Thursday, November 17, 2005


Secret Iraqi Jail Bane for U.S.

President Bush's already embattled policy to shape postwar Iraq as an ethnically balanced democratic state faces a new hurdle after the discovery of a secret jail in which Sunni prisoners may have been tortured.

With Bush's approval ratings declining, U.S. casualties mounting and even some Republicans in Congress pressuring the White House for an exit strategy, the president and his senior advisers have been counting on next month's parliamentary elections in Iraq.

Bush's chances of succeeding in Iraq, and perhaps his presidential legacy, rest heavily on an outcome reflecting a new spirit of cooperation among that country's Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. But already reluctant Sunnis, whose participation in a referendum last month approving a Constitution was less than enthusiastic, could now become even more wary of cooperating.

And that could spell more political trouble for Bush.

"This disclosure has the potential to create the perception among the American public that the war in Iraq has replaced Saddam Hussein's repressive regime, dominated by Sunnis, into a repressive regime dominated by Shiites," said Kenneth Katzman, senior Iraq expert at the Congressional Research Service, an agency of Congress.

The allegations of secret detentions of 173 mostly Sunni Iraqis and the possible abuse of some of them, following U.S. mistreatment of Abu Ghraib prisoners, could make it harder for Bush to reverse a growing sentiment among Americans that the U.S. is caught in a quagmire.


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