Monday, December 03, 2007

US to Iraqis: Please Reconcile

By Crispin Thorold
BBC News, Baghdad


Negroponte in Iraq
John Negroponte said the security surge must be consolidated
Iraq may be getting safer but security will not be assured until Iraqi politicians move towards reconciliation.

That was the message US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte has brought to Iraq during his visit over the past week.

"The security surge has delivered significant results, now progress on political reconciliation including key national legislation as well as economic advances is needed to consolidate the gains made thus far," Mr Negroponte said at a news conference in Baghdad on Sunday.

"If progress is not made on these fronts we risk falling back to the more violent patterns of the past," he said.

Relative improvement

This weekend there were two significant stories in Iraq. One illustrated the progress that is being made. The other the challenges it still faces.

On Saturday the latest monthly statistics of the number of people killed were released.

Iraqi greeting
More Sunni-Shia reconciliation is needed, says the US

The estimates from the different ministries varied, but they all showed that around 600 people died violently in Iraq in November.

That is a 30% drop on the number killed in October, and the lowest monthly figure since February 2006.

It is of course a relative improvement.

If the violence continued at that rate, more than 7,000 people would be killed in one year.

Or looking at it another way, in just five months the same number of people would die violently in Iraq as did in Northern Ireland during the course of the 30 years of the Troubles.

The security situation has improved enough to bring real change to the mood in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

People are beginning to return to the markets and in the early evening the shops are busy.

Gunfire, once an almost continuous accompaniment to Baghdad life, now only occasionally punctuates the air.

These changes are the result of three factors:

  • The US-led military surge

  • The ceasefire declared by a major Shia militia

  • The trend of Sunni tribesman fighting against al-Qaeda rather than with them


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