Commentary Magazine


Detainee Negotiation is Test Case for Iraq

The Wall Street Journal reports today on the difficult negotiations going on between Iraqi and American authorities over the fate of Ali Musa Daqduq, a Lebanese Hezbollah operative who is the last detainee still in U.S. custody in Iraq.

One of the many unfortunate aspects of the U.S. military withdrawal from that country is that we are having to either free or turn over to the Iraqis hard-core terrorists who have long been held in U.S.-run detention facilities. The odds that the Iraqi government would find the gumption to hold a Shiite terrorist with close Iranian connections–someone like Daqduq–are slight, to say the least. It would take an exceedingly brave or foolish Iraqi judge to order Daqduq’s incarceration. The judge would likely be signing his own death warrant, and his family’s, and for no good reason: After he was killed, Daqduq would be released anyway.

The only way to prevent him from returning to Iran and resuming his work as a terrorist would be to move him to the U.S. for detention and trial. Guantanamo Bay would seem a fitting destination, although the Obama administration apparently would prefer either a military tribunal or a federal trial on the mainland. Either option is certainly preferable to letting this killer run loose, notwithstanding the possibility that Iranian operatives would kidnap Americans to bargain for his release. Daqduq was allegedly the mastermind of a fiendishly clever 2007 raid in which Shiite extremists dressed as American security contractors raided Karbala’s provincial headquarters and murdered five American soldiers. He is among the baddest of the bad.

But removing him from Iraq requires, in theory at least, Iraqi approval. And that is difficult to get. This is an early test case of which way the new Iraq–free of any American troops–will lean. Alas the odds are that on this issue, at least, the Iraqis will most likely do Iran’s bidding. Unless Obama is willing to order his removal without Iraqi consent, there is a likelihood of more Americans dying at Daqduq’s hands.