Sunday, February 20, 2005

Negotiated peace with Baathists?

Time reports that multiple back-channel contacts are occurring, with the aim of both sides being a negotiated peace.

The consensus of the folks I've read seems to be that the bulk of the Iraqi insurgents fall into just two categories: they are either the former elite in Sadaam's reign (Baathist Sunnis), or they are al-Qaeda followers of al-Zarqawi. The Baathist's clearly have good reasons to settle down: they are Iraqis in their own country, and they see their insurgency failing with the obvious success of the recent elections. There have been numerous press reports of Sunnis admitting that their voluntary non-participation in the election was a huge mistake.

Suppose for the moment that the negotiations succeed (there are numerous obstacles). What then? Will this have a significant impact on al-Zarqawi et al? I'd sure like to think so, but I don't have much to go on about the two groups' interdepencies, or lack thereof.

Time has this to say about what the Baathist insurgents are asking for at the negotiating table:

What do the insurgents want? Top insurgent field commanders and negotiators informed TIME that the rebels have told diplomats and military officers that they support a secular democracy in Iraq but resent the prospect of a government run by exiles who fled to Iran and the West during Saddam's regime. The insurgents also seek a guaranteed timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal, a demand the U.S. refuses. But there are some hints of compromise: insurgent negotiators have told their U.S. counterparts they would accept a U.N. peacekeeping force as the U.S. troop presence recedes. Insurgent representative Abu Mohammed says the nationalists would even tolerate U.S. bases on Iraqi soil. "We don't mind if the invader becomes a guest," he says, suggesting a situation akin to the U.S. military presence in Germany and Japan.

This all sounds much more reasonable than I would have expected, and therefore I can't help but feel hopeful about it. A negotiated peace, if it actually held, can't possibly be bad news.

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