Baghdad (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Ministry of Defence said yesterday that 20 thousand officers, who had served under Saddam Hussein, will be reintegrated into the army from tomorrow. They were removed from their posts in 2003, with a very controversial decision by the Coalition Provisional Authority led by the United States.
According to the ministry, the decision is now possible because they have the money to fund their salaries. But Iraqi politicians and observers point out that the announcement, just days before the election on March 7, seems a move to secure more votes for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Maysoun al-Damlouji, a candidate tied to Ayad Allawi's secular party - very critical of al-Maliki - declares that "there is no doubt, this move is related to elections and the need to gain votes."With the fall of Saddam Hussein, hundreds of thousands of officers and Baath party members were removed from office. This led to the disintegration of the social structure of Iraq and the revolt of the Sunni world, creating many problems of insecurity, terrorism and poverty.
Now, little by little, many are being re-integrated and in many Iraqi cities (especially in Shiite majority cities) there have been demonstrations demanding convictions and dismissals of former members of Saddams Party. A few months ago about 500 former members of the Baath party were excluded from standing in elections. The purge was conducted by a committee chaired by two Shiite MPs, candidates who are also suspected of being at the service of Iran.
In protest against the purges, some Sunni groups have withdrawn from the elections rising fears of a new wave of clashes. But on Feb. 25, one of them, Saleh al-Mutlaq, announced that his party, the Front for National Dialogue would run in the elections.
But yesterday, "the purge" committee issued a complaint against al-Mutlal, suspected of violence and killings of Sunni insurgents in recent years. Al-Mutlal has long denied any involvement with the Sunni insurgents and says he left the Baath Party back in the '70s.