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Shia reconciliation will lead to US release of Iranian proxies

5:17 PM, Aug 4, 2009 • By BILL ROGGIO
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The Iraqi government, led by Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, has agreed to reconcile with one of the most dangerous Shia terror groups in Iraq:

The prime minister, Nouri Kamal al-Maliki, met with members of the group, Asa'ib al-Haq, or the League of the Righteous, over the weekend, said Ali al-Dabbagh, a spokesman for the prime minister, confirming reports. "They decided they are no longer using violence, and we welcome them," he said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Dabbagh first revealed the negotiations in remarks on Monday to Al Iraqiya, the state television network. "We have reached an agreement to resolve all problems, especially regarding detainees who do not have Iraqi blood on their hands," he said. He did not say anything about British victims of the group.

Asked about that later, he added, "Whether it's British blood or American blood, it is a violation of the law, and we will treat them no differently."

Salam al-Maliki, the insurgent group's liaison to the government, said in a telephone interview that the group had not renounced fighting the Americans. "Of course we want to get into the political process, because circumstances have improved, and the United States is out right now," said Mr. Maliki, who is not related to the prime minister. "We told the government anyone who has Iraqi blood on their hands, you should keep him in jail. We are only fighting the United States."

Asked about the British hostages, Mr. Maliki said that their status had not been discussed.

Mr. Dabbagh also said that the British hostages had not been discussed. "We cannot negotiate with the kidnappers," he said. Referring to the hostages, he added, "We do support them coming home safely."

The Asa'ib al-Haq was behind the kidnapping and murder of five US soldiers in Karbala in January 2007, and the subsequent kidnapping of five British contractors in Baghdad later that spring. Two of the Brits are dead (their bodies have been turned back over to British officials), and two others are strongly suspected of being killed by the Asa'ib al-Haq.

The US turned over the brother of the leader of the Asa'ib al-Haq in June, and in July, turned over a senior Qods Force officer who directed one of the three regional commands assigned to direct operations in Iraq. The officer was released under the guise of being one of the "Irbil Five," who were five low-level Qods Force officers who were not as senior or as dangerous.

The US will continue to release these high-level Iranian operatives and their Iraqi proxies. As a US intelligence official told me back in July, "you'd better get used to it."

The kicker here is that the US is not obligated to release these Iranian agents at this time. In fact, the US could push hard to hold them and for the Iraqis to make exceptions under the Status of Forces Agreement.

For instance: the US captured Abd al Hadi al Iraqi as he entered Iraq sometime in late 2006. Abd al Hadi al Iraqi is a senior al Qaeda military commander. He directed al Qaeda paramilitary forces in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border areas, and was sent to Iraq to bolster al Qaeda's operations there. What are the odds that the US will release Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, who is currently at Guantanamo Bay, to the Iraqis?