Iraqis Weigh Limits On US Military
Leaders of parliament may seek to restrict American operations in response to a rash of civilian casualties.
BAGHDAD - Leaders in the Iraqi parliament said Monday that they were taking steps to examine the U.S. military presence in Iraq with an eye toward possibly restricting the force's activities, in a continuing backlash over an American raid that Iraqi officials say killed 13 civilians.
Before the end of the year, the United Nations is expected to take up its annual reauthorization of a Security Council resolution that allows the presence of U.S. troops here. Iraqi leaders have complained that the U.S. military has used too much force in responding to attacks, leading to the deaths of civilians, and that the Americans have not coordinated enough with Iraqi forces.
The U.S. military maintained that it killed 49 "criminals" in the raid Sunday on Sadr City, a mostly Shiite Muslim neighborhood in the Iraqi capital, and was unaware of any civilian casualties. But journalists for Western news organizations, including The Times, saw the bodies of two children at the Imam Ali hospital who were killed in the attack and interviewed other children who were wounded.
The parliament speaker's office, which includes representatives from all three of Iraq's major ethnic groups, issued a statement Monday saying: "The Iraqi parliament condemns these violations that are against the basics of military work and human rights. . . . The Iraqi parliament is taking these negative violations seriously as it touches the life and dignity of Iraqis."
Leaders in parliament are to meet Oct. 31 to consider forming a committee, to be made up of representatives from various parties, to make recommendations on limitations Iraq should seek in the U.N. resolution. Factions are already squaring off, with some Sunni Arab moderates saying that the continued U.S. presence is crucial to Iraq's future and Shiite leaders angry over the U.S. incursions into their neighborhoods seeking to curtail the American presence.
It is not clear what recommendations the committee might ultimately make, but members of parliament speculated Monday that they could include limiting the U.S. presence to certain areas in Iraq. The committee also could express a desire for a mission statement that the primary goal of American troops should be to train Iraqi forces, while establishing a timeline for U.S. withdrawal.
A recommendation to oppose the U.N. reauthorization entirely would appear to be unlikely.
"We think the issue is about establishing and developing Iraqi security forces capable of confronting the challenges," said Salim Abdullah Jabouri, a member of parliament and spokesman for the Iraqi Accordance Front, the body's main Sunni bloc. "It's not right to speak about not having the presence of the U.S. forces, taking into consideration the chaos and security instability."
Iraqis have increasingly chafed under the U.S. occupation, now well into its fifth year. Passions have been inflamed in recent weeks after a rash of civilian casualties stemming from military operations gone awry and killings of unarmed Iraqis by Western security contractors. Two previous military raids in Sadr City this summer killed a total of more than 50 people.
Should the parliament ultimately move forward with the effort to restrict U.S. military operations here, it would be the second time this year that members have sought some form of control over the U.S. presence. In June, the parliament passed a resolution, over the objections of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, requiring the government to seek parliament's permission before asking the U.N. to extend the authorization for the U.S. troop presence.
The spokesman for the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus, declined to comment, saying he was unfamiliar with the proposal. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy could not be reached by telephone and did not reply to an e-mail seeking comment.
Any changes to the U.N. military authorization would have to be approved by the 15-member Security Council, which will vote on the measure after hearing from military leaders and the Iraqi government. Although Iraq's position would carry great weight in the deliberations, said Farhan Haq, a spokesman for the U.N. on Iraq issues, the U.S. is one of five Security Council members that has veto power and it could dash any changes it finds unpalatable.
Meanwhile, a roadside bomb in the Shiite enclave of Karada in Baghdad killed four people Monday and injured 12, including victims who were riding in a minibus that passed by at the time of the explosion.
An additional three people were killed and 11 injured, including four policemen, by a pair of roadside bombs near a day laborer site. And another roadside bomb attack targeting an Iraqi army patrol killed one soldier and injured two others Monday afternoon.
Police found the bodies of five men, who had been shot to death, on the streets of Baghdad.
Times staff writers Saif Rasheed and Saif Hameed contributed to this report.
© 2007 The Los Angeles Times