BEIRUT - "The US talks about withdrawal after bringing Iraqi security forces up to speed, yet has paid militias, allowed mercenaries, and, with few exceptions, ignored the blatant abuses and torture committed by Iraqi forces. They have ignored rampant corruption within all ministries, the most egregious resulting in a medical crisis and a judicial joke. They have also committed their own atrocities, ensuring that the new Iraq is riddled with violence, fear, and contempt for the occupying forces."
Thus starts Planning Iraq's Future: A detailed project to rebuild post-liberation Iraq. The 250-page peace plan was written over the past two years by 108 Iraqis that included Sunni and Shi'a Muslims, Assyrian Christians, Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, and other minorities, the majority of which are sill in Iraq.
Unlike some other plans, like that put forward in January by Ali Allawi, former Iraqi Defense Minister and current advisor to Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, none of the Iraqis who worked on this plan have ties to the current government.
That's important, maintain authors of the initiative, because its backing by occupations forces means it will never hold legitimacy in the eyes of Iraqis. Thus, it will always be a resistance target, says Dr. Khair El-Din Haseeb, Director General of Beirut's Center for Arab Unity Studies, the Arab world's most prominent think-tank, and sponsor of the project.
"This plan proposes a direction for the future of Iraq," explained co-author Dr. Abdul Karim Hani in Damascus. "We've been asked many times what is the political program of the resistance. Well, this is it."
Signatories on the plan represent thousands of Iraqis, the authors say, because many of them speak for larger groups. Hani, for example, is with the Iraqi National Foundation Congress, a broad coalition of political, intellectual, religious, and ethnic forces.
"This occupation came out of13 years of the worst sanctions the world has seen. Now, we have had four years of even worse suffering. These are the conditions under which this document was written," explains Hani, who himself finally fled Iraq for Cairo a year and a half ago.
The imperative for Iraqis to re-gain control of their country is what fueled the broad-based plan.
"I don't like being called a refugee and Iraqis shouldn't have to be, yet there are millions who've had to leave their homes. To call it a 'problem' is too minor; I call it a catastrophe. Obviously, the occupation in Iraq has failed!"
Numerous other plans for Iraq have also been written by groups opposed to the occupation. Some, like that written by the Association of Muslim Scholars, the powerful Sunni clerics' organization, have been submitted to the United Nations. Planning is underway for a high-level meeting next month which will coalesce the numerous Iraqi projects.
"We are forming a very broad unified resistance front that represents the will of the Iraqi people," says Hana Ibrahim, co-author and director of the Baghdad-based NGO Women's Will. "We are growing very large, so maybe we won't agree on every detail, but we don't need to. We can put smaller differences aside to agree on the most important point, ending the occupation of our country. What's important is a unified resistance front." "
Among the groups there are contacts with [armed] resistance groups, so we have their agreement as well," explains Haseeb. At that point the group plans to dedicate a website where international support can be registered.
The distinction between Iraq's resistance and other armed groups is critical, contends Haseeb, yet a serious lack of analysis most Western media wrongly lump all armed groups together under the "insurgent" umbrella.
"The [armed] resistance does not attack innocent people and condemns all violence directed at civilians. The Iraqi resistance, whether armed or political, is legally-sanctioned under international law." This point, Haseeb argues, is missing in most media and completely ignored by the Bush Administration. He acknowledges, "there's been a vacuum of political resistance. This [plan] will fill that vacuum."
Main points include:
- All foreign troop withdrawal, including military bases and security forces;
- That fulfilled, Iraqi National Resistance declares ceasefire; - Annulment of the current political process;
- Installation of 2-year interim Prime Minister, nominated by consensus, under UN auspices;
- Installation of temporary peace-keeping forces from Arab nations that did not cooperate with invasion, with UN consultation;
- Elections held within two years;
- Army and security forces not allowed in political process;
- Interim government members not allowed in elections;
- Reformation of Iraqi Army
Importantly, the initiative also proposes a draft constitution, which maintains national unity, addresses oil rights, and guarantees civil and social rights.
"The plan is not perfect when it comes to women's rights, but it gives us back what we had before," says Ibrahim. "We must first end the occupation to end the violence. It doesn't matter how many rights women do or don't have if we can't even walk down the streets in safety."
A blueprint is desperately needed, Haseeb points out. "The political process is crumbling; we have coalitions of [local] governments rather than a central one. The ministers are all living in the Green Zone, meaning they have no access to the ministries they're supposed to run. We know the Ministry of Interior has been penetrated by militias—at least 80 percent, the Army by at least 50 percent. That means the Americans cannot hand over security to the Iraqi forces as planned.
"They [the Americans] argue without the US Army the civil war will grow. This is nonsense! Even the Pentagon says resistance attacks have increased by 68 percent. This is against the US military. If the US withdraws, violence would obviously decrease. It's simple math."
In March Haseeb sent the plan to members of the British Parliament and US Congress, among others. He's received acknowledgment from 24 Members of Parliament, bit nothing yet from Congressional members.
"I personally prefer to work out a plan for withdrawal with the American forces in Iraq, but with the grave mistakes they've made in the past, we can't count on their rationality. "
Any extension or increase in Iraq will be at the cost of American and Iraqi lives. We need to make Mr. Bush understand this. Despite his security plan, at the end of April it will be the highest number of casualties yet."
April was the deadliest month this year. One hundred Americans, 12 British, and an estimated 1000+ Iraqis were killed. (The US military does not record Iraqi civilian deaths; the Iraqi government refuses to release death counts.)
"I'm more hopeful than at any time before that the Americans will withdraw," concludes Haseeb. "They have three choices, go big, go slow, or go home."
Karen Button is a freelance writer who reports on issues involving the Iraq and U.S. foreign policy. She reports regularly from the Middle East and maintains a site at www.karenbutton.blogspot.com