AMMAN, JORDAN–Iraq’s armed national resistance is willing to support an honorable American troop withdrawal and recognize “the interests of the US as a superpower,” according to a Baghdad source with intimate knowledge of the insurgents. He was interviewed this week in Amman, where he had driven twenty hours from Baghdad for conversations.
I interviewed this source, who insisted on anonymity, to explore the political aims of the resistance movement against the US occupation. Is theirs only a decentralized military strategy, or is there a shared set of demands that might lead to peace? The source, who is known and respected by several American media outlets, comes from one of Baghdad’s once-mixed neighborhoods of Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds and Christians. In his mid-40s, he ekes out a living as a guide and translator for visiting reporters and occasional peace activists. The source spoke with urgency about the need for greater American understanding of the Iraqi resistance, so far faceless in the West.
While recent surveys show 80 percent of Iraqis supporting a US military withdrawal, opposition voices are rarely ever reported in American public discourse. Security conditions do not permit the insurgents to establish an overt political arm, like Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, American officials celebrate the large Iraqi voter turnout in the December 15 elections while not acknowledging that most of those same voters favor a US withdrawal. Instead of heeding the Iraqi majority, Newsweek reported that American military officials accused the insurgents of “cynically using the election process” in a new strategy they called”talk and fight.”
The United States can be accused of the same designs, continuing its air war and offensive ground operations while attempting to co-opt local insurgents into an alliance with the “coalition” (a k a “occupation” forces against the jihadists linked with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The “sticking point” in this US gambit is the insurgents’ demand for a timetable for US troop withdrawal. If the United States secretly decides to withdraw, which is a distinctly remote scenario, an “invitation” might be arranged with a red carpet and flowers. Otherwise, the insurgency will continue to develop in response to the occupation.
While the insurgency is essentially decentralized and local, it seems capable of achieving a political consensus where necessary, as obviously demonstrated in the several-day cease-fire arranged so that Iraqis, including supporters of the insurgents, could vote on December 15. The source from Baghdad, who spoke knowingly of the various local resistance groups, emphasized that a consensus exit strategy already has emerged. It was in this context that he mentioned respecting such US superpower interests as access to oil and avoidance of humiliation. He also informally outlined a proposed framework for ending the conflict, including these steps:
§ Immediate inclusion of more opposition voices in the current discussion of how to reform the constitution. Groups like the Islamic scholars and clerics, and the newly formed National Dialogue Council, could politically represent the implicit demands of the resistance.
§ Citizen diplomacy, possibly including direct talks with some resistance leaders, outside of Iraq, if security obstacles can be overcome.