Friday, August 10, 2007

Reflections: Part II

(2) The "end-run around the resistance"

Another writer who is part of the Iraqi Patriotic Alliance resistance milieu is Saad Daoud Qiryaqous, author of a recent series of essays called "Some things that need to be said: About the National Patriotic Islamic Front". One of his main points about the proposed Damascus conference was that the organizers, or some of them, appeared to be ready to open the process to anyone, even those who have been either completely aloof from the resistance, or in fact cooperators in the occupation scheme, in one way or another, at one stage or another of that scheme. Qiryaqous included in that not only people like Allawi and his cohorts who have been actively involved with the Americans in oppressing the Iraqi people, but also, more broadly, intellectuals who have had nothing to do with the resistance, but are attracted by the prospect of getting in on the action now that the Americans appear to be ready to talk. He mentions in particular a symposium that was held in Beirut in 2005, headed by one Hayr al-Din Hasib "along with his allies who are anxious to negotiate with those how are occupying [the country of] their people." In the fourth installment of his series of essays, posted today on the IPA website, Qiryaqous puts it this way:
Let's put aside the reasons that were cited by some of the members of the organizing committee for the conference...and focus our attention on the real motives, which presumably the engineers of the concept of this conference at various levels wouldn't admit to. There are two parties that are behind this idea. The first and most important party is the leadership of Syria and its institutions. And the secondary party is the group of Hayr al-Din Hasib and his allies, who are anxious to negotiate with the occupiers. In addition to these two parties [promoting the idea of the conference] there are others, who we don't know whether they were involved in the original planning, or whether they got involved later for reasons of their own.
With respect to the "secondary party", outsiders to the resistance attempting to get in on the action, Qiryaqous explains:
The secondary party, or those involved in planning the Damascus Conference as secondary players, are the group known by [the name of a 2005 conference known as] the Beirut Conference and [by a slogan developed at that 2005 conference, namely] "The Iraq Assembly for Liberation and Construction". The reason for their passion for holding this Damascus Conference is [that they see this as] further to their plan to form an "Iraqi Team" which they can present to the American administration as something usable by them to carry out a staged (in the theatrical sense) withdrawal complete with surface negotiations with forces alleged to represent the Iraqi resistance and guarantees of a withdrawal with minimal financial and political cost, without [America] giving up its political and petroleum-related advantages in Iraq and in the region.
These are "opportunists", Qiryaqous says, and he uses a recurring phrase thoughout his series of essays in describing their plans: "Doing an end-run around the resistance".

(3) Premature negotiation equals sellout

This is another theme that runs though the recent literature on the Damascus Conference. But since it is a fairly straightforward point, and covered in the summary here of an earlier op-ed by Awni Qalamji, so I'll just note that this is a warning that this group continues to emphasize.

Finally, a few cautionary points by way of forestalling misinterpretations:

(1) While people in this IPA milieu all share a common orientation (independence from foreign agendas; primacy of the resistance when it comes to negotiations; no premature negotiations), they aren't always in lock-step. For instance, while Qalamji denounces what he considers the joint attitude of Syria and Iran in promoting the Damascus Conference, Qiryaqous takes a more nuanced position and says while the motives for undertaking the Damascus Conference reflect aims that aren't necessarily those of the resistance itself, still the bringing together of the resistance groups and the idea of forming a "Political Office" for the resistance is a positive thing, and it is even possible that at the end of the day Syria will see the light and support the genuine resistance. Similarly Qiryaqous holds out the possibility of the "Beirut Group" purging itself of its most opportunistic members and joining in the common cause (provide they recognize that fundamentally it is the resistance that is the legitimate representative of the Iraqi people). And so on. The point being that while it is easy to seize on statements made in the course of polemical discussions (and sometimes too quickly summarize them) as indicators of irreconcilable differences, that isn't always the correct reading.

(2) Speaking of the line between reconciliable and irreconcilable differences, in the above outline of points, I have purposely left out the issue of the split in the Baath between the Izzat al-Douri loyalists and the Yunis al-Ahmed (Syria-friendly) wing which came to light right after the execution of Saddam last fall. Regular readers will recall that Qalamji and others attributed the split to a play by Syria for regional influence, particularly vis-a-vis the US, and this is probably one of the undercurrents in the above-mentioned theme of "independence from foreign agendas", although the recent literature doesn't have a lot to say specifically about the Ahmed/Douri split. Possibly because it is a sore point. No less a person than Muslim Scholars head Harith al-Dhari was recently reported to be trying to arrange a reconciliation. However, it is also worth noting that the correspondent for Conflicts Forum has reported on a recent meeting between a US congressional delegation and the Al-Ahmed faction of the Iraqi Baath (in early July in Amman), summarizing this way:
While the early July Amman meeting between the Americans and representatives of the al-Ahmad faction did not result in any formal understandings between the representatives of the two groups, the Iraqi European mediator told us that the al-Ahman representatives made their own point of view clearly understood: If the United States would act decisively to end Iranian influence in Iraq, the Baath resistance would end its attacks on U.S. forces in western Iraq. Moreover, future talks in Amman would be held on “an accelerated and more substantive basis” if the Americans would act quickly and in good faith to take on what the al-Ahmad faction identified as “Iranian militias tied to the Quds brigades that are present in some parts of Iraq.”
The relationship, if any, of this meeting to the Damascus Conference isn't clear, but it's probably safe to say this is an example of the kind of "dealing" that the IPA writers summarized above have been warning against.

