"I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort, we may get nearer to the truth." (Karl Popper)

Friday, June 23, 2006

Hope from the Middle East?

Two big stories from the Middle East - one frontpaged in The Times of London, the other relatively unheralded.

The Times reports that, perhaps as early as this weekend, the Iraqi government is to present a peace plan to several Sunni nationalist insurgent groups with whom it has been negotiating. For the first time, the official Iraqi position now seems to countenance a timeline for the removal of all coalition troops. It will also propose an amnesty and try to mitigate the effects of Paul Bremer's sweeping removal of all Baath party functionaries from civil service and military positions:
The Government will promise a finite, UN-approved timeline for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq; a halt to US operations against insurgent strongholds; an end to human rights violations, including those by coalition troops; and compensation for victims of attacks by terrorists or Iraqi and coalition forces. It will pledge to take action against Shia militias and death squads. It will also offer to review the process of “de-Baathification” and financial compensation for the thousands of Sunnis who were purged from senior jobs in the Armed Forces and Civil Service after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

The amnesty and withdrawal clauses might in one sense be seen as bitter pills for George Bush to swallow, and rather damaging Republican candidates and confuse their supporters coming up to the congressional elections. (Indeed it is unclear whether the Bush administration will sanction an amnesty for those who have killed U.S. personnel.) But a semblance of order on thr ground in Iraq must come before any such considerations. And the dynamic regarding Iraq in American politics, and among the American public (the latter causing the former, largely) is in the opposite direction: Few votes or seats will be gained by promoting a continuation of the status quo. It looks an ambitious deal, but if it were to come off, it might leave al-Qaeda and its followers rather isolated. That's the stated goal anyway. It would effectively end one front of the insurgency/civil war going on at the moment. There would still be the radicals of al-Qaeda, and the simmering violence in the southern British-controlled sphere. (Remember a state of emergency was only recently declared in Basra.) But it offers some hope. As a U.S. official quoted by The Times put it:
“This is what we did after the Second World War, after the Civil War, after the War of Independence. It may be unpalatable and unsavoury but it is how wars end.”

I suppose it's the same approach we took as regards the I.R.A. in the late 1980's and 1990's - the process began by the late Charles Haughey, and which trundles on today under his successor but one in Fianna Fail, Bertie Ahern.

Next door to Iraq, history will be made next week in Kuwait. As Amir Taheri reports in the Jerusalem Post:
Kuwaitis will go to the polls to elect a new National Assembly which will, in turn, approve a new prime minister and cabinet. The Kuwaitis will be making history for a number of reasons. This is the first election in which women are allowed to vote, which means the size of the electorate has more than doubled. More importantly, and much to the chagrin of Islamists who insist that women are unfit to play any role in politics, a number of women are standing, often on a platform of radial social and economic reform.
After Iraq, it is the second Arab state to hold such fully free elections. In recent days, the United Arab Emirates has also announced that it too will hold parliamentary elections, of one form or another. In the recent past, Saudi Arabia had (limited, municipal level only) elections. (Egypt's election, although nominally broader was perhaps less encouraging.) I won't say that all of this has been caused by events in Iraq. I'm not about to say post hoc ergo propter hoc. The weighing of factors like that probably requires the vantage point of historical hindsight. But it is encouraging in any event.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work
» »

Tue Aug 22, 10:03:00 AM GMT+1  

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