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Accelerated suicide bombings the price of belated negotiations with Sunni nationalist insurgency

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I will step out with a prediction that the accelerated, near continuous daily suicide bombings, often comprising multiple coordinated explosions that remove all doubt as to the ability of insurgents to stage redundant attacks by suicide vest or car bomb, will prove to be a bargaining tactic of the "fight and negotiate" strategy by the Sunni, likely Baathist, insurgents.

Were I in their place, I would do exactly that as it all upside and no downside to the insurgents as the suicide bombers are foreign jihadists provisioned, armed and positioned by indigenous Iraqi insurgents, i.e., the jihadists are a no-cost pass through:

Top insurgent field commanders and negotiators informed TIME that the rebels have told diplomats and military officers that they support a secular democracy in Iraq but resent the prospect of a government run by exiles who fled to Iran and the West during Saddam's regime. The insurgents also seek a guaranteed timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal, a demand the U.S. refuses. But there are some hints of compromise: insurgent negotiators have told their U.S. counterparts they would accept a U.N. peacekeeping force as the U.S. troop presence recedes. Insurgent representative Abu Mohammed says the nationalists would even tolerate U.S. bases on Iraqi soil. "We don't mind if the invader becomes a guest," he says, suggesting a situation akin to the U.S. military presence in Germany and Japan.

This is a very pragmatic approach on the part of the insurgency which is stating that it wants to convert itself into a political voice for the now disenfranchised Sunnis. The comparison to, and possible modeling on, the symbiotic workings of the IRA's political wing, Sinn Fein, and the provisional IRA is apt:

[The insurgents] say their aim is to establish a political identity that can represent disenfranchised Sunnis and eventually negotiate an end to the U.S. military's offensive in the Sunni triangle. Their model is Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, which ultimately earned the I.R.A. a role in the Northern Ireland peace process. "That's what we're working for, to have a political face appear from the battlefield, to unify the groups, to resist the aggressor and put our views to the people," says a battle commander in the upper tiers of the insurgency who asked to be identified by his nom de guerre, Abu Marwan. Another negotiator, called Abu Mohammed, told TIME, "Despite what has happened, the possibility for negotiation is still open."

I believe that the US administration was foolish to then deny what was undoubtedly a very practical plan that US commanders in private would approve as the US situation on the ground was neither supportable or continuous. (See Looking at implications beyond the lessons learned through establishment eyes.) I suspect that historians will assign cause to an administration concerned of being perceived as weak or as having lost the opportunity for decisive victory (which had long since slipped its grasp). See Had our intelligence analysis only matched our capacity for hubris, Continuance of denial and hubris are not grounds for success, and This resistance is acceptable to us

I have come to the conclusion that the "sectarian violence that I had expected to follow the 72-hour lockdown over the elections" which was deferred to the period of forming an Iraqi cabinet and government was part of the 'fight and negotiate' strategy that showed the Shias, Kurds and other Iraqi groups that a government without Sunnis was untenable, even as it provided an unspoken goad to US willingness to negotiate with the insurgents.

I take odds with the comment that the US military now "seeks to make a distinction between Iraqi insurgents who are attacking U.S. troops because they are hostile to their presence, and foreign insurgents responsible for most of the suicide bombings." (It is not quite that simple as the US faces Zarqawi’s jihadists, former Baathist, Sunni Arab nationalists and criminal gangs.) Early talks were said to include insurgent groups Ansar al-Sunna, Islamic Army in Iraq, the Iraqi Liberation Army; Jaish Mohammed and other smaller factions. Later talks included Thawarat al-Ishreen and the Shoura Council of Mujahideen.

My opinion is that when the Baathist/Sunni national insurgents get the terms they want that they can turn off the flow of jihadists and deal forcefully with the jihadist groups then in country as well as the criminal gangs which operate as an opportunistic "farm team" to the insurgents, i.e., just deal with the Sunnis as they are the ones with whom a negotiated settlement is possible and palatable and who can extinguish the jihadists and control the gangs.

Thus while I find it appropriate to negotiate with the insurgents, I find our approach a bit highhanded given our wish to again grasp 'peace with honor' and disengage. I believe that history will assign much of the death toll upon Iraqi police and civilians and US forces that form an essential part of the Insurgent negotiating strategy to US making.

U.S. Talks With Iraq Insurgents Confirmed
By Dana Priest
Washington Post
June 27, 2005

US 'in talks with Iraq with Iraq rebels'
Hala Jaber
Times (UK)
June 26, 2005

US Denies Talks with Iraqi Insurgency Leaders
By Al Pessin, Pentagon
VOA - Voice of America
22 February 2005

U.S. Holds Secret Talks With Insurgents in Iraq
Reuters
February 21, 2005

Talking with the Enemy
By MICHAEL WARE
Time Magazine
Posted 20 Feb, 2005, Issue Feb. 28, 2005, Vol. 165 No. 9
Scrolled to archive
Mirrored here

Gordon Housworth



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