Friday, December 21, 2007

America's "new" project in Iraq--Part I

Richard Murphy, the retired State Department Mideast adviser who organized the Dead Sea "reconciliation" meetings last month, has reported to Condoleeza Rice on the conclusions he has drawn from those meetings, and portions of that report have been leaked to government circles in Jordan and Syria. This according to Haroun Mohammed in his regular op-ed in Al-Quds al-Arabi. (Once that link is scrubbed, you have to use the archives, where it's Dec 20 [not the 21st] on page 19).

Murphy's bottom-line conclusion, according to this, is that the Dead Sea talks were not successful in bringing AMSI or the Baath or other Sunni opposition/resistance parties into negotiations, one major problem being that no one working or acting as adviser for the currrent American administration, including himself, has sufficient credibility to achieve any meaningful results in Iraqi political reconciliation. One of his recommendations therefore is that the negotiating process, or parts of it, be assigned to a bipartisan congressional team, which unlike administration agents, would have great "flexibility and freedom" in such discussions*. (There isn't any elaboration on what form this deployment of the very flexible and free Congresspeople is supposed to take). In particular, he reported that no reconciliation will be meaningful if it doesn't include the Association of Muslim Scholars, the Baath, and other socially and politically influential Sunni representatives both inside and outside of the current "political process", and these are among the parties that don't have any confidence in anyone acting for the current US administration.

Haroun Mohammed says the story being talked about in Arab capitals is that Rice is also relying heavily on the governments of Egypt, Saudi and Jordan to encourage some of the Iraqi-Sunni movers and shakers living abroad to get involved in this reconciliation process, the next stage of which will be a meeting in Cairo sometime in the course of the coming three months. The initial impression, this writer says, is that the Arab regimes are keen on the idea, and anxious to see a very broad participation in the Cairo meeting. And there is this:
Focusing on Iraqi opposition personalities living in other Arab capitals, there have been communications from [the administrations in] Egypt, Saudi and Jordan, to sound them out and get their views on the Cairo meeting. The first impression is that the three Arab states are not only convinced of the necessity of the meeting, but want to see a broad participation, being prepared [at the same time] to exclude Iraqi government or political-party [representation] if it appears that they are fitful against reconciliation, or attempting to dig up problems and difficulties to block a successful outcome.
In other words, the first impression is that the regimes in Cairo, Riyadh, and Amman are more than willing to try and do their part in encouraging Sunni leaders outside the political process to get involved, starting with the coming Cairo meeting, on the idea that if the GreenZone Shiite/Kurd party doesn't cooperate, they could be just left out. And there is more:
According to some reports, influential Arab officials have said that Condoleeza Rice has told them that the American administration would be quite happy if it turns out that the Maliki government and some of the governing parties decided to pass up the Cairo meeting, because important people in the [US] administration have become convinced that Maliki and the conservatives [or hold-outs] with him are not desirous of national or political reconciliation with parties that have presence and membership and influence in Iraqi society and on the Iraqi street, and that consequently it would be too difficult for these frightened persons and closed minds to merge and participate in a broad political operation like that of national reconciliation.
This anyway, writes Haroun Mohammed, is the story that is being "circulated" in official circles in these Arab capitals, and his choice of the expression for "circulated"(which could also be read "propagated" in the propaganda sense of the word) and he adds in conclusion:
And if indeed it is serious, then to guarantee success there would have to be steps taken by the Americans starting right now to pave the way for the presence of AMSI and the Baath and the other opposition forces, and the first of these measures would be a plain and clear statement of the American position on a number of issues, including their position on the Iraqi resistance; on withdrawal of the American forces according to a defined timetable, including the necessary agreements; on the role of the United Nations; on the solution of the issue of the prisoners, and compensation for Iraqis that have been harmed, and the related issues. Once that has been done, the Cairo meeting can be a success, otherwise the Cairo meeting will be just another of the many conferences and meetings that they have called and that have ended, in the manner of clubs for tourism and recreation and nothing more.
The title the Al-Quds editors put on this: "America's new project in Iraq: Short on seriousness".

*Haroun Mohammed puts the credibility issue this way:
[The report from Murphy to Rice, on the results of the Dead Sea meetings, said:] These kinds of meetings are defective as long as there are parties with influential political presence who stay away, and he named some of them, and he said any American efforts in the direction of pacification in Iraq and the establishment of cooperative and allied relationships, will not make any positive breakthroughs as long as parties like the Association of Muslim Scholars and the Baath and other Sunni representatives aren't part of it, and he invited the Foreign Minister to assign a team of members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, to have negotiating and discussion tasks rather than her own employees and advisers, many of whom, in Murphy's view, think they are just going around in empty circles because many of the Iraqi parties view them with suspicion and have no confidence in them, and because many of those advisers don't have freedom of movement with others, being bound by official instructions from which they are unable to free themselves, while a member of Congress has a broad area of flexibility and freedom in discussions with those who oppose American policy and resist the occupation.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Helena Cobban said...

Badger, first a big thanks (as aways) for bringing this report to our attention and for NOT having gone off the air as you so recently threatened to do!

Secondly, I fell about laughing when I read the reference to the idea that a "bipartisan congressional team" might be more acceptable to Murphy's Iraqi interlocutors. Ho, ho, ho! Congress is viewed by most Sunni Arabs (and not unreasonably so) as considerably more anti-Arab than any administration, even GWB's. That, because mainly of the huge influence that the Lobby has over members of Congress.

I suppose the only respect in which a BCT might be more "credible" to anyone is because everyone realizes that GWB is a lame duck and that his likely successor may well be a Dem. But still, I don't see any individuals in either house of the US congress who would have the stature or the smarts required to be effective at this tricky job of (late imperial) control-tweaking among Iraqis. Just possibly Warner or Hagel? Both Republicans, btw, and both on their way out. Or perhaps Jim Webb? (No dummy, and a substantial democratic figure.)

But still, this concept of a BCT looks hilariously inappropriate and unhelpful.

8:38 AM  
Blogger badger said...

I thought it would be platitudinous to underline in any heavy-handed way the humor of that particular point. Not to mention irrelevant to the main point of the piece.

10:17 AM  
Blogger badger said...

But I enjoyed your humorous bit of congressional butt-kissing. Very amusing. Keep up the good work!

12:30 PM  
Anonymous Shirin said...

What I found most amusing, in an appalling kind of way, is the whole idea that those clowns think that anyone in the United States government can possibly have any credibility of any kind with Iraqis. After that anything else is just adding hilarity on top of hilarity.

2:38 PM  

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