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Iraqi Interior Minister Appeals for Unity - 2004-04-21


A series of suicide bombings tore through the southern Iraqi city of Basra Wednesday, an area that has been relatively peaceful compared to the more volatile areas around Baghdad. Wednesday's coordinated attack targeted four police stations.

Iraqi schoolgirls riding on a passing bus were among the scores of people killed in Basra on Wednesday. Iraq's interior minister, Samir Shaker Mahmoud al-Sumeidi, mentioned the deaths of the children when he appealed to his country for unity.

"Every life that has been lost, every child that has been lost, has been lost by the whole of Iraq," he said. "And every child who has been lost represents the future of Iraq."

The reference to the children was a new approach to try and garner support for peace in an increasingly unstable situation.

Former Egyptian army General Hossam Sowaillam believes the statement was a wise move, because he said that Iraqis need to become convinced that they can handle matters on their own.

"It needs political dealing to make the Iraqi people, the Iraqi police [and] the Iraqi army see that these deeds are against their interests," he said. "These deeds that are called resistance are against the stability of Iraq. You have to encourage the Iraqis. They have to fight this because these are not Iraqi acts. They are not national resistance. They are dealing with the interests of outside countries."

General Sowaillam believes that most of the attacks are being funded and organized by Iran and Syria.

"Iran and Syria, they don't want a stable Iraq because a democratic and stable Iraq will affect the stability in Syria and Iran because the regimes there are known not to be democratic," he added.

Still, all the causes of the insurgency are difficult to determine, in part because the attackers rarely claim responsibility. Some officials believe there is an al-Qaida connection, and various Shi'ite and Sunni groups are fighting for power.

Another retired Egyptian general, Mohamed Kadry Said, said that whatever varied organizations are perpetrating the violence in Iraq, their fight is gaining momentum.

"In my view, in the last few weeks the resistance is gaining ground for many reasons. Number one, because they are against this June 30 deadline, because it is also a symbol of stability," he explained. "Number two, the Americans in one way or another their policy is not in general, perfect. I think their popularity inside the country now is going down and this also produces some support for the resistance."

Britain said that approach by some Iraqis does not make any sense. Wednesday's attacks were in a part of Iraq controlled by the British military. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says these attacks, and others in recent weeks that have killed many, many Iraqis, seem irrational.

"It has been claimed for some weeks that there are insurgents that are trying to disrupt the handover of sovereignty to the Iraqi people," Mr. Straw said. "Many will be asking what is the point of such a strategy? The answer to that is it is not a strategy at all. It is simply designed to cause disruption and mayhem. They will not succeed."

The top coalition official in Iraq, Paul Bremer, said earlier this week that Iraqi security forces will not be ready to protect their country against insurgents by the June 30 transfer of sovereignty. U.S., British and other coalition forces will remain in the country beyond that date to work with the new Iraqi government for an undetermined period of time.

Most analysts agree that insurgent attacks are likely to continue as the June 30 transfer of power draws closer, and perhaps after it passes, too.

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