Chronicle staff writer, Robert Collier, wants the US to “negotiate” with the radical, Islamist, terrorists and the old guard Saddamists that are vexing Iraq’s attempts to move into the 21st century preventing them in their laudable attempt to build a nation answerable to Iraqis of every stripe.

“U.S. must negotiate with insurgents and militias, experts say”, Collier breathlessly informs us. His “experts”, though, leave much to be desired for reliability.

Collier seems to think the insurgents and terror outfits should be treated as if they are merely interested parties, as if they were the same kind of political party or faction we are used to in the west. Someone has not taken the time to inform Mr. Collier about exactly what these factions want in the Middle East, sadly.

Collier brings up what seems an interesting point in how to get people to the negotiating table he so wants to set.

In interviews with Chronicle correspondents in Iraq and by telephone with a Chronicle reporter in San Francisco, two dozen Sunni and Shiite hard-liners revealed a paradox. None could fully explain how to bring his side’s sectarian killings under control, yet all emphasized that peace cannot take hold without the approval of those holding the weapons.

Unfortunately, as he moves forward with his piece he proves he doesn’t understand the situation at all. He fails to realize that the parties who are funding the radical Islamists come from sources that have neither the desire, nor the ability to come to any negotiating table in Iraq. The people funding and driving the terrorists are not generally even Iraqis. They are often foreigners and ideologues that require that their enemies fall without any “negotiations” to the matter. And, those who are pushing the internal insurgency are out of power Saddamites who similarly aren’t interested in “negotiating” but just simply want all their power back and do not care a fig how they do it. Or they are local militias and warlord leaders who have little interest in national political discussions.

In other words, the factions are varied, but few are interested in any negotiations.

Worse, nearly every person he quotes or relies on to inform him of the situation in Iraq are either “name withheld for security reasons” or people who cannot be officially linked to any power base or group. So, it is curious why Collier seems to think they represent anyone or should be relied upon for solid intel on the situation in Iraq… at least solid enough to base policy upon?

Collier introduces us to the pontifications of, in the Paper’s words, “Two Iraqi correspondents for The Chronicle, who asked not to be identified for security reasons”. He also quoted a former Saddam era functionary who has been out of power for years: “Mudafar al-Amin, who was Iraq’s ambassador to Britain from 1999 until the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003…”

After reading the entire, long report by Mr. Collier one cannot help but be struck with the fact that this “former Republican Guard general” that Collier is so taken with is merely angling to regain his own lost power.

The former Republican Guard general, for example, estimated that al Qaeda’s attacks represent “only 10 percent of the resistance,” and he said that if the Hussein-era army were remobilized, it could “easily” stamp out al Qaeda and other terrorists.

In fact, nearly everything this “general” says is calculated to bring back Saddam’s former army officers to a position of power. It’s amazing that Collier was so bamboozled by this supposed insider.

Collier doesn’t seem to understand the success of the clear and hold strategy that US forces have employed a policy that should be first considered to set the groundwork for building the nation’s political infrastructure before moving to any kind of “negotiations”. Every place that the US military has brought overwhelming force into play, and then firmly held, has stabilized allowing the stage to be created for local parties to come with a newfound desire to negotiate.

The purpose of the clear and hold strategy is to promote stability. Once an area has been cleared of insurgents, the people of a community may begin to expect a certain amount of personal safety in their daily activities and will, then, be more able to accept their national government and their political processes, giving them the credence and legitimacy that a populace must invest to sustain a working government.

Instead, Collier seems to be suggesting we give all insurgents upfront legitimacy without even determining if they do, indeed, have any standing from which to negotiate. He seems to think we should just accept to his negotiating table any former general who claims to still represent an army. This would not promote unity but would only increase fractionalization.

He also relies on the proclamations of an NGO created in 1994 that claims to want to spread peace about the planet. The International Crisis Group has been saying for some time that we should “negotiate” with anyone and everyone in Iraq, but seems not to have any real ideas who those individuals might be. Naturally this group wants to rely on the UN to start these palliative negotiations. I wonder if the ICG can give us a list of any successes the UN has had with such “negotiations” the past?

Both Collier and NGOs like the ICG fail to understand that “negotiating” leads to little of consequence with these types of foes. Why should they acquiesce to the central government’s demands, for instance, if their own power base is wholly legitimized? What would cause them to willingly give up the power that has been handed them by a slot at any official “negotiations”? If their tenuous claims to power are supported they are far more likely to strive for more, especially if the central government cannot exert its own claims to power over them.

That is why the clear and hold strategy is so successful. Without something to temper the insurgent’s insatiable grasp for power, some reason for them to feel it necessary to come to the negotiating table needy of compromise, negotiations are a complete waste of time.

But here comes the ICG and the SanFran Chronicle willing to hand any insurgent a free pass to legitimate power. All they need do is kill a few hundred civilians and attack a US convoy or two and, viola! They are an instant “leader” that should be “negotiated” with.

This idea of Collier’s is a sure plan for worsening conditions, more in-fighting and further sectionalizing of Iraq’s worst hotspots as well as a return to power for people who are responsible for the rapes and tortures of uncounted Iraqi citizens for decades. On top of that it invites more external meddling by al Qaeda and Iran.

No, instead of sensible analysis, what Collier gave us was an example of staff writer trying desperately to make news with his “exclusive” sources and to drive the agenda as opposed to reporting on anything. It is an attempt to make the reporter relevant but is not any serious policy discussion at all. Collier also represents the inability of certain people in the west to understand the threat that faces us in Iraq.

Collier reveals that he is not on the side of the Iraqi people, the US military, or the American people if he wants to reward and legitimize murderers, warlords, and strongmen instead of strengthening an evolving Iraqi government.

Thanks but no thanks for the “help” Mr. Collier.

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