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The Times of London reveals that the American consulate in Iraq spent two months in high-level negotiations with the insurgencies in Iraq, including some groups previously thought to be associated with al-Qaeda. The talks collapsed earlier this year when Nouri al-Maliki, sympathetic to Iran, formed the government -- a move which the insurgents saw as a betrayal:
SECRET talks in which senior American officials came face-to-face with some of their most bitter enemies in the Iraqi insurgency broke down after two months of meetings, rebel commanders have disclosed.
The meetings, hosted by Iyad Allawi, Iraq’s former prime minister, brought insurgent commanders and Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador to Iraq, together for the first time.
After months of delicate negotiations Allawi, a former Ba’athist and a secular Shi’ite, persuaded three rebel leaders to travel to his villa in Amman, the Jordanian capital, to see Khalilzad in January.
“The meetings came about after persistent requests from the Americans. It wasn’t because they loved us but because they didn’t have a choice,” said a rebel leader who took part.
The Iraq Study Group included in its recommendations that the Americans hold such talks with all insurgent groups excepting al-Qaeda. Apparently, they didn't ask whether or not George Bush had already tried that tactic, because Zalmay Khalilzad's effort seems very comprehensive indeed. In fact, it included Ansar al-Sunnah, a group known to at least coordinate with al-Qaeda in Iraq when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was alive. Ansar al-Sunnah killed American soldiers, including 22 in a suicide attack in a Mosul Army base in 2004.
So what happened? Khalilzad initiated the contacts in an attempt to do exactly what the ISG proposed for a resolution of internal conflicts in Iraq. This was one of the recommendations that actually made some sense, along with the recommendations on oil revenue, constitutional modification efforts, and the like. After pressing in late 2005 to get a meeting with the insurgent leaders, they finally agreed to meet once with the American diplomatic corps in Amman.
Khalilzad built some trust, based on common ground among the insurgencies: Iran. The Sunni and secular insurgencies all feared the rise of the Iranian hegemon in Iraq, apparently mostly centering on Moqtada al-Sadr. All sides recognized their mutual interest in keeping Iraq from falling into the Iranian orbit, and talks proceeded apace towards resolving enough of the issues to get the insurgencies engaged in the political process. It all ran aground, however, when Khalilzad offered to hold talks with Iran in March of this year, and when Sadr's ally Maliki became the US choice to form the new government. The insurgents saw this as a betrayal of the weeks of work between themselves and the Americans, and broke off all contact.
With the Times story as background, I don't see how another spin with the insurgents will work. They would not likely trust us enough even to take a meeting, given our work with the Maliki government this year. Even if we put some distance between ourselves and Maliki -- which, given the Shi'ite majority in Iraq, would probably be another mistake -- our entreaties would not likely move the leaders of these groups. After all, the ISG just told the world that we should turn the future of Iraq over to a regional conference, a group that would be dominated by Syria and Iran. That would be an even worse situation that Maliki taking the reins in Baghdad.
The ISG panel didn't note any of this. Khalilzad comes up once in the ISG repot -- in a listing of embassy personnel. Ansar al-Sunnah gets zero mentions. It seems that we keep discovering how little their contingent actually discovered during their study period, and how useless their slate of recommendations are.
UPDATE: Changed an "Iraq" to "Iran"; thanks to Peyton in the comments.Sphere It View blog reactions
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» We've already tried talking with insurgents from Airborne Combat Engineer
The Iraq Study Group included in its recommendations that the Americans hold such talks with all insurgent groups excepting al-Qaeda. Apparently, they didn't ask whether or not George Bush had already tried that tactic, because Zalmay Khalilzad's effor... [Read More]
Tracked on December 10, 2006 11:54 AM
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So Much For Negotiations With 'Insurgents'Ed Morrissey The Times of London reveals that the American consulate in Iraq spent two months in high-level negotiations with the insurgencies in Iraq, including some groups previously thought to be associated ... [Read More]
Tracked on December 10, 2006 12:52 PM
» Who believes in coincidence? from Wake up America>Media Lies
Until the US gets it into our heads that we ARE dealing with two factions of Islam, not just one as a whole, suggestions by groups like the ISG are a waste of time and money (1.3 million dollars wasted in the case of the ISG). [Read More]
Tracked on December 10, 2006 3:33 PM
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