The US: Expert in bad public relations in Iraq

The problem is that the US could care less about what the Iraqis think. If they did they would not have publicly urged them to cut short their holidays. If they had shut up or spoken privately this conflict would not have broken out. I expect that the Iraqis will give in ultimately claiming however that it was their decision to shorten the holidays.

Iraqi lawmakers reject US pressure on holiday plans

Sat May 5, 9:37 AM ET

Iraqi lawmakers said Saturday that they might yet cut short their planned summer recess in order to pass key laws, but warned the United States not to push them to do so.

Some members of parliament said privately that pressure from Washington might even persuade some anti-American parties to insist on taking the two-month break as planned, as a gesture of defiance.

"This is unnecessary interference," said Kurdish legislator Mahmud Othman. "Parliament has a sense of responsibility. If they find there is a need to legislate laws urgently they will not go on leave.

"This American interference is strange and could have negative results."

Some US politicians have angrily insisted that the Iraqi parliament cancel a recess due in August and September in order to have more time to pass bills designed to aid war-torn Iraq's quest for national reconciliation.

The Iraqi assembly is due to debate a law to rehabilitate former members of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein's ruling Baath Party and allow them to return to public life, and has a draft of a bill on sharing national oil revenues.

US policy-makers see these and other reforms as vital in convincing minority factions opposed to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government to get behind moves to defeat a violent insurgency and quell sectarian fighting.

At the White House on Friday, national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe noted that the US Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, had raised Washington's objection to a two-month recess with Maliki.

"US officials, including Ambassador Crocker, have said this may send the wrong signal not only to the international community but to the Iraqi people," he told reporters.

No decision on the recess has been taken, Iraqi lawmakers said, but they held out the possibility of extending the legislative session if voices in Washington stopped pushing for it.

"We asked for the holiday to be cancelled before the Americans spoke, to pass an abundance of laws. We must finish them by the end of the year," said Nassar al-Rubaie, a member of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc.

First deputy speaker Khalid al-Attiya, a member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, said: "The summer holiday is an internal affair. The council is the body to decide whether to go on leave or not.

"The internal rules stipulate a holiday, but there are a host of laws that have to be finished during this legislative term," he added.

"If we do not finish them in time, the council may shorten or cancel the holiday as it did in the winter term when the budget was in discussion and had to be finalised. The council cut the holiday from one month from two."

Wael Abdul-Latif a judge and lawmaker from the secular Iraqi List party, said: "If there are laws important for the country for us to debate we may not enjoy a holiday.

"The people elected us to work 24 hours per day. It is improper that America tells us to work for the interests of our country. We must do so anyway."

There has been pressure from politicians in Washington to tie future military and financial assistance to Iraq to its government meeting certain political "benchmarks" to prove that it is committed to finding peace.

Copyright © 2007 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved.


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