Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Maliki Rejects DeBaathification Of Army And Police Officers

On February 24, 2010 the Accountability and Justice Commission announced that it wanted 376 members of the Iraqi army and police fired for ties with the Baathist regime. 99 were said to be high-ranking members of the Baath Party, while 83 were from Saddam’s military. Among those banned were the former head of the Baghdad Operations Command, the deputy chief of staff of the army, and the deputy commander of the infantry. On February 28, a government spokesman said that all of the officers were not only exempt, but were recruited by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki from the old security forces, and were considered loyal to the new Iraqi government. Ali al-Lami, the head of the Accountability and Justice Commission, which took over from the old deBaathification Commission, claimed that any exemptions would require first going through the Commission, then parliament, and finally be approved by the cabinet. Lami is a candidate for the Iraqi National Alliance, which is the main rival to Maliki’s State of Law List in the March 2010 parliamentary elections.

The give and go between the Commission and the government shows that deBaathification can cut both ways. Both the National Alliance and State of Law have been pushing the Baathist issue hard in the run-up to the vote. It has quickly spread from targeting their nationalist and secular opponents by banning their candidates to firing members of the provincial bureaucracies. Now the fear of Baathists is being used against the security forces, which Maliki has tried to win over to his side. On February 25 for example, the Prime Minister’s office announced that it was rehiring 20,000 former officers fired when the U.S. disbanded the military in 2003. The National Alliance may be trying to target this potential constituency of Maliki’s with its latest banning. This just highlights the fact that once the Baathist card is out of the box it can be used against anyone, from the perpetuators of the hysteria to their enemies.

SOURCES

Agence France Presse, “Iraq says sacking of Saddam officers would be illegal,” 2/28/10

DPA, “Report: 376 Iraqi security officers to be fired for ‘Baathist’ ties,” 2/24/10

Santora, Marc, “Iraq to Rehire 20,000 Hussein-Era Army Officers,” New York Times, 2/25/10

Sullivan, Marisa Cochrane, “Sunni Politicians Barred From Candidacy,” Institute for the Study of War, 1/14/10

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