US 'in talks with Iraq rebels'Incidentally, it was our previous dealings with so-called "terrorists"--in Iraq and Iran, to get money to fund the Contras, that originally got us into what led to all this mess to begin with.
Despite months of American military assaults on supposed insurgent bases, General John Abizaid, the regional US commander, admitted to Congress last week that opposition strength was “about the same” as six months ago and that “there’s a lot of work to be done against the insurgency”.
That work now includes secret negotiations with rebel leaders, according to the Iraqi sources.
Washington seems to be gingerly probing for ways of defusing home-grown Iraqi opposition and of isolating the foreign Islamic militants who have flooded into Iraq to wage holy war against America under the command of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
The talks appear to represent the first serious effort by Americans and Iraqi insurgents to find common ground since violence intensified in the spring. Earlier informal contacts were reported but produced no perceptible progress.
Zarqawi’s group, which has been blamed for many suicide bombings and beheadings, has not taken part.
According to both Iraqi sources, preparations for this month’s meetings were supervised by Ayham al-Samurai, a Sunni Muslim and former exile who lived in America for 20 years. He returned to Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein to become electricity minister in the interim government.
One of his main challenges was to persuade both sides that they could meet without being ambushed. Both eventually provided pledges that no hostile acts would be attempted.
The American contingent is said to have arrived in a convoy of four armoured Humvee vehicles and at least two armoured personnel carriers. The military escort remained outside the compound while the four US negotiators were greeted by tribal sheikhs who had agreed to host the meeting.
The Pentagon had no immediate comment to make on the Iraqi claims despite repeated requests for confirmation.
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