Cole characterises these Iraqi guerrilla groups as “Neo-Baathists”, and certainly no one should be under any illusions about such characters (to what extent the former Saddam regime controls the non-Zarqawi resistance and to what extent its fractured nature gives some ownership to more grassroots elements is another question). But this essentially nationalist resistance, which apparently has some objection to “targeting civilians and Shiites”, seems a good deal less unpleasant than Zarqawi’s faction. More importantly, the latter is only strengthened by the US occupation, which in turn pushes the country toward civil war. The other side of the civil war equation is the US-backed government dominated by the Shiite political class, whose interior ministry chooses torture chambers and paramilitary death squads as its modus operandi; perhaps a manifestation of the so called “Salvador option” favoured by the US.
Its worth noting that civil war gives the US a potent (and oft-repeated) excuse to remain in place, and the possibility of a classic colonial divide-and-rule tactic being employed here should not be idly dismissed. But the uncontroversial point to focus on is that of the US being the problem, not the solution, as should be blindingly obvious to people across the political spectrum by now. Since negotiation with the non-sectarian Sunni/nationalist resistance stands the best chance of isolating the vile Zarqawi and drawing down the inter-Iraqi violence, and since an external mediator, backed by military force, will be needed to keep the various factions apart in the near-term, the case for the US being replaced by an international force is absolutely plain.
These reported negotiations in Cairo demonstrate that an opportunity to defeat Zarqawi and at least stop the civil war worsening (perhaps even leading to eventual peace) is staring Iraq and the world community in the face. Nationalist forces (Sunni and Shiite) have said they would welcome an international military contingent under UN auspices, and the world needs a stable Iraq so military, diplomatic and financial assistance is highly likely to be forthcoming. But the obstacle to both Iraqis and the world community buying into any such process is the US insistence on ownership of the new Iraq under some guise or another (neo-conservative / realist / etc). These reported negotiations could be the beginning of the end of the Iraqi nightmare if British and American citizens pick up the baton and force their to governments to withdraw their forces, and if Iraq and the world community can work toward a new, genuine transitional settlement (as opposed to the current fig leaf for occupation). The alternative is spurning the Sunni nationalists’ demands and persisting with the hope that peace may come as a by-product of US neo-colonialism.
David Wearing is a regular contributor to UK Watch and Information Clearing House. He is also author of the website The Democrat’s Diary where you can find the original version of this article, with links to source material. www.democratsdiary.co.uk