Senior US figures discuss drawing down troops

President Jimmy Carter rejects a pre-emptive withdrawal of US troops but urges the Bush administration to drawdown its forces in Iraq. The US ambassador to Iraq compares the toppling of Saddam Hussein to opening a Pandoras Box. It might be argued that, as Zalmay Khalized makes so few public statements, and even fewer as frank as this one, there is a significant debate at the highest level of American government regarding the timing of any troop withdrawal. (David Spector)

Remember the Marsh Arabs, says Cherie Booth

Cherie Booth told a recent conference that the destruction of the Iraqi marshlands during the 1980s and 1990s was symptomatic of the wider destruction of Iraq. It involved not just the destruction of land, but also of the people whose land it was. In the case of the Iraqi marshlands, most of its people were forcibly displaced not once but many times, leaving behind their possessions.The reconstruction of a nation cannot be achieved without involving the people of that nation in the reconstruction process.

Event outside the Iraqi Embassy today in London

Calling for the Speedy Formation of National Unity Government to Defeat Terror and Sectarian Sedition and Build a Free Democratic Iraq
Organised by Iraqi political organisations and groups in UK.
Tuesday, 7 March 2006, 4.00 – 5.00 p.m.
The Iraqi Embassy, 9 Holland Villas Road, London W14 8BP

Parliament Could Be In Session By End Of The Week

This report and this report suggest that Iraqs new parliament could be called into session by March 12th, and possibly by the end of this week.
The significance of this date is that the constitution requires parliament to hold its first meeting no later than four week after the election result is certified. Once parliament meets, they have 60 days to elect a president and approve a prime minister and cabinet. Even if parliament were to be convened, these subjects could still prove divisive.
It was reported earlier that President Jalal Talabani was now attempting to block the Shiite prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, from serving a second term. Stephen Biddle argues that only a communual compromise will bring peace to Iraq. At present, America’s central ambition appears to lie in an expansion of the local military infrastructure to control Sunni insurgents. (David Spector).

Building a rights-based, federal democracy

The Iraqi Ambassador to Canada Howar Ziad says Iraq is in a struggle between truth and falsehood, between decency and depravity, between democracy and dictatorship and between freedom and slavery.
Before its liberation in April, 2003, Iraq was not a peaceful democracy, nor was it a country of social justice, or of ethnic, religious and linguistic tolerance as this great country Canada is. No, Iraq was a country occupied by a foreign ideology, the fascist idea of Baathism; a country in which the regime was at war with the people; a regime that was at war with its neighbours and the world; a regime that had isolated Iraq and brought international sanctions on itself; a regime guilty of aggression, genocide and terrorism; a regime in flagrant non-compliance with its international obligations.
It is no surprise, therefore, that the road to a rights-based democracy in Iraq can sometimes seem daunting. But the progress that has been made so far is remarkable. Governments have changed peacefully. Hundreds of political parties have been formed. Governments have been created on the basis of democratic elections — and governments that can legitimately claim to represent the vast majority of Iraqis, no less. Negotiation, compromise and deliberation, not coups and conspiracies, are the character of contemporary Iraqi politics. Iraq has had an interim and now a final constitution, both documents agreed to by a process of negotiation and then, in the case of the final constitution, adopted through a democratic referendum.
The constitution seeks to establish a rights-based democratic federation, based on the twin federal principles of shared rule and self-rule. It aims at a federal government that is inclusive of the country’s diversity. It allows for decentralization so that local communities can make their own decisions in some matters that are important to them. It entrenches the principle of bilingualism — showing respect for both of Iraq’s major language communities. And all of this takes place within a context in which fundamental human rights are protected throughout the state. Such a model of government should be familiar to you because these are the very same principles on which this great federation — Canada — is based.
Sadly, a small minority of Iraqis have rejected the politics of negotiation, consensus and compromise and have, without provocation or just cause, turned to violence. They are aided, abetted and encouraged by foreign elements, religious fanatics and fundamentalists. The Baathist fascists, who long supported and encouraged the religious jihadist fascists of al-Qaeda, are now having the favour returned. There is no clearer evidence that the violence in Iraq is not so-called “resistance” to foreign occupation but pure blatant fascism than the recent attack on the holy shrine in Samarra. This act of sacrilege is a sign of the utter lack of respect that the Ba’athist-Jihadist alliance has for Islam and in particular for the Shi’ah faith that is so dear to the majority of Iraqis.
There have been similar acts of sacrilege before. In 2002, Ansar al-Islam, an al-Qaeda affiliate group, destroyed Sufi tombs in the remote Kurdish village of Biyara, and in 2003 and 2004, the Ba’athist-Jihadist alliance launched murderous attacks near the mosques in Najaf and Kerbala.
This violent minority threatens all of us. They will not be content with victory in Iraq alone (not that we will concede that to them); they will always seek to impose and export their sickness elsewhere.
Iraq is in a struggle between truth and falsehood, between decency and depravity, between democracy and dictatorship and between freedom and slavery. Building a rights-based, federal democracy like the one in which we stand is difficult in such a context, but we are persevering and we are determined to succeed. We have waited too long for this chance. We will not allow the violence and hatred of a small minority to deprive us of this historic opportunity.
Howar Ziad is the Ambassador of Iraq to Canada. This is an edited excerpt from a speech he gave in Ottawa to the Canadian Peacebuilding Co-ordinating Committee on March 2.

