- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 19, 2006

AMMAN, Jordan — Iraq National Security Adviser Mowaffak Rubaie has launched a scathing attack on secret American-led talks with insurgents, saying the process could encourage more violence.

He said the procedures are counterproductive and will increase the insurgents’ morale and clout.

“I think the Americans are making a huge and fatal mistake in their policy of appeasement and they should not do this. They should leave the Iraqi government to deal with it,” he told The Washington Times in a telephone interview from Baghdad.

The talks — begun in secrecy several months ago and first reported by The Times in December — succeeded in producing a truce for the Dec. 15 national elections.

They also were intended to set the basis for an overall deal with hard-line Sunnis that would isolate al Qaeda fighters from other Arab countries.

But the momentum broke down soon after the election as Sunnis and secular parties charged widespread vote rigging, and it became obvious that the Shi’ites were in position to control the government along with the Kurdish minority.

Mr. Rubaie accused U.S. negotiators of going behind the backs of the Iraqi government and urged them to hold off any further communication with the insurgent groups.

Instead, the United States should allow the new Iraqi government to decide on how to quell the insurgency, he said.

“We should launch all sorts of political initiatives and they should wait for the Iraqi government in a few weeks time. I believe we are capable and must be given a chance to do it,” he said.

Mr. Rubaie did not specify what steps he envisaged for the new government. But he made it clear the government did not wish to talk to those carrying out violent operations.

U.S. officials met with insurgents considered “rejectionists.” They said that they had not and would not make contact with terrorists who had a policy of indiscriminate killing, including supporters of al Qaeda and its affiliates.

Mr. Rubaie said: “There is no way, not a snowball in hell, that we will talk to any insurgents group or terrorists group, because we don’t want to pay them off for killing our people.

“We believe in ballot boxes. They believe in bullets.”

He added, “I repeat: Any policy of appeasement is a fatal mistake. It makes them misinterpret their opponents’ actions as coming from a position of weakness.

“I believe it will worsen our security position,” Mr. Rubaie said.

He said that if any deal were to be struck with insurgents, it would be interpreted by many Iraqis as a subversion of the democratic process.

“It will give the wrong impression to the Iraqi people. The 11 million Iraqis who believed in the ballot box will say ‘what the heck; violence is paying off.’ This is wrong.”

The Shi’ite-led administration has long worried about deals made behind its back with its rivals, and viewed with disfavor American support for secular political alternatives.

Mr. Rubaie said he was upset that, as national security adviser, he had not been consulted about the talks, and “as far as I know” neither had anyone in the government.

Decisions on such discussions should be agreed to jointly in advance, he said.

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