Thursday, January 12, 2006

Insurgents spill to N.Y. Times

This article seems to come out of nowhere. The New York Times reports that Iraqi insurgents are ready to cooperate with American and Iraqi officials in fighting Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. They set the scene on a street corner, where Iraqi insurgents get into a beef with Al Qaeda operatives. The insurgents accused Al Qaeda of killing two of their own.

The encounter ended angrily. A few days later, the insurgents said, Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and the Islamic Army fought a bloody battle on the outskirts of town.

What is this, a Bruce Springsteen song?

Anyway, the Times uses intelligence from American and Iraqi officials, corroborated by accounts from Iraqi insurgents, to report an increase in the frequency of violent skirmishes between Al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents and an growing resentment by Iraqis of Al Qaeda, "whose extreme religious goals and desires for sectarian war against Iraq's Shiite majority override Iraqi tribal and nationalist traditions."

This story smells a little fishy to me. First, why are insurgents suddenly opening up to the Times?

Second, this is a portrait of neoconservative wish fulfillment: Sunnis see a democratic Iraq leaving them behind, so they go to the resistance to demand that they protect Sunni voters. Then Sunni insurgents start turning on Al Qaeda because of their religious extremism. In other words, the common enemy drawing Iraqis together is no longer the United States, but Al Qaeda.

Third, the sourcing isn't convincing. They talked to Western diplomats, American and Iraqi officials, a handful of resistance fighters, and an "insurgent leader." Who knows what the motives of the insurgents would be for talking to one of the newspapers that helped mislead America to war against them? We know the diplomats and officials would love us to believe that the Iraqi resistance wants to cooperate with America against Al Qaeda. But the reporters didn't see anything themselves.

Lastly, some of the dialogue is suspiciously Bruckheimerian. Here's insurgent Abu Lil talking about a meeting he had with Al Qaeda fighters two years ago regarding what the insurgents saw as a high civilian death toll resulting from an Al Qaeda bombing.

The discussion dragged on for seven hours, he said, but did not go well. The local insurgents demanded that the foreigners from Al Qaeda leave Iraq.

"They said, 'Jihad needs its victims,' " Abu Lil said. " 'Iraqis should be willing to pay the price.' "

"We said, 'It's very expensive.' "

The meeting ended abruptly, and Abu Lil and his associates walked out, feeling powerless and angry.

"I wished I had a nuclear bomb to attack them," he said. "We told them, 'You are not Iraqis. Who gave you the power to do this?' "

Would that it all were true! I hope it is. But this article really seemed to come out of nowhere, and it read like a screenplay.
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