Report: U.S. in Secret Talks with Iraqi Insurgents

#1
Two stories here (links provided from tomahawks belmont club link.

Makes for quite encouraging reading. :)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. diplomats and intelligence officers are conducting secret talks with Iraq (news - web sites)'s Sunni insurgents on ways to end fighting there, Time magazine reported on Sunday, citing Pentagon (news - web sites) and other sources.

The Bush administration has said it would not negotiate with Iraqi fighters and there is no authorized dialogue but the U.S. is having "back-channel" communications with certain insurgents, unidentified Washington and Iraqi sources told the magazine.

The magazine cited a secret meeting between two members of the U.S. military and an Iraqi negotiator, a middle-aged former member of Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)'s regime and the senior representative of what he called the nationalist insurgency.

A U.S. officer tried to get names of other insurgent leaders while the Iraqi complained the new Shi'ite-dominated government was being controlled by Iran, according to an account of the meeting provided by the Iraqi negotiator.

"We are ready to work with you," the Iraqi negotiator said, according to Time.

Iraqi insurgent leaders not aligned with al Qaeda ally Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi told the magazine several nationalist groups composed of what the Pentagon calls "former regime elements" have become open to negotiating.

The insurgents said their aim was to establish a political identity that can represent disenfranchised Sunnis.

The White House had no immediate comment on the report.

When asked about the contacts, Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel (news, bio, voting record) of Nebraska, a member of both the Senate foreign relations and intelligence committees, said it was important to "reach out" in Iraq.

"We've got a very complicated and dangerous situation over there and you are going to have to reach out, you are going to have to develop some relationships and networks," he said on CNN's "Late Edition."

Controversial Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi said on Sunday the outcome of any negotiations between insurgents and the U.S. military would not be binding for a new Iraqi government.

"I know nothing about such negotiations. Those negotiations will in no way bind the elected government of Iraq," he said in an interview with ABC's "This Week." "The issue here is not negotiating with the killers who are killing the Iraqi people."
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tm...&e=6&u=/nm/20050220/ts_nm/iraq_sunni_talks_dc

Sunnis Seek Place in New Iraqi Government
By PATRICK QUINN, Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. Marines and Iraqi security forces launched an offensive Sunday against insurgents in troubled cities west of Baghdad after two days of carnage that left nearly 100 people dead. Sunni Muslim tribal leaders met to determine their place in a Shiite-dominated Iraqi government.

As the Shiite majority prepared to take control of the country's first freely elected government, tribal chiefs representing Sunni Arabs in six provinces issued a list of demands — including participation in the government and drafting a new constitution — after previously refusing to acknowledge the vote's legitimacy.

"We made a big mistake when we didn't vote," said Sheik Hathal Younis Yahiya, 49, a representative from northern Nineveh. "Our votes were very important."

He said threats from insurgents — not sectarian differences — kept most Sunnis from voting.

Sunnis make up 20 percent of Iraq (news - web sites)'s population of 26 million compared to the Shiite's 60 percent.

Gathering in a central Baghdad hotel, about 70 tribal leaders from the provinces of Baghdad, Kirkuk, Salaheddin, Diyala, Anbar and Nineveh, tried to devise a strategy for participation in a future government. There was an air of desperation in some quarters of the smoke-filled conference room.

"When we said that we are not going to take part, that didn't mean that we are not going to take part in the political process. We have to take part in the political process and draft the new constitution," said Adnan al-Duleimi, the head of Sunni Endowments in Baghdad.

Just west of the capital, U.S. Marines and Iraqi security forces launched a joint operation to crack down on insurgents and terrorists in several troubled cities, the military said.

The operation was underway in several Euphrates River cities in Anbar province, including Heet, Baghdad, Hadithah and the provincial capital Ramadi, where authorities imposed a nighttime curfew, the military said.

Meanwhile, a powerful Sunni organization believed to have ties with the insurgents sought Sunday to condemn the weekend attacks that left nearly 100 Iraqis dead.

