The significance of the Baker-Hamilton report (Iraqi Study Group — ISG) is that it represents for the first time the combined views of the Republicans and the Democrats following the US election, which made the Democrats part of the decision-making process and not just the opposition party.
This report should be looked at as an attempt to rescue US interests from failure in Iraq and the Middle East.
It is still not obvious to this date how many of the 79 recommendations in the report will be carried out by the Bush administration.
One of the important recommendations within the internal approach is the removal of the Baathists from the list of US enemies, leaving Al-Qaeda and the Militias (meaning the Al-Mahdi army) as the sole enemies to the immediate and long term stability of Iraq. The call for re-evaluation of US policy based on re-baathification was highlighted in recommendation 27 and other recommendations such as those in the Assessment/Sources of Violence section of the report.
It appears that this policy will be one of the report recommendations that will be implemented.
The meeting between Bush and Iraqi prime minister Al-Maliki in Amman was followed by meetings between Bush and Al-Hakim of the Shiite SCIRI and Al-Hashmi of the Sunni Islamic party and was pursued immediately by the so called ‘conference of re-conciliation’ in Baghdad, in which several Baathists officials were invited. The policy of co-operation with the Baathists represents a big shift in the policies of the SCIRI movement which was previously against such co-operation with the Baathists, demonstrating SCIRI’s weakness and inability to resist US pressure.
The report’s philosophy behind the call in recommendation 27 for re-baathification is, “the political reconciliation requires the reintegration of Baathists … into national life, with the leading figures of Saddam Hussein’s regime excluded.” This is a call to integrate the Baath party with its fascist ideology in the political process excluding a few leading Saddamist figures. This will clear without any need for using the judicial system tens of thousands of Baathist killers in the security services — “Saddam’s Fedayeen” as well as the special forces — from all atrocities committed against hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people between 1963 and 2003.
This is no different from telling the European people that only a few leaders of Hitler’s regime, “the Hitlerists,” were responsible for all the atrocities committed against millions of Europeans during 1939 to 1945. Moreover, that the Nazi party should have been reintegrated into German national life after the Second World War and that all the SS members and most of the party’s leaders were blameless.
So why would the ICG present the policy of the political re-baathification as part of the US new approach?
From studying the history of the past fifty years, the Iraqi Baath party was frequently used as an instrument in accomplishing US and UK policies in the Middle East and the Gulf.
It was the major tool used in the bloody coup d’etat of 1963 against the Kassim regime and the progressive movements in Iraq. Ali Salih Al-Sadi, the Baathist leader who headed the coup and consequently became Prime Minster, later admitted that they came to power in a coup organised and financed by the CIA and British Intelligence Services, in order to freeze Law 80, which was declared by Kassim in 1961 to remove over 99.5% of Iraqi territory from the control of the international oil companies and return it to Iraqi sovereignty.
On July 17, 1968, the Baathists returned to power for the second time and then on July 30, 1968 there was a coup within the coup, the purpose of which admitted Saddam Hussein was to dispose two of the original putschists who were representing the CIA.
In 1980, the Baath regime started an eight year war against Iran to bring to a halt the spreading of ideas and influence of the 1979 Iranian revolution, in line with the objectives of US strategy in the Gulf. The Baathists were supported militarily, politically and financially by the US, UK and all the Arab reactionary regimes in the area during this war.
After the collapse of the USSR in 1990, the US were no longer interested in a partnership with the Baathists and instead shifted their policies to the direct and full control on the Gulf area. This meant that the US now had no more need for the Iraqi Baathists and that is how they succeeded in achieving their objectives — by letting the Baathists attack and occupy Kuwait, which led to the fulfilment of all the US plans in the Gulf region.
Therefore, no one should be surprised if the US policy makers again call on the help of the Baathist “alliance of convenience,” to help them when in need.
1. The joint report by the Democrats and the Republicans does not call for the immediate end of the military occupation of Iraq; neither does it call for a timetable of withdrawal of forces. In fact it rejects any such calls. This is clearly outlined in the “Military Strategy for Iraq” and “Steps for the United States to take…” sections. The recommendations are only calling for some key tactical changes in US policies and do not call for a strategic change in the policies.
2. The report is also calling for more CIA and FBI involvement in the control of Iraqi internal affairs, as shown in recommendations 58 and 79.
3. The report recommendations are calling for more options to be incorporated within the existing US strategy in Iraq. The “Constructive Chaos” strategy must include re-baathification as an immediate option to be implemented.
4. There are many indications that the US and UK are preparing for a coup in Iraq to bring the Baathists back to power but under their full control. It is a well known secret that the Iraqi Ministry of Defence is wholly controlled by the US forces and the CIA, with the support of large numbers of the old senior Baathist officers.
Recommendations 50 and 51 are calling for the transfer of the entire Iraqi police force and the border police from the Ministry of Interior to the Ministry of Defence in order to achieve the objective of having all the active military forces under US control. This will remove the possibility of any potential resistance to the coup.
5. The circulating rumours in Iraq and the Middle East are that such a coup will take place within the first three to six months of 2007. The Iraqi parliament will be dissolved or suspended for up to one year and Iyad Allawi (a Shiite Baathist) and Saleh Al-Mutlag (a Sunni Baathist) will be given full control of the country with the support of the Iraq army units and the US/UK forces.
Such a plan if implemented will no doubt deepen the sectarian divisions, and will be another step towards a full scale civil war, since all Kurds and Shiites (making up about 80% of the Iraqi population) completely reject the return of the old Baathists to control the country and to maintain the occupation.
6. The only way to see any light at the end of the Iraqi tunnel is if the US puts forward a timetable to begin an immediate withdrew of all the occupying forces. This will remove a great obstacle and will create a genuine atmosphere for a possible National Reconciliation plan between the three main sectors of Iraqi society.
7. This could create a mutual recognition that all three sectors have to understand each other’s needs and reservations:
- The Shiites need to recognise that Iraq can not be built as ‘one nation’ without them accepting that Iraq must have an “agreeable democracy” which give all three sectors equal rights and say in building the future of their country. Being a majority does not give them the right to full control and they cannot ignore the rights of the Kurds and Sunnis.
- The Kurds have to recognise that a new Iraq can not be built if they threaten the Shiites and Sunnis that they will strive for independence from Iraq if their conditions are not met. They also have to accept that the occupation has to come to an end and that the only immediate future they have is to be part of the federal Iraq.
- The Sunnis also have to recognise that they should not maintain their persistent endeavours to return to full control of the State and they will have to rebuff the Baathists and get rid of the Al-Qaeda followers.
Munir Chalabi is an Iraqi Political Analyst living in London.