Iraq: Regional conference unlikely to end violence, say analysts

BAGHDAD, 6 May 2007 (IRIN) - The promises and commitments made at the two-day regional gathering that drew top diplomats to the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Shaikh to support Iraq are unlikely to end the country's violence, analysts and civilians said on Saturday.

"So long as there are no concrete steps to meet these commitments and promises, they will remain a dead letter and not be implemented on the ground," said Dr Sa'ad al-Hadithi, a Baghdad-based political analyst.

"There should be a kind of resolution from the [UN] Security Council or follow-up committees to monitor the implementation of both the Iraqi and other countries' commitments," said al-Hadithi who lectures in political science at the University of Baghdad.

The Iraqi government emerged from the conference, held on Thursday and Friday, with a promise from Arab countries to stop foreign militants from joining the insurgency. In addition, Iraq's Sunni Arab neighbours demanded that Iraq's Shi'a-led government enact tough political reforms.

"We will see how seriously these nations are committed to what they signed today," Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told reporters on Friday. "If these promises are not kept, we will take note, and there will be no reason to hold any further conferences."

"Nothing practical"

According to al-Hadithi, the Sharm al-Shaikh conference did not come up with anything new: "We have witnessed many conferences like this in the past but Iraqis gained nothing practical from them," he said.

"The only way to stop the bloodshed is for the government to bring all the warring parties to the table and listen to all of them. Whoever is part of the problem is also part of the solution," al-Hadithi said.

"Nothing will stop the bloodshed and improve the situation of the Iraqi citizens unless there is scrutiny of the roots of the political problems in Iraq, otherwise everything will just be promises," he added.

"Al-Maliki's government has an ambitious platform and plans, but it is bogged down in many agendas and finds it very hard to implement things," said retired Maj-Gen Khalid Haza'a Nafie, who served for 37 years in the former Iraqi army.

"The US is trying to use it [the Iraqi government] to implement its own agenda in the region while regional countries are working hard to weaken it and undermine US plans. Meanwhile, innocent Iraqis are dying every day in this conflict," Nafie added.

Call to disband Shi'a militias

"And the government should expedite the training of its security forces, disband all Shi'a militias, and try to assuage the Sunnis - by annulling all the decisions (which have been made by the occupation authority) that followed the [2003 US] invasion, like the disbanding of the army and the purging of government offices of Ba'athists. Only by doing this can the government liberate itself from all these pressures," he added.


"Our government should focus more on its internal battles rather than try to find excuses for its failure," said Amer Wijdan Ali, a 33-year-old supermarket owner in Baghdad.

"It should provide better services and security for the people, at least in the capital, before going to these international conferences to ask for support," Ali added.

"Improving the security situation is vital for our work in this country. It means we can deliver humanitarian aid to anyone in need wherever they are without fear of being killed or kidnapped," said Jalil Mohammed Ali, a volunteer with the Iraqi Red Crescent Society in Baghdad, (IRCS).

"Billions of dollars and tonnes of humanitarian aid provided by the international community have not been distributed because of the deteriorated security situation.

"Achieving order and security must be a priority for all parties to enable our Red Crescent teams to reach as many people as they can," he said.

In an important development, the Iraqi government has now promised to "continue constructive steps" on reviewing the constitution and the de-Ba'athification programme.