English version of Reconciliation Plan

BEIRUT — So, anyone have a link to the English version of Maliki’s reconciliation plan? I’d like to actually, you know, read it before shooting off from the hip.
But: An amnesty for people who haven’t done any killing of Iraqis or other “terroristic activities” “terrorist acts” isn’t much of an amnesty at all.
*UPDATE:* Well, thanks to a friend at the Embassy in Baghdad, I found a BBC media monitor “translation/summary of the main points”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/5114932.stm of the plan. It’s exasperatingly vague:
# Amnesty for detainees not involved in terrorist acts, war crimes or crimes against humanity, as long as they condemn violence and pledge to respect the law. [This seems to exclude quite a lot, but it’s so vague. This might not be so bad, though as it allows plenty of room for, ah, _practicality_ in deciding to whom to grant amnesty. — CA]
# Negotiations with the US-led coalition to prevent the violation of human and civil rights in military operations.
# Compensation for those harmed by terrorism, military operations and violence.
# Preventing human rights violations, reforming prisons and punishing those responsible for acts of torture.
# Ensuring that Iraq’s justice system is solely responsible for punishing members of the Saddam regime, terrorists and gangs guilty of killings and kidnappings.
# Ensuring that military operations take place in accordance with judicial orders and do not breach human rights.
# Compensation for civilian government employees who lost their jobs after the fall of the Saddam regime.
# Measures to improve public services. [Possibly the most popular aspect of the plan for Iraqis — CA]
# Measures to strengthen Iraq’s armed forces so they are ready to take over responsibility for national security from the multinational forces.
# Review of the armed forces to ensure they run on “professional and patriotic” principles. [Militias, he’s lookin’ at you. — CA]
# Ensuring the political neutrality of Iraq’s armed forces and tackling Iraq’s militia groups. [Ditto — CA]
# Insistence that Iraq’s elected bodies, including the government and parliament, are solely responsible for decisions on Iraq’s sovereignty and the presence of multinational troops.
# Insistence that all political groups involved in government must reject terrorism and the former Saddam regime.
# Return of displaced people to their homes and compensation for any losses they have suffered. [This one’s going to be tricky. The Kurds have been demanding a settlement on Kirkuk for _ages_ and the various Shi’ite governments have been dragging their feet on this. At the same time, the Kurds have been ejecting Arabs from Kirkuk and I’ve heard reports of Shi’ites ejecting Kurds from some neighborhoods in Baghdad. — CA]
# Improved compensation for victims of the Saddam regime and deprived people throughout the country.
# Formation of a National Council for the Reconciliation and National Dialogue Plan, including representatives of the government and parliament as well as religious authorities and tribes. [Talk to Nicholas Haysom, former/current head of UNAMI’s constitutional advisory board in Baghdad. He was instrumental in helping write South Africa’s constitution and developing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that seemed to work well there. — CA]
# Creation of National Council subcommittees at regional level
# Creation of “field committees” to follow up on the progress of the reconciliation process.
# A series of conferences of tribal leaders, religious scholars, political groups and other members of civil society will be held to back the reconciliation process. The conference of religious scholars is expected to issue _fatwas_ supporting the policy. [Whoa. I know the clerics wanted a tight bond between the government and the mosques, but I don’t think they expected the government telling them what _fatwas_ to issue. — CA]
# Talks with other Arab and Islamic governments, especially those that support the terrorists, to inform them about what is happening in Iraq.
# Adoption of a “rational” discourse by the government and political parties to restore mutual trust and ensure the media are neutral. [But not independent? — CA]
# National dialogue including all the opinions of those involved in the political process.
# Adoption of constitutional and legal legitimacy in resolving the country’s problems, including extra-judicial killings.
# Review of the de-Baathification committee to ensure it respects the law. [This is long overdue. Schoolteachers who were forced to join the party should not still be paying the price. — CA]
# Co-operation with the United Nations and the Arab League to pursue the work of the Cairo Conference for National Reconciliation.
# Making it easier for Iraqi citizens or groups to work on rebuilding the country, as long as they have not committed any crimes or been banned from the political process.
# Taking a united stand regarding the terrorists and other hostile elements. [Well, duh. — CA]
# Starting work on a large-scale development campaign for the whole country, which will also tackle the problem of unemployment.
Well, it certainly doesn’t lack for ambition. I would like to see a better translation before making any (more) snap judgments, though.

