Iraqis Divided Over Timing of US Troop Withdrawal



Iraqi delegates attending an Arab League-sponsored reconciliation conference in Cairo say they have agreed to reconvene in late February or early March to decide on a timetable for the withdrawal of coalition troops from Iraq. Iraqis are just as divided as Americans over the timing and conditions for withdrawal.

Iraqis across sectarian and ethnic lines say they do agree on one thing: U.S. and coalition forces need to leave Iraq in order for the country to function as a fully sovereign nation.

But when it comes to the questions of when and how the coalition troops should leave, Iraqi opinion remains deeply divided along sectarian and ethnic lines.

Sunni Arabs, who were dominant under Saddam Hussein and have been feeling marginalized since the dictator's overthrow in 2003, are generally more anxious for foreign troops to leave Iraq.

They have long insisted that the presence of U.S. troops is the main cause of violence in Iraq, which has killed tens of thousands of Iraqis and more than two thousand U.S. service members in the past three and a half years.

Abdulrahman Said Bakr al-Naimi is a Sunni member of the Iraqi national assembly. He says the Sunni-led insurgency is legitimate and predicted that terrorism would continue unabated until the Americans leave for good.

Mr. Naimi says he believes as soon as the Americans present a timetable for getting their troops home, all Iraqi problems can and will be solved.

But Baghdad resident Heba Abdul Hassan, 31, says she disagrees.

The woman says she speaks for many Shi'ites, who fear that a quick withdrawal of foreign troops will simply invite more chaos and violence from Sunni extremists like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The leader of the al-Qaida in Iraq group has branded Shi'ite Muslims as non-believers and has vowed to kill them all.

Ms. Hassan says she believes coalition troops should not begin leaving in large numbers until Iraqi security forces prove that they are free of political and religious bias and are capable of protecting all Iraqis, regardless of their faith or background.

Ms. Hassan says she believes the effectiveness of the Iraqi police and army is constantly being undermined by the rising sectarian tension in the country. As a result, she says, few people trust them right now to work in the interest of everyone.

The three-day reconciliation conference in Cairo was aimed at addressing that growing mistrust between Iraqi religious and ethnic communities.

But analysts here say with the conference being held so close to Iraqi national elections on December 15th, all sides have been making maximum demands, which have not been helpful to the talks.

The main demand of Sunni Arabs is for the announcement of a date for the withdrawal of coalition troops from Iraq. Shi'ites and Kurds, who were long oppressed by Saddam and his ruling Baath Party, are demanding that Baath Party members be excluded from Iraqi society. Most Baath Party members were Sunni Arabs and many now stand accused of actively supporting the country's insurgency.

A Kurdish professor at the University of Baghdad, Abdul Jabbar Ahmad, says the key to reconciliation may lie with the country's Shi'ite Muslims, who dominate the current interim government and are expected to hold a majority in the next government.

"If the Iraqi government negotiates with the resistance, with the support of the U.S.A., I think stability will happen in Iraq. But if we are going to treat all of them as terrorists, I think whether the U.S. stays or withdraws from Iraq, the situation will be a mess," he said.

On Sunday, Iraq's Kurdish interim president, Jalal Talabani, said that he was willing to open a dialogue with former Baath Party members. But he ruled out including any member in the talks who is still actively supporting the insurgency.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs