iraq while it prepares to deal with
The U.S. military currently has two aircraft carrier battle groups in the region.
This is the first time such a force has been positioned there since the invasion
of Iraq in March 2003.
(Inter Press Service)