Iraqi leaders warn of catastrophe if US goes
IRAQ: Spooked by a sudden increase in calls in Washington for
a rapid withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, Iraqi leaders on Monday
scrambled to warn of catastrophe if their forces are left alone.
Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari led the charge, warning US lawmakers
that their calls for a timetable for the departure of the 155,000
American troops could lead to the collapse of the Iraqi state and to yet
â€śWe held discussions with congressional delegations and explained to
them the dangers of a rapid withdrawal, which would leave a security
vacuum. It might lead to civil war, partition, collapse or a regional
war,â€ť he said.
â€śThere are some people who disagree with this assessment, but itâ€™s
the responsibility of the United States and other countries to stand
with the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people,â€ť he insisted.
While leaders from the Iraqâ€™s rival Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish camps
disagree bitterly about many of the issues fuelling the conflict, most
are clear on one thing: The Iraqi security forces are not ready to fight
Most begin their responses to the question of the troopsâ€™ US presence
with an obligatory nod to Iraqi national pride; no-one here wants the
â€śoccupierâ€ť to stay on forever. Nevertheless, itâ€™s far too soon for them
â€śMost of those in the Iraqi House of Representatives would like to
see the presence of the US forces over for good,â€ť said Amira al-Baldawi,
a Shiite member of Prime Minister Nuri al-Malikiâ€™s ruling coalition.
â€śEverybody wishes them to leave, even the US forces themselves, but
this initiative would be catastrophic if carried out before Iraq manages
to set up its security forces,â€ť she told AFP
â€śWe need some time to complete our army. Gradual and programmed
withdrawal is very important,â€ť she insisted.
On the other side of the sectarian divide, leading Sunni lawmaker
Nasser al-Ani, was in agreement with his Shiite colleague.
Meanwhile the White House refused to bend to mounting calls for Iraq
troop withdrawals, despite a new Democratic assault over the war and an
accelerating Republican rebellion.
President George W. Bushâ€™s spokesman said a report that the
administration was engaged in an intense internal debate over a gradual
withdrawal from Iraqi cities was â€śway ahead of the facts.â€ť
But the White House faced a new showdown over the war, as lawmakers
returned to Washington after a week-long break, which saw fraying
Republican support for Bushâ€™s troops surge strategy and more US combat
Spokesman Tony Snow said Bush had repeatedly said troop withdrawals
were a goal and conditional on the situation in Iraq.
â€śBut the idea of trying to make a political judgement rather than a
military judgement about how to have forces in the field is simply not
true,â€ť Snow said.
The New York Times earlier reported top officials were discussing
whether Bush should announce a gradual withdrawal from Iraqâ€™s cities.
Democrats were poised to make things even more uncomfortable with
Bush later by launching a two-week Senate debate on a defense policy
bill, intended to force Republicans into politically dicey votes on the
Baghdad, Washington, Tuesday, AFP