Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Will Sunni Groups Join The Sadrists?

By Cernig

Two days ago, when news that the Sadr bloc was withdrawing itself from the ruling coalition in Iraq broke, I harked back to a post last December by Iraqi blogger Raed In The Middle. That post quoted Sunni politician Saleh Al-Mutlaq, the head of the national dialogue front, who told a newspaper that a national salvation front was biding its time until the right moment to challenge the Maliki government for power. The front, he said, would include "the national dialogue front, the national Iraqi list led by Allawi, the reconciliation and liberation front led by Meshaan Aljuburi, and the Sadr movement." It would also draw support from Baathists, pan-arabists, the old Army leadership and seven important clerics. I suggested that Sadr's move may well be the first move by that front.

Today, Al-Mutlaq was interviewed by Reuters:
Insurgent groups in Iraq should unite, agree a programme and be ready to reap the political rewards for inflicting heavy losses on U.S. troops, an Iraqi Sunni politician said on Tuesday.

Saleh al-Mutlaq, whose National Dialogue group is a leading Sunni party represented in parliament, said the groups should be ready to fill the "the void" with a blueprint for a "liberated Iraq" if the U.S. plan to stem violence in Iraq fails and troops abruptly leave the country.

"It's now the right time for the national resistance groups to unite its negotiating stance towards the occupation forces and to draft a political programme for the future," Mutlaq said.

"The political programme will fill the vacuum in the event of an abrupt U.S. withdrawal from Iraq," said Mutlaq, who denies ties with insurgents but says he shares their goal of "liberating Iraq from foreign occupation."

..."This will prevent infighting that would risk the gains of the nationalist resistance whose sacrifices defeated America's project in Iraq and the Middle East," he said.

...The prominent Sunni politician said Washington should engage in serious discussions with mainstream insurgent groups if it really sought a stable post-war order.

"It's now opportune for the United States to start quickly to negotiate with these insurgent groups," Mutlaq added, referring to a U.S. backed political process that many Sunnis say marginalised them by giving Shi'ite parties excessive power.

"The political process will not succeed as long as there are arms carried by the resistance," he said.
Now doesn't that sound very like what was being talked about in December? If so, then we should soon see an alliance, maybe not even a formally announced one, between these Sunni groups and Sadr's bloc. As my blog-partner Fester pointed out, they will hold most of the important cards.
The Sadrists and a decent chunk of the Sunni-Arab community that is represented in the government, which is a fairly significant qualification, are vehemently anti-US. Non-represented militias, and insurgent groups are even more vehemently anti-US and these are the groups that are in line with Iraqi public opinion within the contested zones, and they have credible loyal military options. As US forces withdraw, these are the groups that have the capability to cause mass disorder for the Iraqi government OR a reasonable measure of civic peace. They will get what they want, and that means the United States needs to realize that we will continue to not get what what we want...When the United States leaves, the leaving will be near complete.
These groups aren't going to go away no matter how well the "surge" succeeds or fails and will still have the same wish at the end of it - an end to the occupation, if not by peaceful means then by force. If the US co-operates, then there's a chance to make the transition a peaceful one. If not, well there just won't be an end to the violence no matter how many surges the US throws at the problem. They are an immovable object and, after four years of failed Bush administration non-strategy, they know the US is not an irresistable force.

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