This doesn’t surprise me very much. As I’ve argued in the past, the Ba’ath are about power and money. In contrast, Al Qaeda works on a fantasy ideology that has far more to do with their internal psychological state than anything we would think of as strategy. This is one of the real points of the much mocked by the MAL of staying in Iraq because we’re committed there. Convincing the Ba’athists of our will in this matter is the primary driver of their change of attitude, as if the USA is committed, their best option is to cooperate. The soft bigotry of low expectations of the MAL with regard to Iraqis prevents them from realizing this. Sadly, I think it unlikely that the MAL will ever realize how much they have retarded this situation by their efforts in Old Media to portray the USA as wanting to surrender and making the Ba’athists appear much stronger than they really are.
One is left wondering whether the Ba’athists are trying to grab what little political power remains available to them, or working on a longer term plan. This would be to get in to the government, wait till the Americans leave, then follow in the footsteps of Allende and Chavez. Obviously, such a plan would fail as long as Iraq is American occupied, so both plans will lead to the same short term behavior we are seeing. It’s even possible that, like the Sandanistas, the Ba’athists are so convinced of their natural leadership abilities that they believe they will inevitably come to dominate the emerging political system. Regardless, such support for the electoral process is a definitely positive.