Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Different readings of the Hadley visit

Iraqi newspapers interpreted the Hadley-Maliki talks in different ways.

Azzaman, in its Wednesday November 1 edition, says Hadley wanted to know why there have been delays in implementing the National Reconciliation process, and why there hasn't yet been an announcement of a general amnesty including those who have fought the Americans and those who have fought other Iraqis. And the newspaper said Hadley wanted a guarantee from Maliki that he wouldnt work for a partition of the country, because that would be dangerous from a lot of points of view. The newspaper also talks about the option of sending more troops to Baghdad, and refers to the Elliot Cohen comments as illustrative of the military-government option. But the striking thing about the Azzaman coverage is the implication that Hadley was indicating an American switch to the Iraqi-nationalist position. The headline over the article begins: "Hadley demands guarantee from Maliki not to partition Iraq". The newspaper cites "Iraqi and American sources close to the talks", in addition to quoting from the New York Times.

Al-Mada, (pdf version, article at the lower right) another independent newspaper, interprets the gist of the meeting (and the ambiguous NYT comments) differently. Having mentioned the proposal for more troops to Baghdad as the main point of the meeting, the Al-Mada reporter continues: "[The NYT] also said Hadley will offer a proposal to permit self-government to the Shiites and the Sunni and the Kurds, as long as [bi shakli] this doesn't allow the division of the country into mini-states, [and the proposal was also for] study of the issue of the distribution of wealth [meaning division of oil revenues under federalism], and an amnesty for groups that fought the Americans. But [the NYT] didn't expect this to lead to anything substantial [i.e., to any agreement], given the Iraqi differences respecting the issue of the division of authority [under federalism] and [the division of] wealth."

In other words, where the Azzaman piece sees an American switch to nationalism, Al-Mada more prudently notes that the remarks can be taken as merely a warning against the chaotic effects of the federalism project, not against the project itself.

Finally, the newspaper New Sabah reports that Maliki met on Tuesday morning with a delegation from the Council for the Salvation of Anbar, and made remarks strongly supporting them and promising all necessary government assistance to them. (Last we heard from the Anbar Salvation Council, they were mobilizing people, mostly from the local tribes, in preparation for a campaign to dislodge AlQaeda from Ramadi. And there was some concern whether or not the government would come up with the necessary support in terms of arms and vehicles and so on). On Tuesday morning, the newspaper says, Malaki said yes. And he praised the group as an exemplary case of supporting the Iraqi nation against terrorists.

Possible tentative conclusion: While Hadley didn't indicate any switch in Washington to a straight nationalist (anti-federalist, anti-regional self-government) position, he probably did indicate an understanding of the chaotic effects of the federalist scheme so far (increased violence in the South, and preemptive Islamic Emirate announcement by AlQaeda), and one effect of this was to give Maliki the confidence to back the Anbar coalition (which some reports have said includes officers in the pre-2003 army and Sunni resistance groups).


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