Iraqis and US Talk Peace with 'Reconcilable Insurgents'
Departing US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said at a news conference in Iraq today that the Iraqi government and US military personnel have opened up negotiations with select groups of insurgents to combine efforts against al Qaeda and other foreign forces operating in Iraq. Previously troublesome tribal leaders and some Sunni militia groups have shown a willingness to cooperate with the government and direct their efforts against what is seen as a common enemy.
Khalilzad stressed that a line was being drawn between 'reconcilable' insurgents whose primary interest is local and political and the true terrorists whose target is regional chaos and the overthrow of the government. By offering the hand of friendship and a greater political role to the more reasonable insurgents, the government and US forces hope to use their contacts in the insurgent community to increase effectiveness in hunting down the most troublesome groups.
Negotiations and cooperation began in the middle of last year and have included some of the larger politically motivated insurgent groups like the Islamic Army of Iraq and the 1920 Revolution Brigades. Winning some insurgents over to the side of the government has been aided by the increasing hostility of al Qaeda towards all other groups in Iraq and their recent declaration of war on uncooperative Sunnis as well as Shiites.
In his remarks Khalilzad also made note of the successes of recent strategy changes by US Forces in Iraq and the increasing effectiveness of Iraqi police, including substantial reductions in terror attacks nationwide and especially in Baghdad.
Tamil Tigers Bomb Government Air Base
On Sunday night a Zlin Z143 fighter/bomber attacked and bombed a government airbase in Sri Lanka, culminating a years-long effort by Tamil rebels to establish their own air force. Three people were killed in the raid and it caused the closure of Columbo's international airport.
The aircraft is one of several which have been built or are being built from parts smuggled in with aid shipments in the aftermath of the 2005 tsunami. While the planes are small and unlikely to be able to outfight government warplanes or do anywhere near as much damage, they are enough to threaten commercial aviation and raise the stakes in the 20-year long Sri Lankan civil war.
This attack sends a very clear message. When the rebels get their own air force, maybe it's time to start negotiating and give them the regional independence they've been fighting for.
Iran Questions British Sailors While UK and Iraq Demand Release
The impasse between Iran and Great Britain over the seizure of 15 British sailors and marines last week continues, as the Iranian military questions the prisoners and the government of Iraq joins the British government in demanding their immediate release.
Throughout this incident the British have claimed that the sailors were seized illegally in Iraqi waters while searching for smugglers. Iran has maintainted that they were arrested legitimately for trespassing in Iranian territorial waters. The conflict of these claims likely arises from the fact that the sailors were captured in the Shatt al-Arab, an inlet off of the Persian Gulf which both Iraq and Iran have historically claimed possession of.
The British sailors and marines have been sent to Tehran for further questioning, and likely for use as media propaganda props as was done with sailors seized back in 2004.
Meanwhile the UN Security Council agreed on Saturday to strengthen sanctions against Iran over their refusal to halt nuclear development and Iran announced that they would no longer cooperate with IAEA inspectors.
As tensions rise over issues involving Iran, it seems relevant to note that wars have been started over incidents far less outrageous than this seizure of 15 British sailors.