Zarqawi Killed in Airstrike


Photo courtesy of IntelCenter

In a crucial development, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, “Abu Musab al-Zarqawi”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/blog-mt/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=1&search=Zarqawi, has been killed in an airstrike north of Baqouba in Iraq, Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki is saying right now. Also, later today, Maliki says he will present his candidates for Defense and Interior ministers. These two stories are intricately related.
Details are very sketchy, obviously, as this is breaking now, but Maliki, U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and American commander Gen. George Casey said a reliable tip on Zarqawi’s location came in and allowed the U.S. to call in the bombers. The attack occurred last night at about 6 p.m., BBC says, and he may have been betrayed by someone in his inner circle. Zarqawi’s body was identified by facial recognition, Casey said.
[ADD 2:57:40 PM +0200 GMT: Intriguing detail: Jordanian intelligence was involved, apparently. No friend of AMZ they, seeing as they had a number of scores to settle with the guy. But considering Jordan’s ties with the Ba’athist insurgency, which mostly hated AMZ, this looks more and more like the Ba’athists saw the time had come to turn in AMZ to cement the political deal in Baghdad.]
If true, and this should be a very big conditional, This is a big, _big_ success for the Iraqis and the Americans. Zarqawi wasn’t the sole force behind the insurgency, but he was the driving personality behind the _jihad_ aspect of the Sunni fighting, which has much larger influence within the Iraqi insurgency than the size of its roster would suggest. It was his connections that brought in a lot of money from the Gulf, and with that cash and influence was able to bleed off some of the Ba’athists and Iraqi Islamists to his part of the insurgency.
*Also, this indicates that bringing the Sunnis into the government seems to has worked.* One of the gambles of bringing the Sunnis in was to see if they could start ramping down the violence through tips, turn-ins and general cooperation. That has always been the central question: Do the Sunnis in government have control over their factions in the insurgency? I’ve argued here that they don’t, but if today’s news is true, I may very well need to admit I was wrong on that. Gut feeling is that I was.
Casey said they got information on the safehouse where Zarqawi was hiding from local tips, so that indicates the Sunnis have started cooperating with Maliki’s government, which means this government may hold up after all. But it is important to realize that this will _not_ end the insurgency. It has numerous factions, not all who are loyal to Zarqawi (obviously, since someone tipped the Americans off.) And it won’t end the sectarian violence, because Shi’ite death squads are still operating out of the Interior ministry and other police forces and many Sunni insurgents are not foreign jihadis. They have their own fight with the mainly Shi’ite Maliki government, which they see as a tool of Iran. Remember how happy everyone was after Saddam was captured? And remember how it just kept getting worse and worse?
