In both Iraqi and Palestinian cases dialogue is being used as a containment tactic to maintain a crumbling unsustainable status quo under occupation, to disarm and “divide-and-rule” an armed resistance to the occupying power, despite the differences in the historical backgrounds, the initiation and context of dialogue and national credentials of the “peace camps” in both cases.
A divide between those who are betting on the “good faith” of the United States and those who lost faith in Washington has bloodily developed into internal strife in Iraq and into an inter-Palestinian political conflict, though in the Palestinian case the United States has an Israeli face; or could it be the other way round?
Dialogue in both occupied countries is either being used or offered to resolve the ensuing internal conflicts. In practice the internal crises, conflicts and disputes are direct products of the occupation in both cases.
‘Olive Branch’ Misused
Ironically using the Palestinian-carved up metaphor of “the olive branch” to describe it, Iraq’s US-backed premier Noori al-Malki has announced a “national reconciliation dialogue” to politically disarm the Iraqi resistance after the failure of more than a three-year military effort to defeat what the post-Saddam ruling political elite label as either “armed men,” “insurgents” or “terrorists,” who immediately replaced the flowers expected to welcome the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq three years ago.
Late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat used the metaphor to offer a peace alternative to “armed struggle” against the Israeli occupation while addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York in 1974. Then, Arafat was described by the United States and Israel as the leader of the “terrorist” Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
Al-Malki’s use of the metaphor is “ironical” because it was first offered by a national liberation movement – in this case it was Palestinian – in the hope of ending a military occupation by peaceful means.
But in the Iraqi case it is used by al-Malki to institutionalize – in parallel with force – a regime change that is being engineered by the U.S. occupying power against what historians would later describe as the Iraqi national liberation movement, which would in due time shrug off the parasitic terrorist or sectarian killings that are attributed to it in a premeditated smearing campaign as part of the U.S. psychological war.
Role of Occupying Powers
The comparison with the ongoing Palestinian national reconciliation dialogue doesn’t stop at the “olive branch” metaphor.
In both cases the occupying powers are ostensibly not parties to the “national” dialogue, which is hypothetically conducted by nationals who are divided over the feasibility of armed resistance to occupation.
But in both cases the dialogue was a means that was directly or indirectly initiated, proposed or inspired by the occupying powers, or at least approved, encouraged or given a nod by them.
The United States is the key player in Iraq and it was its administration that initiated the idea of engaging the “armed men” in dialogue before the tactic was officially adopted by the Iraqi ruling elite. The thinly-veiled U.S. manager of the Iraqi dialogue never had second thoughts in going public in its “managing” role.
The Iraqi dialogue was first covertly and later overtly proposed by the U.S. occupying power, which mandated its veteran ally and the first Iraqi president in post-Saddam era, Jalal Talbani, to secretly test it, though the “test” was publicly announced, before the dialogue was officially launched by al-Malki.
And the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad, is always there to moderate this dialogue and coordinate it with the administration in Washington.
Dialogue unfortunately was never in tradition to resolve disputes among the Iraqi political rivals.
In the Palestinian case, dialogue was. Palestinian politicians now and then proudly remind themselves and others of the Arafat-coined Palestinian “democracy of the bush of guns.”
The latest Palestinian dialogue was initiated by the Palestinian “peace camp” and/or sponsored by the Arab mediation of Egypt with the support of Jordan, both countries in peace treaties with the Israeli occupying power, while keeping the role of Israel and its strategic U.S. ally on the sidelines or in the shadows.
However the Arab role in the Iraqi case was not bilateral and was launched collectively by not less than the Arab League, which was given a green light to intervene by the U.S. only when it became clear that the overwhelming force of the super power needed help to quell the Iraqi resistance.
Egypt’s role was pivotal in hosting rounds of Palestinian and Iraqi dialogues, but unfortunately Cairo was not the initiator and has been acting as a peace maker within the context of the Camp David Accords, its strategic alliance with the U.S. and its peace treaty with Israel, a fact that doesn’t mean to say it has no national interests of its own.