"We won't remain silent over those crimes which target the Iraqi people Sunnis or Shiites, Islamic or non-Islamic," Sheik Harith al-Dhari, of the Association Muslim Scholars, told a news conference.

Iraqis, he said, should unite "against those who are trying to incite hatred between us."

They include Iraq's leading terror mastermind, the Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. In a letter to Osama bin Laden (news - web sites) found on a captured al-Qaida courier last year, al-Zarqawi proposed starting a civil war between Iraq's Sunni and Shiite Muslims.

Shiites and their clergy-backed United Iraqi Alliance, which received nearly half the election votes, were to decide in coming days on their choice for prime minister.

The two main candidates so far are the former Pentagon (news - web sites) favorite Ahmad Chalabi, a secular Shiite, and Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the interim vice president.

Chalabi last week claimed in an Associated Press interview that he had enough support among the 140 alliance delegates elected to the National Assembly to beat Jaafari. He repeated the assertion in an appearance Sunday on ABC's "This Week" television show with George Stephanopoulos.

"I believe I have a majority of the votes on my side right now," Chalabi said.

Shiite politicians have promised not to allow Friday and Saturday's bloodshed escalate into a civil war.

A radical Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, who led two bloody revolts against U.S. forces, called on Iraqis' to avoid blaming any religious group.

"As for the latest attacks and the ones before, I think they are a series of attacks against the Iraqi people in general and are not targeting a specific religious group," he told Al-Jazeera television.

On Saturday, eight suicide bombers participated in a series of attacks that killed 55 people as Iraqi Shiites commemorated the 7th-century death of a leader of their Muslim sect. Similar attacks Friday killed 36 people and injured dozens.

It was the second year running that violence marred Ashoura, the holiest day of the Shiite religious calendar, but the deaths were less than the 181 killed last year in twin bombings in Baghdad and the holy city of Karbala.

The dead this year also included a U.S. soldier killed in a Baghdad suicide bombing.

In some Baghdad neighborhoods, barriers were erected Sunday to prevent suicide bombers from carrying out attacks against funeral tents and processions — as they did with deadly effect on Saturday.

At a funeral in the Bayaa district, near the site of a Saturday attack, 50 chairs were set up inside a tent but only 10 people showed up. Some mourners said they had no fear because they no longer cared.

"I am not afraid simply because we are in Iraq living like the dead." said Abdel Zahra Farhoud, a 55-year-old farmer. "The Wahhabi extremist groups have turned our lives to hell."

Associated Press reporters Maggie Michael and Sinan Salaheddin, in Baghdad, contributed to this report.
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tm.../ap/20050220/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq_050220185125
 
#3
"We made a big mistake when we didn't vote," said Sheik Hathal Younis Yahiya, 49, a representative from northern Nineveh. "Our votes were very important."

Welcome to the beginners class of democracy (or Democracy 101 to our American chums)

msr
 
#4
Here is an article that I get in my email from Stratfor periodically that is rather interesting.

LEARN MORE ABOUT STRATFOR >>
"A Syrian-Iranian entente is... a nightmare for the Saudis."

Iraq: U.S. Problems, Saudi Nightmares and the Case for a Settlement

By George Friedman

Time magazine reported Feb. 21 that U.S. officials were holding back-channel discussions with Sunnis on the possibility of ending the insurrection in the Sunni Triangle of Iraq. All parties are eager to backpedal from the reports, but we regard them as true -- not only because reports of such conversations have reached us for months, but because under the current circumstances, these discussions make complete sense. It also makes complete sense that Ahmed Chalabi, who is trying to resurrect himself as the leader of the Shiite government, would say publicly that the new government would not be bound by these discussions.

Everything, inside and outside Iraq, is pivoting around what the Sunnis will do -- and that, in turn, pivots around what the Americans, not the new government, are prepared to offer.

