View from America: Bush won’t cut a deal that tears up his one success
By Rupert Cornwell in Washington
Published: 09 February 2007
The offer of a ceasefire by one of the main Sunni insurgent groups will be received with interest in Washington. But there is scant chance it will be accepted by the Bush administration as a serious basis for a negotiated exit from Iraq – or that such talks are even practical amid the current chaos in the country.
Feelers between the two sides are not new. Over the past two years, as the depth and scope of the insurgency grew, reports surfaced of back-channel contacts between US military representatives and the insurgents – including the “1920 Revolution Brigade”, a wing of the Islamic Resistance Movement that is behind the latest offer.
Details of the talks, never officially confirmed by the US, were sketchy. But insurgent leaders were said to have been willing to accept a United Nations peacekeeping force, as the US forces pulled out. Then as now, however, Washington refused to accept anything resembling a fixed timetable for a pull-out.
The goal of the US in these talks was to detach home-grown insurgents – the “deadenders” from the fallen regime of Saddam Hussein, as the former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld once called them – from the foreign fighters who had joined the war against the occupiers, above all al-Qa’ida. But while Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qa’ida commander in Iraq, was killed by the US in June 2006, insurgent attacks on US troops have continued and, if anything, become more sophisticated.
The new offer has some points acceptable to the US, notably the involvement of the UN and the Arab League in any deal. But the US would be required to sit down publicly with “terrorists”. Implicitly, too, it would be siding against the Shia-dominated government of Nouri al-Maliki, to which the Bush administration is still committed.
The demands for the current Baghdad government to be disbanded, and past elections to be nullified, would moreover repudiate the only concrete achievements the Bush White House can claim in its efforts to bring “democracy” to Iraq.
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