Tue, Apr 13, 2004 - Page 7 News List

US' Iraqi allies begin to grumble about occupation

AP , BAGHDAD

The US campaign to uproot Sunni insurgents in Fallujah and Shiite militiamen in southern Iraq is carrying a heavy political cost for the US-led coalition, with some of Washington's closest Iraqi allies angry at the bloodshed and surprised at what they see as US mistakes.

The Fallujah offensive has become a rallying anti-American cry across Iraq, with mosques on Sunday urging the faithful in Baghdad to donate food, blood, medicine -- and white coffin shrouds -- for the turbulent city.

Some members of the US-appointed Governing Council blame a series of bad calls by US officials in Iraq for the situation, by far the lowest point of the one year-old occupation of Iraq.

They say the military has used excessive force and US administrators have underestimated the depth of Iraqis' suspicion of US intentions.

US handling, they say, has played into the hands of US opponents in Iraq, raising the profile of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr as well as the insurgents at a time when the focus should have been on the scheduled June 30 transfer of power to Iraqis.

"Everything points to the failure of the Americans' security policy in Iraq," said Mahmoud Othman, an outspoken member of the US-backed Governing Council.

"The Americans cannot solve the problems of Iraq because of their ignorance of the language, customs and traditions," he said.

"It did not come as a big surprise to me that they are trying to settle problems with more than one party through military means," Othman, a Sunni Kurd, said Sunday.

US occupation authorities say they had no choice but to act decisively to eliminate what they say was a threat to future Iraqi democracy -- Sunni insurgents, who killed and mutilated four American civilians in Fallujah on March 31, and al-Sadr, who has repeatedly challenged the authority of the Americans and their Iraqi allies.

"What is the risk of not acting? What is the risk of turning our head and just ignoring the trouble?" said coalition spokesman Dan Senor.

"If we do not address these elements and these individuals and these organizations now, we will rue the day because these organizations, these militia will rise up again another day and it is better to deal with them now than after June 30," he said.

But some Iraqi politicians have condemned US military tactics in Fallujah in very strong language.

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