Monday, March 23, 2009

News, and a question about JournoList

On March 19, Prime Minister Maliki's office issued a statement clarifying the meaning of his recent statements about an opening to those outside the political process, and in particular the ambiguous point about the Baath party as such, the Baath party under different names, ex-Baathists, guilty Baathists, and so on. And also the relevance or otherwise of talk about constitutional amendments The statement began like this:
There have been calls by Prime Minister Maliki's to effect national reconciliation according to the conditions defined by the Constitution and in accordance with the program for national reconciliation and preparation for a program of political reform, and to eliminate the equivocations that have been published by some of the information media...on the stance with respect to the banned Baath Party, we clarify for this matter for everyone, so that they can deal with it without unnecessary fear or anxiety: The Constitution forbids the discussion or any return to activity of the dissolved Baath party, or any articipation by it in the political process, on account of its having commited horrible crimes against all of the entities of the people of Iraq for a period of 35 years, and on account of its promotion and exercies of sectarian and racial ideas. We therefore urge everyone to respect this principle, and with respect to all the names or the faces of the interred Baath party. This party, which bears all of the responsibility for the suffering of the Iraqi people and for their humanitarian, political, security and economic situation, is not able to be a national party or one that respects the Constitution, and anyone who thinks to have discussions with them, let alone permit them to participate in the political process, is commiting a clear violation of the Constitution...
but you get the picture.

The message appears to have sunk in, and yesterday AlHayat published a piece headed: "The Iraqi government announces its rejection of Baathist participation in the political process under any of its names..." outlining the above-quoted statement, and noting that not only do the proponents of what they thought was a reconciliation process object to this, but the people on the other side (SupremeCouncil affiliates and others) also object to it, because they say the statement didn't go far enough.

Saleh Al-Mutlak of the Nantional Dialog Council said it is now clear that the Maliki government is unable to carry though a reconciliation process, and he blamed this on pressure from Maliki's coalition partners.

On the other side, AlHayat says a group called the Popular Movement for the Dissolution of the Baath,
[which was] founded a couple of weeks ago, and is thought to be close to the Supreme Islamic Council [Hakim's group] rejected the latest statements by Maliki [the one quoted above], and said the government should cut off all communications with the Baathists immediately, and announce that with a statement that doesn't bear any constuctions or require any interpretation. And [the group demanded that the government] dismiss all Baathists who have returned to their jobs and immediately institute court trials of the Baathists who have fled, and issue arrest warrants against them, and hold them accountable for the crimes of the 35 years of Baathist rule.


Sadrist politician Bahaa Al-Araji made extended remarks to the Iraqi Press Agency on the same subject. He said no one needs to worry about any Baathist political resurgence, partly because of the Constitutional ban. But he did say: "It is very clear that there are Baathists or Sadaamists who have already, very unfortunately, entered into various positions in the state, on account of differences between the political blocs". And he continues: "We also need to pay attention to the timing of this reconciliation", referring among other meetings to a tour of Arab capitals almost two years ago by Petraeus and Crocker, demanding the Arab governments open embassies in Baghdad. Al-Araji says the quid pro quo demanded by the Arab governments was the return of Saddamist Baathists to Iraqi political life.
And as a result, very regrettably, there are commitments that were made by the government. These commitments were secret, and they need to be revoked.

Now as to the timing--and this is an important point--the timing as you know is with the requirements of the agreement--which we [Sadrists] do not have confidence in, and it would have been better if the United States had withdrawn--and therefore before withdrawal the United States wants to give a large share of political and govermental permanency (qarrar) to the Baath.
This idea of linkage of re-Baathification to the American withdrawal schedule isn't unique to Al-Araji; for instance Fadhil AlRubaie made the same point recently here. And here, in the Egyptian paper Al-Shorouq. In all cases the linkage is referred to as a matter of more or less common knowledge, in the process of making various arguments about what it means.

This linkage of Maliki's problematic re-Baathification (or non-re-Baathification) initiative to the American withdrawal strategy--and what is now obviously the un-reconciliatory character of it--are obviously important for an understanding of the Obama Mideast policy generally.

The corporate media are silent, but more interestingly the big blogs are silent as well. I will probably be hooted down for asking this, but who is or are the JournoList "experts" on Iraq and what are they saying to the assembled multitude of influential bloggers about this?

Just curious.


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