(3) There's a lot that is unclear in all of this. What I've tried to do here is merely broach some of the major topics that are being discussed among resistance spokespeople as the American military crisis starts to generate new issues for the resistance, including both a heightened need for unity, and at the same time an undesirable influx of outside parties drawn to this issue like flies to honey.

Special thanks to reader/commenter Allison for help with this.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tangentially related, because it doesn't cover the Damascus Conference, but today's Information Clearing House has an interview with Abduljabbar al Kubaysi, secretary-general of the Iraqi Patriotic Alliance (IPA).

3:26 PM  
Blogger John Brown said...

Thanks for these posts, Badger... good stuff.

I found the piece in the Guardian interesting for the reasons you enumerate - you just don't see it discussed, since they prefer to discuss the machinations of their alCIAda henchmen.

6:54 PM  
Blogger badger said...

Thanks! I would have hated to miss that. (There is even a section where he seems to refer to the circumstances of the Damascus Conference, where he is asked:

"Q: Two years ago you founded the Patriotic Islamic National Front comprising the Baath Party, the Iraqi Communist Party
(Central Command) and the Iraqi Patriotic Alliance. There are several religious figures both Sunni and Shiite who support you, but until now the big military formations of the resistance seem not to be represented by your front. Is the time still not ripe for such a front?

It is an exclusively political front and not a military one. That does not mean that there are no relations but we confine ourselves strictly to the political level. Regarding the Islamic military forces you must understand that they were built as military resistance groups and did not have any political representation. We are not interested to recruit this group or that leader. No, we are in a comprehensive dialogue with all of them with the proposal to form a unified political command of the resistance set against the so-called political process. Maybe it will go the other way round that a co-ordination is formed and we will join them. Our aim is not to show our role, but to create this political unification.

Whenever we seem to be very close to accomplishment, something happens which impedes its advancement. We also know what is behind. It is the influence and the meddling of the adjacent Arab regimes." )

The whole interview ought to be widely read. Let's see if that happens...

6:58 PM  
Blogger badger said...

Thanks John Brown (sorry I cut you off there). But I'd say we also need to pay attention to what Kubaysi has to say about the relative attractiveness of the Islamist appeal to young people compared to the old left/nationalist ideology...

7:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, Badger, thanks for being back. Your blog is definetely one of the most interesting.

Then a question: I found this post on Joshua Landis' blog - is the information wrong?

Syria hosts Iraq security meeting, U.S. to attend

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis
DAMASCUS, Aug 7 (Reuters) -

Syria will host an international security meeting on Iraq on Wednesday although the United States doubts Damascus is willing to play a role in stopping violence in its eastern neighbour.
The two-day meeting will be held in a government complex on the outskirts of Damascus. Officials from Iraq, the United States, Britain, Iran, Turkey and Jordan will attend, a Syrian official said.

“Washington is making a gesture towards Syria by attending the meeting in Damascus,” a Syrian official told Reuters.

U.S. officials held security talks in Baghdad this week with Syria’s ally Iran. After a visit to Damascus last month by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Syria said explicitly for the first time it supports the Shi’ite-led government in Baghdad.

One delegate said the meeting would focus on ways to control the 360-km (225 mile) border between Syria and Iraq and dismantling alleged Iraqi Baathist networks in Syria.

“With all the talk of Syria as a transit route for rebels, it makes sense to hold the meeting here. This is a chance for Damascus to show it can cooperate and talk with U.S. officials. The two sides rarely meet,” the delegate said.

“A mechanism should also emerge for the Iraqis and Syrians to cooperate regularly on controlling the border,” he said.

Washington says Syria is allowing fighters and weapons into Iraq. Damascus denies this and says ending instability in Iraq and achieving an “honourable withdrawal” for U.S. forces is in its national interest.


A diplomat in the Syrian capital said Damascus had kept its policy on Iraq vague in the absence of a U.S. promise to give Syria something in return for its cooperation, such as an easing of American sanctions that were imposed on Syria in 2004, or pressure on Israel to withdraw from the Syrian Golan Heights.
“So far Syria has been playing both hands. It puts out the right statements but does not move substantially on the ground,” the diplomat said.

Syria fiercely opposed the American-led invasion of 2003 that removed Saddam Hussein from power and brought sectarian tensions to the surface. It has since hosted an estimated 1.4 million Iraqi refugees who have fled Iraq.

It also hosts a large number of former operatives from Saddam’s security forces whom the U.S.-backed Iraqi government accuses of having links with the rebels.

The Damascus meeting is a follow-up to a conference in Egypt in May in which senior U.S. and Syrian officials met each other for the first time in two years. Another follow-up meeting in Amman dealt with the refugee problem.

Although the Damascus meeting will focus on Iraq’s security concerns, Turkey is expected to raise the issue of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebel separatists who use Iraqi Kurdistan as a base.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki visited Turkey on Tuesday for talks on dealing with the PKK.

1:24 AM  
Blogger badger said...

anonymous, The "Baghdad Conference" of resistance groups I was writing about was supposed to be held July 23, but it was canceled. People think the cancellation was Syria's doing. US attendance at the Aug 8-9 meeting you refer to is described in that Reuters item as "a gesture towards Syria" and so it would be logical to think of that as a bit of a "thank you" for blocking the July 23 event. At least if you accept the view (of Qalamji and others) that Syria's motive for getting involved with the Iraqi resistance in the first place has been merely to win brownie points with the US.

5:34 AM  

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