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Iraq: Insurgent Groups Differ On Talks With Government

  • Kathleen Ridolfo

http://gdb.rferl.org/ff3559be-93a8-4995-a571-90e2104703ef_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/ff3559be-93a8-4995-a571-90e2104703ef_mw800_mh600.jpg Some groups have warned members to ignore government overtures (file photo) (AFP) PRAGUE, June 30, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Insurgent groups in Iraq have posted a number of statements to the Internet in recent days rejecting Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's national-reconciliation initiative. While some statements contain an outright objection to the initiative, others are more convoluted, and either lay down preconditions to talks, or reveal concerns that members of some insurgent groups may be defecting to the government side.

Western press reports this week speculated that the following groups had expressed an interest in the reconciliation initiative: the 1920 Revolution Brigades, Muhammad's Army (Jaysh Muhammad), Heroes of Iraq (Abtal Al-Iraq), 9 Nisan (April) Group, the Brigades of the General Command of the Armed Forces, and the Al-Fatihin Brigades.

Rejecting Offer Of Talks

On June 26, the Islamic Resistance Movement -- which includes the 1920 Revolution Brigades, one of the groups said to be talking to the government -- issued a statement saying it was not interested in al-Maliki's offer. The movement argued that the initiative appeared to have been written for those political parties already taking part in the political process "or for those who acknowledge the legitimacy of the government that the occupation established."

The movement also rejected the initiative on the grounds that it does not refer to any kind of "dialogue" with the resistance, demonstrating its demand that the government validate or recognize the legitimacy of the resistance. The movement further claimed that al-Maliki's initiative ignored "the basic problem," namely, the "occupation" and when it will end. "Moreover, we condemn all claims or attempts at legitimizing this initiative through assertions that some of the resistance factions, such as the 1920 Revolution Brigades, have accepted it," the statement added.

A joint statement was issued by the Al-Rashidin Army, the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces, the Joint Leadership of the Mujahedin, Muhammad's Army, and the Al-Fatihin Brigades (the latter two are said to be in talks with the government) on June 28, calling the initiative a sign of defeat and total failure by the U.S. and its allies in Iraq.

The statement claimed that the resistance continues to grow in strength and influence, and said the five groups had vowed to continue their efforts.

'Defectors' Talking To Government

Contrary to claims by some that the government has overstated the willingness of the resistance to enter into talks, it appears that at least some resistance groups have fractured, with some members remaining loyal to the resistance and others seeking to lay down arms.

The joint statement mentioned above warned those who decided to go against it and join talks with the government of seeking to assist the occupation against the resistance. By implying that those who lay down arms are traitors to the cause, the resistance seems to hope to intimidate possible defectors.

The National, Pan-Arab, and Islamic Front issued a similar threat in early May, amid rumors that some members had entered into talks with President Jalal Talabani. The front "calls on all the deceivers who have found themselves in the wrong circle to go back to the trench of the people and the resistance and to avoid the traps that the occupier has laid down," London-based "Al-Quds al-Arabi" reported on May 6, quoting a statement issued by the front a day earlier.

An insurgent leader has described the current struggle for insurgent support. "Abu Ya'rub," described as a leading figure in the insurgency, told London's "Al-Hayat" earlier this month that the government issued verbal or written requests to armed groups for negotiations to end the insurgency in the days following the death of Al-Qaeda leader Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi.

Al-Zarqawi's Mujahedin Shura Council issued its own appeal to insurgent groups during the same period, calling for the formation of a unified command for the insurgency and an end to tension and infighting by insurgent groups.

Abu Ya'rub told "Al-Hayat" that although several factions rejected the government's call, they would be open to talks should international guarantees be issued to ensure their demands are met, the daily reported on June 13.

Nationalist, Islamist Insurgents Set Preconditions For Talks

Two groups rejected al-Maliki's initiative this week, but laid down preconditions to talks.

The National, Pan-Arab, Islamic Front claimed in a June 28 Internet statement that Iraqis will continue to resist because they have nothing to lose. The front, which is headed by Sheikh Majid al-Ku'ud, contended that the reconciliation initiative was nothing more than a "propaganda stunt" by the Bush administration to aid it ahead of Congressional elections in November.

