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June 26, 2005
US Negotiating With Iraqi Insurgency

The Times of London reports this morning that the US has opened negotiations with the native insurgents in Iraq, attempting to find a way to bring the Iraqis opposing the new order in Iraq into the mainstream without violence. Hala Jaber reports that sources within the insurgency have disclosed the meetings and that progress went well enough to stage a second round of talks ten days later and to plan for even more talks:

After weeks of delicate negotiation involving a former Iraqi minister and senior tribal leaders, a small group of insurgent commanders apparently came face to face with four American officials seeking to establish a dialogue with the men they regard as their enemies.

The talks on June 3 were followed by a second encounter 10 days later, according to an Iraqi who said that he had attended both meetings. Details provided to The Sunday Times by two Iraqi sources whose groups were involved indicate that further talks are planned in the hope of negotiating an eventual breakthrough that might reduce the violence in Iraq. ...

Washington seems to be gingerly probing for ways of defusing home-grown Iraqi opposition and of isolating the foreign Islamic militants who have flooded into Iraq to wage holy war against America under the command of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The talks appear to represent the first serious effort by Americans and Iraqi insurgents to find common ground since violence intensified in the spring. Earlier informal contacts were reported but produced no perceptible progress.

Zarqawis group, which has been blamed for many suicide bombings and beheadings, has not taken part.

This takes a lot of tapdancing on all sides. Americans have long held to the principle of non-negotiation with terrorists, and the situation is further complicated by the fact that the native insurgency comprises mostly remnant of the previous regime. The Shi'ite majority in Iraq has taken most of the casualties from this group, which makes them less appreciative of American efforts to bring them into the political process. The Sunnis themselves do not appear terribly appreciative of the insurgency being waged ostensibly on their behalf, but mostly because it has the effect of digging the Americans more stubbornly into their positions in Iraq.

As such complications would suggest, the meetings did not go well. The Iraqis, perhaps emboldened by press reports of American domestic politics, insisted on a timetable for American withdrawal, although they claimed not to care about the length of time as long as it was defined and finite. The Americans insisted that the Iraqis cut ties with the foreigners of al-Qaeda and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who did not get invited to this tete-a-tete. Neither group succeeded in doing much than irritating the other, but both agreed to continue meeting.

The Times reports that tribal sheikhs arranged the meeting between the half-dozen groups of native insurgents and the Iraqi government and American military. These community leaders have lost patience with the fighting and have decided that the violence is bad for business. They at least acknowledge that further fighting is pointless but don't want to risk getting killed for saying it outright. The sheikhs want a way to bring these errant Iraqis back into the mainstream, allowing the new Iraqi army to deal with foreigners, most of which the Iraqis have detested all along.

In other words, in direct contradiction to what Ted Kennedy said in the Senate hearings this week, the sheikhs know that the insurgents have lost the war -- and they want the residual fighting to stop to protect the innocent Iraqi civilians. The insurgents know they lost the war now, too; otherwise, they would not be satisfied with just an American promise to withdraw by any date we choose. For domestic Iraqi purposes, the Americans and the new Iraqi government would far prefer to find a solution short of complete annihilation for the far-larger native insurgency, which will give even more credibility to the political reforms already in place in the new government as well as allow the security forces to concentrate on the foreigners of the Zarqawi network.

The sheikhs, the terrorists, and the new Iraqi government all realize that the war is over and the good guys won. Can someone now please alert Congress?

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 26, 2005 12:07 AM

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The Sunday Times reports that the U.S. governmenthas been negotiating with Iraqi insurgent groups in an effort to quell the insurgency. I plumbed the article. After weeks of delicate negotiation involving a former Iraqi minister and senior tri [Read More]

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