BAGHDAD: Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s national reconciliation plan is a hard sell on Karrada Inner street, where a roadside bomb left Akram Jabaar with a painful limp and little faith in his government. “If you really want the truth, Maliki won’t succeed and I really don’t think he or his government are serious about reconciliation,” said the 23-year-old clothes vendor, who struggles to walk with shrapnel in his knee. “He says he wants to end sectarianism but his government is full of sectarians. It is logical to think there will be a civil war.”
Maliki, a Shia Islamist whose government was sworn in on May 20, presented his much-heralded blueprint for stability to parliament on Sunday.
It was long on promises and short on details of how his Shia-led administration intended to ease communal violence, disband militias and tackle a Sunni Arab insurgency that has killed many thousands of security forces and civilians. Victims of the violence ravaging Iraq will be especially hard to convince that the plan will turn their lives around. The bomb that exploded this month in the busy Karrada district where Jabaar earns the equivalent of $4 a day was typical of the violence that shatters Iraqi lives every day. Bomb attacks killed at least six people in Baghdad on Sunday, minor bloodshed by the capital’s standards.
Jabaar, a Shia, and his two brothers had just set out their merchandise on a sidewalk stand when three men pretending to be customers approached the area. They left a plastic bag on the sidewalk. It exploded minutes later. His brothers are still in serious condition in hospital. He wonders how reconciliation is possible in a country where you can be blown up or shot at any time.
Shia militiamen shot dead his Sunni neighbour, he said. Sunni leaders accuses Shia militias of running death squads. “Maliki can’t talk about national reconciliation when he is allowing those Shia militias to run around and kill people. This government’s policies are sectarian.” In another section of Karrada, one of Baghdad’s quieter neighbourhoods, Karim Mehdi sat on his living room floor. His nephew, Seif Saleh, was killed by the same bomb. Saleh and three university classmates happened to be buying fruit from a market when the bomb exploded.
Mehdi, who fled his home in the violent Sunni Dora district because he got tired of seeing bodies in the streets, is also pessimistic about Maliki’s plan.
“This can’t work. Too many parties want too many things. There is no united voice in Iraq,” he said.