Nouri al-Maliki has given Iraqis in Mosul the same offer he gave Iraqis in Basra: amnesty for those who walk away. At the start of a major offensive against the rump al-Qaeda organization making its last stand in the northern city, Maliki wants to separate the wheat from the chaff by enticing hangers-on to abandon their AQI allies and turn themselves and their weapons over to the Iraqi Army. It serves as a final call before the destruction begins in earnest:
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has offered members of armed groups in Mosul an amnesty in exchange for surrendering their weapons.
He says the gunmen have 10 days starting Friday to hand over medium and heavy weapons and receive unspecified monetary compensation in return.
The statement also offers amnesty to those described as “duped” into taking up arms against the government as long as they were not involved in crimes against civilians and did not “have blood on their hands.”
That caveat means foreign fighters who entered Iraq won’t qualify, and neither will Iraqis who have already committed terrorist acts. Maliki wants to reach out to the Sunnis who have remained in insurgent organizations despite most of them having abandoned AQI from 2006 forward. He needs a general rapprochement with Sunnis in order to unite the country, and many Sunni tribal leaders want insurgents forgiven as a condition for their support.
The amnesty would give Maliki more than just some political strength, which he has gathered rapidly since his liberation of Basra last month. Surrendering insurgents will have critical intelligence about AQI positions in the city of Mosul, which will help limit the collateral damage that will ensue when the Iraqi Army begins its sweeps through the city. Any such intel will keep civilians alive and also bolster the safety and morale of his troops. Those goals are just as important as the political benefits, and are political benefits in themselves as well.
It’s the last chance for the native insurgents to choose their country rather than foreign religious lunatics. In ten days, we will see how well Maliki’s offer played with these holdouts, and how much it exposed the remaining AQI terrorists.