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May 14, 2005

Jihadist Sunnis Barter "Exit Strategy"

Sounds like they're asking for more than can be granted, but it does seem like they're looking for a way out:

The Bush administration, struggling to cope with a recent intensification of insurgent violence in Iraq, has received signals from some radical Sunni Arab leaders that they would abandon fighting if the new Shiite majority government gave Sunnis a significant voice in the country's political evolution, administration officials said this week.

The officials said American contacts with what they called "rejectionist" elements among Sunni Arabs - the governing minority under Saddam Hussein, which has generated much of the insurgency, and largely boycotted January's elections - showed that many wanted to join in the political system, including the writing of a permanent constitution.

But the political feuding that delayed the formation of the government for nearly three months after the elections has so far blocked the kind of concessions the Sunnis are demanding.

In particular, the Americans are pressing for Shiite hard-liners in the new Iraqi government to consider conciliatory gestures that would include allowing former Baath Party members to serve in the government, granting pensions to former army officers who served under Mr. Hussein and setting up courts that would try detainees seized in the anti-insurgency drive. Many of the detainees have been held for a year or more without legal recourse.


American officials say that while some Sunni groups will never lay down their arms, others have begun to recognize that their refusal to participate in the political process was a mistake. Meanwhile, the United States, battling a seemingly intractable insurgency, has begun to forcefully press for a political solution.

Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a Pentagon news conference this week that the goal of the intensified insurgent attacks was to discredit the new government.

Senior American officers in Iraq and others in the Pentagon said the latest violence, which has killed nearly 500 people so far this month, had not prompted them to change their strategy of capturing or killing insurgents, cutting off their financing, pre-empting their attacks and training more Iraqi forces.

It's not Vietnam all over again-- this time the Administration won't be cowed by a last-gasp Tet Offensive.

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posted by Ace at 09:48 PM

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