The front laid down its preconditions to entering into talks as: a withdrawal of multinational forces from Iraq; the release of prisoners; U.S. restitution for invading Iraq, guaranteed by the UN Security Council; reinstating former members of Saddam Hussein's armed forces to their jobs; a recognition of the national resistance as the "sole representative" of the Iraqis; the return of historical artifacts to Iraq under guarantee from the United States and United Nations; and "the U.S. must surrender 'the traitors' to the resistance."

Another group, the National Front for the Liberation of Iraq, posted a statement to the Internet on June 28 claiming that the reconciliation initiative was a shallow attempt by the "occupier and its agents" to get out of its current predicament in Iraq. The statement said the government's efforts at reform equated to a "confession of its crimes." The statement further accused al-Maliki's government of attempting to mislead the public and fragment the insurgency.

It issued six demands to the government, which were similar in nature to those demanded by the National, Pan-Arab, Islamic Front: recognizing the resistance as the sole representative of the Iraqi people; ending the occupation without conditions; repealing all political, administrative, and legal decisions initiated under the occupation; reinstating the former armed forces and police and disbanding all militias; forcing the United States to acknowledge the illegality of the invasion and requiring it to pay restitution; and pledging not to interfere in internal Iraqi affairs, and to end the support and immunity granted to "traitors."

Ba'ath Party, Ansar Al-Sunni Army Reject Initiative

The deposed Ba'ath Party and the Sunni Islamist Ansar Al-Sunnah Army issued separate statements on June 27 dismissing the initiative and claiming that they would not betray their principles by engaging in negotiations with the government. Their rejection of the reconciliation plan is of little consequence to al-Maliki, who considers both hard-core Ba'athists and Islamists criminals.

The Ba'ath Party statement said that ending the armed resistance would be a betrayal of Iraq. It added that its resistance would continue regardless of the promises offered by the government. The statement also cautioned other resistance groups against entering into talks with the government, saying the resistance should not buy into the coalition argument that cooperation with the United States is the only solution to eliminating the Iranian hold on Iraq.

Meanwhile, the Ansar Al-Sunnah Army warned that the "agents of Iran," a reference to the Shi'ite-led government, was attempting to present a new image of itself. It warned Iraqi scholars and imams to "not accept the imported ideas or distrustful principles, even if it were disguised as truth and benevolence."

Other groups remained committed to the principle of resistance as well. The Mujahedin Army in Iraq said in an Internet statement dated June 25 that it would not enter into negotiations with the Iraqi government, which it labeled the "agents of the aggressors." The group said it would not "shake hands with those who assumed their posts [in government] through rigged elections, prepared for them by their Crusader masters. Between us and them, there are rivers of blood spilled from their tyranny and savagery."

The group further argued that it could not negotiate as long as "virtuous women" were suffering in government-run, "Shi'ite" prisons. The statement also referred to the "suffering" of other prisoners being held by the occupation, as well as the displacement of thousands of Iraqis, and the continuous appearance of corpses on the streets of Baghdad and other cities.
Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi

Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi(undated AFP file photo)

COMMITTED TO TERROR: Jordan-born Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi has been among the most visible and ruthless leaders of Iraq's post-Saddam Hussein insurgency. In a tape released earlier this month, al-Zaqawi called on Iraqi Sunnis to fight against Shi'a and labeled Shi'ite spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani an "atheist."
Insurgents loyal to Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi's Al-Qaeda-affiliated organization have regained control over much of Al-Anbar Governorate, and are posing a major challenge to U.S. and Iraqi forces. A local security force established by tribesmen under an agreement with the U.S. military has all but ceased operating, after nearly a dozen tribal leaders were assassinated in revenge attacks by insurgents loyal to al-Zarqawi's Mujahedin Shura Council since January. Local tribal leaders now say they are afraid to be seen associating with U.S. forces, lest they be targeted by insurgents....(more)


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