IRAQ: Secret talks between Iraqi insurgents and American officials

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News of meetings in Turkey this spring between U.S. officials and representatives of Iraqi Sunni insurgent groups has provoked a backlash among Shiite politicians in Iraq. The two meetings were exposed to the public when an insurgent representative appeared on the Al Jazeera satellite television news channel in Qatar and discussed the talks, and also announced the existence of a protocol agreement (above) signed with the American and Turkish governments.


Iraqi officials have denied any knowledge of the meetings and have lashed out at the United States about conducting such talks. The reality is that U.S. officials most probably informed the Iraqi government about the talks beforehand, as they have done in the past when they explored discussions with groups that might be willing to negotiate with Iraqi officials.

The umbrella group, known as the Political Council for the Iraqi Resistance, includes factions from the Islamic Army in Iraq, Mohammed’s Army, the 1920s Revolution Brigade and Ansar al Sunna. The first meeting between the sides, on March 6 in Istanbul, ended with a signed protocol agreement that set out the guidelines for further discussions.

However, a second meeting in Turkey ended in failure when the Americans balked at the group’s demands, which likely included dissolving the Iraqi government and constitution.

After the umbrella group’s spokesman appeared on television last week, the Americans delivered a copy of the protocol agreement to the Iraqi government, according to Saad Mutalibi, a political advisor to the Iraqi ministry of state for national reconciliation. Soon after, a copy of the protocol agreement appeared in Bayyna Jadeeda, a newspaper affiliated with Shiite religious parties. While government officials almost certainly knew about the discussions, the existence of the agreement has provided a pretext for Iraqi officials to assert their sovereignty.

Since the publication of the protocol agreement in Bayyna Jadeeda on July 20, Iraqi Shiite politicians have lashed out at the Americans over the talks. Even before the agreement was published, the Iraqi government appeared increasingly resentful of U.S. efforts to broker talks with armed Sunni groups and the former ruling Baath party. This month, during the visit of Vice President Joe Biden to Iraq, government spokesman Ali Dabbagh declared that the country didn’t need U.S. help on reconciliation issues. This week, Dabbagh also warned against regional and international interference in Iraq’s affairs.

Above is a copy of the protocol agreement for talks that fizzled, obtained by Bayyna Jadeeda.
-- Ned Parker in Baghdad