Baathists Make Overture to U.S. Now What?

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 10 months ago

From IHT, we learn that Ibrahim al-Shimmari of the Islamic Army of Iraq is alleged to have made an overture to the U.S.

BAGHDAD, Iraq A purported spokesman for a Sunni insurgent group, the Islamic Army in Iraq, offered to open negotiations with the Americans in an audiotape aired by Al-Jazeera television on Thursday.

The tape was said to be from Ibrahim al-Shimmari, whose name has appeared in past statements by the group, which has claimed responsibility for a number of suicide bombings against civilians and attacks on U.S. troops.

The tape’s authenticity could not be independently confirmed.

“We are prepared for any negotiations, whether secret or public, on the condition only that they are sincere. We have no objection to mediators with international credentials, and it is possible to exchange letters,” the speaker in the tape said.

Al-Shimmari has offered such negotiations in past statements. He did not elaborate on the goal of any talks.

The Islamic Army in Iraq is believed to include former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, his intelligence service and former army officers. It rejected a call from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki earlier this year for insurgents to join the political process, saying it would not participate until there was a timetable for withdrawal of U.S.-led forces.

In sections of the tape not aired, the speaker on the tape said Iraq faces occupation by two powers — “the Crusader Americans and the Iranians … and the latter is the more dangerous,” Al-Jazeera reported.

He said his group was allied to former al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed June by a U.S. airstrike. But the speaker criticized al-Zarqawi, saying he “committed some mistakes,” including the killing of four Russian embassy workers who were kidnapped, then slain in late June.

In contrast to the Islamic Army, al-Qaida in Iraq is believed largely made up of Arab Islamic militants, though the group has tried to ally itself with Iraqi insurgents.

U.S. policy will soon have to consider the disposition of the remaining Baathists in the al Anbar province.  The foreign fighters such as al Qaeda pose an easy decision.  They are dedicated to the overthrow of the current regime by violent means as shown by the recently released letter from al Qaeda senior leadership to Zarqawi.  They will have to be killed.

But as the Strategy Page discusses, the issue of the Sunni insurgents is a more problematic situation.

When it comes to fighting the terrorists, tribal ties still matter. In central Iraq, three Sunni tribes are particularly linked to the Sunni Arab violence; the Bulaym, Janabi, and Shammar Jarba. They were mainstays of the old Saddam Hussein regime, providing many recruits for the secret police and Republican Guard. Tribal politics for these three is all about either regaining control of the government, or getting amnesty. The government has been discussing amnesty deals with many of the tribal leaders. The problem is that the tribes want amnesty for more people than the government believes it can get away with. Attempts to give amnesty to those known to have been involved in killing Americans, blew up when Americans got wind of it. Same thing happened in Iraq when the government proposed giving amnesty to Sunni Arab tribal officials who had participated in attacks on Kurds and Shia Arabs both before, and after, the fall of Saddam in 2003. What it comes down to is that there are thousands of prominent Sunni Arabs who have to be either pardoned, captured or killed, before there can be peace in Iraq.

High sounding phrases such as helping the Iraqis to “secure Ramadi,” and “winning the hearts and minds of the people,” might sound impressive in a hot-off-the-press master’s thesis, but are sometimes not very useful for formulating policy or doctrine.  The fact is that the U.S. administration will have to make a difficult decision.  Either we kill or capture the remaining Baathist elements in the al Anbar Province, or we formulate some sort of treaty, pact or agreement with them to secure the surrender of their weapons and the standdown of their armies, while stopping short of killing or incarcerating them.  These are the only two options.

If we decide for the former option, there is much work remaining, and it will be hard and bloody work.  There is no “winning the hearts and minds” of those for whom you have made it clear that you intend to kill them.  There is absolutely no reason for a person with a sure and certain death sentence to surrender.  If we decide for the later option, the objections from the U.S. will be understandably loud and emotional.

How can we make peace with those who have killed our sons?  But if we do not, how many more sons will we lose?


You are currently reading "Baathists Make Overture to U.S. Now What?", entry #327 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Iraq,Policy,War & Warfare and was published October 6th, 2006 by Herschel Smith.

If you're interested in what else the The Captain's Journal has to say, you might try thumbing through the archives and visiting the main index, or; perhaps you would like to learn more about TCJ.

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