The senior American envoy in Iraq, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, held talks last year with men he believed represented major insurgent groups in a drive to bring militant Sunni Arabs into politics.
“There were discussions with the representatives of various groups in the aftermath of the elections, and during the formation of the government before the Samarra incident, and some discussions afterwards as well,” Mr. Khalilzad said in a farewell interview on Friday at his home inside the fortified Green Zone. He is the first American official to publicly acknowledge holding such talks.
The meetings began in early 2006 and were quite possibly the first attempts at sustained contact between senior American officials here and the Sunni Arab insurgency. Mr. Khalilzad flew to Jordan for some of the talks, which included self-identified representatives of the Islamic Army of Iraq and the 1920 Revolution Brigades, two leading nationalist factions, American and Iraqi officials said. Mr. Khalilzad declined to give details on the meetings, but other officials said the efforts had foundered by the summer, after the bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra set off waves of sectarian violence.
The talks were widely reported, beginning as long ago as 2005. They collapsed not because of the post-Samarra "sectarian violence," but simply because the United States isn't willing to go even halfway toward meeting the insurgents' demands.
Those demands were described, accurately, by none other than Ahmed Chalabi, in the Times piece:
Ahmad Chalabi, an Iraqi politician who is a friend of Mr. Khalilzad, said the talks fizzled out partly because the insurgents’ representatives made untenable demands. They asked for a suspension of the Constitution, breakup of Parliament, a reinstatement of the old Iraqi Army and establishment of a new government, he said.
That's pretty much correct, although Chalabi ignores the reality that the central demand of the resistance (the non-Al Qaeda-linked mainstream resistance) is the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, in exchange for which they're willing to declare a ceasefire. The Bush administration, of course, isn't willing to consider that.
Interesting, though, that the Times calls Chalabi a "friend of Mr.Khalilzad." Also, in its piece, the Times forthrightly calls Khalilzad a "neoconservative," which describes him exactly. (At a speaking engagement last fall, when I called Khalilzad a neoconservative, I was strongly criticized for saying so by Judith Kipper.) In any case, neocon Khalilzad, friend of Chalabi, is leaving Iraq.