But it is also significant that Maliki says he will announce his new Defense, National Security and Interior minister later today. (He declined to give their names at the press conference on Zarqawai, saying that would wait until the parliamentary meeting in the afternoon.) This indicates to me that the Defense and Interior slots have been being held open as a carrot for Sunnis to start bringing their fighters to heel. Now that the Sunnis have delivered a big prize in Zarqawi’s alleged corpse, it’s time to reward them with a big post. Will they get both Interior and Defense? No. In fact, Reuters is already reporting that Interior will go to Shi’ite Jawaad al-Bolani, formerly of the Fadhilla Party, and Defense will go to Sunni Gen. Abdel Qader Jassim.
Al-Bolani is an interesting choice, because he is reportedly a former Army colonel under Saddam and has been affiliated with numerous factions in Shi’a politics, including Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress and Sheikh Karim Al-Mohammadawi, the “Prince of the Marshes,” a local Shi’ite boss in the south opposed to Iran, Chalabi and sometimes — but unreliably — allied with Moqtada al-Sadr. Mohammadawi is reliably in favor of Mohammadawi. Jassim, a Sunni, is currently the commander of the Iraqi ground forces and has worked closely with the Americans. He also was the general who advised Saddam to withdraw from Kuwait in 1991, further endearing him to Washington.
Both choices seem likely to be approved, or at least not opposed, will be supported by the Sunnis, as neither is closely tied to Iran. (The former Interior Minister, Bayan Jabr, was tied with the Badr Organization _neé_ Corps, which is still closely connected with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.)
[ADD 2:18:08 PM +0200 GMT: Going back through some old notes, I found a brief interview I did with al-Bolani in January 2005, before the first elections, when he was president of the Shi’a Political Council, a rival group to the United Iraqi Alliance. At the time, he said he didn’t think the constitution will be based on Islamic _shari’a_, even though Islamic parties are calling for this. “Democracy is a strange idea in Iraq, but democracy is a demand of everyone,” he said. “I can assure you there are many Islamic political movements that don’t want government like Iran’s. But this Islamic identity and the Islamic traditions cannot be removed from this country. … So I think the Iranian system will never happen in Iraq, and most Islamic movements agree wth me on that.” That will please the Sunnis and the Americans.]
So now we’ll have to wait and see what happens in the coming days and weeks. There will no doubt be a flare of violence thaht could last up to a week or so, but after that, If the level of violence starts to decrease, then that means the Sunnis are playing ball. Now it is time for the Shi’ites to curb their militias; that’s the deal. If that doesn’t happen, expect the Sunnis to let their fighters loose again.
[UPDATE 5:49:39 PM +0200 GMT: DefenseTech has “a good roundup”:http://www.defensetech.org/archives/002483.html of news on Zarqawi, including links to the “video of the bombing run”:http://www.mnf-iraq.com/zarqawi/video/Zaqarwi_Clip.wmv.]
[UPDATE 6:18:34 PM +0200 GMT: The story I did for TIME Magazine is “here”:http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1201993,00.html.]
[UPDATE 7:05:36 PM +0200 GMT: Right on schedule. Several suicide car bombs have gone off in Baghdad killing an unknown number of civilians.]

