In a press conference this afternoon, British PM Tony Blair confirmed that the UK had made contacts with the native Iraqi insurgency in an attempt to push them into the legitimate political process. This comes after the Times of London revealed this weekend that the Americans had held two or more meetings with the primarily Sunni bombers, hoping to leverage tribal and family connections to convince the Iraqi component that further fighting was senseless:
Britain has been involved in political negotiations with some Iraqi insurgents, Tony Blair revealed today, as he predicted the next year would be “decisive” in determining the country’s future.
After a weekend which saw the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, admit that American officers had been meeting insurgents in a bid to split the resistance, the prime minister told reporters Britain was also “engaged” in behind the scenes talks.
Mr Blair refused to speculate on when the insurgency might end – Iraqi deaths have escalated since the government’s installation in April – but the prime minister repeated that Britain would stay “until the job is properly done”.
Blair and Bush have decided to take on a more public advocacy for their position on Iraq, after playing low key for the past several months. Bush will give a prime-time speech tomorrow, which will be live-blogged here at CQ, to remind Americans about the stakes for success and failure in Iraq for the overall war strategy. Blair works best with the press corps, while Bush does better giving prepared speeches. Thankfully, it appears that both men now realize that they have to remain in front of the press corps and their political opposition in order to maintain political support for this long-term effort. Unfortunately, especially here in the US, people have shortened attention spans and a predilection for instant gratification that does not lend itself to long-term strategic thinking.