Quiet US bid to talk to Iraqi insurgents
One Iraqi official says American representatives have met with some militants.
As American and Iraqi politicians weigh the merits of engaging regional powers in the search for solutions in Iraq, it appears that both Baghdad and Washington are also quietly talking with Iraq's insurgent leaders in an effort to end the unrelenting violence.Skip to next paragraph
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US officials have not commented on reports of these recent meetings with resistance-group representatives. But Arab journalists, politicians, and officials in Jordan say they've occurred.
The meetings have come amid pressure from two key Shiite politicians on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to alter course. The opposition has also stepped up efforts to outflank his increasingly unpopular rule. And in the US, the White House is sifting recommendations from the Iraq Study Group and other reviews as discontent grows over the administration's strategy.
This week, Saleh al-Mutlaq, a secular politician accused by rivals of links to the insurgency, announced a broad alliance he is calling the National Salvation Front. The bloc aims to unite opposition parties against Mr. Maliki and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), who met with the Bush administration in Washington on Monday.
Iraq's ambassador to Jordan, Saad al-Hayani, says that meetings have taken place in the Iraqi Embassy here between US representatives and members of the resistance in the past few months, as well as between Iraqis who have accepted and rejected the political process under US occupation, some of whom were directly involved with the insurgency.
"Two large meetings happened here in the embassy," Mr. Hayani says. "They included leaders from the last government, the Baathists, and the old Army. They were offered the opportunity to participate in the political situation if their hands were clean. The meetings were successful and necessary and beneficial."
The current Iraqi government has floated trial balloons regarding amnesties for fighters, though the US government has frequently come out against reconciliation with anyone who has attacked US troops.
In Amman, members of the former government appear to move freely. Among those waiting to meet with Hayani earlier this week was the last Iraqi ambassador to Jordan under Saddam Hussein's government. Hayani also says US officials have met with insurgent representatives in Baghdad and Cyprus. He added that he hopes insurgents can be persuaded to take part in the political process, but that their demands of a US withdrawal and the dismissal of the current Iraqi government had provided little common ground for talks.
Moayed Abu Subieh, a Jordanian journalist who has written about such meetings, says that for the majority of those fighting, their foremost demand remains US withdrawal. Previously, insurgent groups had called for a timetable for withdrawal as a condition for laying down arms, but that demand appears to have solidified into a call for immediate withdrawal.
Mr. Abu Subieh, who writes for Al-Ghad, says that he has knowledge that talks have occurred between US officials and members of the Islamic Army of Iraq, which is made up mostly of members of Mr. Hussein's former military and has been claiming responsibility for attacks on US troops since 2003.
While the group wants to see the US withdraw, he says negotiations with this and other groups are the only way to keep Maliki in power. Further weakening of the government, he says, will only make guerrilla fighters stronger political actors. He also says that many of the groups pay close attention to American politics.