Move follows pressure from Muqtada al-Sadr, whose militia was blamed for the clashes.
General David Petraeus, the American commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador, are due in Washington to report to the US congress next week on progress in Iraq since the introduction of 30,000 more American troops, including whether advances are being made towards national reconciliation.
But a leaked draft report by the US government accountability office has already deemed the Iraq strategy of George Bush, the president, to be failing.
Contrary to claims made by Bush about improving security situation during a surprise visit to Iraq on Monday, the report stresses the level of violence against Iraqi people has remained unchanged.
Stating that the Iraqi government has been successful in meeting only three of 18 benchmarks set by the US, the report added that Iraqi forces remain unprepared to take over security and that Shia militias have infiltrated security forces.
The leak was orchestrated by an official who, according to the Washington Post newspaper, feared the official report will be watered down and given a more positive spin under pressure from the Pentagon and the White House.
While parliament was in recess, Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister,
attempted to break the impasse with major Shia, Sunni Arab and Kurdish leaders in a high-level meeting just over a week ago.
It brought al-Maliki on the same table with Adil Abdul-Mahdi, the Shia vice-president, Tariq al-Hashemi, the Sunni Arab vice-president, and Jalal Talabani, the president, who is a Kurd.
They said they agreed in principle on some issues that the US has set as benchmarks for progress, among them holding provincial elections, releasing prisoners held without charge and changing the law preventing many former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party from holding government jobs and elected office.
Iraqi officials have announced similar deals in the past, only to have them fall apart.
Iraq First plan
On Tuesday, Mouwaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq’s national security adviser, announced a three-year plan to bring stability to the country and achieve national reconciliation.
He said: “This is an Iraq national security strategy for the years between 2007 and 2010. This strategy will provide, for the first time, the Iraqi government a … coherent top-level direction towards the government in its efforts to establish security, promote prosperity and self-reliance.”
He said the strategy, called Iraq First, will be linked to the Iraq compact that was launched in May in Egypt and outlines international aid for Iraq, including debt relief.
It also sets tough commitments for the government, particularly measures aimed at granting Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority a greater role in the political process.
Al-Rubaie said the strategy was put together by 23 experts during three months of hard work. He said: “It also affirms principles of federalism, the rule of law, human and self rights.”