Thursday, March 12, 2009

Or old wine in old bottles?

AlQuds AlArabi today refers to a planned "new" round of talks between representatives of Maliki and certain Baathists, something the journalist describes as the culmination of two years of communications between the two sides, adding that this round of talks will start with the wing closest to Syria. All of which suggests that this process dates back to the January 2007 split between the loyalist Baathist party led by Izzat Ibrahim Al-Douri, and a breakaway group, based in Syria, led by Ahmed Yunis al-Ahmed. At the time, the loyalists said this was part of a prearranged scheme by the renegades to enter into the GreenZone political process eventually, with the agreement of Maliki. This was reported in AlQuds AlArabi on Jan 31 07 (quoted here):
Sources close to the Baath party said a deal between the Maliki government and a number of party-members led to the split that resulted in the recent special council in Damascus under the protection of the Syrian government. They said that the breakaway branch has no actual presence on the ground in Iraq, particularly since all of the tribes in the provinces of Diyala, Salahhadin, Anbar, and elsewhere, pledged allegiance to the party's General Secretary Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri following the execution of former president Saddam Hussein last month.

The sources added that the deal involves the breakaway group entering into talks with the government aimed at an offer of amnesty and other concessions in exchange for the endorsement [of] the legitimacy of the occupation, and of the political process that supports it, thus striking a blow at the resistance.

The sources minimized the importance of the split and said the recent escalation in military operations against the occupation shows that this hasn't had any effect on the resistance. And they said they think the support of Syria for this split in the Baath party aims at obtaining a political card [earning political points] in support of the efforts by Damascus to improve their relationship with the United States.
Putting two and two together, it seems likely that what the AlShorouq reporter was being told about was a dressed-up version of that scenario: Maliki negotiations with a breakaway Baathist branch in Syria, and possibly Syria playing the political card referred to above, by facilitating such talks. Naturally there could be more to it, and this could in fact be on the regional agenda in some form, but the origin of this in the Jan 2007 Baath party split suggests it probably isn't as important in the "Arab nationalism" sense as he was suggesting.