Baathists being Rehabilitated (to offset Shiites?)
AFP (via az-Zaman) is reporting that Paul Bremer issued an order three weeks ago allowing Baath Party members to regain their posts and reenter civil society if they agreed to turn over their weapons. About 60 senior ex-Baath officers surrendered their weapons near Mosul at the Tel Afar base of the US 101st Airborne Division.
My interpretation of these moves is that they are designed to offset the possibility of overly strong Shiite dominance of Iraq as the US moves out of civil administration. High Baathists were mostly Sunni, and had extensive patronage networks. Allowing them back into the bureaucracy and civil society inevitably creates rivals for the Shiite religious leaders. Shiite expatriate Ahmad Chalabi, the main proponent of punishing and excluding the Baathists, must have lost some sort of major battle with Bremer for this to be happening. It is also possible that with Saddam captured, Bremer assumes that the ex-Baathists just aren’t that dangerous to the Coalition any longer, and he can risk bringing them back in from the cold. Not all Baathists were personally involved in crimes, and presumably those who committed atrocities are not covered by the new agreement.