Monday, December 18, 2006

Too little too late

The most straightforward summary of the "National Reconciliation" meetings on the weekend is in al-Quds al-Arabi this morning. First of all, this wasn't what the name implies, because "reconciliation" means dealing with all aggrieved parties, and in this case very important groups weren't even there. He names: Association of Muslim Scholars of Iraq; the Allawi coalition; the Sadrists; the Baath party; and most important of all, none of the factions involved in the resistance were represented, even though these are the groups that have brought to its knees "the occupation project and the political process that [the occupation] gave rise to".

These absences really point up the powerlessness of the Maliki government and of the parties that support it, and their failure to take up genuine ideas and approaches that could in fact lead Iraq out of its current tribulations. [The ecitorialist is talking about true negotiation with the resistance, which would of course involve a commitment to US withdrawal]. Instead, he says, the main practical result of these meetings is to provide pension support for over 350,000 members of the former army, and really what this amounts to is a bribe and an attempt to get them to lean toward support for the government, or at the very least to neutralize them.

This was definitely not a brainstorm of Maliki's or of the governing coalition. They have been consistent opponents of any accomodation to the Baathists, and among the most fired-up proponents of rooting them out, root and branch.

Most likely, says the editorialist, it was the Bush administration, faced with the crisis of its occupation forces, that told Maliki and Hakim to do this, in hopes that it would at least in some measure serve to cut down the size of the reserve army of the resistance. He says probably Baath party leadership didn't oppose this move, after all the money in question is the people's money, and these families are entitled to it. But naturally they will rigorously oppose any cooperation with the government that might suggest itself as a result of this.

IN any event, this pension deal, and the fact that the whole discussion of de-Baathification was left open, are a clear admission of the failure of the whole occupation program, which was led off, immediately after the 2003 invasion, by the dissolution of the army and of the other institutions of the state, the extirpation of the Baath party membes, and the cutting off of the livlihood of millions of Iraqis, a policy, the editorialist adds, that was recommended by Dr Ahmad Chalabi, by Nuri al-Maliki, and by Abdulaziz al-Hakim.

With the weekend measures, the government has admitted the failure of that policy, but the least we can say (the editorialist concludes) is that this is an admission that comes very late.


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