By Rhodri Evans
According to Time magazine of 28 February 2005, negotiations have opened between the US military and at least the Ba’thist strand of the Iraqi “resistance”.
In an analogy they may now regret, Ba’thist resistance leaders told Time that they were talking about a “fight and negotiate” tactic like Sinn Fein/ IRA’s in Ireland. The big victory of the Shia alliance in the 30 January election may have pushed them into considering a “political” turn, just as the obduracy of the Northern Ireland Protestants pushed the IRA into politics.
The Ba’thists told Time that they would accept a secular democracy, a UN force in Iraq, and long-term US bases in Iraq, for the sake of avoiding an “Iranian-dominated” Iraq.
One big difference is that in Iraq the resistance groups represent a fight by the country’s Sunni Arab minority to conserve its longstanding ascendancy, whereas Sinn Fein and the IRA grew out of a revolt by an oppressed community. In that sense, supporting the resistance in Iraq is more like supporting the UDA and UVF in Ireland than the IRA.
But the US may be willing to do deals with resistance groups — for the sake of pacifying Iraq and finding a way to get at least some of their troops out — for reasons somewhat similar to those for which the British government was willing to do deals with the IRA.
And in Iraq a major obstacle may be the Shia majority in the newly-elected assembly, just as in Ireland it has been the Northern Ireland Protestants.
Ibrahim al-Jaafari of the Dawa party, the most likely candidate to be Iraq’s next prime minister, talks of conciliation and negotiation. But Humam Bakr Hammoudi of SCIRI, the other big component of the Shia alliance, told Time: “The voters gave us a mandate to attack these insurgents, not negotiate with them”.
Meanwhile the Shia alliance and the Kurdish alliance are not finding it easy to come to an agreement on the new presidential council and prime minister are still dragging on.
Iraq needs a way out of the dilemma between communal civil war and the clumsily brutal US/UK occupation. The new Iraqi labour movement, uniting Shia and Sunni, Arab and Kurd, is the force that can offer that way out, towards a free, democratic, and secular Iraq.