Monday, December 10, 2007

Signs of a major turning point

Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad Bulani, in a follow-up to the highly-touted seizure of documents near Tikrit late last week, said yesterday his ministry has recruited 3000 special police agents to track down resistance Baathists. There were a couple of particularly noteworthy points in what he said.

First: He said this is going to involve pursuit of people from both the Izzat al-Douri wing and the rival Yunis al-Ahmed wing. This is noteworthy because of what sketchy information we have about talks or negotiations between the US and the GreenZone on the one side and Baathists on the other. The split between the two wings occurred immediately after the execution of Saddam, and the Douri loyalists accused the Yunis wing (and the government of Syria) of preparing to sell out to the Americans. And there has been continuing tension over the question of who is talking to the Americans and who is not. There was a report by ConflictsForum this past summer about meetings between the Americans and the Yunis wing. And more recently, at the Black Sea "track 2" reconciliation meetings arranged by Richard Murphy, reports said there was representation there from both the Douri and the Yunis wings of the Baath. The cloud of silence then descended over the these talks, so dense that there hasn't even been a "no comment" from Murphy.

Now the GreenZone government says it is assigning 3000 new secret agents to tracking down members of both of these wings of the Baath. (The reporter says the total number of target individuals involved is estimated at between 20,000 and 40,000). This suggests that perhaps we don't need any comment from Murphy after all, in order to figure out what has happened with the talks, at least as far as the Baath are concerned.

There is a second noteworthy thing about Interior Minister Bulani's remarks, pointing in the same direction: He said "the two suicide women who blew themselves up in Diyala and Baiji last week were members of the Baath." The reporter doesn't refer to any evidence cited by the Minister, and he apparently didn't feel the need to remind readers that suicide operations are a hallmark of the religious end of the resistance spectrum, distinguishing them very clearly from the more conventional methods of the secular nationalists. The implicit message being that the new initiative against the Baath will not only involve allocation of significant human resources, but also that the information-operations side of the campaign will not be constrained by logic or common sense.

Another probable indicator of collapse in the US-Baath discussions: The US Treasury Dept issued a fatwa declaring takfiir on the dealings and assets of seven individuals connected in various ways with the Baath, both wings, and the Azzaman reporter describes this as a list of people "whom the authorities in Baghdad say live in Syria and promote armed operations within Iraq." Again, the reporter doesn't need to point out to his readers how the Bulani announcement and the Treasury Dept announcement fit together. (The Treasury Dept order is dated Dec 6, the same day as the highly-publicized Tikrit documents-raid).

And finally, by way of real-life background to all of this, the Azzaman reporter also refers to an AFP story relating a group interview in Adhamiya with mid-level Baath individuals, in which they said the current proposal to amend the DeBaathification law would make matters worse for them, not better, one of the interviewees describing the so-called reconciliation process as a "death-sentence" in the sense that it is merely aimed at finding out names and identities.


Anonymous John said...

The turning point is Anglo-focussed; the Iraqi 'opposition' now 'government' has a vitriol bordering on pathology in its hatred of the Ba'th. Your comments of last week regarding the Sadr push (or ability to push) at national reconciliation is a better vein to mine and one the current seat holders in the Green Zone must be most afraid of.

Neither wing of the Ba'th will avoid negotiation IMO; such deals are ingrained in the fabric of their experience when dealing with the occupation leadership as well as the Kurdish parties.

6:36 PM  
Blogger badger said...


7:12 PM  
Anonymous John said...

Apologies if I was unclear, shouldn't have been typing and talking at the same time.

My point was in how you see this as a turning point? This is in line with the consistent vitriolic hatred and opposition to any inclusion of the Ba'th by the returning politicos who make up the occupation-imposed Green Zone government.

Do you see this as a newfound U.S. position (or abandonment of their erstwhile efforts to cozy up to the Ba'th)?

Secondly, I don't understand why you assume only one of the wings of the Ba'th can negotiate with the occupation; both wings have longstanding ties with the Kurdish leadership as well as the U.S.

Fantastic job with the site Badger, you should be proud of the hard work it takes to provide translation - and a counter to certain privileged and largely uninformed commentary.

8:00 PM  
Blogger badger said...

Yes, I meant these are signs of a change in the US position. I think the announcements of the special group to hunt down Baathists, the raid on the Izzat al-Douri "hideout", along with the American freezing of assets of Baathists in Syria, the recent dropping of pressure on the DeBaathification law (and Maliki yesterday talking as if the national reconciliation project has already been a rousing success) not to mention the friendlier tone with Iran, etcetera, all go together to indicate that the move to bring in the Baath has been abandoned. There's a lot that isn't clear, but I think that much is clear.

On the "two wings", all I meant was that whereas there has been an impression that maybe the Yunis side was more talkable than the Douri side, it's now clear they are both equally in the doghouse.

On your point about the long-term relationships, all I can say is I don't know about the shelf-life of something like that... But I've been wrong before.

8:39 PM  
Anonymous Alison said...

Taken together, the items reviewed in this post certainly raise some very significant questions, Badger.

I was quite sceptical when I first read about Bolani’s announcement that 3,000 new secret agents would be assigned to tracking down cells led by M. Younis Al-Ahmed as well as those led by I. Al-Douri. I suspected that these agents might really be followers of the former, recruited to ensnare followers of the latter. After all, I assume they will attempt to infiltrate the cells, and surely only former Ba’athists could do that.

I was not aware of the US Treasury ‘fatwa’ which you referred to, and I am still quite puzzled by it. Top of the list is Fawzi M. Al-Rawi, Chairman of the Iraqi Wing of the SYRIAN Ba’ath Party! (Here’s the correct url: The Syrian authorities have been moving closer and closer to the Iraqi puppet government and the US. Is this their reward?

In any case, all these measures surely must have been in the pipeline for some time. They cannot possibly be a knee jerk reaction to the failure of very recent negotiations. Rather, I am inclined to view them as Maliki’s REWARD for signing an agreement giving the US the green light for enduring bases, economic control etc.

US officials may have used the prospect of a deal with M. Younis Al-Ahmed and Harith Al-Dhari etc – and the threat of a coup by Allawi – as a means of piling pressure on their Green Zone puppets. After all, they are past masters at double and triple dealing! If the followers of M. Younis Al-Ahmed really are going to be hunted down – and I still have my doubts about that - , it would mean that Al-Ahmed has been taken for a ride by the Americans and then dumped as soon as he had outlived his usefulness to them. More fool him!

And what about AMSI Chief Harith Al-Dhari, whose organisation has appeared be providing cover for Al-Ahmed? In recent interviews Al-Dhari has been announcing that the US have been defeated and are about to withdraw from Iraq. I assumed that he was hoodwinking his own constituency, but I suppose it cannot be ruled out that he has also been putting his faith in empty US promises.

5:41 AM  
Blogger annie said...

badger, that US treasury department link has been scrubbed since last i checked. did you copy it perchance?

11:00 AM  
Blogger badger said...

annie, i didn't, but I think you can still get it this way: Go to their "site index"; then "browse by date"; then under Dec 2007 if you go down to 12/07/2007 you'll see a clickable item "Treasury designates individuals..."

2:09 PM  

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