Iraq’s top Sunni Arab political leader accused Shiite-dominated security forces Sunday of pursuing a strategy of sectarian “cleansing” in Baghdad and said he opposed giving key Cabinet posts to Shiites — a stance likely to further inflame tensions.
The leader of the main Sunni bloc in the next parliament, Adnan al-Dulaimi of the Iraq Accordance Front, indicated he would oppose awarding the vital interior and defense ministries to Shiites.
“We believe that the posts of the interior and defense ministers should be kept away from any sectarian and political considerations,” al-Dulaimi told reporters at a news conference in Baghdad.
The Sunni stance sets the stage for a potentially fierce battle with predominant Shiite figures over who will win the portfolios. On Saturday, the head of the Shiite militia, the Badr Brigade, said Shiite religious parties will “never surrender” those ministries.
“We are subjected to a daily slaughter. We will not relinquish security portfolios,” said Hadi al-Amri, head of the militia that is the military arm of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Republic in Iraq, the country’s top Shiite group and the dominant force in forming the next government.
Control of the two ministries is expected to be one of the biggest obstacles to forming a new government with greater Sunni Arab representation, a key U.S. goal as the talks get under way after last month’s election.
Sunni Arab politicians have insisted that the two ministries not go to people closely associated with the Shiite religious bloc, comprising SCIRI and Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s Dawa Party, which won the most seats in Dec. 15 balloting.
‘Violence only breeds more violence’
Al-Dulaimi urged the outgoing Shiite-led government and U.S. forces to ease pressure on Sunni Arabs amid a series of house raids and arrests that have seen scores arrested in recent days.
“Mosques and houses are empty because clerics and ordinary men are being chased as if there was a sectarian cleansing in Baghdad,” al-Dulaimi said. “Violence only breeds more violence. I demand that this sectarian sedition be stopped.
“When the next government is formed, we will try to end such problems, but we are afraid that the people’s patience will run out and the country subsequently will slip into turmoil and disaster.”