Friday, January 19, 2007

The plot thickens: Baath resistance accuses Syria of plotting with America

Al-Hayat, in an article datelined Baghdad-London-Washington, explains the Maliki-Bush exchange of critical remarks as follows:
Observers said this kind of criticism [by Bush] is something he needs to do to placate his political opponents both domestic and foreign. [And later in the piece the reporter adds] "this is to emphasize Washington's seriousness in the application of this new policy, and the fact that there isn't unlimited time for [Baghdad] to bear its responsibility"]. And on the other side, it makes the Iraqi government appear to its own people to be in the commanding position.
An American official familiar with the Iraqi developments explained to the reporter, with reference to Maliki's continuing complaints about not enough power and authority for the Iraqi army:
Everyone is in agreement that the strengthening the Iraqi army and training the Iraqi security forces are the key to stability in Iraq, and there is common disappointment at the slowness. And the American official added that strengthening Iraqi government authority in security matters is directly related to [the ability to] make progress on the political level and in the process of [domestic] agreement and reconciliation. But he added that Washington isn't offering any free lunch to the Iraqi government in this, and it has to live up to its comitments.
So in the matter of the mutual accusations between Bush and Maliki, Al-Hayat's Washington sources say this is merely to let each side score points with its domestic audience, and not a sign of any real breakdown in the common effort.

On a topic of more structural importance, both Al-Hayat and Al-Quds al-Arabi report on an apparent split among the Iraqi Baathists, with one wing, led by one Muhamad al-Yunis al-Ahmad, making what appear to be plans for joining the Baghdad political process. And the move is bitterly criticized by the resistance group headed by Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri. The news-hook for this is a plan by the Yunis group to hold what is described as a joint council in Damascus, which among other things would join together the Syrian and Iraqi branches of the Baath party, estranged for 30 years now, but whose more important function would be to offer to join in the Baghdad political process based on the following deal: The de-Baathification law would be repealed, the party would be legalized, it would agree to participate in the political process, including competitive elections and so on, and it would agree to criticize terrorist groups that kill civilians.

There are two documents expressing the resistance wing's opposition to this. One is a personal message signed by Douri (who was a vice president under Saddam, the only one of his top people who are still at large, and is thought to be leading the Baath armed resistance), and the other a declaration signed the "national leadership" of the Baath party. The latter said this is a plot or a scheme by the American occupation against the Baath party, and it accused Syria of having a hand in it by hosting the proposed conference. The aim, the statement said, is to get rid of the leadership in the defence of Iraq, namely the [Baath] party, and insert it [the party] into the regime of Syria, which is a natural ally of Tehran.

The document signed by Douri attacked Yunis and his group, and urged "defenders of the party outside of Iraq to oppose these people who are scheming with the occupation and with Syrian intelligence, and isolate them [the Yunis group]."

Meanwhile, Iraqi president Talabani, in Damascus, said Baghdad is preparing extradition requests for the return of former-regime persons accused of crimes (embezlement and so on) living in Syria. He added he thinks Douri is living in Yemen.


Anonymous GJ said...

Another interesting article in light of the questions I raised about the Qalamji article?

The emergence of a Syrian aspect is also intriguing. Last Tuesday Haaretz reported in detail about backchannel Syrian/Israeli negotiations that have been going on for two years and were only suspended last July with the Lebanon war. Israel govt has strongly denied the report, but I have just finished reading Abbas's book on the secret backchannel Oslo negotiations and have no doubt that the Haaretz report is accurate. So the plot thickens.

10:42 AM  
Blogger annie said...

badger, what do you think of this baath party split.

the idea of a plot against the party by the US via syria seems a little far fetched.

11:45 AM  
Blogger badger said...

I think you're right. After all, if the Syrian and the Iraqi branches of the party have been at loggerheads for 30 years, it might not be that surprising that the head of the Iraqi branch would lash out at Syria for letting a meeting like this take place. But we don't know Syria has done anything other than permit the meeting to take place. No doubt this kind of a split among Iraqi Baathists is a long-standing thing, and I'm sure the US is doing its best to stir the pot right now. But any major Syrian role??? Maybe the title I put on this post was a little over-wrought...

12:06 PM  
Blogger annie said...

i was reviewing this post because you linked to it.

The latter said this is a plot or a scheme by the American occupation against the Baath party

no, i do not think the title is overwrought considering this quote. what i am thinking is either there is a lot we don't know, or else this concept seems far fetched.
your new post sheds some light on this. ideally, it seems reconciliation would be ideal, but not if it isolates the core of the resistance, because then we still have a huge resistance. for a unified iraq the governmet would need to incorperate the resistance, then it would cease to resist.

1:31 AM  

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