A diplomatic crisis of sorts erupted while Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was visiting Washington last week concerning secret negotiations that the U.S. government had been holding with an insurgent group. These negotiations were only revealed after the purported leader of the group announced during an interview with the Aljazeera Satellite Channel on July 15 that they had occurred.
These negotiations are nothing new; they have been going on with one group or another claiming to represent the Sunni insurgency since 2005. But what is galling is that, after all this time, there has been almost no interest, either from the U.S. Congress or the American media, to get answers from the American negotiators as to who are these insurgent leaders, what are their end goals, and why have negotiations always ended up failing?
All this had been happening without the knowledge of the Iraqi government, the U.S. Congress or Secretary Hillary Clinton, who chimed in to say that she had only been recently made aware of such ‘activities’ and promised full disclosure to the Iraqis on anything of the like happening again.
And timing is important: these meetings were authorized after the Obama administration had settled in and began deciding on its own unique course of how to handle Iraq. Did these meetings signify a departure from existing U.S. policies? Is ‘engagement’ of the insurgents the policy du jour? Beats me.
These questions are important because they shed light on the entities that have been at war with the U.S. for the last six years. Are their demands feasible? Or are they mere bravado and fantasies? Does it matter that the insurgents are filling the Arabic-speaking airwaves with claims of victory?
According to a leaked memorandum of understanding signed between an outfit calling itself the ‘Political Council for Iraqi Resistance’ (PCIR) and representatives of the USG that was signed on March 6, 2009 in Istanbul, these negotiations were to continue until the end of June, and could be extended if both sides wished it so. The Turkish government, on its part, guarantees the travel of 15 insurgent leaders from within Iraq to its territories and acts as witness to the veracity of the memorandum between the two sides.
The memo came to light after a man identifying himself as the Secretary General of the PCIR, Ali al-Jubouri, spilt the beans during the Aljazeera interview, further adding that a meeting occurred during May, again in Istanbul, and that since then the negotiations have stalled.
Al-Jubouri had other interesting things to say during the interview, mainly to take credit for “evicting” U.S. troops from Iraq, and to claim that the ‘resistance’ had launched 200,000 “heavy” attacks on the occupying forces and that the Americans were outwardly lying about the numbers of casualties they have sustained. Al-Jubouri also went on to describe pre-liberation Iraq in the most glowing terms, as if it were a Scandinavian haven of good government and near-utopian social services. The PCIR was first announced in late 2007 and consists of several important insurgent groups, namely the Islamic Army of Iraq. It is thought to consist mainly of former Ba’athist officers from the former Iraqi Army and other security arms of the Saddam regime.
For all the ink, airtime and research grants devoted to the topic of the war in Iraq, nothing to my mind has come close to answering, in detail, any of these questions. I haven’t seen a single news story attempting to inquire into who al-Jubouri is, what is his background, and with what legitimacy does he enjoy in speaking on behalf of the Sunni insurgency. No one has attempted to get a clarification from the U.S. government as to whom in the bureaucracy met with the insurgents, and has written about it. Why were the Turks involved? We don’t know. What are the names of the 15 insurgent leaders who were to be provided with safe passage? Again, we don’t know.
So far, both the Bush and Obama administrations have ceded public discourse to the insurgents’ talking points that allege that the Americans have been forced to the negotiating table after being defeated. How is U.S. national security well served by allowing such claims to fester in the international public mind? The logical answer is that they aren’t, but very little about this whole affair revolves around logic.