Saturday, April 07, 2007

Potential Good News on Sunni Arab relations

The Associated Press is reporting that the Iraqi government is preparing to offer segments of the Ba'athist officer class pensions. This could actually be some good news although I have severe doubts about the scalability of the positive effect.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered pension payments for senior officers of Saddam Hussein's military and offered a return to service for lower-ranking soldiers.....

The al-Maliki statement said that any former officer above the rank of major would be given a pension equal to that of officers now retiring. Former officers above major who wanted to rejoin the army were encouraged to check with the military command to learn if they were acceptable in the Iraqi army that is being rebuilt by American forces.

Those who had the rank of major or lower may voluntarily return to the army.....

As I noted in the second section of my overview on Iraq, the primary Sunni Arab goal is a restoration of their previously privileged position in Iraqi society. If there was a singular insurgency among the Sunni Arab population, then this move would be a significant step forward. If it was combined with a general amnesty where all actions between May 1, 2003 and this evening were to be pardoned subject to a truth and reconciliation system, then these steps would be an excellent part of a general political settlement. The old regime gets paid off and respected, the new regime can incorporate their leadership elements into the security system, and public trust and governmental credibility could be built up in a systemic manner.

All in all, that would be a good thing if there was a singular Sunni Arab insurgency. However there is not a singular insurgency. Instead there are several dozen armed groups operating in the Sunni Arab dominated areas of Iraq, and they have several diverging goal sets. This pension proposal will be attractive to the segment of the insurgency that is still composed of ex-Ba'athists. However this group has been progressively getting smaller as a component of the insurgencies since 2003.

The pension plan is not a bad idea, and it may do some net good, but it is not a panacea

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