U.S., Iraqis Desperate for Resolution in Iraq

ByTERRY McCARTHY

Nov. 12, 2006 — -- Today, two suicide bombers blew themselves up in a crowd of young men waiting outside a police recruitment center in Baghdad.

Thirty-five people died and more than 50 were wounded in the attack, adding to the desperation of Iraqis for some solution to the violence that is tearing their country apart.

President Bush, as anxious as everyone for some new ideas on Iraq, is hoping to get some suggestions Monday from the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel headed by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Indiana Rep. Lee Hamilton.

Meanwhile, in Baghdad, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki also is struggling to find some way to get a grip on the violence that threatens to undermine his leadership.

Today, he told Iraq's parliament that he wanted to reshuffle his cabinet, but offered little indication of whom he wanted to replace.

Maliki's fundamental problem is that his position of power depends upon the support of an alliance of Shiite political parties, who are themselves linked to sectarian militias.

One of the main proposals Baker's group is likely to present to President Bush will be for Sunni-Shiite political dialogue -- something that is very hard to achieve if the prime minister is seen to be in league with the militias.

Another idea being talked about is to engage Iraq's neighbors, particularly Iran and Syria, which U.S. intelligence says are both involved in supporting paramilitary forces inside Iraq.

The Syrians have been allowing foreign fighters and material to cross their border into western Iraq, fuelling the Sunni insurgency, while the Iranians are suspected of supporting the Shiite militias with arms and training.

Both countries have vested interests in seeing the U.S. bogged down in Iraq, and would be difficult to lure to the negotiating table.

The ultimate goal of the U.S. military is to train Iraqi forces to a level where they can take over responsibility for security from the United States. The idea now is to accelerate that process to enable U.S. troops to leave Iraq at the earliest possible date.

On the ground, however, U.S. commanders say that the security forces remain deeply affected by the sectarian divide. Shiites form the bulk of the army and the police, and have repeatedly been found to be discriminating against Sunni civilians as they do their jobs.

Pointing out the problems in Iraq is relatively easy. Finding solutions, particularly in the midst of the ongoing violence, seems to be a lot more difficult.

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