al-Hayat: al-Duri Seeks Political Role, Turns on Salafis

Al-Hayat [Life] reports in Arabic that the Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri wing of the Baath Party (one of four major Baath factions) has decided to break with the Salafi Jihadis (‘al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia’) and to open negotiations with the Iraqi government and with the American military. So said Baath figure Wisam al-Jash`ami in a telephone interview.

If true, this development is surprising, since al-Duri had been the most hard line of the 4 Baath cell leaders about rejecting political negotiations, and he refused to allow his faction to participate in a planned Baath congress in Damascus last winter on the grounds that formalizing the Iraqi Baath in a conference might lead to negotiations with the Americans. Of course, the whole report could be disinformation aimed at demoralizing the Mosul Baath Party, which is loyal to al-Duri. Just a month ago, al-Quds al-Arabi (Arab Jerusalem) carried the following report, translated by the USG Open Source Center:

‘ Iraqi Izzat al-Duri’s Bath Party Calls for Conference of Anti-Occupation Forces
Report by Hani Ashur, datelined Baghdad: “Ba’thists, Islamists. and Resistance Factions to Attend a Damascus Conference Next Week, Conference Will be Attended by Al-Duri’s Wing, While Yunus al-Ahmad’s Wing Has Not Been Invited.”
Al-Quds al-Arabi (Internet Version-WWW)
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Document Type: OSC Translated Text

Baghdad – Reports citing Iraqi figures say that a conference of Iraqi forces that oppose the occupation and represent Ba’thist and Islamic sides and armed factions will be held (in Damascus) from Monday 23 July 2007 to Wednesday 25 July 2007 to unify the efforts of those who oppose the occupation and the political process in a new front.

The sources of the reports say that the Ba’th Party wing led by (Izzat) al-Duri will participate in the conference, as well as the wing of the Iraqi Ba’th Party led by Fawzi al-Rawi which is close to the Syrian Ba’th command.

The sources said that the conference will be attended by factions such as the Al-Murabitun Army, the Liberation Battalions (Kata’ib al-Tahrir), Al-Jihad, the Muhammad al-Fatih Army, the Al-Nasir Salah al-Din Brigades, the Azadi Battalions for the Liberation of Iraq, the Imam Ali Brigades, and the Al-Husayn Brigades have agreed on a united vision that adheres to the national constants that provide for thwarting the occupiers’ plan and the Constitution it produced.

The sources said that the Iraqi Ba’th Party wing led by Muhammad Yunus al-Ahmad have not been invited, while political sides opposed to the political process – including the Arab National Progressive Trend (Al-Tayyar al-Taqaddumi al-Qawmi al-Arabi), Shaykh Jawad al-Khalisi, the Iraq Front for Resistance and Liberation, the Iraqi Grouping for Liberation and Construction, and the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS) have been invited. However there have been reports that Shaykh (Harith) Al-Dari (AMS head) has not yet announced his agreement to participate in the conference, and perhaps Bashar al-Faydi, AMS spokesman, will participate.

The conference is being held at a time in which the political forces opposing the occupation have become fragmented and their names have multiplied. Six months ago the Iraq Front for Resistance and Liberation was formed as an organizational framework to unify the Iraqi resistance forces so as to liberate the country, expel the occupier, and thwart his plans. ‘

Moreover, it is a little unlikely that al-Duri’s Baath faction was cooperating with Salafi Jihadis in the first place, such that it had to break with them.

So, I’m from Missouri on this one. The al-Hayat report doesn’t sound right to me, and it may be disinformation aimed at demoralizing al-Duri’s followers, and even saying that al-Duri had turned on ‘al-Qaeda’ might be a way of smearing him as having been an al-Qaeda collaborator.

As regular readers know, I believe the remnants of the Baath Party constitute a more important element in the guerrilla movement than is usually acknowledged.

If it were true, it would be significant.

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