BAGHDAD (AP) – The leader of Iraq’s largest Shiite political party on Saturday called for a “security agreement” to be negotiated between Iraq and U.S.-led forces to outline the authorities of each side in a further indication of growing frustration over America’s role in Iraq.
Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim did not give more details of the proposed pact, but he has in the past repeatedly complained that the U.S. military’s lead in the fight against Sunni insurgents hampered the work of Iraq’s Shiite-dominated security forces, which he contended were better qualified to fight the insurgents given their knowledge of the terrain and language.
“We are working toward reaching a security agreement to define the authority of each side,” al-Hakim told a news conference after a two-day meeting of his party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.
Al-Hakim also announced the party’s name will be changed to the “Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq”, dropping the word “revolution” to reflect the new political realities in the country.
Al-Hakim’s comments coincided with an ongoing campaign by lawmakers loyal to anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to get parliament to adopt legislation demanding a timetable for the withdrawal of the U.S.-led troops in Iraq and a freeze on the number of foreign forces already in the country.
Officials said this week the proposed legislation has been signed by 144 members of the 275-member house, but it is not likely to retain the support of all of them if it is put to a vote. However, that more than half the house signed on the draft is a reflection of the growing impatience of many Iraqis with the continued presence of foreign troops in their country and the failure to end a four-year-old Sunni insurgency and an enduring campaign of terror by al-Qaeda.
Addressing the same news conference, senior al-Hakim aide Hummam Hamoudi sought to play down the significance of a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign forces, saying it was more important to reach a timetable for the training and equipping of Iraqi troops.
Al-Hakim’s party, a senior partner in the coalition government of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that has been in office since May last year, was founded in Iran in 1982 with the assistance of Tehran’s ruling clergy to fight Saddam Hussein’s regime, toppled by the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
In theory, the party’s Badr Brigade militia has been disbanded and turned into a political organization, but its former militiamen are known to have infiltrated the security forces.
Al-Hakim said his party remained committed to the creation of a semiautonomous region in Iraq’s mainly Shiite south, but stressed that such a move hinged on popular support.
A federal Iraq is a key plank of the party’s ideology, but politicians from the once-dominant Sunni Arab minority insist that federalism would eventually lead to the breakup of the country.
Federalism was enshrined in a new constitution adopted in 2005. “We are working for the creation of a region in the center and south … under the mechanisms provided by in the constitution and with the approval of the people,” he said.