Cairo’s role within this context qualifies Egypt as a peace maker per se and by proxy as a channel of communications among rival Iraqi and Palestinian nationals on the one hand and between those of them who refuse to get in direct negotiations with the U.S. and Israeli occupying powers on the other hand.
The Arab League, being based in Cairo, only gives the Egyptian role an Arab face.
To contain and abort the burgeoning Palestinian national movement the Israeli occupying power and its strategic U.S. ally initiated first covert and later overt channels of “dialogue” to make the Palestinians drop their “armed struggle,” which the Palestinians officially did in 1988.
The quid pro quo was a promise to establish a Palestinian state on the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Palestinian concession was a strategic coup that accepted a two-state solution instead of the original PLO’s “one democratic and secular” state.
The trickery and evasive commitment of the Israeli occupying power to the signed Oslo accords and the double-speak, biased and double-standards policies and un-kept promises of the U.S. sponsor of the ensuing “peace process” doomed the Madrid and Oslo process, leading the Palestinian people under occupation since 1967 to “armed struggle” again after 14 years of futile peace-making since 1991.
Once more dialogue was used as a tactic to contain the new “armed struggle,” this time launched not by the Palestinian refugees in exile but by those who have been suffering directly under occupation.
Peace Camps’ Credentials
In both cases the “peace camps” are backed by the U.S., but with an essential difference.
The Iraqi peace camp first came in and later elected to power carried on U.S. tanks and a U.S.-drafted constitution, after soliciting for years a U.S. military intervention to change the regime. Accordingly this camp is intrinsically pro-American and is an integral part of the U.S. scheme for a pro-American regime in Iraq.
In the Palestinian case the peace camp is pro-American by choice and came to power, or to be more precise to the decision-making role in Palestinian affairs, empowered first by the armed struggle (the revolutionary legitimacy), then by the popular struggle of the first and the second uprisings, and recently by democratic elections.
All throughout its history a dialogue has been going on, sometimes and many times violently, in the Palestinian national liberation movement between those who bet on a U.S. decisive role in a negotiated political settlement and those who had no faith or who later came to loose faith in such a role.
However the Palestinian peace camp has been all along an integral part of the national movement, even before the PLO leadership was sneaked into the Israeli autonomy trap in the West Bank and Gaza, and was never perceived as a proxy or an interlocutor for the occupying power. Hamas’ engagement in dialogue with this camp negates such a hypothesis while the rejection of the mainstream Iraqi resistance groups of al-Malki’s dialogue offer hints to the contrary, at least for the time being.
This difference is highlighted by the stance the respective occupying power is taking vis-Ã -vis the dialogue in each case.
The U.S. wants the Iraqi dialogue to succeed, at least temporarily until its peacenicks muster enough force to go it alone, Israel doesn’t, though both occupying powers sustain their peace camps with diverse support.
The Palestinian peace camp, in spite of its vehement campaign to “demilitarize” the six-year Intifada (uprising), challenged the still persisting Israeli and U.S. pressure to quell the armed resistance by force, as a recipe for civil war, and resorted instead to dialogue as a means to achieve the same goal. It was reciprocated.
The Iraqi “peace camp” offered dialogue only after reaching a dead end in its U.S.-led bloody military offensive to uproot the resistance by force.
Both Dialogues Doomed
However, both dialogues are doomed because they both are used as a containment tactic to maintain a crumbling unsustainable status quo under occupation, and to disarm and “divide-and-rule” an armed resistance to the occupying power, which doesn’t solve the core issues on the agenda.
In both cases the occupying power is not a partner to the dialogue, which is being conducted ostensibly among Palestinians and among Iraqis with the aim of solving internal crises in dealing with the occupying power.
In practice the internal crises, conflicts and disputes are direct products of the occupation in both cases.
