In a development that underscores the cluelessness of the Senate debate the past two days, the Iraqi government has built an ultimatum and offer to native insurgents in Iraq that will offer amnesty for most of their actions and an American withdrawal if all insurgencies surrender themselves. The US government has helped craft the offer, which both Iraq and the US hopes will allow Iraq to reach stability quickly:
THE Iraqi Government will announce a sweeping peace plan as early as Sunday in a last-ditch effort to end the Sunni insurgency that has taken the country to the brink of civil war.
The 28-point package for national reconciliation will offer Iraqi resistance groups inclusion in the political process and an amnesty for their prisoners if they renounce violence and lay down their arms, The Times can reveal.
The Government will promise a finite, UN-approved timeline for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq; a halt to US operations against insurgent strongholds; an end to human rights violations, including those by coalition troops; and compensation for victims of attacks by terrorists or Iraqi and coalition forces.
It will pledge to take action against Shia militias and death squads. It will also offer to review the process of “de-Baathification” and financial compensation for the thousands of Sunnis who were purged from senior jobs in the Armed Forces and Civil Service after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
The deal, which has been seen by The Times, aims to divide Iraqi insurgents from foreign fighters linked to al-Qaeda. It builds on months of secret talks involving Jalal al-Talabani, the Iraqi President, Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Ambassador, and seven Sunni insurgent groups.
The Iraqi government held a summit with representatives of the native insurgencies, including the dead-ender Ba’athist elements of Saddam’s regime, last month while Nouri al-Maliki built his Cabinet. The meeting gave strong indications that the insurgents would be willing to cut a deal, if foreign troops left Iraq as a consequence. They did not give a formal response and have continued their operations since, but Maliki wants to hit a home run in his first at bat. They did indicate a willingness to open formal discussions with both Iraq and the US along the lines of this offer.
One complication was that the Democrats almost gave the game away before the offer could be made. While Talabani, Maliki, and Khalilzad carefully crafted this one-time offer, Democrats almost gave away the main carrot that would have induced the insurgents to lay down their weapons. Had they controlled the government, our troops would have marched out of Iraq and taken the best chance for a negotiated end to the Iraq insurgencies with them.
As it is, Talabani’s offer seems a bit naive, especially regarding the Ba’athists. Never known for their love of democracy, they have always wanted nothing more than a Stalinist regime to run Iraq, just as it did under Saddam and as their cousins still do in Syria with the Assad regime. The best-funded and best-resourced of the insurgencies would not surrender lightly just to join a multiparty representative government. One has to think that the Ba’athists just want to play for time so that they can wait for another chance to take power through assassination rather than an insurgency that obviously has little chance of progress.
The Times of London notes the touchy issue of amnesty for attacks on American soldiers. The brutal deaths of two American soldiers this week has complicated that issue, although that came at the hands of the foreign terrorists. Americans will find the notion of allowing Iraq to waive prosecution for attacks on our soldiers repulsive, as I wrote a week ago. However, we have to calculate whether the amnesty will help us speed our mission of creating a democratic and stable Iraq; in that context, amnesty may well be a bitter but necessary step. In a real sense, it isn’t our decision to make, as any prosecution for crimes in Iraq will have to come from the Iraqis anyway.
Will such an offer be accepted, and if so, would it have the desired effect? The Iraqis have to see the strides made by the Kurds in the north and the relative peace in the Shi’ite areas to the south. In fact, as the Times also notes, the increasing influence of Iran on the Shi’ites will have a powerful impact for the Sunnis engaged in the insurgencies. Their efforts make the Shi’a more receptive to Iranian interference, a threat that will engulf the Sunni minority if allowed to continue and grow. The native insurgents have to have wearied of fighting their losing cause, and of watching as foreigners adopt their battle as an excuse to deliver brutal attacks on their own people.
This holds some promise for success. If it works as the Iraqi government hopes, we could bring stability to Iraq and isolate the foreign terrorists in one fell swoop.