Wednesday, February 23, 2005

# Posted 2:37 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOW THAT WOULD BE A BIG STORY: In an exclusive report, Time Magazine states that the United States has already begun back-channel negotiations with the Iraqi insurgents. Zarqawi & Co. are dead set against any sort of compromise, but the Ba'athists may be looking to cut a deal.

Although Time never says so explicitly, it suggests that these negotiations began after last month's election. If so, then the elections may have done far more damage to the insurgents morale than even the optimists expected. Conversely, if the US was negotiating seriously before the elections, then our side does not have as much confidence as is often supposed.

One issue to keep in mind about the Time report is that
An account of the secret meeting between the senior insurgent negotiator and the U.S. military officials was provided to TIME by the insurgent negotiator
Although "sources in Washington" have provided indirect confirmation of the story, it's hard to look past the fact that the main source of information has minimal credibility. Or even if that source has some credibility, it also has an agenda.

The positive spin on this agenda is that the Ba'athist insurgents want to marginalize Zarqawi & Co. by demonstrating their lack of control over the movement. The negative spin on this agenda is that the insurgents want to embarrass the United States by letting the Iraqi public and the Iraqi government know that the United States isn't as tough as its rhetoric suggests.

Speaking of which, I am having trouble getting a grip on this statement by Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the apparent Prime Minister-elect:
"The U.S. liberated Iraq from Saddam, and for that we will forever be grateful."
Jaafari may be a smooth talker, but one has to ask whether that kind of flower-throwing rhetoric won't compromise his nationalist credentials. Remember, Jaafari is supposed to represent everything the Bush administration doesn't want to see in Iraq. Just a couple of weeks ago, Robin Wright of the WaPo intimated that the elections in Iraq actually represented a major failure for the Bush administraiton since,
In one of the greatest ironies of the U.S. intervention, Iraqis instead went to the polls and elected a government with a strong religious base -- and very close ties to the Islamic republic next door. It is the last thing the administration expected from its costly Iraq policy -- $300 billion and counting, U.S. and regional analysts say.
If Jaafari is being cynical and deceptive, then Wright's analysis may not be as dumb as it sounds. But how often do the representatives of devoutly religious parties with "very close ties" to Iran say anything nice about the United States just for the hell of it.?
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