This news from The Washington Times is extraordinarily good. Sunni leaders have apparently been talking to U.S. negotiators and insurgent groups and a cease-fire was arranged to protect the voters in Iraq last week.
The Washington Times
Key Sunni Muslim leaders in Iraq's violent Anbar province have concluded that their interests lie in cooperating with the United States, and they are seeking to extend a temporary truce honored by most insurgent groups for last week's elections...
Adnan al-Dulaimi, leader of a prominent Sunni bloc, confirmed yesterday that insurgent groups had prevented violence from interfering with Thursday's election for a 275-seat parliament.
His comments yesterday on a cease-fire deal -- first reported in The Washington Times on the day Iraqis voted -- provided the first public explanation for the sharp drop in violence last week.
"The resistance announced it would protect polling stations and would not allow a single group to attack them, and it respected its promise.
"We thank them in the name of the Iraqi Accordance Front," Mr. al-Dulaimi told reporters in Baghdad, referring to the electoral bloc he leads.
The truce resulted from weeks of negotiations between U.S. officials and insurgents that have been recently labeled by President Bush as "rejectionists."
Though it does remind me a bit of the gangs in Chicago and Houston who've offered, for five or ten bucks, to "protect" my car from being damaged while I'm at a concert (Hey, ya never know wat c'happen out here, while you're in there...) this seems like it could be the start of something positive. It certainly pokes holes in the argument that the only way some people have to be heard is to engage in terrorism.
Update: Douglas Hanson points out a trade-off that makes it look even more like a protection racket.
A report in The Washington Times says that the top US commander in Iraq, General George Casey, had decided months ago to negotiate with “insurgent” groups in an effort to stop the violence on election day. In return, the US agreed to halt all “offensive operations” against insurgent elements.
It is important in these situations to offer a carrot and wield a stick. Removing the very thing that makes negotiation so attractive does not seem like a strategy that is likely to succeed in the long run--especially considering the terrorist's history of making and breaking agreements at a whim.