Reconciliation Plan Offers Amnesty for Insurgents
DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Debbie Elliott.
In Baghdad today, Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Malaki announced a 24 point plan for national reconciliation. It includes an amnesty for prisoners and insurgents, but the offer does not extend to those labeled terrorists. And there are no details on how Malaki plans to disband the sectarian militias responsible for so much of the killing recently.
NPR's Jamie Tarabay was at the Parliament building, where the Prime Minister briefed lawmakers on his plan and filed this report.
JAMIE TARABAY reporting:
It was a broad document that glossed over key issues, because there's still much disagreement among the politicians themselves. During a break in Parliament inside the heavily fortified Green Zone Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki emerged to give details on the long-awaited plan. He warned the amnesty wouldn't apply to everyone.
Prime Minister NOURI AL-MALIKI (Iraq): (Through Translator) This national reconciliation initiative shouldn't be mistaken for a reward for killers and acceptance for murderers. No, one thousand times, no. There will never be reconciliation with those until they are punished for their crimes through justice.
TARABAY: But just who did the amnesty apply to? NPR asked several of the politicians milling about to see if they knew. Lawmaker Hunan al-Kadu(ph).
Mr. HUNAN AL-KADU (Iraqi Lawmaker): I think the concept of insurgency will be really defined by the Iraqi government. We cannot really cover all the groups under the umbrella of insurgency or try to apply a specific criteria on them. So that will be left for the Iraqi government to define who are the insurgents, who are not insurgents, who are resistance, who have really committed against Iraqi people, who are not. It's not up to me, really.
TARABAY: For Adnan al-Dulaimi the answer of who the amnesty covers is not so ambiguous. He's the head of an influential Sunni group with links to insurgents, the very people this initiative is aimed at.
Mr. ADNAN AL-DULAIMI (Head of Sunni Endowment) (Through Translator): Resistance is against the occupier. Resistance is known. Do not ask questions that you know their answers. Ask questions that lead to the stability and unity of Iraq and unity of Iraqis.
TARABAY: But Sunni politician Alah Maki(ph) sees confusion.
Mr. ALAA MAKI (Sunni Politician): Really this - this issue needs to be clarified. We have to differentiate between the resistance and the violence, terrorists.
TARABAY: But there's no difference between an insurgent and a terrorist for another Sunni politician, the secular Methal al-Alusi(ph).
Mr. METHAL AL-ALUSI (Sunni Politician): There is no resistance in Iraq. There is terrorists, there are al-Qaida, Iranian agents, Syrian agents, and Saddam (unintelligible). There is no insurgents, as you say it, which is something make us very sad. There is only terrorists in Iraq, and we are going to face this reality.
TARABAY: Maliki has so far said those eligible for amnesty cannot have blood on their hands. It would apply to those who are connected with insurgent groups who now want to renounce violence and, as he puts it, embrace the new Iraq. He continues to demonstrate a tough and resolute image, consistent with his behavior when first elected to the post just over a month ago.
Prime Minister AL-MALIKI: (Through Translator) So to those who want to rebuild the country we extend a hand that carries a green olive branch. And to those who insist on aggression, terrorism and killing, we present a fist with the power of the law to protect our country and our people.
TARABAY: There were other points missing from the Prime Minister's national reconciliation plan. A timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. led troops in Iraq, and a mechanism to tackle the long-standing problem of Sunni and Shiite militias operating in and out of the Iraqi security forces. The Sunnis are angry the issue wasn't addressed in the plan. They blame Shiite militias for abducting and killing dozens of Sunnis at a time while Shiites accuse Sunnis of doing the same. Thousands of bodies, men killed with gunshots to the head, are found every day across the capital.
From Friday noon to Saturday noon, 125 bodies were brought to Baghdad's morgue. Today another 53. Morgue officials say the majority of the dead were Sunni. Most of the families were too afraid to come collect their dead. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad agrees there are still issues that need to be resolved, but he was optimistic.
Mr. ZALMAY KHALILZAD (U.S. Ambassador to Iraq): And I think there will be challenges in implementing the plan. And therefore we have to recognize progress when we see it. But you're right to point out that there are still issues that will have to be dealt with.
TARABAY: There are also plans underway to reconsider policies against former members of Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath party. But there are groups that won't be considered for the reconciliation process. Today an al-Qaida linked group released a video on an Islamist website showing the killings of three Russian embassy workers. A fourth was killed off screen. The men were kidnapped earlier this month.
Jamie Tarabay, NPR News, Baghdad. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.