Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Powerful Shiite opposes return of Baath Party members
BAGHDAD: The most powerful Shiite cleric in Iraq has rejected an American-backed proposal to allow thousands of former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to return to government service, an aide to the cleric said Monday.

The rejection appears certain to fuel further sectarian hostility between Sunni Arabs and Shiites, since many Sunnis say they were unfairly purged from the government in the clampdown on the Baath Party.

The Americans say a partial reversal of the strict "de-Baathfication" process is one of the most crucial steps the Iraqi government can take in wooing back disenfranchised Sunni Arabs and draining the Sunni-led insurgency of its fervor.

The latest proposal was announced by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani on March 26 at the strong urging of Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, the senior American envoy to Iraq, who left his job last week. American officials were instrumental in drafting the proposal.

But an aide to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the revered, reclusive Shiite cleric, said Monday that there was a "general feeling of rejection" over the proposal.

There are many in the Iraqi government who don't seem to be working as hard as they can on uniting Iraq. I can't judge this proposal for myself, but if there's hope at all we should trust Petraeus and Gates. Our negotiators need to make it clear that if they want us to keep our troops in there they have to work towards peace.

Bush needs to say that while he can veto troop time limits for now, the Iraqi government needs to work harder. That's right, instead of calling his opponents unpatriotic, use them for leverage. And yes, at least some Democrats need to emphasize they'll be much less likely to support this sort of legislation in the future if genuine progress is made - before a president who might not veto it comes into office.

No comments: