Monday, January 10, 2005

Juan Cole: timetable for US withdrawal?: "The Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS) met on Saturday with 8 officials of the US embassy. Its leader, Harith al-Dhari, offered to end the Sunni Arab organization's call for a boycott of the elections if the US would set a definite timetable for withdrawal of its troops from Iraq. Al-Hayat says that the AMS now says it will accept a Shiite government if it results from the elections, as long as the latter negotiates a firm deadline for the withdrawal of US troops. AMS said that its disagreements with Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani were 'merely differences of opinion.'

"Abdul Salam al-Kubaisi, the number two man in the Association of Muslim Scholars, said that it would be desirable for his organization's leadership to meet with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani so as to reduce the degree of sectarian tension. Al-Kubaisi also said that AMS would seek a follow-up meeting with the US officials.

"I take all this to suggest that the Sunni Arab Iraqis see the withdrawal of US troops as their first and most important priority, coming even before the reestablishment of Sunni Arab political primacy. I also suspect that a withdrawal timetable is something that all Iraqis would like to see (though it is problematic; such timetables in Palestine and India in the late 1940s arguably contributed to the massive violence and Partition in the two British imperial possessions. When the local people sense that the imperial power is a lame duck, they lose all fear of it; and its very withdrawal creates new political opportunities that some will want to seize violently).... The NYT reports that how to get out of Iraq has become a central topic in Washington."

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