Khalilzad's past flirtations with 'Reconcilable Insurgents' is NOT a scoop...
The New York Times seemed ecstatic over getting the outgoing (...actually, he's gone) U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, to admit (...actually, he's bragging) to having had held talks with alleged representatives of major insurgent group in person, in Amman, early last year. (see Edward Wong, 'U.S. Envoy Says He Had Meetings with Iraqi Rebels,' Monday, March 26, 2007).
Nowhere in this story does the NYT mention that all this was reported back in December in the British press by the Sunday Times' Hala Jaber. I wrote about that at the time: Scandal: Khalilzad Negotiating With Killers.
The NYT piece seems geared to showcase Khalilzad's legacy, and his leak concerning the talks was clearly a deal struck with the reporter and the editors of the paper to sex up the 'newsy' angle of the story as Khalilzad leaves Baghdad to take up his post as U.S. envoy to the United Nations in New York City--this act of shameless self-promotion is the mark of a politician not a diplomat.
Here's my take on Khalilzad's legacy:
-Khalilzad saddled us with Maliki's ineffective cabinet: see my column, Dangerous Lineup (April 26, 2006).
This is the NYT version:
Displeased with the hard-line Shiite attitude of Ibrahim al-Jaafari, then the prime minister, Mr. Khalilzad helped engineer Mr. Jaafari's ouster, only to see Mr. Jaafari replaced by a party deputy, Mr. Maliki, who is beholden to the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr.
-Khalilzad alienated the Shi'as: see my column, "Abu Omar" vs. the Shias (April 12, 2006).
This is the NYT version:
Some Shiite leaders began calling Mr. Khalilzad by the Sunni nickname of ''Abu Omar.''
But to its credit the NYT did pick up on the "Abu Omar" nickname back in July 2006 (Edward Wong and Dexter Filkins, 'In an About-Face, Sunnis Want...', July 16, 2006) so the Times was only 3 months behind my reporting at the time.
-Khalilzad pushed forward a flawed constitution that pandered to the Islamists, see my column Patronizing the Enemy (August 30, 2005).
This is the NYT version:
But critics of Mr. Khalilzad say that the painstaking and potentially rancorous review of the Constitution under way would not be needed if the Americans had shepherded a more balanced Constitution, instead of one that gave short shrift to the needs of the Sunni Arabs as it tried to appeal to the Kurds and Shiites.
-Khalilzad's cowardly negotiations with the insurgents (he fesses up to talking to the Islamic Army of Iraq and the 1920 Revolt Brigades, the Sunday Times version adds the Ansar al-Sunnah to the mix--the latter more closely affiliated with Al-Qaeda in the past) led nowhere, and it wasn't clear whether he was talking to anyone who could deliver a ceasefire in the first place, see my column, Dances with Terrorists (June 16, 2005).
Here's the NYT version:
An American official said it was difficult to determine whether the people Mr. Khalilzad met with really were influential representatives of insurgent groups, as they claimed. In addition, the Sunni insurgency has no umbrella leadership, and the groups have competing ideologies. While the Islamic Army of Iraq and 1920 Revolution Brigades are believed to be led by Iraqis bitter at being ousted from the government and the military, some of the most militant groups are radical Islamists, particularly Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, who have no interest in being brought into politics. ''We were never able to find people who could reduce the violence,'' the American official said. ''The insurgency itself does not have anything resembling a unified command. Even within different cities and different provinces, the insurgency is very fractured.''
The Ansar al-Sunnah and the Islamic Army of Iraq both adopted the anti-Shi'a rhetoric of Zarqawi's al-Qaeda, and the latter even went as far as tying the fighting in Iraq to what's going on in Palestine: see here and here.
Not to mention that both groups, as well as the 1920 Revolt Brigades, have killed and continue to kill Americans, including the security contractors hired to protect Khalilzad himself, see here and here.
Negotiating with the killers validates their terrorist strategy, and encourages them to continue killing; that's why one does not negotiate with terrorists, but somehow this lesson was purposely forgotten in Iraq.
Clearly, I don't like the guy, and in the wondrous ways of the U.S. bureaucracy, Khalilzad gets promoted instead of being fired for gross incompetence, to say the least.
(...Oh by the way, there's also that whole nasty business when Khalilzad was lobbying the Taliban on behalf of Big Oil in the mid-1990s, but nobody brings that up in respectable company...as well as some things that may or may not have happened in Dubai...)
In other news, Al-Qaeda seemingly off-ed one of the top leaders of the 1920 Revolt Brigades: Harith Dhahir Khamis al-Dhari (cousin to Harith Suleiman al-Dhari) was killed by a suicide bomber along with three others early Tuesday morning (...link takes you to the terrorist organization's official website, in Arabic...why is it still up?). The 1920 Revolt Brigades had split into two factions on March 9, ostensibly between one that wanted to fight Al-Qaeda and another that sought a reconciliation with Al-Qaeda. Al-Dhari was associated with the faction that wanted to fight Al-Qaeda. Ditto for Salam al-Zoba'i, Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister, who was gravely wounded in a suicide attack a few days ago because he and his cousins are associated with the anti-Al-Qaeda faction of the Islamic Army of Iraq.
Just a reminder in case Khalilzad and his ilk try to take credit for these intra-insurgent rifts: this all began when Al-Qaeda began forcing the smaller organizations to pledge allegiance to its new venture, the Islamic State of Iraq, and is not related to any ongoing negotiations to woo the insurgents to a ceasefire. This topic has been amply discussed here on Talisman Gate over the last few months and is just now getting reported by the majority of the media.
In such a situation, I wouldn't bend over backwards trying to placate the killers, as some are trying to do with watering-down the De-Ba'athification laws, rather I would let dogs devour dogs. But that's just me.