BAGHDAD – Iraq on Friday reinstated 20,000 former army officers dismissed after the U.S.-led invasion, a landmark gesture at reconciliation ahead of elections.
It’s a move designed to allay some of the bitterness that still rankles Iraq – years after the Bush administration first made the controversial decision to dismantle Saddam Hussein’s army. The 20,000 returnees are the largest known group to rejoin the officer corps.
The timing of the announcement also raised suspicions that Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his allies were just currying favor ahead of the March 7 election for a new parliament.
News of the reinstatement was followed by a U.N. announcement that Iraq was gaining momentum with its bid to end U.N. sanctions imposed after Saddam’s army invaded Kuwait in 1990.