Resistance Group Wants to Negotiate With the U.S.

13 09 2007

I know I said that my next post would be a passionate defense of Al-Jazeera, but I was planning on referencing this book by an old professor of mine and I just remembered I let a friend borrow it. So I’m saving the defense.

But I’ll start with a story from Al-Jazeera: Iraq Tribal Leader Offers U.S. Talks.

Islamic Army of Iraq

The Islamic Army in Iraq has offered to begin peace negotiations with the United States if the U.S. provides a timetable for the withdrawal of troops.

The IAI is a nationalist organization composed mostly of Sunni Iraqis with a minority of Shi’a, and many of them are Baathists. Their goal is to remove both the U.S. and Iran from Iraq, and they’ve been involved in more than a few kidnappings. They also were at one time associated with Al-Qaeda, but have severed ties because, according to the article, Al-Qaeda’s “agenda started to reveal itself clearly in October last year.” Also according to the article, the IAI is the largest armed group in Iraq.

I’m using this story to illustrate a point – well, two points actually. First, that the gap between the kind of coverage Iraq gets in the U.S. and the kind it gets elsewhere is kind of huge. Even a dedicated news-reader who gets her news from American sources probably wouldn’t have a solid idea of what the Islamic Army in Iraq is, and she’d be even less likely to be aware that they’ve offered to negotiate with the United States.

Second, that the willy-nilly application of the word “terrorist” is not just misleading, but a tactical problem. Now, I should clarify that, were we not in a war, the IAI would fit even my rather stringent definition of terrorism – the kidnappings kind of seal that deal. I also don’t find association with Al-Qaeda particularly sympathetic. But we are in a war – in point of fact, the IAI exists only because of the war, and it views itself as a legitimate military resistance. And because we have labeled the organization “terrorist” we cannot negotiate with it.

The IAI is, according to Al-Jazeera, the largest armed resistance group in Iraq. It is asking the U.S. for something that many people in the U.S. are asking for – a timetable for the withdrawal of troops. It also opposes Iran’s presence in the country. It is vital that we be able to at least talk to these organizations. As it stands, we are going about it using the Iraqi government as a proxy – so that we don’t have to officially be negotiating with terrorists – and that’s a terribly inefficient way to do things.

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