Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Michael: US Parlays With Iraqi Insurgency

It is reported by Time that the U.S. is holding talks with the bitter-ender, terrorist, Baathist, foriegn-fighters (i.e. the mainly Sunni nationalist insurgency). While this could be seen as a sign of wavering resolve by the Administration, or even a craven attempt to negotiate with terrorists, given their own past rhetoric. I would prefer to cast it as a pragmatic and hopeful sign of rationality by an otherwise reality-challenged Administration.

This development says a lot about the new power arrangements resulting from the recent elections. The Administration feels bereft of allies with the Iranian-oriented Shia in control of the new government, and is looking to achieve an accomodation with the newly politically-marginalized insurgency to balance the equation. There is suddenly a shortage of levers with which Washington can manipulate Iraq. By courting a cease-fire with the increasingly effective Sunni-based insurgency, Washington hopes to make both parties more influential. The Sunnis are surely feeling insecure about thier own political fortunes following an election which they essentially sat out and are looking to influence the formation of the new constitution to secure their interests. With this confluence of interests, there may be room for cooperation.

There is a very narrow opening here through which a peaceful Iraq might be threaded. If the disparate Sunni factions can be convinced to lay down arms and trade insurgency for influence, a peaceful accomodation between all the factions might be possible. I don't give it much of a chance of suceeding now that so many blows have already fallen, nor do I trust the Administration to pursue American and Iraqi national interests above their own political interests, but it is encouraging that the Administration, for all of its faults, misteps, miscalculations, and plain incompetence, is not ignoring that slight possibility of a negotiated settlement, as it tends to ignore all other unpleasant realities.

I urge all progressives to support this latest front the Administration has opened in its disasterous 'war on terror': the conference table. It may be the best hope for long-term security for the Iraqi people and trip home for our troops, both of which are long overdue.

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