Saturday, December 16, 2006

Iraq's P.M. Invites Iraqi Army Officers to Rejoin Military

Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki has invited former members of Iraq's military to return to their jobs:

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Saturday Iraqi army officers of all ranks sacked after the U.S. invasion in 2003 would be allowed to reapply for their posts in the new army.

The Shi'ite premier issued the invitation, a gesture towards disgruntled minority Sunnis, at a national reconciliation conference in Baghdad aimed at easing sectarian violence that U.N. officials estimate causes more than 100 deaths a day.

Shortly after the U.S. invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, U.S. administrator Paul Bremer quickly dissolved the Iraqi army, a decision experts consider a miscalculation. Many of its members then joined the ranks of the Sunni insurgency.

The Defence Ministry has recruited former officers of Saddam's army in the past but limited the invitation to junior ranks. Maliki's invitation was the first extended to all ranks.

"The new Iraqi army is opening the door to former Iraqi army officers. Those who do not come back will be given pensions," he told a conference of Kurdish, Sunni Arab, Shi'ite and secular politicians.

No one anymore seriously questions that Paul Bremer's decision to disband the Iraqi army was a terrible mistake, and that it was a major cause of the Sunni insurgency. And surely al-Maliki's reaching out to try to undo that mistake can't make things any worse. But I'm not sure it will make conditions in Iraq significantly better, either. So much has happened since Bremer dissolved the Iraqi army and put 300,000 former Saddam loyalists on the street with no job or income. I'm very much afraid this gesture is too little, too late.

I'd love to read what bloggers more knowledgeable about Iraq -- like Juan Cole -- have to say, though.

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