Dave Anderson, LFIQ Chair tables Commons motion in defence of Iraqi trade unions

EDM 1689 reads as follows:
Iraqi Trade Unions
That this House supports the independent and democratic Iraqi trade union movement, mainly centred around the newly merged Iraqi Workers Federation (IWF) and the Kurdish trade unions, which play an important role in re-building of its devastated national economy and consolidating the current political process in order to create a democratic, united and federal state after years of repression and hardship at the hands of the deposed dictatorship of Saddam; is,
therefore, deeply disturbed that on 8 August 2005 the Iraqi council of ministers issued Decree 8750 which declared that union finances would be taken over by the government and that a new law on trade unionism would be developed by the government, without mentioning freedom of association which is a basic human right and one of the fundamental conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) or the involvement of the Iraqi trade union movement; is further disturbed at recent reports that the government has replaced the leadership of the independent engineers’ union with its own appointees in a prima facie breach of freedom of association; welcomes the decision of professional organisations to create with the IWF an umbrella organisation to oppose Decree 8750; further congratulates the TUC for initiating global protests against Decree 8750 and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions for supporting the IWF’s complaint formally requesting that the ILO intervene directly with the Iraqi government; and supports the IWF and others in all available democratic means to stop this undemocratic practice against Iraqi workers.
Dave Anderson
Joan Ruddock
Dai Harvard
Rob Marris
Sharon Hodgson
Peter Bottomley
Sarah McCarthy-Fry
George Howarth
Bob Spink

The stakes are very high

Jabbar Hasan Director Of The Iraqi Community Association In London tells the Mirror his views of the current situation in Iraq.
I think all Iraqis were guilty of wishful thinking when they denied the danger of sectarian conflict. We have just seen an act of terrorism timed and planned to spin Iraq into civil war.
It is up to community leaders and politicians to get a grip of the situation, but Saddam’s Ba’athist party members, jihadists and foreign powers are all interested in destabilising the situation further.
In a civil war the only winners will those who are against the rebuilding of Iraq.
The implications for the Middle East of civil war are very serious. Oil prices are likely to shoot up and the world economy will be affected.
War will destroy democracy in Iraq and regional leaders will use this as an excuse to abandon democracy, claiming it does not suit their society. The stakes are very high.

Co-ordinating Committee of Iraqi Democratic Forces public meeting Saturday 24th February

Public Meeting
To Defeat Terrorism and Sectarian Sedition and Consolidate Iraqi National Unity
Organised by: Co-ordinating Committee of Iraqi Democratic Forces (UK)
Saturday, 25 February 2006, 7.00 p.m, The Polish Centre, Malinowa Room,
2nd Floor, 238-246 King Street, London W6 0RF
(Nearest underground: Hammersmith or Ravenscourt Park)
** Speakers will include representatives of Iraqi political groups in Britain. The meeting is open to all members of the Iraqi community, as well as British friends and the media.
Our homeland Iraq is going through extremely difficult days and a deep political crisis as a result of the repercussions of the criminal bomb attack on holy shrines in Samarra. Maintaining Iraq’s unity, securing our people’s future and rebuilding the country require speeding up the formation of a national unity government, to be able to end the political impasse, foil sectarian sedition and achieve a democratic Iraq that enjoys stability, harmony and peace.