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In Search Of A Reconciliation Plan For Iraq

US President George W. Bush with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Sana Abdallah
Amman, Jordan (UPI) Jul 09, 2006
The number of attacks, bombings and corpses continues to rise in war-torn Iraq, almost two weeks after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced a reconciliation plan intended to end fighting.

Baghdad's morgue said it counted 1,595 corpses in June alone, most of them civilians found tortured and executed, while dozens of more victims were killed after Maliki submitted his reconciliation plan to Parliament on June 25.

The fact that violence is escalating despite Maliki's plan and the June 7 killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, raises questions on the real causes behind the spiraling bloodshed.

Jordanian-born Zarqawi, one of the world's most wanted, was largely blamed for masterminding the many suicide bombings targeting U.S. and Iraqi forces and Shiites. But his death has so far failed to stop the almost daily attacks.

Likewise, Maliki's reconciliation plan has failed to at least give pause to the violence that would indicate some interest in national reconciliation and restoring minimum order.

Hopeful Iraqis understandably say it is too soon to determine the success or failure of the plan and that it should be given more time to work. But others say the plan was doomed to fail from the start.

Analysts say the vague nature of Maliki's proposal is to blame if it indeed proves to be nothing more than ink on paper that cannot work. Its elusiveness is seen to have emerged from weeks of bargaining with Iraqi and American players, and instead of appeasing the key rival parties and encouraging them to join a dialogue, it appears to have given more fuel to the notion that resorting to force and violence is the way to attain power and rights.

To start with, Maliki's final plan was reduced from 28 to 24 points after the United States, with pressure from Congress, removed an initial intention to provide amnesty to "insurgents" targeting U.S. occupation forces; thus, the intention of distinguishing between terror attacks and legitimate resistance attacks against foreign occupation forces.

Arab analysts say that by placing the "insurgency" in one basket -- regardless of the target, the perpetrators, the victims and the cause -- Maliki's plan virtually confines the reconciliation dialogue to "moderate" Arab Sunnis seeking to be part of the political process that the anti-occupation "insurgents" do not even recognize under American occupation.

The initiative calls for political dialogue, confidence-building measures and limited amnesty for lesser offenses, such as "minor acts of sabotage" or having been a member of ousted Saddam Hussein's Baath Party.

But no amnesty or incentive to join the political process was offered to those involved in "terrorist acts, war crimes or crimes against humanity" unless they renounce violence, the former Saddam regime and promise to respect the law. However, the plan also calls for "reviewing" the de-Baathification committee to "ensure it respects the law."

While it attempts to put an end to the sectarian bloodshed by proposing an "adoption of constitutional and legal legitimacy in resolving the country's problems, including extrajudicial killings," it falls short of a decision to disband the armed militias, namely Shiite groups blamed for these "extrajudicial killings" that have mainly been retaliation acts targeting Arab Sunni figures and civilians.

The initiative only talks about "tackling Iraq's militia groups," although upon assuming his position in April, Maliki promised to disband the militias representing the numerous sectarian-oriented political parties.

Merely "tackling" this issue, analysts warn, could take many months, if not years, before a consensus is reached on how to deal with the militias, giving ample time for the sectarian violence to grow into a full-fledged civil war that would be near-impossible to control.

On Friday, sectarian killings swept the country as Sunni and Shiite militants targeted each other's mosques and worshippers, leaving at least 14 people dead, a day after more than a dozen people were killed in a car bombing at a Shiite shrine in Kufa.

Iraqi analysts in Amman say Maliki's plan fails to address the sectarian jingoism and violence as a whole and shows clear favoritism for the once-repressed and now powerful Shiites, who make up 60 percent of the population.

They complain that Maliki, himself a member of a Shiite party, has placed stiff conditions on the Sunnis to lay down their weapons to join the political process, but offers little in return to try to contain the violence of the Shiite militias.

These analysts say the reconciliation plan virtually asks the anti-occupation "insurgents" to recognize the new Iraqi political system, based on sectarian quotas that give wide range authority to the Shiites and Kurds, while marginalizing the Arab Sunnis.

Because Maliki's initiative falls short of distinguishing the anti-occupation "insurgents" from the "terrorists" and fails to recognize them as "legitimate resistance," the Sunnis view the plan as a way to grab their recognition of the U.S. occupation forces as "liberators" rather than "occupiers."

Another reason the Sunni opposition will not join any reconciliation talks that could allow the plan to see the light of day is its exclusion of any request for a timetable for an American withdrawal, although it does call for strengthening Iraq's armed forces to prepare them to "take over responsibility for national security from the multinational forces."

It is said the four points scrapped out of Maliki's plan to appease Washington and the powerful Shiite United Iraqi Alliance, of which his Dawa Party is a member, included discerning between "national resistance" and "terrorists," called for disarming the militias and "death squads," and a clear request for a timetable for U.S. withdrawal.

Analysts say the reconciliation plan may have lost its sufficient incentives for the Sunni "insurgents" to join the political process that could have promised hope for peace.

However, they add, the Iraqi prime minister's initial intention could still provide hope for taking the proposals further to encourage all non-military parties to lay down their weapons and choose dialogue over violence. And the question of the U.S. military presence cannot continue to be ignored if peace and order is ever to return to this country.

Source: United Press International

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Japanese troops in Iraq began heading home Friday as the first batch of 38 soldiers were flown out by British military choppers as part of the announced withdrawal, a military source said. "Thirty-eight Japanese soldiers left Iraq today. The actual troop withdrawal has started," the source told AFP, adding the soldiers left for Kuwait.

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