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Iraqi PM Maliki Offers Amnesty Proposal for Sunni Insurgents

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Maliki unveiled a proposal for amnesty toward Sunni insurgents, offering to release Sunni prisoners but explicitly excluding members of al-Qaeda or “the Saddamists” from consideration. Maliki set forth a structure through which the amnesty could be administered. The Washington Post discusses the reactions from various Iraqi factions, most but not all of which were positive. Maliki’s presentation was quickly met by certain Sunni insurgent groups asking for negotiations. A full text of the proposal has been published by Al-Hayat (in Arabic); an English translation is to follow.

As reported in Al-Hayat, Maliki set forth three tools for managing the reconciliation process; one, setting up high-level dialogue committees; two, branch councils to broaden the basis for reconciliation; and three, separate conferences for religious scholars, tribal leaders and other influential local actors. The article reports that the most important Sunni faction, the Iraqi Accord Front headed by Adnan Dulaimi, sought a broad amnesty on all prisoners, but leaders in the Shia United Iraqi Alliance, which Maliki represents, insisted that amnesty be selective and determined on a case by case basis. The article further notes that the Sunni demand for recognition of the “Iraqi resistance” was firmly rejected, but it did contain a renewed call for an end to the Shia militias and the monopolization of legitimate force by the state.

An interview with Dulaimi by the Iraqi newspaper Al-Rafideen contained more detailed comments which appear to represent moderate Sunni opinion:

…’it is upon the militias to look at this initiative in good faith taking in view the national interest, and this cannot be achieved unless they come clean with their intentions, something which would prepare the way for the good and the security of Iraq, especially if offers are made through this initiative which give security to the Sunnis in the country, most particularly in Baghdad because there is a broad campaign to inflict terror upon them undertaken by militias known by the government and by American forces.’ Responding to a question regarding some gaps which exist in the initiative which the Accord Front had already registered, Dulaimi said that ‘all matters in the life of man and his thinking will contain gaps, but these gaps can be closed through dialogue, counsel, transparency and good faith in dispersing the shadows…’ Dulaimi added that ‘the Accord Front will present an official working paper to Prime Minister Nuri Maliki, and to the parliament, putting forward a true starting point for turning a new page in the history of contemporary Iraq.’

The Al-Hayat article linked above reported, however, that while the most important Sunni political leaders welcomed the proposal, 11 significant armed Sunni factions rejected it out of hand, saying that they would not negotiate with Maliki until foreign forces had left Iraq and the ‘resistance’ had been recognized.

The urgency of reconciliation was pressed home by a series of explosions in the Sunni city of Baqubah and the Shia city of Hilla which killed at least 38. At the same time, Al-Rafideen reports, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Rafia Hiyad Aisawi told the Egyptian newspaper Al-Akhbar that a greater presence was needed from Arabs to supplement the presence of American, European and United Nations personnel. The article notes a preparatory meeting of the Iraqi National Accord Conference will be held on July 7 and be attended by all countries bordering Iraq plus Egypt and Bahrain. The meeting is to be held in Tehran.
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Sowell is an Arabic linguist, attorney and the author of The Arab World: An Illustrated History. You can read more about his book at his website, Arab World Analysis.