Another massacre?

The BBC is reporting another possible massacre of Iraqi civilians, this time in Ishaqi, 60 miles north of Baghdad. Up to 11 people may have been “deliberately shot” by U.S. troops.

BEIRUT — Oh, man. The BBC is reporting another possible massacre of Iraqi civilians, this time in Ishaqi, 60 miles north of Baghdad. Up to 11 people may have been “deliberately shot” by U.S. troops.

The video appears to challenge the US military’s account of events that took place in the town of Ishaqi in March.
The US said at the time four people died during a military operation, but Iraqi police claimed that US troops had deliberately shot the 11 people.
A spokesman for US forces in Iraq told the BBC an inquiry was under way.

The military says it was a firefight with Iraqi insurgents, and in the course of the battle a house collapsed under heavy fire, killing a suspect, two women and a child. But Iraqi police said the Americans rounded up 11 people and shot them in the house. They then blew up the building.
The BBC says the tape, provided by a hardline Sunni group opposed to the occupation, showed bodies with clear gunshot wounds and appeared to be genuine.
Now, just because a Sunni group supplied this video doesn’t mean it should be discounted. Greeted with skepticism, yes, discounted, no. The group that brought the Haditha video to our attention at TIME was a Sunni NGO opposed to the American presence, and Haditha looks to be exactly as they described it: a massacre. Also, it makes absolute sense that a Sunni group would be the messenger. Thanks to the rampant sectarianism, only Sunni groups can operate in Sunni areas, and they’re bearing the brunt of the violence from the U.S.
So why don’t they play up the horrors of the Shi’ite groups that are also massacring Sunni families? Well, it wouldn’t do any good. Anyone think the Iraqi government is going to be particularly responsive when the Shi’ite prime minister (Jaafari) appointed a Shi’ite Interior Minister (Jabr) who “packed his ministry with Shi’ite death squads”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/2006/03/neither_a_good_war_nor_a_badr.php while America dithered and/or trained them? Of course not.
But, also, this is what happens when democracies go to war in a media age: The innocents — or aggrieved — take their case to the American people. If their own government won’t protect them, perhaps the people that elected the government that put their government in place will. It’s a vain hope, I know, but what else do they have left?
*UPDATE 6/2/06 8:16:40 PM +0200:* “U.S. military denies allegations of Ishaqi massacre”:http://abcnews.go.com/International/story?id=2032795&page=1.

ABC News has learned that military officials have completed their investigation and concluded that U.S. forces followed the rules of engagement.
A senior Pentagon official told ABC News the investigation concluded that the allegations of intentional killings of civilians by American forces are unfounded.

Karl Zinsmeister: Contemptible

BEIRUT — *Sigh* Another attack on the war corps by a guy who’s now the senior domestic policy advisor for President Bush. He’s also the guy who wrote this gem:

In another article, this one at the American Enterprise Institute’s Web site on June 20, 2005, Zinsmeister, after another period as an embed, wrote, “What the establishment media covering Iraq have utterly failed to make clear today is this central reality: With the exception of periodic flare-ups in isolated corners, our struggle in Iraq as warfare is over….Contrary to the impression given by most newspaper headlines, the United States has won the day in Iraq…. the battle of Iraq is no longer one of war fighting—but of policing and politics.”
The article is titled, “The War Is Over, and We Won.”

Yeah, ’cause policing and politics have proven to be so easy. But I just don’t have it in me today to take issues with this guy. Maybe I’m just “whiny”:http://web.mac.com/callbritton/iWeb/B2I%20Extras/Clips_files/A_Badr_Peace-1.pdf and “appallingly”:http://web.mac.com/callbritton/iWeb/B2I%20Extras/Clips_files/Hostile_Territory.pdf “soft”:http://web.mac.com/callbritton/iWeb/B2I%20Extras/Clips_files/Among_the_Believers.pdf.

More on the CBS crew

Not a single journalist in Baghdad believes that they’re telling the story of “a determined people … fighting for freedom and liberty.” Everyone I know thinks the places is disintegrating and heading for a hell on earth.

BEIRUT — In the _Times’_ story about yesterday’s attack, which killed two CBS crewmen, a U.S. soldier and an Iraqi interpreter, as well as gravely wounded the correspondent and six other soldiers, U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad was quoted as saying:

“These brave journalists risked their lives to tell the world the story of a courageous people and a proud nation,” he said. “The terrorists who committed this evil crime have shown themselves for who they are. They do not want the world to see the truth of what is happening in Iraq, where a determined people are fighting for freedom and liberty.”
“That story must and will be told,” he said.

Please. Dozier, Brolan and Douglas were doing a Memorial Day story on the troops, which probably came down from their editor as one of those perennial stories journalists have to do whenever the holiday rolls around. (Pity the poor editor who assigned that story. Every editor has to live with the knowledge that their story assignments could be placing people they know and care about in danger. Speaking from experience, I would much rather be the reporter on the ground than the assignment editor. The guilt if something goes wrong is almost unbearable.)
But back to Zal. I know the embassy has to stay on message, but not a single journalist in Baghdad believes that they’re telling the story of “a determined people … fighting for freedom and liberty.” Everyone I know thinks the place is disintegrating and heading for a hell on earth. Nir Rosen’s “Republic of Fear” op-ed is spot on. “Read it.”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/26/AR2006052601578.html I’ve run across almost every thing he says in his article, and most other journalists have as well. Our local staff have to live this day in and day out, so we get to hear just how awful it is. Relatives disappearing, multiple ID cards, massacres one street over.
Yeah, sounds like a determined people fighting for liberty to me. Not. More like a frightened people just trying to keep their heads down and stay alive while saving up enough money “to flee the country.”:http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=FA0815FE385A0C7A8DDDAC0894DE404482 (Times’ firewall, sorry.)

