Talabani Opposes Military Action against Syria Admits Helplessness

By Juan Cole

11/02/05 "ICH" -- -- Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said Tuesday before the United Nations: "I categorically refuse the use of Iraqi soil to launch a military strike against Syria or any other Arab country . . . "But at the end of the day my ability to confront the US military is limited and I cannot impose on them my will."

So let's get this straight. The president of Iraq elected six months after the US "turned over sovereignty" on June 28, 2004 is saying before the United Nations that George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld decide whether his country can be used as a base to attack other countries, and he is unable to influence such decisions-- even though he categorically rejects any such action.

For all those "Bush's Iraq" boosters who laud the "democratic" elections of January 30 and the recent constitutional referendum, this clear admission that Iraq remains under American military occupation, and that its government is helpless before American decisions about the fate of Iraq, is a rather strong refutation. After all, no country is a "democracy" where the military calls the shots, overruling the civilian president-- how much less so if it is a foreign military! Talabani is saying that Iraq is more like Burma, Pakistan or the Sudan than it is like democracies such as India or Brazil.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari asked the UN to extend the mandate for coalition troops in Iraq for up to another year. But the Iraqi government wants the UN to review the resolution 8 months from now, and at any time that the Iraqi government requests a review. Jaafari also wants to reserve the right of the Iraqi government to ask foreign troops to leave before the end of 2006 if it so decides. That is, the Iraqi government wants US troops for the time being, it just doesn't want to be stuck with them. It is not a very gracious invitation; but then, see above.

Al-Hayat: The Iraqi Islamic Party [Sunni] complained Tuesday about the practice of the new Iraqi security forces, of taking women hostage in order to put pressure on their husbands that are suspected of being part of the guerrilla movement. The communique said that Iraqi security forces on Sunday evening invaded a home in the area of Latifiyah in search of its owner. "When they did not find hi, the group attempted to kidnap one of the women of the household. When she resisted, they fired at her and wounded her in the foot." The IIP called on the government to stop such practices.

There have been several incidents where US or Iraq troops have taken women hostage as a way of pressuring their male relatives, producing local protests-- some of which have been effective.

Juan Cole is Professor of History at the University of Michigan -  Visit his website

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