Monday, December 26, 2005

Did Iraqi sovereignty give way to quid pro quo...

American forces in Iraq released 22 high ranking members under Saddam Hussien immediately after the December 15th elections. The Iraqi government is promising to arrest these former prisoners and says their freedom is not acceptable:
National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie said after he met top Shi'ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf that he would not accept their being at liberty: "There are warrants of arrest for them issued by Iraqi judicial authorities and if they are released, we'll arrest them."
The Americans are sticking by their decision:
"The 22 individuals no longer posed a security threat to the people of Iraq and to the Coalition forces," U.S. commander General George Casey said on Saturday in a joint statement with the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad.

U.S. forces "therefore, had no legal basis to hold them any longer"...

The legal basis to hold them would be that they were involved with the dictatorship of Saddam Hussien, not that they posed a security risk while they were held. Saddam Hussien is not on trial now because he was wrapped up in the insurgency after he was overthrown. He is on trial for actions he took while he held power. Much the same as the Iraqi government would like to see happen with the prisoners we released. Will the Iraqi government get to see it's wishes fulfilled regarding these people? Evidently not:
Asked where the freed prisoners were, U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson said he could not elaborate but added that it was a U.S. reponsibility to "safeguard them after their release".
According to the defense lawyer for one of the former prisoners it was the Americans who determined there was no legal reason to hold them, not the Iraqi government.
Badia Aref, a Baghdad lawyer... said the U.S. authorities, had ruled that the Iraqi cases against the 22 had insufficient basis.
If the Iraqi's are truly sovereign, why can not they be allowed to reach their own determination regarding the legal case against these former prisoners? It seems to me that any pretense at Iraqi sovereignty while under coalition occupation has long since been a casualty of the war, and with this case has officially been buried in the desert sands.

Why then would we release these people? One can not help noticing that the election on December 15 passed largely peacefully, and the release came in the following days. The notion that there would be a quid pro quo with America agreeing to release the prisoners in exchange for an informal ceasefire during the election is addressed thusly:
Countering suggestions that the releases were a gesture to Sunnis after they took part peacefully in the Dec. 15 election, the Americans added: "The decision to release them was based on law, not on politics or any other consideration."
The timing of the release, against the wishes of the Iraqi government is just too coincidental to accept at face value. On the other hand there is no direct proof beyond the circumstantial timing that there was a quid pro quo. If there was a deal however, I am of the opinion this would actually be a good sign IF the sovereign government of Iraq had agreed to the deal. This would mean that the coalition had opened a dialogue with the insurgents and had actually been able to reach an agreement with them, which both sides honored. Rather than both sides being intractable in their various positions we may have been able to reach a political understanding with the insurgents.

This could have been a great outcome, and a reason for hope going forward. If appearances do turn out to be true however, the Bush administration managed to sully the political victory by snubbing the sovereign government of Iraq in carrying forth the plan. How typical this would be of this administration. Even when they get it right, they do it wrong.

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