MILLER: Talk it over

Quincy Miller

Oddly enough, the best chance for lasting peace in Iraq may come from Finland.

The Crisis Management Initiative, a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization, was founded in 2000 by former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari. According to the CMI mission statement, it is an organization that “innovatively promotes and works for sustainable security . [through] analysis, action and advocacy.”

The Crisis Management Initiative is meeting with high-level Shiite and Sunni members in an undisclosed location to, according a CMI press release, “look at the South African and Northern Ireland peace processes and brainstorm how these processes could benefit Iraq.”

Prior to this, the CMI facilitated the 2005 peace negotiations between Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement. The Free Aceh Movement was a separatist group seeking independence for the Aceh region of Sumatra from Indonesia. The group was created in December 1976 by a descendant of the last sultan of Aceh; however, this initial guerrilla war was essentially neutralized by 1977. However, guerilla fighting resumed in the 1980s and continued through 2004. A peace agreement was reached in August 2005 after five rounds of negotiations with CMI facilitating the process.

The peace agreement reached between Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement has several corollaries to issues surrounding the Iraqi civil war – issues of self-representation, governance and natural resource distribution were areas of contention in the Indonesia-Aceh peace negotiations as well.

CMI has declined to provide names of those who are participating in the talks, but an official from the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council has said that Akram al-Hakim, one of its senior officials is participating, as well as a senior official from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Shiite Dawa Party are both in attendance. RadioFreeEurope reports that radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadir and the leader of the largest Sunni Arab political group, Adnan al-Dulaimi, are also in attendance. The news agency China View reports some 30 people are taking part in the talks, including representatives from South Africa and Northern Ireland. One potential criticism of the meeting is, according to Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, there are no Kurdish representatives in attendance.

Despite the impressive list of attendees to what the news outlets are fond of calling a “secret peace seminar,” there remains a cynical realism about the talks. That is in no way meant to disparage the immense achievement that these peace talks represent. These talks represent under-utilized tools in dealing with conflict – discussion and dialogue. Kalle Liesinen, who will take over as CMI’s executive director in October, has said that this is “an attempt at directing people’s thoughts to the future.”

The mere fact the talks are occurring stands in marked contrast to the heavily criticized “surge” still going on in Iraq.

Despite statements to the contrary, the armed forces are beginning to struggle to meet recruiting goals, with the Army falling short of its recruitment goals for two of the past three months. To counteract this, the military has had to offer signing bonuses of up to $20,000. As of Aug. 30, there were 3,738 confirmed fatalities in Iraq, with one still awaiting confirmation. The total cost of the war is estimated at $447,962,397,126. The time has come to seriously question if our government is doing anything in Iraq except throwing away lives and money, both at a horrific rate.

Despite Gen. David Petraeus’ continued insistence that the surge is effective – if being prematurely judged – a report from the Government Accountability Office finds only three of the 18 congressionally mandated benchmarks for political and military progress in Iraq have been met. In light of all the controversy surrounding the surge, it seems like a wise idea to perhaps discuss potential nonmilitary methods for resolving the conflict in Iran. The 9-11 Commission’s initial report suggested something similar – establishing open lines of communication with Middle East states – but the report was and continues to be widely ignored by the administration.

The surge is increasingly seeming like an “all our eggs in one country” scenario leaving our home soil more vulnerable to attack. The idea of establishing dialogue with the sectarian groups within Iraq, as well as Iraq’s neighbors, has been put forth since at least 2004 and has yet to receive serious consideration by the current administration – with no indication of why it was not an option.

The Crisis Management Initiative has taken the first real steps toward establishing communication between the major warring factions of Iraq. Rather than attempting to fight them all, the CMI is attempting to make them work together for the good of both themselves and their war-ravaged nation. There is the possibility of complete failure, but given the current course of the war in Iraq, I’m willing to give the talks in Finland a chance to succeed.

Quincy Miller is a senior in English from Altoona.