||[Jun. 14th, 2005|11:11 am]
Grand Old Party News
U.S., Iraq Consider Amnesty for Insurgents|
Jun 14, 9:53 AM (ET)
By PAUL GARWOOD
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - U.S. and Iraqi officials are considering difficult-to-swallow ideas - including amnesties for their enemies - as they look for ways to end the country's rampant insurgency and isolate extremists wanting to start a civil war.
Negotiations have just begun between U.S. and Iraqi officials on drafting an amnesty policy, which would reach out to Iraqi militants fighting U.S. forces, say officials in both the Iraqi and American governments.
But foreign extremists like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, responsible for Iraq's bloodiest attacks, would not be offered any amnesty, the Iraqi and U.S. authorities told The Associated Press in recent days.
The amnesty proposal is seen as a key weapon to split the insurgency between Iraqi and non-Iraqi lines and further alienate foreign fighters like al-Zarqawi.
Iraq's minister for national security said Sunday an amnesty policy is being drawn up, but he said insurgent groups first must do more to convince authorities they are serious about making peace.
"Those who had committed homicides and caused blood shedding for the innocents will be excluded from this amnesty," said the minister, Abdul Karim al-Inizi. "Talking about issuing an amnesty soon is premature as this depends on whether the insurgents want to take a step forward."
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Venable said the Iraqi government has raised the amnesty issue and "we look forward to working closely with the Iraqi government as this idea develops."
"Any successful counterinsurgency strategy requires the U.S. and Iraqi authorities to do everything possible to split the insurgency and persuade as many Sunni elements as possible to join the peaceful political process," said Anthony Cordesman, an Iraq expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who says he has been involved in informal talks.
"This does not mean blanket amnesty," he said. It could, however, mean negotiations that lead to "pardoning or ignoring the actions of movements and opposition elements that supported the insurgency when this was done out of nationalism, fear," Cordesman said.