Thursday, July 19, 2007

How US-resistance talks are seen in the Green Zone

There is understandably a lot of attention being devoted to talks and/or cooperation in Iraq between the US and local armed groups associated with tribes and/or resistance groups. In the West this is uniformly taken up as a feature of the fight against AlQaeda, and in a more remote way as possibly having relevance to the question of US "withdrawal", real or apparent.

But in the Green Zone, these discussions are seen first and foremost in a completely different context, namely as something potentially destabilizing for the Maliki administration. To illustrate the point, let's look at remarks by a US Embassy official to the newspaper Al-Sabah, a paper allied with the Iraqi government and with the occupation.
An American diplomat denied there is any substitute Plan B in the strategy of the United States in Iraq against the Maliki government, and he insisted that communications with armed groups have been carried out with the knowledge of the Iraqi government, and [he said] Washington is currently focused on supporting and strengthening the political process, for the realization of the desired aims.
The diplomat in question is political attache at the American embassy, David Galbraith, and in the course of this interview-summary the denial of any American scheme or conspiracy against the Maliki government, is repeated over and over, and always in connection with the "talks with the resistance" point. For instance later on the journalist quotes Galbraith
denying any discussion of an American role in any "conspiracy" against the Iraqi government. And as far as the communications with armed groups in Iraq are concerned, Galbraith said these communications were carried out with the knowledge of the Iraqi government, and with its support. However he added: "Some of our positive talks in Anbar and Diyala led to further discussions with groups that are called 'resistance' or 'rebel', which began to cooperate with the Iraqi and American forces in fighting AlQaeda, and this is an example of talks between us and armed persons who work with the resistance". Galbraith pointed to the difference between AlQaeda which is a world-wide terror movement on the one hand, and certain groups that take up arms against us and against the Iraqi forces, and we will fight them too if they continue, and he conditioned the continuation of these talks on these groups' keeping up their commitment to fighting AlQaeda.
If the point about "no plan B" seems somewhat remote, please recall the frightening CBS report of July 7 that said the Maliki government was in dire straits on account of a plan by something called the "Iraq Project" to topple him. What happened after that is that the Great Eraser of Media Talking Points wiped that issue completely off the blackboard for Western readers, turning our attention instead to this theme of US v AlQaeda. What is important to remember is that US support for Sunni armed groups is going to be seen in Iraq, and rightly so, in the Sunni-Shia context. And it is important to notice the degree to which anglosphere commentary aggressively eliminates that context from the discussion. Partly, no doubt, because it recalls in the broad sweep of things the American penchant for playing one sect off against the other.


Anonymous b. said...

Krauthammer today reveals very much of the new US strategy with the Sunnis.

For an interminable 18 months we waited for the 80 percent solution -- for Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite-Kurdish coalition to reach out to the Sunnis. The Petraeus-Crocker plan is the 20 percent solution: peel the Sunnis away from the insurgency by giving them the security and weaponry to fight the new common enemy -- al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Maliki & Co. are afraid we are arming Sunnis for the civil war to come. On the other hand, we might be creating a rough balance of forces that would act as a deterrent to all-out civil war and encourage a relatively peaceful accommodation.

In either case, that will be Iraq's problem after we leave. For now, our problem is al-Qaeda on the Sunni side and the extremist militias on the Shiite side. And we are making enough headway to worry people such as Suneid. The Democrats might listen to him to understand how profoundly the situation is changing on the ground -- and think twice before they pull the plug on this complicated, ruthless, hopeful "purely American vision."

ruthless - and he is proud of it ...

4:06 AM  
Blogger Highlander said...

Badger ! I am impressed by your analysis. This is great stuff. I've been reading quietly for a few weeks but I thought I'd come in to tell you that you have a fan in Libya.

4:21 AM  
Blogger badger said...

highlander, thank you! nice to know you're there.

6:06 AM  
Blogger badger said...

Just as I thought Kazimi was a pretty good index of the essentially "Israeli" nature of the concrete-wall strategy in Baghdad, similarly I guess Krauthammer could be considered a pretty good indicator of what's really behind the mobilization of Sunni armed groups: Finishing the ruthless process of tearing the country apart.

Btw, what do you think of this idea that the US has been abandoning its freelance allies--Fatah al-Islam, Dahlan, al-Baghdadi--in favor of a moving to a more institutionalized approach. Fits in pretty nicely with the whole Cheney-in eclipse theme we were reading about recently, don't you think? Too neat?

6:13 AM  

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