And both in Iraq and Palestine the “peace camps” are in place with the blessing of the occupying power.
However in the Palestinian case the “peace camp” is institutionalized according to accords signed with the Israeli occupying power and is sponsored and financed by world powers that are either in strategic alliance with Israel or known to be one hundred percent committed to its existence, security and well being.
But in the Iraqi case the “peace camp” was in the first place institutionalized and later was “legitimized” by the occupying power itself and according to basic laws drafted and put in effect by it.
In the Palestinian case, there is common ground for the dialogue to conclude a middle way compromise between those who are committed to the two-state peaceful solution through negotiations with Israel and those who adopt all means of resistance against the Zionist occupation of all Palestine:
The middle ground for compromise is agreement to unify ranks to struggle together in compliance with international law and United Nations resolutions to liberate the Israeli-occupied land designated by international consent for an independent Palestinian state, and when this goal is achieved both sides of the divide could have their internal crisis again.
The Palestinian peace camp could surrender to the demand that all means of resistance could be used within this realm, which is the West Bank, Gaza Strip and eastern Jerusalem as a concession.
The other camp in return could subscribe to the creation of an independent state within this realm and accordingly confine its all means of struggle thereto as a concession.
This is in essence the content of the initial accord that was unofficially announced by the Palestinian interlocutors in Gaza on Tuesday.
However, this initial accord is doomed for two reasons. First it is a non-starter for the occupying power and second it lacks any guarantees that Israel would reciprocate, as was illustrated by the Palestinian unilateral 16-month truce.
Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on June 29 dismissed the Palestinian “prisoners’ document” as “has nothing to do with advancing prospects for peace. The goal was to promote a Palestinian consensus.”
Reciprocity requires that Israel must renounce its state terrorism, recognize Palestinian rights to exist freely and independently in their own state, must abide by all previous political agreements it struck with the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), must adopt all U.N. resolutions, and must adhere to all international laws, a prerequisite the Hebrew state has been discarding as “bullshit” since 1947.
Prerequisites of Iraqi Dialogue
In the Iraqi case, the dialogue offer is doomed because it is also a non-starter: First because al-Malki ruled out a timeline to end the foreign U.S.-led military presence, which is the common ground for any Iraqi national consensus.
Second because al-Malki’s offer of amnesty excluded those who had killed both Iraqis and Americans. The U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad torpedoed the offer when he publicly objected to pardoning the killers of American troops.
Quoting the Times newspaper, Linda Heard wrote in the Saudi Arab News daily on Tuesday that al-Malki was set to “promise a finite, U.N.-approved timeline for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq ; a halt to US operations against insurgent strongholds” and an amnesty to insurgents responsible for the deaths of American forces, but all these “crucial points were excluded from his proposals.
Accordingly al-Malki has practically confined his proposed dialogue to the parties of the bloody sectarian conflict, thus killing his own initiative before it took off.
True Iraqis need to reconcile their sectarian divide, but this divide is a direct product of the U.S.-led invasion, the making of al-Malki’s ruling elite, and has nothing to do with the real divide in the country between the pros and cons of the U.S.-led invasion.
The core of any reconciliation in Iraq is a common stand against the foreign presence in the country, which would defuse all internal disputes, including the looming sectarian strife, in the burner of an anti-occupation campaign.
The other prerequisite for an Iraqi reconciliation that should be addressed by a national dialogue is an accommodation with the realpolitic presence of the former ruling Baath party on the ground, a fact acknowledged by more than one speaker during al-Malki’s announcement of his dialogue offer.
Evasive dealing with this realpoitic fact will not lay any realistic ground for any meaningful and successful national dialogue in Iraq.
Dealing with this fact also requires “re-qualification” for a national dialogue by the advocates of a pro–”U.S. regime in the country. The U.S. has proved it could not deliver in Iraq. It’s high time to reconsider within the context of credible “national” Iraqi credentials.
Al-Maliki still could deliver. Or could he?