November 02, 2006

Negotiations Underway to Release Captured U.S. Army Translator

As I said in response to Andrew Sullivan's willfully ignorant claim yesterday that "commander-in-chief has abandoned an American soldier to the tender mercies of a Shiite militia":

Andrew Sullivan disingenuously misrepresents a small (and increasingly irrelevant) part of the rescue effort as the entire rescue effort, discounting all active military and police searches, intelligence gathering efforts, and back-channel political maneuvering that we know from past experience is certainly taking place.

This morning, Fox News confirms that the back-channel political maneuvering I discussed is indeed occuring:

The U.S. military identified a kidnapped soldier for the first time on Thursday, saying the abducted Iraqi-American was 41-year-old Ahmed Qusai al-Taayie.

Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell also said that the reserve soldier was visiting his Iraqi wife when he was handcuffed and taken away by gunmen during a visit to the woman's family.

Caldwell said there was "an ongoing dialogue" in a bid to win the soldier's release, but he would not say with whom or at what level.

The fact that al-Taei (or as this article spells it "al-Taayie") did not turn up dead within the first 72 hours of his abduction, and the fact that he is believed to have been captured by the Mahdi Army instead of al Qaeda, leads me to believe that he was abducted not to become a victim of torture and murder, but to become a political pawn for one of the factions of Muqtada al-Sadr's militia.

What remains to be seen, and what we may never know, is whether al-Taei's capture is something that al-Sadr had a hand in, or if a faction within his loosely-organized Mahdi Army Militia conducted the kidnapping independently. If al-Taei's abduction was not conducted with al-Sadr's knowledge or blessing, there is the possibility that the kidnapping is evidence of a rift between factions of the Mahdi Army.

If so (and this is purely speculation), it could be that factions within the Mahdi Army are using the kidnapping to make a run on al-Sadr's control of the militia. The kidnapping places a microscope on al-Sadr (note the renewed calls to have him killed, which stem at least in part from the kidnapping), and depending on internal Iraqi politics, could rattle his standing with both other Mahdi Army factions and with the Iraqi government, which for now, seems to be doing the bidding of al-Sadr (on that, at least, Sullivan was correct).

If al-Sadr starts to lose (more) control of the Madhi Army, his importance to and influence within the Iraqi government may wane, and the possibility that Ralph Peters may eventually get his wish, perhaps courtesy of the apparently fragmenting Mahdi Army itself.

Update: Josh Manchester has further thoughts.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at November 2, 2006 09:21 AM | TrackBack

I'm sure there is an 'ongoing dialogue' in the same sense that the Israelis are having dialogues with Hamas and Hezbollah to get their kidnapped soldiers back, we're having a dialogue with Iraq to keep them from going nuclear, we're having a dialogue with North Korea and the Democrats and Republicans are having a dialogue on how best to run this country. Lots of people talking, nothing getting accomplished.

Posted by: steve sturm at November 2, 2006 11:48 AM

I thought we weren't supposed to negotiate with terrorists?

Posted by: LnGrrrR at November 2, 2006 03:41 PM