- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 18, 2005

BAQOUBA, Iraq — Yesterday was “Peace Day” in this violence-prone Sunni triangle city — an event intended to give suspected insurgents one last chance to change their ways before the Jan. 30 elections.

It was a tall order in Iraq, where assassins mix with ordinary people and any man who squeals to authorities is all but guaranteed a quick death for himself, and probably his wife and children as well.

“An Iraqi national guard colonel gets shot at from one of four houses, and nobody in any of the houses will say who did it,” Iraqi army Brig. Gen. Haad al Tamimi told the tribal leaders and residents.

Diyala province’s Gov. Abdullah Rashid hosted the Peace Day event for local tribal leaders and residents, in which those on a list of suspected insurgents were invited to come and renounce violence.

Nothing went quite according to plans when the U.S. State Department brought journalists along to watch.

“They listed my name as a terrorist and said I should be arrested,” said Sheik Walid Regail Ali, 50, a tribal elder who took the microphone and began yelling at the governor, who was seated at the front of a conference hall.

“This is false. Is it right that somebody is trying to tarnish my name and reputation?”

U.S. officials and leaders of the interim Iraqi government say that much of the country is quiet and prepared for upcoming Jan. 30 parliamentary elections and that Iraqi security forces backed by U.S.-led forces are ready to protect voters from the wrath of insurgents, who oppose the election.

Many former Sunni Arab members of Saddam’s military and security services reside in the Baqouba area. Largely unemployed and angry, they are suspected of mounting the insurgency.

The provincial governor’s office issued a list of suspected insurgents, offering to clear their names if they showed up at the governor’s headquarters and agreed to lay down their weapons.

But instead of contritely apologizing for their ways and signing a form promising “not to participate in, finance or support any violent acts,” the residents began voicing a litany of complaints about how their rights had been trampled by Iraqi and U.S.-led security forces.

“My home is a permanent visiting place for the Iraqi national guard,” said Jassem Mohammad Saleh al Obeidi, a 64-year-old resident of Khalis, a city near Baqouba.

“Instead of raiding people’s homes, why don’t you call us up? You don’t have to bring the [Iraqi national guard] and coalition forces.”

“I’m a son of this country and part of its history,” he said.

The governor, a burly Diyala province native whose English is tinged with the Manchester accent that he acquired during his years in Britain, was having none of it.

He questioned the manhood of residents who didn’t turn insurgents in to the Iraqi forces.

“If you don’t want peace, then we don’t want you in Iraq or Diyala,” he told his guests.

He defended the raids that locals found abhorrent.

“The police are right to distrust everybody because they’re attacked by improvised explosive devices and car bombs,” he said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide