A meeting between US and Iranian diplomats in Iraq has agreed to form a security committee to work together on security issues.
"We discussed ways forward, and one of the issues we discussed was the formation of a security subcommittee that would address at an expert or technical level some issues relating to security, be that support for violent militias, al-Qaida or border security," Ambassador Ryan Crocker said after the meeting that included lunch and spanned nearly seven hours.It's a good move, if the committee will be allowed free rein. It would give a forum for exploration of US allegations against Iran of meddling in Iraq - allegations which are, despite all the rhetoric, unproven. All the allegations take the form of "assessments" and "beliefs" - in other words, guesses. Those guesses are, without a doubt, primarily informed by the neocon narrative that Iran is the bad guy de jour and must be blamed for everything that goes wrong with Bush's war on (some) terror. The Fourth Branch within the Bush administration does not have a good record on guesses yet the narrative demands that they continue to talk tough as if what they guess is set-in-stone fact. No wonder American diplomacy has such problems with credibility.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said experts would meet as early as Wednesday to work out the structure and mechanism of the committee.
"We hope that the next round of talks will be on a higher level if progress is made," he said at a separate news conference after the talks.
Likewise, it could provide a forum for proper examination of Iranian allegations against the US, namely of political meddling and the use of proxy terror groups such as the MeK. These too are "assessments" backed by a political narrative and tough-talk rhetoric and should be regarded with the same jaundiced eye. No wonder Iranian diplomacy has such problems with credibility.
Both would, if properly examined, turn out to have some elements of truth and some elements of hype. Such is the way of intelligence assessments when they become politicized.
However, the BBC is saying that the committee's remit will be severely limited to "focus on containing Sunni insurgents". According to the beeb's report "the committee would concentrate on the threat from groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq, officials said, but not those militia groups the US accuses Iran of funding and training".
That, if true, would be a major mistake. Not only would it prevent a technical and dispassionate examination of claim and counterclaim, but it would be seen by the Iraqi Sunni community as further evidence that the US and Iran see eye-to-eye with the Maliki government on further repression of that minority. That would play directly into the hands of Al Qaeda's propogandists and actively work against reducing Sunni attacks.