23 Killed in Renewed Violence
Reconciliation Plan to be Unveiled
US troops had briefly arrested, then released, Shaikh Jamal Abdul Karim al-Dabaan. He is the chief Sunni jurisconsult (mufti) of Iraq, and the US military called his arrest “a mistake.” A thousand people gathered to picket the house of the governor of Salahuddin Province in protest.
Reuters gives the specifics of some of the bombings and other violence on Saturday.
Al-Hayat says that 23 fresh lives were lost on Saturday to civil war violence.
Steve Hurst points out that the guerrilla and civil war violence has gone on in spades since Zarqawi’s death. I’d make two further points. First, the daily carnage against Iraqis has been enormous in the past two weeks. There were several deadly car bombings again early Sunday in Baghdad itself. Second, the violence is not most “al-Qaeda”-driven. People in the Sunni district of Adhamiyah in Baghdad are mostly Baathists, not al-Qaeda, and some of them are surely planning out these bombings. Adhamiyah is now under actual attack by US and Iraqi forces, though there is some kind of news blackout on the operation. But the violence is going on anyway. The guerrillas, who still are able to coordinate, have just shifted operations to some other cities, or other districts of Baghdad. As Hurst notes, there was heavy fighting on Haifa Street near the Green Zone just the other day, an area of longstanding guerrilla activity that has been declared pacified over and over again by the US military and press. Bottom line, this article’s corrective is a good one, but doesn’t go far enough.
Update: Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki presented a 28-point reconciliation plan to parliament on Sunday.
Al-Hayat reports that Malik views this initiative as a privilege of the executive and that he does not intend to have parliament vote on it. A Shiite parliamentarian said it was outrageous to by-pass parliament in this way. Also, significant elements within al-Maliki’s own United Iraqi Alliance (Shiite) are disturbed by the idea of granting amnesty to Sunni Arab guerrillas.
The problem is quite the other way around. The amnesty is not extended to anyone who has “shed Iraqi blood,” and the Bush administration made al-Maliki back off the idea of granting amnesty to guerrillas who had killed US troops.
But if the point of the amnesty is to bring the guerrilla leadership in from the cold, this amnesty is useless. What Sunni Arab guerrillas worth their salt have killed no Iraqis and no US troops? As for the rest, why would Sunnis who had not killed anyone need to be amnestied? And wouldn’t they be rather pitiful guerrillas?
This is like Kissinger saying he would talk to the North Vietnamese but not to any of them who helped the VC kill ARvN and US soldiers. There wouldn’t have been any round table talks (not that that whole thing went very well anyway. Just saying.)
It appears that the main point of the “reconciliation” is not in fact to reconcile with the guerrilla movement. It is an attempt to draw off support from it by rehabilitating the Sunni Arabs who had been Baath party members. Those who had not actively killed anyone would now be brought back into public life and deep debaathification would be reversed, as I read it. (Ironically, al-Maliki led the charge for deep debaathification in the past 3 years!) Sunni Arabs would be compensated for losses inflicted on them by Iraqi and US troops (this is key to settling clan feuds against the new order). Shiite militias are to be disbanded. Militia influence in Iraqi police to be curbed. etc.
The plan also hopes to separate out the ex-Baathists from the Qutbists, who style themselves “Salafi Jihadis” but actually are just violent vigilantes, who, in the tradition of Sayyid Qutb of Egypt, blithely brand as non-Muslims worthy of death anyone who disagrees with their version of Islam. The Qutbists are coded as mainly foreigners.
My reading is that large numbers of Iraqi Sunni Arabs have swung to fundamentalist religion, and that the ex-Baathists use them in various ways, and it won’t be easy to break up this alliance of convenience.
I do not think this plan goes far enough. It is too little too late. But, well, reversing Ahmad Chalabi’s deep debaathification, in which school teachers were punished for joining the Baath Party in 1994 to get a promotion, would be a positive step, if that is what is envisaged. But then there is the question of implementation, and the question of what economy or government is left for the ex-Baathists now to join. Moreover, there is a lot of anger that can’t be dampened down so easily.
British forces seem unable to quell the rising tide of violence and insecurity in southern Iraq.
Some Iraqi veterans are already showing up back in the states as among the homeless.