Resurgence In The Shi'ite World - Part 8 - Iraq-Y - Iraq Security & Amnesty Plan.
Versions of many of these points were contained in earlier documents, including Maliki's government platform announced in May. Nonetheless, the plan was hailed by the leader of the main Sunni coalition, which participated in its drafting. Maliki, a Shi'ite, declared his document an "olive branch" to "those who want to rebuild our country", while Adnan al-Dulaimi of the Sunni-led Iraqi Consensus Front said it was the "first step towards security, stability and building the new Iraq".
The plan called for building up Iraq's security forces so foreign troops could be withdrawn, but did not spell out any timetables, and the amnesty it offered was vague enough to anger some of the key politicians in Washington. US Republican Senator John Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, on June 25 welcomed the general reconciliation plans. However Carl Levin, a Democratic senator, said: "For heaven's sake, we liberated that country. We got rid of a horrific dictator. We've paid a tremendous price. More than 2,500 Americans have given up their lives. The idea that they should even consider talking about amnesty for people who have killed people who liberated their country is unconscionable".
In a TV address on June 27, however, Maliki clarified that the amnesty would not include any of the insurgents who killed coalition or Iraqi troops or Iraqi civilians. He had to mention more than once that the amnesty plan excluded those who killed coalition soldiers or officials and those who killed civilians. Excluded from the amnesty offer are all the Neo-Salafi groups and fellow Sunni insurgents who have been co-ordinating with them.
Maliki also stated definitively that attacks on American soldiers would not be pardoned under the amnesty plan. In his first meeting with the Western media, Maliki, 56, sought to ally concerns raised by many in the US that his plan would essentially allow attacks on Americans. "There will be no amnesty for those who have killed Americans", Maliki said during the briefing, which lasted almost an hour and was held in a conference room in his office, adding: "I think this would bring a very negative reaction among Iraqis who are related to those who were killed and among Americans who are related to these people".
Sunni groups opposed to the Neo-Salafis were greatly relieved by the death of Abu Mu'sab al-Zarqawi, leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq who was killed in a US air strike on June 7 (see rim6-IraqZarqawiJun19-06).
The reconciliation plan advocated "solving the problem of militias" - with the mention of militias mainly implying Shi'ite militia groups - which Sunni Arabs claim have participated in a recent wave of sectarian killings. But again it did not specify how this might be done. It called on insurgents to "lay down their arms and join the political process", but said that "reconciliation and national dialogue does not mean honouring and reaching out to the killers and criminals". However, it did contain several key points aimed at winning Sunni support - the review of laws banning high-ranking members of the former ruling Ba'th party from public posts, and a call to negotiate guidelines with US troops on how to prevent human rights abuses during military operations.
Proposals such as reviewing de-Ba'thification or pardoning insurgents had in the past been strongly opposed by many in Maliki's Shi'ite-led United Iraq Alliance (UIA).
The New York Times on June 25 reported that in a classified briefing General George Casey, the US commander in Iraq, had projected that two brigades would be cut in Iraq this year from the current 14, with a further five or six brigades being withdrawn by the end of 2007.The US man in charge of training Iraqi security forces, Lt Gen Martin Dempsey, on June 27 said Iraq's new army would be formed and at full strength by end-2006. But he cautioned that the new military in Iraq still faced a shortage of qualified officers and the infrastructure to carry out independent operations. He said the threat of armed militias could be resolved only by negotiations with religious leaders commanding those illegal groups, and by taking away their foot soldiers by offering them the choice of a role within government-controlled security services, an opportunity to disarm - or punishment. Dempsey said that, without a national reconciliation plan which reaches out simultaneously to Sunni insurgents and Shi'ite militia members, neither side would disarm out of fear of the other. And in a statement of battlefield realism rarely heard from a podium in Washington, Dempsey said it was certain that a national reconciliation plan offered by the new Baghdad government would include amnesty for at least some who had engaged in insurgent acts.
Dempsey's training efforts are the foundation of the Bush administration's plans for withdrawing troops as indigenous security forces grow in number and competence, and his comments came as Washington was boiling with debate over timetables for US troop reductions in Iraq. Dempsey said that, by end-2006, the army will be "fully capable of recruiting, vetting, inducting, training, forming into units, putting them in barracks, sending them out the gate to perform their missions". But he expressed concerns about the ability of the Iraqi ministries to carry out military operations independent of US support, and about "leader development".
While military and police cadets "come out of a training base at a very high level of motivation", Dempsey said, "we then turn them over to a police chief who may have bad habits from former times or a mid-grade army officer who believes that leadership is an entitlement, not a responsibility".