25 March 2005

Finally, An Exit Strategy in Iraq

Many have protested that there is no "exit strategy" in Iraq, but this afternoon the Financial Times reports that an exit strategy is indeed taking shape -- amongst the leadership of the insurgency:
Sharif Ali Bin al-Hussein, who heads Iraq's main monarchist movement and is in contact with guerrilla leaders, said many insurgents including former officials of the ruling Ba'ath party, army officers, and Islamists have been searching for a way to end their campaign against US troops and Iraqi government forces since the January 30 election.

"Firstly, they want to ensure their own security," says Sharif Ali, who last week hosted a pan-Sunni conference attended by tribal sheikhs and other local leaders speaking on behalf of the insurgents.

. . . .

Sharif Ali said the success of Iraq's elections dealt the insurgents a demoralising blow, prompting them to consider the need to enter the political process.
More than a month ago, I wrote of the rumored "back channel communications" between various American officials and leaders of the native Sunni and Ba'athist elements of the insurgency. At the time, I recognized that the reports were cause for optimism but, even if true, did not point toward an immediate and complete end to the conflict -- the discussions sounded preliminary and did not include the foreign al Qaeda-aligned fighters who have been responsible for the most bloody attacks on non-Coalition and non-military targets. Since those initial reports, not much news had surfaced before now to indicate progress made by those contacts or whether the talks were ongoing.

Considering the Financial Times article, it's safe to say that the same caveats apply now as before -- these reports also describe only tentative changes in the thinking of the native insurgency leadership and no indication of any change of heart amongst the al Zarqawi-led foreign terrorists. Still, such reports confirm the significance of the successful Iraqi elections and the powerful effect of the steady Coalition presence; perhaps neither factor will, in isolation, prove decisive in ending the insurgency, but in combination these and other indicators of the resolve of those on the side of Iraqi democracy will demonstrate, at least to the native insurgents, that their fight is lost -- both in military terms and in the hearts and minds of their countrymen.

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