Iraqi Guerrillas Made Key Demands Of

Iraqi Guerrillas Made Key Demands of CIA at Cairo Conference

Al-Hayat says that [Arabic URL] informed sources maintained to it that the intelligence services of the Arab states, of Iraq, of the guerrilla movement in Iraq, and of the US, conducted discussions on the sidelines of the National Reconciliation Conference for Iraq held recently in Cairo, on how to isolate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his radical Salafi (fundamentalist Sunni) faction in Iraq.

Iraqi guerrilla groups such as “The Islamic Army,” “The Bloc of Holy Warriors,” and “The Revolution of 1920 Brigades” conveyed their conditions behind the scenes. (Despite the Islamist names of these groups, they are probably mostly neo-Baathist.) Among their demands are 1) working to end the foreign occupation, 2) compensation to the Iraqis for the damages arising from the American invasion; 3) the release of prisoners; and 4) building political and military institutions that are not subservient to American and regional influence.

These guerrilla groups said they would never turn al-Zarqawi over to the Americans even if Washington promised to leave Iraq completely. They might, however, turn him over to a legitimate Iraqi government if the Americans were no longer there.

The Iraqi guerrilla groups maintain that al-Zarqawi’s group is fabulously wealthy, and that he uses his wealth to entice other guerrilla groups to share their intelligence with him. He then bankrolls their operations against US troops.

They said that many Iraqi guerrillas are deeply dismayed at the al-Zarqawi group’s tactic of targetting civilians and Shiites, and that significant numbers have deserted him to join the Iraqi group, The Islamic Army. Al-Zarqawi’s “Qaeda in Mesopotamia” is angry about the desertions and refers to such Iraqis as “apostates.” Nevertheless, The Islamic Army provides security to those who have left Zarqawi. Zarqawi is also deterred from killing the “apostates” because it would set the Sunni Arab guerrilla groups to fighting one another and “open the gates of hell.” In fact, there had in the past been a few instances of reprisal killings by Zarqawi’s men of those who switched groups, and the resulting tensions were so severe that Zarqawi concluded an agreement not to pursue and punish those who left his group to join another one.

The sources say that Zarqawi’s ability to provide suicide bombers derives from his missionaries among the Jihadi Salafi groups. It also derives from his vast wealth.

The sources say that the guerrilla movement has not yet taken a stance toward the Cairo Agreements, and is waiting to see if they are implemented.

Cole: It struck many observers as very strange that the government of Ibrahim Jaafari accepted the demand for a timetable for Coalition troop withdrawal, and also acquiesced in the principle that guerrilla attacks on US troops were legitimate as a form of resistance to foreign occupation. Three important developments may explain Jaafari’s flexibility here. First, his list has an election on Dec. 15, and he needs to burnish nationalist credentials. Second, his list now included the followers of Muqtada al-Sadr, who wants a quick US withdrawal and whose Mahdi Army has clashed with GIs. Third, we now know that back channel negotiations with the guerrilla movement were taking place in Cairo, and these provisions may have been an attempt to reach out to them and bring them in from the cold. Such a move would be in the interest not only of Jaafari, but also of the United States, and the latter may therefore not have protested very much about what were after all pretty painful agreements. (It seems to me unprecedented for a government fighting a guerrilla movement actually to acknowledge the legitimacy of the guerrilla group’s attacks on it and its allies!) Al-Hayat thought that the timetable leading to US withdrawal in 2007 was actually put forward by Ambassador Khalilzad.

The tensions, over policy toward civilians and Shiites, and over defections from Zarqawi’s group to Iraqi neo-Baathist ones, revealed in the al-Hayat article ring true; there have been some indications of these problems in previous press reporting.

I’m afraid, however, that the neo-Baathists want to take over Iraq, and are ruthless about the means, and that they will continue to want to do this after the US leaves.