Secret listening program in Iraq

BEIRUT — Wow, talk about intriguing. At the very end of the _New York Times_ story on the looting of Saddam’s bunkers under the noses of the Americans, James Glanz drops this little bombshell:

But the palace still retains its aura of mystery. Tucked away on the undamaged side is a largely secret communications project that Lucent is carrying out for the Iraqi Interior Ministry, said Frank Gay, a Lucent program director. A Lucent employee who refused to give even his first name let a reporter and photographer peek into the room where people worked quietly at laptops. “There’s nothing to see,” the employee said, hustling his guests on.

WTF? “Largely secret”? “Iraqi Interior Ministry”? My ears are all a-pricked. Actually, we (meaning journalists) always assumed our calls and emails were monitored by the U.S. military and others. Interesting to see it confirmed. Get cracking on this one, James!

Al-Alousi Stands Alone

I’d like to pick a wee bone with Tom Friedman. Well, actually not him specificially, but really the American tendency to emphasize the actions of individuals over larger, countervailing forces in politics. Exhibit A: Friedman’s opinion that the action of a brave Iraqi in Parliament is a good reason to keep at it in Iraq

BEIRUT — I’d like to pick a wee bone with Tom Friedman. Well, actually not him specifically, but really the American tendency to emphasize the actions of individuals over larger, countervailing forces in politics. Exhibit A: Friedman’s opinion that the action of a brave Iraqi in Parliament is a good reason to keep at it in Iraq (Times’ Select, sorry):

I am often asked why I don’t just give up on Iraq and pronounce it a lost cause. It would certainly make my job (and marriage) easier.
What holds me back are scenes like the one related in last Sunday’s Times story from Baghdad about the Iraqi Parliament’s vote to approve the country’s new cabinet. Our story noted that during the Iraqi parliamentary session, the Sunni party leader Saleh Mutlaq, a former Baathist, stood up and started denouncing the decision by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to have Parliament vote on the new cabinet even though he hadn’t yet filled the key security posts.
At that point, another Sunni politician, Mithal al-Alousi, told Mr. Mutlaq to sit down. “Iraqi blood is being spilled every day,” Mr. Alousi said. It was time to move forward. When Mr. Mutlaq pressed on with his denunciations, Mr. Alousi “pulled him down into his chair,” The Times reported. That was a gutsy move — live on Iraqi TV. Many Sunni insurgents may not like what Mr. Alousi did, but he did it anyway.
As long as I see Iraqis ready to take a stand like that, I think we have to stand with them. When we don’t see Iraqis taking the risk to build a progressive Iraq, then it is indeed time to pack and go. That moment may come soon. It’s hard to tell. I won’t hesitate to say so — but not yet.