It has been the general assumption that the Sunni insurrection is a highly fragmented movement -- answerable to no one in particular and controllable by no one. However, evidence is emerging that the situation is simpler than that. The Association of Muslim Scholars, an umbrella organization for traditional Sunni leaders, has implied -- and on occasion stated -- that it is in a position to control at least large swathes of the insurrection. Put differently, the assumption has been that the Sunni leadership was trapped by the insurgents, unable to make political deals out of fear of guerrilla retribution. But it would now appear that the mainstream Sunni leaders and the insurgents are working more closely together than thought.

This does not mean the two are monolithic. Far from it. Nevertheless, there is a basic reality: A guerrilla insurrection the size of the Sunni rising could not be sustained simply through coercion. Pure coercion is enormously inefficient and dangerous to a guerrilla force. In order to operate on the scale seen before the January election, the insurgents had to have active support at the village and neighborhood levels. In Iraq, that support is available only if the leadership is prepared to give it. The Sunni leadership was prepared to give it. Now the discussion is whether and under what terms that leadership is prepared to withdraw the support, leaving the insurrection to degrade for lack of resources. Indeed, the capture of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's propagandist indicates the inner security blanket around al-Zarqawi might have been breached. If this is so, it would be because of shifts among Sunnis.

The Sunni leadership rose against the coalition invasion of Iraq for three reasons:

1. The initial American policy -- to completely purge anyone involved with the Baathist regime -- was, in effect, a purge of Sunnis from the regime.
2. The Sunnis saw the American relationship with the Shia and Iran -- as symbolized by the role of Chalabi -- as well as with the Kurds, as direct evidence that the United States intended to crush the Sunni leadership and community.
3. Given the first two reasons, supporting the follow-on war plan of the Baathist government seemed the prudent thing to do. In large part, the American will was untested, and there was hope that a massive rising -- potentially joined by elements in the Shiite community -- would cause the United States, if not to withdraw, then to reconsider its administrative policy in Iraq.

The United States' response to the Sunni rising was, at one level, confused. First, Washington failed to anticipate the rising, then moved into an alignment with the Shia. After the capture of Saddam Hussein, the United States tried to switch to a more accommodating position with the Sunnis, and then swung back into opposition. It was not that Washington had no policy, but rather that, by the summer of 2003, the policy was tactical rather than strategic. U.S. leaders were looking for a stable basis from which to operate.

The stable status was always an alliance with the Shia, but the United States always hesitated for two reasons. First, officials in Washington feared that with the Shia would come the Iranians -- as a sort of package power deal in Baghdad. Second, they were afraid the insurrection would spread against the Shia -- as with, for example, the al-Sadr rising -- creating a complete political meltdown.

In the end, however, when U.S. officials decided to go ahead with the election in January, they had made the decision to accept a Shiite-dominated government. Now, extensive negotiations with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani over Tehran's role in Iraqi Shiite politics formed the basis of that decision. The United States put al-Sistani in the position of having to choose between the Americans and control of an Iraqi government, or the Iranians. He chose the Americans, the election was held, the Shia won, and the stage is set for a Shiite government.

Washington favors a Shiite government because it wants to turn primary responsibility for Iraq over to this government. Put simply, the Bush administration wants the Shia to crush the Sunni rebellion -- allowing U.S. forces to remain in Iraq in isolated bases, but not responsible for counterinsurgency operations. In other words, the United States wants to Shiitize the conflict, which makes sense.

On the other hand -- and in this, there is always another hand -- the administration doesn't really trust al-Sistani or his lieutenants. The hidden fear of is that the Iranians still have their hooks into the Iraqi Shia, and that they are biding their time until the Shia consolidate political power before turning Iraq into an Islamic republic and, far more important, an Iranian puppet regime. Now, there are many reasons this won't happen, including theological tensions between An Najaf and Qom, but there is one reason that it could happen: After a generation of trying, the influence of the Iranian intelligence service (MOIS) in Iraq is substantial and difficult to gauge. It has the goods on a large number of Shia. MOIS is very good at what it does, and it might have enough control to give the United States an unpleasant strategic surprise.

