On June 27th,
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki emphasized that the new
national reconciliation plan he had introduced to parliament two
days earlier would not provide amnesty for anyone in Iraq who had
killed either Americans or Iraqis in the name of insurgency or
terrorism. "This is an international commitment, an ethical
commitment: Whoever kills is not included in amnesty," he said.
statements sought to buttress support for the 24-point consensus
plan, which had taken weeks to develop and is intended to take the
steam out of the Sunni-dominated insurgency and curtail sectarian
strife-the greater threat to Iraq's long-term stability. To its
credit, after pressure from the U.S. embassy and hard-line members
of Maliki's Shiite-dominated ruling coalition, the final version
does not include a controversial provision advocated by some Sunni
Arab leaders that distinguished between terrorism and "national
resistance" against a foreign occupation. As Maliki himself
acknowledges, "We have people who have confessed to killing 10, 20,
50, sometimes 100 Iraqis or Americans. I think if a general amnesty
was announced, it would have a very negative reaction."
point was not lost on the U.S. government. Ambassador Zalmay
Khalilzad remarked that, "To end a war," he said, "you must balance
the requirements of reconciliation with the requirements of
justice," and Maliki appears to be trying to find such a balance.
Yet the plan
remains vague on many points, and the Bush Administration and U.S.
diplomats must remain vigilant to ensure that the Iraqi government,
which has the final say, does not backslide and grant amnesty to
captured insurgents who have spilled American or coalition blood or
avoid taking the necessary steps that will allow real
reconciliation to occur.
The Elements of
Maliki's reconciliation plan seeks to reduce insurgent attacks
through political dialogue, confidence-building measures, and
limited amnesty for "lesser offenses," which could include minor
acts of sabotage or participating in Saddam Hussein's Baath Party.
"launch of this reconciliation initiative," he cautioned, "should
not be read as a reward for the killers and criminals or acceptance
of their actions." There is no place in the new Iraq, he said, for
Islamic extremists or diehard supporters of Saddam Hussein's regime
at the core of the insurgency. A government pardon, which Sunni
Arab leaders had requested for "resistance" fighters, would apply
only to those detainees who "were not involved in criminal or
Maliki toned down
the plan under pressure from leaders of his United Iraqi Alliance
(UIA) coalition-particularly from the largest party in the
coalition, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq,
which has taken a harder line against compromise with Sunni
insurgents. When the UIA, including Maliki's own Dawa Party, met
last Saturday night to hammer out the plan's final details, they
restricted the offer of amnesty to insurgents who were not involved
in terrorist attacks or crimes against humanity and are willing to
renounce violence, pledge adherence to the rule of law, and pledge
support for the elected government.
One of the
controversial deleted clauses had distinguished "national
resistance" forces from "terrorists." Others contained explicit
language calling for the abolition of militias and "death squads"
and a call for an explicit timetable for American withdrawal based
on security conditions inside Iraq.
The document that
emerged is vague on many points due to the intense bargaining to
reach consensus positions. Yet the plan does outline steps to
disarm militias and strengthen Iraqi security forces as foreign
troops are gradually withdrawn. (When Maliki took power last month,
he pledged that Iraqi forces would take control of the security
situation from the U.S.-led coalition within 18 months.)
plan also calls for:
- The creation of a
commission to oversee reconciliation, with branches in all of
- Banning human
rights violations, improving prison conditions, and punishing those
responsible for torture;
- Reforming the
debaathification program to make it accountable to the judicial
system and reviewing the cases of some Baath Party members who were
forced out of public life after 2003;
- Making the armed
forces independent of political parties and banning the army from
interfering in politics; and
- Requiring legal
warrants to be issued before army and police raids.
The plan provides
a rough outline of what must happen to end political violence in
Iraq. It sets in motion a protracted negotiating process between
the government and various insurgent factions. Reconciliation must
be an Iraqi process, led by Iraqis. But the United States must
remain involved to ensure that the reconciliation talks and the
reconciliation process lead to improved security.
There are four
requirements that should be part of any successful reconciliation
Insurgents must lay down their arms, respect the rule of law, and
pledge to support the elected government;
must eventually be disarmed or folded into the Iraqi army;
Terrorists and war criminals, including loyal members of Saddam's
former regime, must be brought to justice and not allowed to enter
politics as a political force; and
lives and safety of U.S. servicemen and other coalition members
should not be put at risk.
The U.S. government
must closely monitor the ongoing reconciliation process to ensure
these goals are met and the sacrifices made by U.S. servicemen in
Iraq are not dishonored by ill-considered attempts to appease those
they battled to bring freedom to Iraq.
Phillips is Research Fellow in Middle Eastern
Studies in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy
Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis
Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage