Iraq’s new prime minister Iyad Allawi is a fast mover.
This week, he provided DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s report last week: “Allawi Recruits Insurgents and Rebels” with a follow-up: On his orders, the government in Baghdad has summoned some 75,000 officers and NCOs who served in Saddam Hussein‘s dismantled armed forces to report to special recruiting centers opening up all over the country. They are given the opportunity of going back into uniform at once at their old ranks and with full pay plus another 10-20 percent, with no questions asked about their activities under the deposed dictator or since. Refusers will receive a tiny pension of up to $60 a month. The Allawi government hopes 90 percent of the old guard will opt for a return to military service.
Rank and file card-carrying Baathists will not be barred. But officers and NCOs who were active partisans holding down senior positions in the party hierarchy, such as district or branch directors on behalf of army and party, will be disqualified from serving in the New Iraqi Army. This group was employed by Saddam’s late son Uday Hussein in special units defending the regime. Also debarred are officers who took part in Saddam’s campaigns of oppression against the Kurdish and Shiite Muslim communities. Both these groups will be sent home with miniscule pensions.
Acting out the US military master plan, Allawi expects his crash conscription program to muster enough officers to lead the 120-130,000 troops he hopes to raise by the end of August, thereby stocking six regional divisions which exist mainly on paper at the moment for lack of officers. These troops are to be drawn from Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish militias, some of whom are still fighting with the insurgents. US military planners aim for the rehabilitation of the command echelon of Saddam Hussein’s armed forces and its transformation into an officer class loyal to the new Iraqi government and prepared to adhere to Washington’s military and strategic goals in Iraq and the region.
To achieve this dual objective, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources report that the newly-formed Iraqi units and their officers will be trained according to American military doctrines. They will also soon receive brand new American weapons. Last week, President George W. Bush approved the first delivery of arms to sovereign Iraq.
The Iraqi government’s recruitment drive is running parallel to Washington’s fast-moving negotiating track for the pacification of Sunni leaders – former generals and tribal chiefs – in order to bring the guerrilla insurgency to an end. (See first article in this issue.)
Above 65 percent of the officers and NCOs receiving call-up papers are Sunni. Giving them back their positions of command in field units and a living wage is expected to restore their self respect and position in family and society and so remove a prime motive for fighting on in a guerrilla war.
This process, in which the Bush administration is sinking many billions of dollars, is far from guaranteed at this early stage. The wall of mistrust between Americans and Iraq’s Sunnis is high and the guerrilla war will not abate overnight. However, there are first indications of a parting of the ways between Iraqi insurgents and their foreign allies, notably al Qaeda. In Samarra, Sunni guerrillas this week evicted 100 al Qaeda fighters from the base they had set up in the Sunni Triangle town. The next day, the fundamentalists were sighted heading north towards the Iranian frontier.
This development was welcomed by US commanders and Iraqi officials, However, when Samarra guerrilla chiefs were asked if they would halt their attacks on US convoys crossing the outskirts of the town on their way to Tikrit and Baiji, they replied it was too soon to say.
Another positive signal was registered Wednesday, July 21. Not only did Iraq’s Sunni president Ghazi Yawar call for the first time on Kurdish leaders in the town of Salahaddin, but he broke historic ground by declaring that the lands and properties Saddam Hussein had confiscated from Kurds in Kirkuk and awarded to hundreds of thousands of Sunni Arabs should be restored to their rightful owners. This statement opens the way to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Sunni Arabs and their re-housing in Sunni regions of central Iraq.
This was no slip of the tongue on the Iraqi president’s part. The new interim administration is grateful for the unstinting efforts made by Kurdish ministers Salih Barham, deputy premier for security, and Hoshyar Zebari, foreign minister, to consolidate the sovereign regime in Baghdad. Their price is known, a pledge of Kurdish autonomy in the north. The willingness to effect population transfers to undo Saddam Hussein’s de-Kurdification program in the north, has already been broached by the senior Arab figure who is representing Washington in high level negotiations with Sunni leaders. This is how he defined the issue: The Sunni Arab evacuation from the Kurdish regions and resettlement in central Iraq will strengthen the Sunni region.
If agreement can be reached to halt the guerrilla war and begin the process of conciliation, Washington is willing to consider pledging the vast sums required for resettling the Sunni population evacuated from Kurdistan in modern residential communities in central Iraq.