The United States does not want Iraq to be dominated by Iran. First, U.S. forces would lose their base in the region. Second, the Iranians would then be the dominant regional power. Nothing would stand between the Iranian military and the entire Persian Gulf except for U.S. forces. The last thing Washington wants is to tie down its already stretched military in a blocking operation against Iran.

From Washington's standpoint, the best solution is not the destruction of Sunni forces by the Shia; the best outcome would be a change of policy on the part of the Sunni leadership, allowing them to join the Iraqi government with their forces officially disbanded but truthfully intact. The Sunnis might be a minority, but they are strategically located. The Shia can hold Baghdad in a coalition government with the Sunnis, but if the Sunnis rise up, the center can't hold. Unless the Shia want to split Iraq, they cannot refuse an accommodation with the Sunnis. Unless the Sunnis want to become the victims of the Shia, they cannot refuse accommodation either. Deals have been built on less.

There is another player out there that is vitally interested in the outcome: Saudi Arabia. The Saudis were deeply traumatized by the rise of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his Shiite regime. The fear of a powerful Iran, dominating Iraq, is Riyadh's primal fear. The Saudis helped to underwrite Iraq's war with Iran precisely because, though they were scared of Saddam Hussein, they were terrified of Khomeini.

A Shiite-governed Iraq is a nightmare for Riyadh because it creates two possible scenarios. In one, the Iranians move through Iraq and invade the Saudi oil fields, moving as far south as they wish, supported by Shia living in the region. In the other, the United States comes to Riyadh's aid and stations divisions in Saudi Arabia -- thus resurrecting the nightmare that led to the radicalization of the Wahhabi clerics and the rise of al Qaeda. Either outcome stinks.

Therefore, it is in the kingdom's best interest to prevent a purely Shiite Iraqi government or the collapse of Iraq into three countries, with the southern route to the western shore of the Persian Gulf in the hands of the Shia. In fact, this is not merely "the best interest" of the Saudis -- it is a burning issue. We can even extend this a little more broadly. If one divide is between Shiite and Sunni, the other is between Arab and Iranian. Arab Shia occupy a special position, of course, but the Sunni Arab world does not want to see Iran emerge as a regional superpower.

Riyadh holds one of the keys to the situation. Among the foundations of the Sunni insurrection has been the sense that the struggle is joined to a broader Arab interest. Buttressed by Saudi money and recruits, this has been an important dimension of the insurgency. It also has given the Saudis influence among the insurgents. Saudi religious leaders have links to al-Zarqawi. Riyadh has been surprisingly successful in coping with Saudi Arabia's own militant insurrection by co-opting its leadership, particularly the religious leaders. The Saudis have the means to whittle away at the insurrection in Iraq and the motive to do so: Less than anyone do they want to see an Iraqi government simply in the hands of the Shia.

That is why Shiite figure Chalabi, still singing Iran's tune, recently insisted the new government would not be bound by any negotiation with the Sunnis. It also is the reason that, as improbable as it might appear, Chalabi seems to have a chance at being prime minister of Iraq, or at least a major figure in the government. In recent days, there has been a media blitz aimed at rehabilitating him by portraying him as a secular technocrat. That he might be, but he also is adopting a line on the Sunni guerrillas that, if followed, works directly against American and Saudi interests and toward Iranian interests.

It is interesting to observe how over the past two years, American and Saudi interests have converged and American and Iranian interests have diverged. It is no surprise, therefore, that the Iranians should have reached out to the Syrians over the past few weeks, trying to forge a strategic alliance.

The Syrians' primary interest is retaining their position of power in Lebanon, just as the primary interest of the Iranians is in building up their position in Iraq. The Americans are systematically whittling away at both of these interests. Tehran has asked for a united front with Syria. Damascus views Iran with suspicion. First, Syrian leaders are not sure what Iran can do for them; second, they are not sure Iran won't negotiate a deal with the Americans, leaving the Syrians wide open. Our guess is that the regime in Syria responded to the Iranians with the demand for a down payment -- some indicator that the Iranians were prepared to cross the Rubicon.

