IRAQI PRESIDENT SAYS "NEGOTIATIONS" UNDERWAY
US EMBASSY SAYS "DISCUSSIONS" UNDERWAY
One of the first orders of business for the newly locked-in (though still unstable) Iraq government was to step up negotiations and discussions with a range of insurgent groups.
The Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, said a ceasefire with most of the insurgents is now a possibillity, after meetings of US and Iraqi officials with the rebel leaders.
"The Americans have entered into negotiations with some of these groups with my blessing," Mr Talabani is quoted as saying in an official statement.
"It is possible to reach an agreement with seven armed groups that visited me."
Iraqi leaders are still arguing over how the new cabinet will be structured, and who will be doing what, where and when, but Mr Talabani has said he is optimistic, regardless, that the majority of the insurgency will soon be signed up into a ceasefire agreement.
However, groups linked to Al-Qaeda, including those affiliated with al-Zarqawi, and groups still loyal to Saddam Hussein, have not been included in any negotiations.
The meetings between US officials and insurgency leaders is believed to have taken place in Kurdistan and has been confirmed by the US embassy in Baghdad.
President Talabani did not release details of when the 'summits' took place, or the substance of any deals on the table.
The US embassy, however, told the Associated Press that they were not involved in "negotations".
"We've had talks. That's what we've been saying all along. We've met with these people," embassy spokeswoman Elizabeth Colton said.
Late last year, shortly after the first talks with members of the insurgency began, US President Bush and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld started making a concerted effort to draw clear distinctions, in speeches and interviews, between the various groups involved in the overall insurgency.
There were the Baath Party/Saddam loyalists, who they began referring to as "terrorists", and there were the groups attached to al-Zarqawi and Al Qeada In Iraq, and they, too, were "terrorists".
But both Bush and Rumsfeld talked up the fact that Sunnis who were not happy about being cut out of the political process by Kurds and Shiites, and opposed the US occupation, were not so much terorrists, but more "rejectionists".
Previously, all those involved with any form of insurgency in Iraq were deemed to be ''terrorists', for fighting against the US occupation.
For all the US media attention focused on al-Zarqawi, and the brightness of the spotlight turned on him for alleged terrorist attacks by Bush and Rumsfeld, the Jordanian born extremist is believed to only lead a small number of fighters, most of whom are foreigners.
The US Department of Defence recently acknowledged they had "talked up" al-Zarqawi as the chief bad guy in Iraq, giving him more credit than might have been due to him.(Talabani quotes, US embassy quotes, and some of the above information was sourced from : The Australian Newspaper)
The Four Corners current affairs program recently ran an indepth investigation into al-Zarqawi and his use of the internet and DVD for recruitment and training purposes, and how the US purposely built him up into a figure of mass influence and popularity well before his time.
The theory discussed by interviewees in the Four Corners program goes like this : The US psy-ops and black propaganda campaigns, aimed at undermining all aspects of the Iraqi insurgency, actually 'created' a myth of al-Zarqawi that he then began to attempt to live up to.
The US needed a Bad Guy in Iraq once Saddam was out of the way, and attacks al-Zarqawi was not responsible for were credited to his group by US military commanders, President Bush and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Seeking fame and influence, al-Zarqawi accepted this false recognition.
But the 'branding' by the US psy-ops and black propaganda campaigns actually served to draw more fighters into his ranks, increasing his ability to kill civilians and target US troops.
An interesting theory, though hard to prove at this time.