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Iraq | International

Not even Saddam's death will unite Iraq now
by UK Independent (reposted)
Wednesday Dec 27th, 2006 7:04 AM
The whole truth behind the British Army's Christmas Day assault on the so-called Serious Crime Unit in Basra may never be known. What can surely be stated with some confidence, however, is that the first, black-and-white version was incomplete; that there was more to this raid than met the eye, and that the episode as a whole has implications that do not augur well for an early withdrawal of British troops.
There can be little doubt that Basra's Serious Crime Unit presented enormous problems. This was, after all, the same building the Army had stormed to rescue two kidnapped SAS men 15 months before. If the British believed that the assault had purged the bad elements operating there, this was clearly wishful thinking. If not - and the unit's notoriety had made it, according to the Ministry of Defence, "a powerful symbol of oppression and corruption" - then the British military authorities seem to have turned a blind eye for far too long.
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That it took a force comprising one in seven of the British Army in southern Iraq to destroy the unit, and that the operation as a whole is now a matter of bitter contention between the British Army, the Baghdad government and the Basra local authorities, shows that the next few months will be very far from plain sailing, even in the predominantly Shia south. A great many pitfalls lie between British ministers' hopes of an early withdrawal and their undertaking that British forces will leave only when the Iraqis are capable of ensuring security for themselves.

Recent events in and around Basra illustrate how hard this will be. The conflict is no longer between foreign troops and insurgents, nor yet between Sunni and Shia. Factionalism, warlordism, religious, ethnic and criminal rivalries are all rife. Elections have provided no shield against the mounting anarchy.

Time was when the death of the deposed leader, Saddam Hussein, might have been calculated to bring Iraqis together, but even this is no longer so. His execution - which seems inevitable after the failure of his appeal - risks exacerbating the divisions, where it is noticed at all. It is a sorry commentary on an intervention that was supposed to bring democracy to Iraq and security to the region as a whole.

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http://comment.independent.co.uk/leading_articles/article2105967.ece
by UK Independent (reposted)
Wednesday Dec 27th, 2006 7:06 AM
Saddam Hussein is to be hanged within 30 days after the Iraqi court of appeals upheld the sentence of death against him for crimes against humanity passed last month. The execution is likely to be carried out in secret; the time and place will be announced later.

The hanging of the former Iraqi leader could provoke a furious reaction from some members of the Sunni community to which he belongs. Shia and Kurds in Iraq largely approve of the death sentence being carried out.

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Saddam's chief defence counsel, Khalil al-Dulaimi, said: "If they dare implement the sentence it will be a catastrophe for the region and will only deepen the sectarian infighting." But many Sunni say they are too absorbed in trying to stay alive themselves to worry about the fate of Saddam, even if they sympathise with him.

Insurgents are extending their control over Sunni districts in Baghdad and other cities because of fear of sectarian cleansing by Shia militias. In parts of west Baghdad they are organising young men to defend their districts 24-hours-a-day on a shift basis. But Islamic insurgents have little liking for Saddam as a secular autocrat. In Mosul, Iraq's third largest city, gunmen openly paraded the streets in recent days distributing leaflets calling for an Islamic Sunni republic.

There has so far been little retaliation in Basra to the Christmas Day British assault on Jamiat police station which was later blown up. Local officials had voiced their anger at the raid, which Mohammed al-Abadi, head of the city's council, described as "illegal" and British forces were accused of failing to notify Basra authorities of their plan.

The operation led to the freeing of 127 prisoners held in a single room. A British spokesman said many had signs of torture such as crushed hands and feet or had cigarette or electrical burns. They were handed over to another police unit. The early morning assault by 800 British soldiers backed by five tanks and 40 armoured vehicles was not resisted by members of the serious crime unit. They were blamed by the British forces for the ambush in October of a minibus in which 17 employees of a police academy were travelling. All were killed. A year earlier the same police station was stormed by British forces after two British soldiers were detained there.

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http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/article2106009.ece