The price we believe they asked was the life of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. Hezbollah is an Iranian-founded and -controlled Shiite group that is permitted to operate by Syria. The Syrians wanted al-Hariri out of the way and, if our conjecture is accurate, wanted Tehran to do this via Hezbollah. The Iranians would have accommodated the Syrians -- first, because they needed some international support; and second, because they wanted to throw Hezbollah into the pot. Hezbollah invented suicide bombings and, even more than al Qaeda, it is a global organization. It has grown fat and somewhat complacent in the past decade -- cutting deals in booming Lebanon and elsewhere in a range of businesses -- but the group still knows its craft. And in the al-Hariri affair, Tehran signaled the United States that it has more cards to play than just nuclear weapons.

Indeed, Hezbollah is more frightening to the United States than Iranian nukes. As the Israelis put it, the Iranians will know how to build a nuclear device in six months. Put into English, that means the Iranians still don't know how to build a nuclear device, but in six months they might have a clue. Hezbollah, not nukes, is the Iranian wild card -- and with al-Hariri's death, Tehran threw the card on the table.

A Syrian-Iranian entente is a worry to the Americans and a nightmare for the Saudis. A pure Shiite government is a problem for the Americans and nightmare for the Sunnis. The Bush administration has created an interesting situation: We are all in a place where the United States has problems and others have nightmares. Therefore, a lot of people are more interested than even the Americans in a settlement of the Iraqi insurgency.

Now comes the hard part -- getting all the moving pieces tied together.
 
#5
what ever happened to the ideal of never negociating with these people. yes it would be good for them to stop fighting, but we should not give them much except for maybe amnisty etc.

We virtualy defeated the IRA by fighting them, and not giving in why should this be any different. yes we maybe talked to them but it was mostly informats who could put te in jail

NEVER negociate with these people it just encourages more to do the same. if we are strong it will decrease the chance of others thinking we are an easy target.

Point with the kidnapped people, very unfortunate but if we had negociated with them things would just get worse and worse

defeat them once and for all by the only means they know, violence and war
 
#6
wereRedYourDead said:
what ever happened to the ideal of never negociating with these people. yes it would be good for them to stop fighting, but we should not give them much except for maybe amnisty etc.

We virtualy defeated the IRA by fighting them, and not giving in why should this be any different. yes we maybe talked to them but it was mostly informats who could put te in jail

NEVER negociate with these people it just encourages more to do the same. if we are strong it will decrease the chance of others thinking we are an easy target.

Point with the kidnapped people, very unfortunate but if we had negociated with them things would just get worse and worse

defeat them once and for all by the only means they know, violence and war
Oh bullsh1t. For a Western power the only solution to a political problem is a political solution. Fact. The 'Ra came to the table because they were given to understand that this would give them a stake in a future 6/26 perhaps leading to 32-county Ireland that much sooner than the long war. They could still be doing the armed struggle now, for no political gain - compare and contrast.

Insurgencies, unless they're very narrowly-based (see Malaya & Kenya) will always need political will and dialogue to be resolved. The US are playing this smart, finally - and inevitably. Not even the USMC can kill every single Sunni.
 
#8
the biggest gains against the ira were made when the SAS was given the power to do what they do best in conjunction with the itel services.

I am not saying kill every sunni in Iraq, but we cant start giving them stuff just because they fight us. there has to be a balance involving both. If you take away the fighting side they think they have won and will continue.

the best thing is for them to get involved in the democratic process, but there will always be those who oppose the new iraqi gov, a minority maybe but we cant just expect them to lay down their arms because we talk to them.
Afganistan has seen the balance, democracy and force and it is working, but what happens when, enevitably we pull out, will they bw strong enough on their own, or is a permanent force needed there.
 
#9
tomahawk6 said:
It would be a big step forward if the insurgent's give up.
if you term it as giving up, itll never happen, youve got to give in to them on certain issues, just like the Brits have with PIRA. They wont give up or surrender.
for the US to be secretly negotiating with them will give them the nod that they were winning.
 
