Iraq's interim government has approved a national security law that will give Prime Minister Ayad Allawi broad powers of martial rule in troubled areas, including direct command of army, police and intelligence units, a senior Iraqi government official said Tuesday.
Although the law will give Allawi new latitude to combat insurgents, the prime minister had sought even tougher measures, some of which were stripped out of early drafts because of objections from other members of the interim government and from foreign governments, said the senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The law will restrict the prime minister's power by requiring any declaration of emergency rule to have the consent of the country's president and its two vice presidents, as well as a majority of the 32-member cabinet. Iraq's highest court also will be able to overturn Allawi's martial law declarations.
Even so, the new law will allow Allawi to deploy Iraq's army to fight insurgents. When the country's old army was disbanded and a new army created, L. Paul Bremer, then the U.S. administrator of Iraq, issued a decree preventing the army from being used for domestic security. But Bremer lifted that restriction in a final order issued before he departed Iraq on June 28, the day political authority was transferred to the interim government.
The interim government is also preparing an amnesty offer to insurgents that it hopes to announce Wednesday, but terms of the deal have not been finalized, the senior official said. Preliminary drafts, which would have allowed Iraqis who attacked U.S. troops to claim amnesty, have been revised to exclude anybody who was directly involved in serious acts of violence, the senior official said.
"Anyone accused of killings will not be eligible," the official said.
A second senior government official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, described the national security law and the amnesty offer in the same way.
The amnesty, which would provide fighters with a full pardon in exchange for laying down their arms, appears to be aimed more at low-level insurgents than senior leaders. Among those the government hopes to attract are poor Iraqis who have been bankrolled by Baath Party financiers to mount attacks and members of an illegal militia loyal to firebrand Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada Sadr.
Allawi and top members of his security team hope the offer will bifurcate the insurgency by winning over nationalist Iraqis who have been fighting to evict foreign troops from their country, while isolating foreign Islamic militants who have conducted suicide bomb attacks and assassinations in an attempt to turn Iraq into a battleground for their broader fight against the United States.
"The government feels we need to send a signal that there is an opportunity . . . to drive a wedge between the people committing bad acts," the senior official said.
Although an initial draft of the amnesty offer excluded only those responsible for "killing or raping Iraqis," the exclusions in the new version will be significantly broader, the official said. The change was made after U.S. officials objected, Iraqi political sources said.
The national security law will give Allawi the power to place himself or another administrator in charge of Iraqi soldiers, police and other security forces in areas under martial law. The government could also declare curfews, conduct emergency searches without court orders and ban public demonstrations in those areas. Further details were expected to be announced as early as Wednesday.
Early drafts of the law would have allowed Allawi to declare a state of emergency with a simple majority vote of his cabinet. Under the final version, such a declaration also needs the support of the president and the two vice presidents. A provision to allow for a nationwide state of emergency was deleted from the law, the senior official said.
Allawi is "not talking about blanket national martial law procedures with extreme measures," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz told the Senate Armed Services Committee on June 25.
In an allusion that could be applied to the current controversy over emergency powers, Wolfowitz said of Allawi: "I imagine he'll make mistakes, or at least he'll make errors of judgment, that he'll go in one direction and the political process will scream and say, 'You've gone too far.' I think he's a smart enough man to tack and change a bit."
Declarations of martial law will be valid for 60 days. Any extension will require the written approval of the prime minister and the president.
The country's top court, the Court of Cassation, will have the power to review emergency declarations and rescind them if it deems necessary. "There will be checks and balances on the prime minister's power," the senior official said.
The senior official said Allawi's draft was revised after "wide-ranging consultation" with members of the interim government. Among those who sought changes, the political sources said, were ethnic Kurdish leaders and the country's interim president, Ghazi Yawar, a Sunni Muslim tribal sheik.
A former senior U.S. intelligence official with personal knowledge of Allawi's past and present activities said the prime minister recognizes the interim government is "in a real dogfight, and everyone realizes if they don't establish security, create jobs and bring back the electricity, this government will not be worth a plugged nickel."
"He's the security prime minister," the retired official said. Fellow Iraqi politicians, who endorsed Allawi's appointment, "turned to him because they are not looking for democracy, they are looking for security, and they think he knows how to deal with it," the official said.
Pincus reported from Washington.