Saturday, August 07, 2004

Interesting Developments in Iraq

The day was filled with developments in Iraq, not all good from my perspective.

First, Iraq has hung a one-month closed sign on the door of Al-Jazeera's Baghdad office.
"This decision was taken to protect the people of Iraq and the interests of Iraq," Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's told a news conference Saturday.

Allawi said the order to close Al-Jazeera, which was to take effect immediately, came after an independent commission monitored the network's reports.

The findings of the commission were "compelling," he said.

"They came up with a concise report on the issues of incitement and the problems Al-Jazeera has been causing."

Al-Jazeera also reported the closing.

Jihad Ballout, the network's spokesman, told The Associated Press that Al-Jazeera was not given a reason for the closure.

"It is a regrettable decision, but Al-Jazeera will endeavor to cover the situation in Iraq as best as we can within the constraints," he said.
Two things to note in this story. First, the name Jihad Ballout makes me chuckle. He should change his name to something more intimidating, like Jihad Ballstothewall. Second, this closing will have no immediate impact on what Al-Jazeera reports and how they spin it to the Arab world, but it may have more of a local effect. I generally have to come down against this, instead supporting the promotion of respected rival news sources. The one-month technical difficulties will probably end up a non-issue.

Jihad Ballout. Chuckling.

The next story is of a limited offer of amnesty by the Iraqi government to minor criminals in the insurgency.
Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi signed an amnesty Saturday intended to persuade militants fighting a 15-month-old insurgency to put down their weapons and join government efforts to rebuild the country.

But the law pardons only minor criminals, not killers or terrorists, and appeared unlikely to dampen the violence, as some insurgent leaders called it "insignificant."


The long-delayed amnesty, coupled with a tough emergency law passed last month, was supposed to help end the violence by coaxing nationalist guerrillas to the government's side.

The amnesty applies to minor crimes such as weapons possession, hiding intelligence about terror attacks or harboring terrorists and appears intended to persuade people with information on attacks to share it with police.

The amnesty forgives those who committed minor crimes between May 1, 2003, just after Saddam Hussein's regime fell, and Saturday, Allawi said.

"This amnesty is not for people ... who have killed. Those people will be brought to justice, starting from Zarqawi down to the person in the street," Allawi said, referring to Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, whose followers have claimed responsibility for deadly suicide bombings.

Rape, kidnapping, looting and terror attacks also are excluded.
This peaked my interest because of the manner in which it meshes with the Al-Jazeera shutdown. The Iraqi government is moving to relieve its people from the insurrection by chipping away at its propaganda and low-level support. At the same time, these moves may work to establish the validity of the new government in the minds of the Iraqi citizenry. I'll have to check if Iraq the Model commented on either of these.

The third development seems to have gone under the radar but NATO has started to officially arrive in Iraq.
NATO sent a group of officers to Iraq on Saturday to begin its training mission for Iraqi forces.

The first four officers left Saturday from a command center in the southern Italian city of Naples, NATO said in a statement from Naples, calling it the official start of the mission in Iraq.

The main part of the NATO training mission group, initially consisting of 45 members, will deploy next week, said the statement.

The NATO trainers are due to report back by early September so that a decision can be made on the scope and content of any NATO training mission.

The 26-nation alliance agreed on July 30 to send the team after sidestepping a dispute between the US and France over command of the alliance operation.

The mission's tasks include liaising with the Iraqi interim government and US-led coalition forces, helping Iraq establish defense and military headquarters and identifying Iraqi personnel for training outside the country.
Al-Lafayette, we are here.


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