Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki offers general amnesty to undermine militants

3rd Jul 2014

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has offered an amnesty to supporters of a jihadist insurgency, in an apparent bid to undermine it. Questions abound over the integrity of Iraq’s military and political structures.

The Iraqi premier on Wednesday offered an amnesty to tribes who fought against the government, excluding individuals who had “killed and shed blood.”

“I announce the provision of an amnesty for all tribes and all people who were involved in action against the state” said Maliki, urging them to “return to their senses.”

The move is being seen as possible effort to begin a political reconciliation with Sunni Arabs, some of whom are said to have sided with jihadists known as the Islamic State (IS), although it initially remained unclear how many people it might affect.

In televised remarks, Maliki also dismissed an assertion of independence by the country’s autonomous Kurdish region.

No parliamentary speaker

Ongoing political deadlock deepened on Tuesday when Iraq’s new parliament – which was elected in April – failed in a maiden session on Tuesday to agree upon possible candidates for the legislature’s speaker position.

Sunni and Kurdish delegates walked out of the assembly as the insurgency was discussed, meaning parliament – which will meet again on July 8 – was without a quorum to agree on senior posts.

Incumbent Shiite Prime Minister Maliki, who has been in power since 2006, has faced increasing opposition to his quest for a third term, even from within his own Shiite-led bloc.

Maliki is accused of monopolizing power and fanning the flames of the insurgency by marginalizing the country’s Sunni minority. Members of the Sunni community have long complained they have been mistreated by the Maliki government.

Earlier this week, IS declared a caliphate across a large swathe of northern Iraq and Syria. In a lightning offensive last month, the group swiftly seized predominantly Sunni areas across northern and western Iraq, including the country’s second-largest city Mosul. However, the militants’ advance towards Baghdad has been slowed, and even reversed, as they reach more resistant Shiite majority areas.

Answers sought on military

Top US military official Gen. Martin Dempsey told reporters on Tuesday that Washington was seeking to clarify the situation, in particular the ability of the Iraqi army’s forces to remain unified in the face of the threat.

“Will they hold? What’s their makeup? Are they still a force that represents all Iraqis?” said Dempsey. “When we have that assessment in hand … we’ll make some decisions about whether there’s other kinds of support that we can provide,” he said.

rc/dr (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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