1 The Long War Journal: Insurgent Counterproposal to Reconciliation; offer to lay down arms
Written by Bill Roggio on June 29, 2006 8:37 AM to 1 The Long War Journal
Available online at: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2006/06/insurgent_counterpro.php
Eleven insurgent groups, eight of which are being led by the 1920 Revolution Brigades, have issued a counter proposal to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's plan for national reconciliation. The insurgent groups have offered to quit the battlefield if the following conditions are met:
• The United States agrees to withdraw foreign forces from Iraq in two years.
• An end to U.S. and Iraqi military operations against insurgent forces.
• Compensation for Iraqis killed by U.S. and government forces and reimbursement for property damage.
• An end to the ban on army officers from Saddam's regime in the Iraqi military.
• An end to the government ban on former members of the Baath Party - which ruled the country under Saddam.
• The release of insurgent detainees.
The Associated Press reports the groups largely "operate north of Baghdad in the heavily Sunni Arab provinces of Salahuddin and Diyala." This region is the heart of the operational area of the Baathist/Saddamist insurgency. The 1920 Revolution Brigades is thought to be a mix of Saddam loyalists and military officers, and nationalist Islamists. The 1920 Revolution Brigades is also said to be the armed wing of Islamic Resistance Movement, or Muslim Brotherhood. The Salahudeen Brigades and Mujahideen Army are two other significant elements of the Sunni insurgency (see Evan Kohlmann's chart of the major Sunni insurgent/terrorist groups).
The demands issued by the eleven groups, specifically the end to the bans on Saddam era Army officers and Baathist participation in the government, indicate a significant portion of the Baathist/Saddamist insurgency is searching for a negotiated settlement to end their involvement in the fighting.
One of the demands of this insurgent block is already being met. The Iraqi government has released 450 detainees on June 27th, and over 2,500 total are scheduled to be released "through a series of 200 - 500 person releases throughout the month." While the loyalties of those released has not been made public, the releases are likely being targeted at the eleven insurgent groups as a sign of good faith. At the same time, the Central Criminal Court of Iraq continues to try members of the insurgency for violating the laws of Iraq. The ten latest members of the insurgency have been convicted of non-violent crimes such as "possession of illegal weapons, passport violations and illegal border crossing," and several will be likely eligible for pardon.
In this backdrop, Al Jazeera will soon release the latest statement from Osama bin Laden (apparently a videotape). The tape is said to contain praise for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the former leader of al Qaeda in Iraq killed in a U.S. air strike earlier this month. It will be interesting to see if bin Laden offers support to Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, the current leader of the al Qaeda backed Mujahideen Shura Council (the U.S. military still believes Mujhair and Egyptian Abu Ayyub al-Masri are one in the same). Mujhair's performance to date has been less than stellar, with significant defections from the Sunni community to the democratically elected government of Iraq.
It should be clear the current talks are on the beginning of a long and likely contentious negotiation process. The United States will not agree to a withdrawal timetable, and the Shiite dominated government will balk at the wholesale reinclusion of Baathists into the military and government. The talks are a merely starting point.
In the past, the negotiations between insurgent groups and the Iraqi government and Coalition have occurred under the covers (Walid Phares indicated the current round of negotiations have been occuring for months). Today the parties are willing to openly discuss reconciliation. The Sunni insurgent groups are taking a great risk by publicly exposing their proclivity to negotiate rather than fight to the end. Their assessment of the military and political situation on the ground clearly has changed, and is causing them to seek an end to the conflict rather than a fight to the death along side al Qaeda and the other Islamist rejectionists.