Monday, April 02, 2007

Chalabi: Sistani, ayatollahs oppose return of Baathists

In 2003, following the invasion of Iraq, the first act of the Coalition Provisional Authority under L. Paul Bremer (pictured) had been 'de-Baathification', the elimination from government of members of Saddam's Baath political party, most of whom had joined for the increased pay and benefits which membership in the party offered. They had been the country's administrators, responsible for such things as water, electricity, trash collection, sewage disposal. With de-Baathification, the basics of everyday living began to crumble along with the previous government. The Iraqi army -- 300,000 strong -- had been disbanded as the second act of the CPA. Going home without work and without a future, members had only their tribal and religious loyalties to count on. Many attribute these two acts as the well-spring of the insurgency.

Iraq's top Shiite cleric opposes a draft law that would allow former members of Saddam Hussein's ruling Baath Party to resume government positions, the head of the committee dealing with the Baathists said Sunday.

Ahmed Chalabi met with Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani on Sunday in the Shiite holy city of Najaf to discuss the draft law that would allow thousands of former Baath Party members to regain their jobs or grant them pensions if they are denied jobs they once held in the government or military.

The proposal, long demanded by the U.S., is designed to appease Iraq's once-dominant Sunni Arab minority in a bid to blunt the country's insurgency and return members of the minority to the political process. The law would allow those in the feared security and paramilitary forces to resume government positions but would exclude former regime members already charged with or sought for crimes.

Read the rest at the Guardian

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