Iraqi leaders, politicians and Sunni clerics agreed on asking the US to define a timetable for pulling the troops, this is all over the news websites so I’m not going to add further details here but I’d like to discuss the development with you.
No government in this world acts 100% independently and there are always internal and/or external factors and pressures that affect the decisions of any given government.
That’s why I think that Iraqi officials wouldn’t have agreed to the opposition’s demands if not for pressure from the US administration and I have a strong feeling that the US will announce a timetable for withdrawing the troops soon.
I think the US administration kind of drove the Sunni insurgency leaders to ask for this in a way that allowed the Iraqi and US government the chance to win a good deal of time while they can reach a reasonable progress in building Iraq’s army and police forces.
Everyone wants to see an end for violence but this violence comes from more than one group of fighters; one (al-Qaeda) can be dealt with only by military means but what about the other two? The local Islamic extremists, tribal fighters and former Ba’athists are also tired of fighting and they do want the power they lost (at least some of it) back and they had realized that there’s no way to do that with violence but they kept carrying out attacks as a way to voice their demands and to pressurize the US and Iraqi government to respond positively.
On the other hand, Iraqi and American governments kept saying that putting a timetable for pulling the troops (let alone an immediate step) would empower the terrorists and thus was considered a redline for a long time but now things have changed; Sunni insurgents and the factions that support them are saying that they are going to join the political process and they’re ready to stop targeting Iraqis if a timetable was defined and if their right to “resist” was recognized.
Now, I don’t agree at all with legitimizing attacks on coalition troops but does legitimizing or illegitimating them make a difference in the on the ground situation? They have been attacking the troops for two and a half years and they will keep doing so whether we like or not…BUT, now Iraqi insurgents will not be able to justify or adopt an attack against Iraqi civilians and incase they do so in the future, they and their representatives and supporters will lose their bargaining power because it would be them who violated the agreement, not the government. Add to this that a period of cease-fire among Iraqis can possibly accelerate the reconstruction of the country and its security forces and this will consequently reflect on the size and number of missions required from the foreign troops.
People like clerics in the Association of Muslim scholars now feel triumphant that they could extract recognition of the “resistance” from the government and now they feel they do have a weight in the country’s political situation and are being treated as equals more or less.
The latest change in the US administration’s tone as of this issue makes me think a timetable will see the light soon, a day or two ago, Mr. Rumsfeld said that this is a technical issue and that generals and commanders of US forces are more able to decide whether it is possible to reduce troops count or not. This means that it is not considered a political decision anymore, at least not as was used to be a year ago. On the other hand, Mr. Cheney lately reduced the redline for US involvement in Iraq from timetable to immediate withdrawal and insisted that an immediate action to pull troops would be a grave mistake but he didn’t mention a timetable in an attempt to divert attention from the former redline. (Sorry for not including links, these are yesterday's news stories and I couldn't locate the links tonight).
I could be wrong in my speculations but I think the right time to start negotiating the timetable between the US and Iraq will be after the formation of the new government that is to be elected next month; this government will certainly be a true representative of the people and will have the full authority of a government that will last for 4 years.
If this moves as I’m expecting here, we will deal a powerful blow to foreign terrorism and to dictatorships in the neighborhood that want to destroy Iraq.
Giving everyone the chance to have their say under the law will certainly isolate terrorism and consequently reduce its power but not ending it.