Should Baathists have Role in Post-IS Iraq?

Distrust of former Baathists remains among various factions of Iraqi society, as many Iraqis hold them responsible for carrying out attacks in Iraq during the insurgency after 2003, while others remember the bloody massacre of 1,700 Shiite cadets at former US base Camp Speicher.

Despite resentment of IS, the remaining Naqshbandi members are likely to still hold the same resentment that facilitated the initial marriage of convenience with IS in 2014, and in particular great contempt for the Baghdad government and its de-Baathification policies of 2003, which dismissed hundreds of thousands of Sunnis.

As Fawaz Gerges predicts in his book “ISIS: A History,” once Mosul is liberated, many of the Naqshbandi Army's Baathist members will return underground to regroup and wait for an opportunity to return, just as they did before exploiting the social instability in Nineveh in 2014. Despite their ideological differences, the pragmatic secular nationalist Baathists are determined to acquire power by any means available and exploit any situation to their advantage.

But for those that attempt to blend back into civilian life, what does the future hold? The Supreme National Commission for Accountability and Justice made amendments to the de-Baathification law on Sept. 30, allowing many former Baathists to resume their jobs. As IS represents the greatest threat to Iraq and its people, national reconciliation must include all groups, including Baathists, to defeat it.

Understanding Baathist networks are of paramount importance and the topic must be included alongside the more prevalently discussed issues of sectarian reconciliation, political autonomy and the role of external actors when addressing the drivers of social insecurity. The controversial amnesty law passed by the parliament Aug. 30 allows people convicted of all but 13 crimes to apply for an official pardon in an effort to promote political reconciliation with those who were convicted after 2003.

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