Saturday, February 07, 2009

More outreach

The news from the region is sporadic (h/t to LB of RoadstoIraq for a lot of it), and the silence from Washington is absolute, but it appears Maliki is responding at least superficially to pressure from the US (in the person of Joe Biden) to do more to try and placate a greater number of officers in the Saddam-era armed forces by offering them either positions in existing armed forces, or pensions.

Some of the news seems to be coming from the American side, for instance there is this fairly vague item today from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. And there is this item on the Saudi-oriented Elaph news-site which says a decision has been made to open recruiting or reception offices in five countries to take applications from former officers. One peculiar feature of this is that although the offices haven't been opened yet, already there has been established a cut-off date of March 4 for accepting applications. Other open questions include: Exactly how to the requirements and procedures differ, if at all, from what has already been announced. And there is a promotional flavor to the piece, which talks about "thousands" or potential participants in this, and a budgetary allocation of $65 million for "national reconciliation" without an explanation how that money is supposed to be spent.

Meanwhile, in Baghdad, Al-Baghdadiya TV reported last week that Maliki had been in contact with Harith al-Dhari, general secretary of the Association of Muslim Scholars of Iraq (AMSI), an organization that supports the resistance, in what was assumed to be part of the reconciliation process. This was angrily denied in a short statement from the Prime Minister's office on February 2, which said there had been no contact "with the accused person Harith al-Dhari, as reported by Al-Baghdadiya satellite TV, a report that demonstrates its [the TV station's] failure and bankruptcy. The government of national unity cannot under any circumstances talk with someone who has the blood of innocent Iraqis on their hands."

To which AMSI issued a statement in response a couple of days later, naming three Maliki emissaries who it says in fact met with Dhari to invite him to join in the political process, an invitation that it says was refused each time. The statement said these three were only some of the attempts, not all of them. And today, Akhbar alKhaleej prints extracts from an interview with Dhari in Amman, in which he elaborates on the approaches the Maliki government has made to him.

His main point is that AMSI "has no intention of joining the political process, in spite of the fact that the government has knocked on its door on a number of occasions". Referring to one such attempt, the journalists quotes Dhari: "We rejected the proposal and we asked [the emissary] to remind Maliki of the decisions that were made respecting national reconciliation at two conferences in Cairo [in 2005 and 2006 respectively]", and then explains that Dhari was "referring to the fact that the government wanted to make AMSI the substitute for the Iraqi Accord Front when the IAF withdrew from the government".

(I don't know what to make of the latter statement about an offer for AMSI to take the place of the IAF, and I don't know if it has been mentioned at any time elsewhere).

Dhari took the opportunity to deny another rumor, namely that AMSI had been involved in mediating a split in the Baath party. The journalist says: "He denied that the organization had been a mediator with respect to differences in the Baath party, but he did say that the organization advised Baathists to put the interests of their country ahead of their particular interests".

And the piece concludes with this: "Dhari stressed that all of the Islamic forces that have entered into the political process have violated law (sharia), and that the Iraqi resistance continues and is increasing its strength with the passage of time, in spite of what is rumored about its weakening and its decline!"

All of which seems to indicate that Maliki is taking steps to respond to US pressure by at least appearing to placate as many Saddam-era ex-officers as possible, and even perhaps trying to turn Dhari himself; but that as far as the resistance forces (some of them following Dhari) are concerned, nothing has changed: The political process under the occupation is wrong, and the resistance will continue.


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