(Admitting to some timidity – this is my first effort!)
On the weekend of September 1, 2007, a group of leaders from both the Sunni and Shi’a Iraqis met in Finland, at an undisclosed location at closed meetings to discuss and draft peace principles with leaders of Northern Ireland and South Arica, utilizing protocols similar to peace settlements of those countries.
The meeting was sponsored by the Finnish Crisis Management Initiative [CMI] and the McCormack Graduate School at the University of Massachusetts and, although, the British and American authorities knew of and sanctioned this meeting, they were prohibited from having presence there.
Tom Hayden, in an article published in The Nation said,
Chairing the closed meetings near Helsinki were Martin McGuinness, the former Irish Republican Army commander, lead negotiator with the British, and now Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, and Roelf Meyer, former leader of the pro-apartheid National Party in South Africa’s peace negotiations. The Irish delegation also included former IRA hunger striker Leo Green, minister Jeffrey Donaldson, former Stormont speaker Lord Alderdice, and former loyalist paramilitary leader Billy Hutchison. South African participants included ANC leaders Mac Maharaj and Rashid Ismail, key participants in the military and political negotiations in South Africa. [Read more “here.
Names of the Iraq delegations’ have not been released but reportedly included six Sunni and nine Shi’a who signed a statement of principles. About thirty Iraqis were present, including Akram al-Hakim, minister of national reconciliation for the Baghdad government, representatives of Moktada al-Sadr, Sunni leader Adnan al-Dulaimi, and Humam Hammoudi, the Shi’a chairman of the Baghdad parliament’s foreign affairs committee.
Did you see anything in the media giving us knowledge of this important meeting?
It appears that the Iraqis were enthusiastic about this meeting.
The Iraqis saw former military enemies–McGuinness and Hutchison, for example, or South African apartheid leaders and ANC guerilla commanders–chairing meetings together on how sharply divided communities can coexist.
The key question for the Iraqis, who are circulating the draft at home, is whether the major parties believe their armed strategies have reached a stalemated point of no return, or whether one side [and foreign sponsors like the US and UK] still hopes for a military victory. In South Africa and Northern Ireland, secret peace discussions were initiated while the wars were proceeding, but eventually grew into the peace processes as the rival parties concluded that armed struggle [or military occupation] had reached its limits.
There were notable highlights at the meeting.
when Irish and South African representatives told stories of how their militarized strategies ultimately led to stalemate and the prospect of endless war. “The most remarkable impression on the Iraqis was McGuinness, once evil incarnate to the Protestants”, who now sits as vice-minister to First Minister Ian Paisley, the right-wing fundamentalist preacher trained at Bob Jones University who swore that the Catholic Church was the “whore of Babylon.” A meaningful peace process “only emerged in both countries when all parties agreed that those who adhered to violence had to be brought into negotiations, and that those parties adhering to violence had accepted that violence could never lead to accommodation. One could see Iraq heads nod in agreement.” [Padraig O’Malley: September 24 op-ed piece in the Boston Globe]
The so-called “Helsinki principles” which were agreed to, with each Iraqi signatory praying “In-sha’Allah” as they signed their names, are very general and appear utopian, but so were the early framework agreements in Ireland and South Africa. Most importantly, all parties agreed to continue the discussions towards a settlement.
A set of 12 principles were mapped out in order to start work toward a nationally mutual effort toward a permanent peace.
Among the points were:
Aside from promising to resolve political differences peacefully, the agreement commits the Iraqi parties to consider the creation of a disarmament commission, and the formation of a group to deal with the legacy of Iraq’s past.
They also seek an end to international and regional interference in Iraq’s affairs(emphasis mine)
This to me is the most positive and dynamic effort I have heard of with regard to the Iraq catastrophe. I’m not sure how we can keep tabs on progress, but going to sources outside the U.S. is probably the answer.
While I feel strongly about this, I am also concerned about the extent to which the Bush Administration will attempt to derail these negotiations, since I firmly believe that they have no interest in there being peace in Iraq! They have continually funded the Sunnis (the Al Qaeda in Iraq), the Shi’ites and other factions ensuring the continuation of strife throughout the country. The reasons? I’m sure you have a very good idea!