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The Week in Iraq is a weekly assessment of significant incidents and trends in Iraqi civilian casualties by IBC's news collector and Recent Events editor Lily Hamourtziadou.

The analyses and opinions presented in these commentaries are personal to the author.

Recent weeks

Healing the wounds of the past
  18 Jan 2009

Happy New Year
  11 Jan 2009

The sad numbers
  31 Dec 2008

  21 Dec 2008

The farewell kiss
  14 Dec 2008

Regrets –he’s had a few…
  7 Dec 2008


The Week in Iraq

Hostile forces

by Lily Hamourtziadou

11 May 2008

‘The Mehdi army is a hostile force,’ said President Bush, according to the recently published memoirs of General Sanchez, the US commander in Iraq in 2003-2004. ‘We can’t allow one man (Sadr) to change the course of the country. At the end of this campaign Sadr must be gone. At a minimum he will be arrested. It is essential he be wiped out,’ Mr Bush concluded (quoted in the Independent, Tuesday 13 May).

‘Hostile’ is not an absolute but a relative term. The question then is ‘hostile to whom or to what?’ Moqtada al Sadr is primarily hostile to the Americans occupying his country. According to the terms of a recent ceasefire, authorised by al-Sadr, the Iraqi army, but not US troops, will enter the great Shia slum of Sadr City in Baghdad while Mr Sadr's Mehdi Army militia will stop firing rockets and mortars into the fortified Green Zone.

The ceasefire agreement is intended to end nearly two months of fighting in which more than 1,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed during US-backed Iraqi government offensives, code named ‘The Charge of the Knights’, against Mehdi Army strongholds in Basra and Baghdad.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi government is preparing to launch another offensive, ‘The Roar of the Lion’, against al-Qaeda in the city of Mosul. Its operations are as usual supported by US helicopters. In fact, the role of American forces has been central in all the offensives of the Iraqi government.

Moqtada al-Sadr and his supporters can be said to be hostile to all the above: the US forces and political actors, the US-friendly Iraqi government… in short, hostile to those who are trying to rule his country on the strength of their guns. Those who will do anything to be in charge of the course of his country. Those who are reckless and calculating enough to have civilians killed to further their own power and control.

The US is also a hostile force, even more so than the Mehdi army. Of the 124 civilians killed this week in Iraq, 15 were killed by US forces; 2 of them were Iraqi children. US forces have directly killed over 13,000 Iraqi civilians in Iraq since they attacked the country in March 2003.

The Iraqi Prime Minister announced that his recent crackdown on Shiite militias proved his government was ‘not sectarian’: ‘The events of the past weeks have proven that we are neutral, not biased, that we did not take the side of this party or this sect against another,’ Maliki said of his Shi'ite-led government in a speech to parliament (Reuters 12 May).

I think they have proven they are not sectarian. They have also proven that they do not much care for any of their civilian population, for the whole time they have been ‘governing’ Iraq they have allowed –supported even- a foreign army to launch attacks against its own civilians. How can any leader allow this, the killing of his own people by a foreign army? What other national leader allows this?

It is certainly not a sect that the Iraqi government is partial to; it is the occupiers, on the strength of whom lies its own power. That is all that matters –not the lives lost daily. This is not a government that can be said to represent the Iraqi people, or one in which the Iraqis could possibly have any trust.

Sadly, it is yet another of the many hostile forces in Iraq. It is tragic that among those it is hostile to are its own citizens.