#10
The whole point of that last article was to expalin why the vast majority of the sunni insurgents opposed the american occupation. The main reasons being that the americans wanted to get rid of the baath party (which was made up almost entirely of sunni's) and was aligned with the kurds and the Shia's.

Therefore, the sunni's felt that they were about to be wiped off the political map by the americans. In the period up to the elections, the coalition campaigned to get the sunni's to vote and to becoem involved in the political process because beleive it or not, they are not there to kill iraqi's. As such, it appears that the sunni insurgency are beggining to realise that the coalition are not there to wipe them out and do want to give them a chance to have a proportional representation in the way the country is run. Seems like some of them are begining to view that as a better path than straight allah and his infamous 72 virgins! :twisted:

Long may it continue.

A_S
 
#11
Negotiations ALWAYS take place in some form and at some point. The history of conflict shows that the belligerents will usually fight to a impasse somewhere along the line and then start talking. It may not be publicised at the time for good reason, but it always happens, as it should.
 
#12
wereRedYourDead said:
the biggest gains against the ira were made when the SAS was given the power to do what they do best in conjunction with the intel services.
Oh Lord, where to start? Some dead IRA Volunteers killed by the SF in "reactive OPs" = many more Volunteers in the same way as some dead Iraqis in "collateral damage" = flourishing insurgency. Plus which, Intel make processors

wereRedYourDead said:
I am not saying kill every sunni in Iraq, but we cant start giving them stuff just because they fight us. there has to be a balance involving both. If you take away the fighting side they think they have won and will continue.
If giving them stuff will stop them fighting us, then why not give them stuff, rather than wasting blood and treasure? What's the aim - to defeat the insurgents and humiliate them in search for revenge or to stabilise Iraq and get out gracefully?

wereRedYourDead said:
the best thing is for them to get involved in the democratic process, but there will always be those who oppose the new iraqi gov, a minority maybe but we cant just expect them to lay down their arms because we talk to them.
Afganistan has seen the balance, democracy and force and it is working, but what happens when, enevitably we pull out, will they bw strong enough on their own, or is a permanent force needed there.
And how do we get them involved in a democratic process? Clue - it will involve talking to them. That's politics, that is and far more worthwhile than killing our soldiers and their loyal patriots.

Welcome to the confusing world of asymmetric warfare.
 
#13
wereRedYourDead said:
We virtualy defeated the IRA by fighting them, and not giving in why should this be any different. yes we maybe talked to them but it was mostly informats who could put te in jail
I don't know where you got this idea. Both Tory and New Lab held talks with main actors in IRA whilst claiming that they would not negotiate. Maybe they were bolstered on both sides by advice from military chiefs that military victory was not possible without unacceptable losses of - maybe - innocent lives.
The govys in power at the time negotiated with the baddies in Kenya, Cyprus and Aden. Line was "you say this, we'll do that, then you do this etc etc.
 
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#14
wereRedYourDead said:
the biggest gains against the ira were made when the SAS was given the power to do what they do best in conjunction with the itel services.
SF kills of PIRA terrorists made us all feel better - I went to one of the p1ss-ups after Loughgall: great party :D - but didn't do anything to shorten the 'war'. That really happened because the UDA and UVF turned up the heat in Belfast and began to seriously erode the IRA's claim to be 'protecting' the local Catholic/Nationalist community. The RA needed to do something fast to put a lid on it and began to talk to the Brits: something which we need to give McGuinness and Adams some credit for - at least they recognised that the 'Long War' was going nowhere.

The fact is that the Sunni Nationalists and Ba'athists in Iraq do have a political position which they think is worth fighting for but they aren't idiots: they are using the insurgency to demonstrate that they have enough firepower to fück things up for everybody out there, and to show that they cannot be ignored in any future constitutional settlement. They can and will do a deal, and better for everyone that it's sooner rather than later.
 

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