If only it were _Iraqis_ instead of _an Iraqi_ taking a stand. As the saying goes, one swallow does not a summer make.
I know Mithal al-Alousi and Saleh Mutlaq. I’ve spoken with them both on numerous occasions. I like them both, in their own way, and consider them friends of a sort. But al-Alousi is different. He’s the most — and possibly only — truly honorable Iraqi politician I’ve met. This is a guy, a Sunni, who stands firmly for secularism, who doesn’t believe that the Israeli-Palestinian fight is one that Iraq should be in, and who paid for a trip to Israel in order to foster ties with the strongest economy in the region with the lives of his two sons. He also believes in equality before the law, and — no former Ba’athist he — has been harshly critical of the De-Ba’athification Commission because it was run by political hacks working for their respective parties, so they were able to grind many, many axes against men and women who did nothing wrong but try to feed their families in an unjust system.
Obviously, he’s not a perfect man. He was jailed for a year in Germany for attempting to take over the Iraqi embassy prior to the March 2003 invasion. But even that grew out of his frustration with Saddam’s regime.
(Edit: And his trip to Israel _was_ ill-advised in the political climate of Iraq. But he was following the lead of his old buddy Ahmad Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress, who said to the Council on Foreign Relations that “Iraq should recognize Israel”:http://www.cfr.org/publication/6044/conversation_with_ahmad_chalabi.html. (Way down at the bottom.) When al-Alousi took actual steps to follow that up, the INC hung him out to dry and called for his head. With friends like that…)
Mutlaq, on the other hand, is a former Ba’athist and claims to have some pull with the insurgency. What the two men have in common, other than being co-religionists, is that neither has any real constituency to speak of.
Al-Alousi, bless him, got a single seat in Parliament. Mutlaq has about 11, I believe, but his claim to influence rests in his alleged influence with the Ba’athist elements of the insurgency. Sorry to say, every Ba’athist ever interviewed by TIME viewed Mutlaq as a pretender and paid no attention to him.
So those who have hoped more than planned for this war are betting on what is probably a losing horse, despite al-Alousi’s honesty and earnestness. if only there were more guys like him in power! But there aren’t, because religion and tribal loyalties get the better of Iraqis when they need to stand up for guys like al-Alousi. I know many Iraqis who like and admire al-Alousi, but when it came time to vote in December, they went with the Sistani list (if they were Shi’a) or Adnan al-Dulaimi’s list (if they were Sunni), even though they said beforehand how much they disliked clerics running the show. Al-Alousi’s vision of secularism and liberalism just can’t compete with the forces rending Iraq these days. And hoping people like Mutlaq and Dulaimi will be able to curb the insurgency — or even want to, since that’s all that gives the Sunnis a seat at the table — is a real gamble. Based on what I know, I don’t think the newly-elected Sunni parliamentarians will be able to deliver jack.
Friedman’s desire to look at al-Alousi as a sign that all is not lost in Iraq is natural. Americans are predisposed towards celebrating the actions and intentions of individuals in politics. We vote for candidates rather than lists, which points up the incompatibilities of American expectations and hopes, and the forces of group-think, sectarianism and tribalism at work in Iraq. Unless you’re Saddam, one person is just not going to make a huge difference in Iraq. Case in point: When the Americans ran the show, the appointed a secular Shi’ite, Ayad Allawi, as prime minister, who turned around and waged war on Fallujah and Moqtada al-Sadr. Now, after two elections and one referendum, the Iraqi people have elected a government that has become more sectarian, not less; more divided and divisive. Today, al-Sadr’s a kingmaker within the government and the insurgency is as virulent as ever. That’s democracy in Iraq. Modernity lost.
Look, I’ll be honest: I don’t know what the American course of action should be exactly. Stay? Leave? It’s a bit of a trick question because the military component of the American presence has been, well, almost the entirety of the American presence, and this has long not been a military problem. Of course U.S. troops should go as soon as possible. But what’s really needed is an army of police trainers, technicians and people who can get the economy back on its feet and power flowing again, from America and from around the region. You want to see the forces of secularism advance in Iraq? Put al-Alousi in charge of the electricity ministry and then spare no expense to get the lights back on for more than four hours a day in Baghdad — and then let him take the credit. Put secularists in charge of the anti-corruption watchdog Committee for Public Integrity and give it some real bite. Rid plum posts like the Finance Ministry of discredited retreads like Bayan Jabr and put real economists in place so they can boost employment in the south. That would be a good start.
If the Iraqis are unwilling to take steps that de-emphasize local, tribal and sectarian loyalties in their politics — and fast — well, maybe the U.S. should just pack up and leave. These days, al-Alousi is a lonely swallow indeed.