The Iraqi Parliament's passage of the budget, amnesty, and provincial laws after much political theater is potentially a rare bit of good news. But as with the deBaathification reform (which looked so promising on first blush and then not so much when the details emerged), it all depends on the details of the laws, the implementation, and the reception. Thus far, the reporting in the Western, Arab and Iraqi press has been very light on the details, mostly repeating what Parliament spokesman Khaled al-Attiya said in his press conference. Given the centrality of the details, it isn't encouraging to hear that "the parliamentary success was clouded because many of the most contentious details were simply postponed, raising the possibility that the accord could again break into rancorous factional disputes in future debates on the same issues." [quote fixed - thanks, Eric] I'm relieved that the speaker didn't have to exercise his threatened nuclear option - dissolving the Parliament - and that these three crucial laws have finally been passed after so many months of wrangling. That's good news on its merits. But I'm also reserving judgement on the implications of the laws until we see the details and the fallout.
I've only been able to get hold of the text of one of the laws so far - the amnesty law. As with the deBaathification reform, it's hard to tell how extensive the amnesty will turn out to be from the text of the law. Gven the long list of exceptions detailed in article 2, it all comes down to interpretation and implementation. If applied generously and in a spirit of reconciliation, it could be quite extensive and build considerable goodwill (even if it also puts a sizable number of insurgency-age young men, fresh from prison, back onto the streets). If applied rigorously and in a sectarian spirit, a lot of the prisoners who the Sunnis hope to see released might not get out and backlash would set in very quickly. So as with all these laws, wait and see.
The most interesting part of the amnesty law is actually Article 6: "The Iraqi Government shall undertake the necessary measures to transfer those detained in the MNF-I jails to the Iraqi jails in order to implement the provisions of this Law on them." What this means in practice will be worth following. Last week I noted that the potential complications posed by this provision: will the US honor an Iraqi request for prisoners held in US facilities to be transferred and amnestied, given its own military interests, and if not how would the Iraqi government respond?
I'll update if I can, but most likely I won't be able to write anything more for a while because I'm now officially late for a meeting across town, and then I have to rush back to talk at the "Integrating Islam" conference at the Elliott School (hope to see some of you there!).... and then I'm off to the airport for a week in the Gulf. Have a nice week, everyone!