Earlier this morning I linked to a brief report that a U.S. soldier in Iraq had attacked Iraqi Parliament member Fatah ash-Sheikh, a story I thought was a bit odd.
Now the Turkish Press reports more details, and it looks like the incident is creating quite a ruckus.
Iraqi deputies demanded Tuesday an official apology from Washington over the manhandling by US soldiers of an MP at a Baghdad checkpoint, with some calling for the fortified Green Zone to be “liberated from the occupation”.
Deputies suspended their session for an hour in protest at the incident involving Fatah al-Sheikh, a partisan of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr and member of the dominant United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) bloc.
They then voted unanimously on a motion demanding an official apology from the US embassy and Washington, and the punishment of the US soldier involved.
“When I told the translator with the soldier that I was a member of the National Assembly, he answered: to hell with you and the National Assembly,” Sheikh told his colleagues.
“I got really upset, so I got down from my vehicle to confront him and at that moment a US soldier came over and grabbed my neck and choked me for a minute or so.”
Sheikh said the whole fracas started when he lined up in his car with other deputies to enter the Green Zone, the seat of the transitional government and home to the US embassy, foreign advisors and contractors.
He said he decided to get out of line and come back later when it was less crowded, but that as he began to pull out, a US soldier came over and kicked his car.
“I showed him my badge, but he grabbed it from my hand and tossed it in my face,” said the bearded Sheikh. “When I got out of my car, the soldier twisted my arm.”
The US military said it was investigating the incident and refused to comment.
At least three other deputies said they witnessed the mistreatment of Sheikh who was in a black vehicle bearing posters of Sadr.
“I saw the whole thing and adding insult to injury was when Iraqi soldiers drew their rifles at brother Fatah as he was being mistreated by the Americans,” said Ali Yushaa an independent Shiite MP.
Deputies took turns to speak for almost two hours about the many indignities that they and the Iraqi population suffer when coming in contact with US troops.
“According to the Geneva conventions, an occupying force must respect the occupied nation,” said Abdul Khaliq Zanganah, a Kurdish MP. “This offending soldier must be thrown out of our country.”
A Sunni MP, Mudhar Shawkat, handed in the green VIP badge issued by the US military authorising him and other deputies to enter the Green Zone and said he would only attend parliament if sessions were moved to another location.
“They should be put on notice and given two months — no more — to leave the Green Zone,” he said before walking out.
Another unidentified MP shouted: “Yes, the end of occupation begins here. The Green Zone must be liberated from occupation!”
Speaker Hajem al-Hassani said he would suspend sessions altogether unless they move within a week to a building on the fringes of the Green Zone that has its own entrance and would be guarded by Iraqi soldiers.
“Enough is enough!” he said before adjourning parliament until Sunday.