Tags: ML | Iraq

Iraqi Leader Extends Overtures to Rivals

Wednesday, 18 Jun 2014 05:57 PM

BAGHDAD  — Iraq's Shiite Muslim prime minister extended overtures Wednesday to his Sunni and Kurdish political rivals as his forces battled Sunni militants over control of the nation's largest oil refinery and a strategic city near the Syrian border.

Nouri al-Maliki's uncharacteristically conciliatory words, coupled with a vow to teach the militants a "lesson," came as almost all Iraq's main communities have been drawn into a spasm of violence not seen since the dark days of sectarian killings nearly a decade ago.

The United States has been pressing al-Maliki to adopt political inclusion and undermine the insurgency by making overtures to Iraq's once-dominant Sunni minority, which has long complained of discrimination by his government and abuses by his Shiite-led security forces.

Al-Maliki, a Shiite, has rejected charges of bias against the Sunnis or the Kurds and has in recent days been stressing that the threat posed by the terrorist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria will affect all Iraqis regardless of their ethnic or religious affiliations. He also rejects any suggestion that the Islamic State and other extremist groups enjoy support by disaffected Sunnis fed up with his perceived discrimination.

In a move apparently designed to satisfy U.S. President Barack Obama's demand for national reconciliation, al-Maliki appeared on television late Tuesday with Sunni and Kurdish leaders. They issued a joint statement about the need to close ranks and stick to "national priorities" in the face of the threat posed by the militants.

On Wednesday, al-Maliki spoke in a televised address, saying he is optimistic over what he called the rise by all political groups to the challenge of defending the nation against the militant threat.

"I tell all the brothers there have been negative practices by members of the military, civilians and militiamen, but that is not what we should be discussing," he said. "Our effort should not be focused here and leave the larger objective of defeating (militants)," he said, adding that the crisis has led Iraqis to rediscover "national unity."

Still, al-Maliki's overtures remain largely rhetoric, with no concrete action to bridge differences with Sunnis and Kurds, who have been at loggerheads with the prime minister over their right to independently export oil and over territorial claims.

Al-Maliki's upbeat assessment came as the military said government forces had repelled repeated attacks by the militants on the country's largest oil refinery and retaken parts of the strategic city of Tal Afar, near the Syrian border.

The chief military spokesman, Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, said Iraqi army troops had defended the refinery at Beiji, some 155 miles north of Baghdad, and 40 attackers were killed in fighting there overnight and early Wednesday.

The Beiji refinery accounts for a little more than a quarter of the country's entire refining capacity — all of which goes toward domestic consumption for things like gasoline, cooking oil and fuel for power stations. Any lengthy outage at Beiji risks long lines at the gas pump and electricity shortages, adding to the chaos already facing Iraq.

The Iraqi crisis' growing sectarian nature has caught the attention of U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon.

In a message to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Council meeting Wednesday in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, he called on Iraq's leaders "to come together and agree on a national security plan to address the terrorist threat" from rebels.

"The rapidly deteriorating security situation in Iraq is deeply alarming and increases the sectarian tensions in the region," Ban said. "It is imperative that acts of reprisal be avoided as they can only intensify the cycle of violence."

The campaign by the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State militants has raised the specter of the sectarian warfare that nearly tore the country apart in 2006 and 2007, with the popular mobilization to fight the insurgents taking an increasingly sectarian slant, particularly after Iraq's top Shiite cleric made a call to arms on Friday.

The visit to Iraq this week by Gen. Ghasem Soleimani, leader of Iran's secretive Quds Force and its most powerful general , has confirmed longtime suspicions by the Sunnis that al-Maliki was too close to Iran, a mostly Shiite none-Arab nation that Sunni Arab states, including powerhouse Saudi Arabia, see as a threat to regional stability.

The Islamic State has vowed to march to Baghdad and the Shiite holy cities of Karbala and Najaf, home to some of the sect's most revered shrines, in the worst threat to Iraq's stability since U.S. troops left in late 2011. The militants also have tried to capture Samarra, a city north of Baghdad and home to another major Shiite shrine.

Iran has seen thousands volunteer to defend the shrines and its president, Hassan Rouhanim, told a crowd at a stadium near the Iraq border: "We declare to all superpowers, their mercenaries, murderers and terrorists that the great Iranian nation will not miss any effort in protecting these sacred sites."


© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

   
1Like our page
2Share
MiddleEast
BAGHDAD — Iraq's Shiite Muslim prime minister extended overtures Wednesday to his Sunni and Kurdish political rivals as his forces battled Sunni militants over control of the nation's largest oil refinery and a strategic city near the Syrian border.
ML, Iraq
807
2014-57-18
Wednesday, 18 Jun 2014 05:57 PM
Newsmax Inc.
 
 

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

NEWSMAX.COM
© Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved