Military Officials Add to U.S. Criticism of Iraq’s Government

By RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr.

New York Times

September 28, 2006

BAGHDAD, Sept. 27 — Senior American military officials are warning that time is growing short for Iraq to root out militias inside and outside the government and purge ministries of corrupt officials who are diverting large sums of money to their own political parties.

“We are now at a time when we have a little bit of influence there,” a senior military official said. Referring to the problem of militias, he added, “There is going to come a time when I would argue we are going to have to force this issue.”

The official said political parties who were plundering ministries were squandering chances to make progress that could reduce sectarian violence.

“I can tell you in every single ministry how they are using that ministry to fill the coffers of the political parties,” the official said. “They are doing that because that is exactly what Saddam Hussein did.”

Another sign of how acute Iraq’s security woes have become emerged Wednesday: the past week saw the highest number of suicide bomb attacks of any week since the American-led invasion in 2003, according to the chief United States military spokesman in Iraq, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV.

“This has been a tough week,” General Caldwell said. “This week’s suicide attacks were at their highest level in any given week.” But such attacks, he said, are still not the No. 1 killer of Baghdad civilians. “Murders and executions are,” he said.

In recent weeks American and Iraqi officials have privately voiced concerns that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki might not have the will or the political dexterity to bring the country together and avoid a full-scale civil war. Mr. Maliki, they say, is hamstrung and beholden to rival political parties with their own large militias.

Comments offered by senior United States military officials in the last few days have been even more pointed and take in not only the Maliki administration but also the whole of the Iraqi government bureaucracy. The senior military officials agreed to speak only without being identified, because of the delicate nature of the issue.

Another senior military official said Mr. Maliki needed to move quickly to rid ministries of death squads and militiamen. “I think the time is short for them to deal with that over time, ’cause this can’t go on like that,” the official said. Speaking about the militias and other problems, he added that “people will get tired if they don’t see any action on this.”

The Iraqi national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, said Mr. Maliki had little support within his own government to take action.

“The situation is really serious,” Mr. Rubaie said. “There is no cohesion in the government to help him. There are so many circles he needs to take into consideration when he wants to make a decision. There is a lack of will to stop the violence among the politicians.”

An American raid on Wednesday in the restive city of Baquba, north of Baghdad, killed four women and four men. The military identified the men as “suspected terrorists,” but family members said they were innocent.

The military said American forces had taken heavy fire from a building where terrorists were believed to be hiding, even after interpreters announced that the forces were in the area.

The military said that troops had killed two men it described as terrorists, and that United States aircraft had fired “multiple rounds” at the building. The military said that the dead found inside included another two male terrorists and four women, and that two terrorists and one woman had been wounded. Weapons and a global positioning system were found.

Relatives said the eight people killed were from the same family and had no ties to terrorism. Associated Press Television News quoted the homeowner’s daughter, Manal Jassim, as saying: “They were all innocent people. We were sleeping when they entered our house at dawn. I found my father, mother, aunt and sister-in-law lying dead. We were an 11-member family. Eight were killed.”

The western Baghdad neighborhood of Huriya continued to be a sectarian battleground where militiamen terrorize and kill Sunni Arabs. According to an Interior Ministry official, gunmen in two cars on Wednesday sprayed fire at Sunnis gathered near a mosque, killing 10 and wounding 11.

A car bomb in Huriya wounded two civilians, and another car bomb exploded elsewhere in Baghdad, killing five people and wounding eight, the Interior Ministry official said.

The United States military said a marine from Regimental Combat Team Seven was killed Monday during “enemy action” in Anbar Province, west of Baghdad. No details were provided.

An American soldier also died Wednesday, after being attacked by small-arms fire in southern Baghdad.

Sabrina Tavernise and Qais Mizher contributed reporting.