Scandal: Khalilzad Negotiating With Killers
The Sunday Times’ Hala Jaber is out with a red-hot story tomorrow that says the following:
-US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad held secret meetings in the Jordanian capital Amman with insurgent leaders over a two month period earlier this year (January-March 2006)
-The insurgents represented, among others, the Ansar al-Sunna (a group allegedly affiliated with Al-Qaeda), the 1920 Revolt Brigades, and the Ba’ath Party wing under Saddam’s deputy, Izzet al-Douri.
-The meetings were solicited by the Americans and were organized by ex-PM Ayad Allawi, and were held at his villa in Amman.
-The insurgents demanded a US withdrawal, the rollback of de-Ba’athification, re-instating the ex-regime’s leadership, and handing the security portfolio back to them. In addition, democracy would have been suspended and a ‘Unity Government’ under Allawi declared.
-The talks broke down after the insurgents failed to deliver on a cease-fire, and the Maliki cabinet was formed.
Here’s my take:
-Were the Americans absolutely sure that these ‘leaders’ were indeed speaking on behalf of those they were claiming to represent, or did they only have Allawi’s word and Jordanian intelligence vouching for their credentials? [Hint: I think the ‘insurgent leaders’ oversold their clout.]
-The insurgents were essentially demanding America’s surrender; what took Khalilzad so long to realize that there wasn’t much common ground to agree on? The insurgents must have concluded that the Americans felt ‘defeated’ by the fact that they asked for the meetings to be held.
-The story was ‘leaked’ at this time to suggest that all that the insurgents ever wanted was to keep Iran and the Shi'as in check, and that this latest talk coming from Washington over siding with the Shi'as would only further inflame the insurgency.
-I wonder how the Iraqi political class will take this news about Allawi's role in facilitating these meetings. Many have had loved ones and colleagues killed by these groups. Allawi is cooked, in my opinion.
-Why are some Americans negotiating with those who have American blood on their hands? How will the families of US soldiers take this news? How will they respond to any prospects for a career promotion extended to Khalilzad? Is negotiating with Al-Qaeda affiliates a new trend in America's foreign policy? What's next, talks with a 'resurgent' Taliban? Why stop there? Why not amnesty for OBL?
Disgusting. Khalilzad and whoever else is responsible for this policy decision are the real 'defeatists.'
Hala Jaber has done some shoddy reporting in the past (…the Atwar Bahjet story, for example) but I think the basics of this story are valid. Around that time, a source told me that Khalilzad had met Harith al-Dhari in Amman. I did not believe my source back then—sorry.
[Full text of the Sunday Times (UK) story is posted in the comments section.]