Thursday, March 22, 2007

Release the usual suspects

AP Photo/AP Television News; caption

One of the advantages of George Bush's escalation in Iraq was supposed to be that it would limit Iraqi government discretion to release insurgent suspects that the US military wished to detain. Hence the puzzlement with this bit of news: the release, over the heads of the US military, of Mahdi Army senior official Ahmed Shibani. Today brings the Pentagon spin on the matter --

Coalition Forces released into the custody of the Prime Minster of Iraq, Sheik Ahmed Abady al-Shaibani, who was detained 2 ½ years ago in Najaf. In consultation with the Prime Minister, and following his request, Coalition Leaders determined that Sheik Shaybani, who was detained since 2004, could play a potentially important role in helping to moderate extremism and foster reconciliation in Iraq.

You see, he wasn't sprung back on the streets, but "into the custody of the PM." This would be the same PM who can't even guarantee the security of the visiting UN Secretary General, seeing above ducking as a rocket dislodged material from a Green Zone building. That being said, the PM is probably right that at least some "bad guys" are going to have to be co-opted if there's any hope of a settlement in Iraq. It's a long way from Bush's faux-Churchillian good versus evil rhetoric though.

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