Diplomacy over military might in Iraq

 In Iraq

One of the points Peace Action West has been emphasizing in our work to end the war in Iraq is the need for a political and diplomatic solution to the conflict in Iraq rather than repetition of a failed military strategy. This includes engaging Iran and other countries in the Middle East to work together to stabilize Iraq.

You have all seen the news about violence erupting in Iraq despite the supposedly successful surge. In typical Bush administration fashion, officials have been labeling the deaths of hundreds of people as a “positive moment” on their road to victory in Iraq. The latest episode in this violent saga, however, has been particularly telling. While the Iraqi government was trying unsuccessfully to create a military victory in Basra, officials met with Moktada al-Sadr and Iranian leaders and negotiated a cease fire:

The substance of Mr. Sadr’s statement, released Sunday afternoon, was hammered out in elaborate negotiations over the past few days with senior Iraqi officials, some of whom traveled to Iran to meet with Mr. Sadr, according to several officials involved in the discussions.

Still, though fighting was reported to have died down by late afternoon in Basra, it continued in Baghdad, including heavy combat by Iraqi and American troops and aircraft in the Mahdi Army stronghold of Sadr City, casting uncertainty on the deal.

A strict curfew imposed by the government on Thursday was lifted at 6 a.m. Monday.

The negotiations with Mr. Sadr were seen as a serious blow for Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who had vowed that he would see the Basra campaign through to a military victory and who has been harshly criticized even within his own coalition for the stalled assault.

Last week, Iraq’s defense minister, Abdul Kadir al-Obeidi, conceded that the government’s military efforts in Basra have met with far more resistance than was expected. Many Iraqi politicians say that Mr. Maliki’s political capital has been severely depleted by the Basra campaign and that he is in the curious position of having to turn to Mr. Sadr, a longtime rival, for a way out.

You can see Sadr’s cease fire statement here. It is becoming even clearer that the surge is not a real strategy for stability in Iraq, and there are reports that Congress will hold a series of hearings to debunk the administration’s success narrative.  Now is an excellent time for Congress to draw obvious lessons from this and advocate a policy that emphasizes withdrawal of US troops and implementation of political and diplomatic solutions, such as engaging Iraq’s neighbors and investing in reconstruction and humanitarian aid.

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  • JulianHuxley

    I didn’t see anything in the NYtimes article you cited about Iranian officials meeting with Maliki. It said that Iran hosted the meeting between the Sadrists and Iraqi officials.
    The big difference betweet these two versions is that when you have Iranians involved in the actual negotiation it suggests that Iran has direct involvement in the Iraq Shia resistance.
    Are you suggesting that there is a political link between Muqtada al-Sadr and Iran and if so what is the source?

  • Rebecca Griffin

    The McClatchy news reported that the commander of the Iranian Qods force played a key role in the negotiations between representatives of the Maliki government and Sadr:
    The point I am making here is that Iran is an important regional player that has a vested interest in the stabilization of Iraq. A much more pragmatic and effective US policy would be to engage Iranian stakeholders in negotiations rather than hurling largely unsubstantiated accusations at Iran and continuing its failed military strategy in Iraq.

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