As we previously reported [here], back before the recent Iraqi 'elections,' the US ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte met with Dr. Harith Al-Dhari, leader of the Muslim Scholars Association to discuss Iraqi security and the elections. The talks came to nothing, despite the Sunni offer of peace in exchange for a US timetable for withdrawal of occupation forces.
Now the New York Times today, Tuesday is misreporting essentially the same deal -as if it were a new development:
In February, the Muslim Scholars Association issued a number of conditions that would have to be met before it would endorse the writing of a constitution and the next round of elections, notably the American withdrawal and the release of all detainees from American military prisons.Why is the NYT fabricating a policy shift by al-Dari? Not alone were these proposals part of the Negroponte talks but were also reported by AFP when the Muslim Scholars met with UN special envoy Ashraf Qazi:
On Monday, Sheik Harith al-Dari, a 64-year-old cleric and tribal leader who has become a leading spokesman for Iraq's disaffected Sunni Arabs, hinted that he would be content with a timetable for American withdrawal. Some other hard-line Sunni leaders have made similar gestures.
"Following talks with UN special envoy Ashraf Qazi, the influential grouping of clerics explained a timetable was a condition for its participation in the post-electoral constitution-drafting process."Clearly one reason for the NYT/Washingtonestablishment repackaging an existing deal as a new concession by Sunnis, is to revisit the original offer as if it were new -and therby saving face.
Could that be what is going on? Another big clue comes from Robert Novak -whose irritating 'I-told-you-so' article in Monday's Chicago Sun Times maintains that Condoleeza Rice is determined to get out of Iraq by the end of 2005:
" I reported last Sept. 20 ("Quick exit from Iraq is likely") about strong feeling in the policymaking apparatus to get out of Iraq in 2005 even if democracy and peace had not been achieved there. My column evoked widespread expressions of disbelief, but changes over the last six months have only strengthened the view of my Bush administration sources that the escape from Iraq should begin once a permanent government is in place in Baghdad....Maybe the continuing unpalatable hard realities of Iraq mean that the persistently offered Sunni olive branch is being quietly reached for by the U.S. Adminstration. If so, these latest articles in the NYT and Sun Times are simply laying new tracks for the political and media establishment to follow in the weeks ahead.
Actually, withdrawal from Iraq short of an absolute military victory seems more feasible today than it did last September. Six months ago, it appeared that U.S. officials might have to ignore a bloody secular conflict between Sunnis and Shiites. Lethal though it is, the current insurgency does not rise to the level of a genuine civil war."
Here's the spin: Not a victory for the Sunni resistance you see. But new concessions by them. "A triumph of tough diplomacy" for the Bush Administration no doubt. "
Then they could pat themselves on the back for "managing the ethnic tensions in an emerging democracy..." -or some such blather. But who cares if they do? If it's peace. I don't.
Let's leave the last word to the pragmatic and highly influential Sunni leader, al-Dari:
'I think Iraqi leaders could speak and appeal to the resistance,' he said. 'They could tell them: 'If you want to liberate your country, liberation is coming now without any price. So you must save your efforts of blood and money.'Also Prev. Story: Negroponte Meets WithIraqi Resistance Scholars
"We ask all wise men in the American nation to advise the administration to leave this country," he said. "It would save much blood and suffering for the Iraqi and American people."