Thursday, January 03, 2008

Latest news on Condi's Cairo process

Another interesting thing you can learn at the Roads to Iraq blog: it appears the resistance-group that goes by JAAMI or Islamic Front for Resistance in Iraq has a web-site (jaami.info), and they reported January 1, under a Cairo dateline, some of the recent goings-on that the Egyptian government is trying to mediate, in preparation for the coming Cairo Conference on Iraqi reconciliation*. This Jaami piece is titled: "Under cover of strict silence on Sadrist discussions in Cairo: This was an American agenda for talks, under the cover of 'preserving the Arab nature of Iraq'!". Note the exclamation point.

The gist of the story is that a delegation from the Sadrist current visited Cairo the week of November 25 to December 4, having been officially invited by the government of Egypt, and the first point the reporter wants to stress is that in the month since then, no one has said a word in public about this, reflecting, he says, the determination of the Egyptian authorities to keep this out of the media. He wonders why. He describes the series of meetings as being on the theme of "the Sadrists stance with respect to the Sunnis, in the light of what the Mahdi Army has been engaged in against individuals and mosques in residential areas." Which would seem to indicate this is coming from the point of view of the operational side, shall we say, of the Jaami. And from that point of view, the exclamation point in the title seems to say: "Imagine! Negotiating with the Sadrists as if this were for the preservation of the Arab nature of Iraq! No wonder they're keeping it quiet."

His first substantive point is that his sources told him the Egyptians wanted from the Sadrist delegation a "clear policy statement expressing a nationalist orientation that preserves the Arab character of Iraq". And the reporter says this "indicates that the visit came by way of rectifying the attitude of the [Sadrist] current, in search of Arab support for easing pressure [on the Sadrist current] from the Americans and from the [Iraqi] government". The reporter recalls: Salah Obaidi (leader of this delegation) had said just before the visit that this was in the context of the Sadrists opening to the Arab milieu (or environment) and the continuation of a program of exchange of points of view, supported by the Sadrists. (This too seems to be consistent with an operational Sunni-resistance view of events: There is American and GreenZone military pressure on the Sadrists, so the latter are naturally interested in any talks that could lead to an easing in that pressure).

Here comes the key part:
Political sources, who declined to be identified, said the invitation by the Egyptian government [to the Sadrists] to meet with them in Cairo, which was transmitted by way of their ambassador in Damascus, was [a move] directly assigned by the American administration , so the meetings between the Sadrists and the Egyptian government had an American dimension, particularly since this [American] administration is completely unable to negotiate directly or indirectly with the Sadrist current, and this is something that greatly complicates things for the Americans.

The Egyptian government attempted to get from the Sadrist delegation a commitment in writing in which they would repudiate [the idea of] Iranian hegemony over their political decision-making, indicating a request (or demand) that there be a parallel or equal influence from the Arab side (i.e., on Sadrist decision-making). And the meetings also proposed the concept of [the Sadrists having] direct meetings, or indirect meetings mediated by the Egyptian government, with various parties, first of all with the Americans, and then with the Political Office of the Iraqi Resistance. There was suggested the possibility of Egypt providing funds to help the Sadrists in needy urban areas; and there was suggested the possibility of Egyptian mediation in securing the release of Sadrist prisoners at the earliest possible time.
In other words, this story is that Americans are using Egypt as their agent in an attempt to wean the Sadrists away from Iran. The Americans had Egypt invite the Sadrists to Cairo to tell them this, namely that in exchange for a commitment to limit Iranian influence on them, there might be the possibility of Egyptian financial aid, Egyptian mediation in prisoner-releases, and more generally an easing in the current military pressure on them.

So there could undoubtedly be another dimension to the exclamation point in the title. "This is being mediated by Cairo! Just look at the wonderful renaissance the people of Gaza are enjoying under the honest-brokership of this courageous regime, and you Sadrists, too, will no doubt also want to put your trust in this highly trustworthy regime!" But as I have indicated, the actual point of view of this article is that of a Sunni-resistance group questioning the bona fides of any idea of Sadrist "arabism".

And to underline what he sees as the strangeness of this whole opening-to-the-Sadrists enterprise, the reporter recounts a couple of developments that occurred in the months before this recent visit. He says Adel AbdulMahdi (Supreme Council, and the Iraqi vice-president) had secretly made a financial contribution to Al-Azhar, which was later--quite publicly--returned to him by the authorities apparently by way of embarassing him. (This was apparently reported, but I didn't see anything about it). "And another strange thing", this reporter says, " is that the Egyptian newspapers have recently been praising the Sadrist current as "an Arabist current", an expression they normally apply to groups like the Baath, the Nasserists and the nationalists". In other words, it appears to him that there have been other, earlier, manifestations of this attempt by the Egyptian establishment to court the Sadrist current, as opposed to the Supreme Council.

If the Sunni-resistance reporter with an operational perspective sees this as primarily about what he sees as the hypocrisy of talking about the "Arabism" of the Sadrists, the longer-term point is that if reconciliation is going to have any meaning at all, then harping on the Arabist/Sadrist point isn't the end of the story. Rather, look at the process. The Americans, according to this story, are trying to manage a process where rapprochement between the Sadrists and the Sunni resistance is carried out on American terms (without a withdrawal-commitment: the references here are to financial assistance and prisoner-release only), which is bad enough, but look who they have picked to be their universally-trusted mediator: Egypt! You'd almost think this wasn't a serious undertaking at all.


* Plans for the Cairo Conference are referred to here; here; and elsewhere. But this is still being treated with reverential silence by the big media, possibly to avoid all kinds of embarrassment in the preparations (like those indicated in this piece, for example); or possibly because nothing might come of it. Or both, maybe?

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

which just proves the point that the Sadrists have been working for Iran all along and are not some nationalistic, patriotic force as some claim them to be.
What does it really take to figure this one out?

9:51 AM  
Blogger badger said...

it proves nothing of the kind

10:02 AM  
Anonymous Shirin said...

Oh, puleeeeze! Sadr working for Iran? I don't think so.

What's sad is that Sadr offers hope for Iraqi independence, but is this the Iraq we want to emerge from this nightmare?!

12:00 AM  

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