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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #550 on: September 30, 2009, 08:11:36 AM »

General Says Iraq Troop Reductions May Quicken Recommend
By THOM SHANKER
Published: September 29, 2009
WASHINGTON — The senior American commander in Iraq said Tuesday that he could reduce American forces to 50,000 troops even before the end of next summer if the expected January elections in Iraq went smoothly.

Gen. Ray Odierno said he had drafted a new plan for transferring duties to the Iraqis.  That could ease the strain across the American armed forces and free up extra combat units for duty in the Afghanistan war, which has become a priority for the Obama administration.

In an interview at the Pentagon, the commander, Gen. Ray Odierno, said he had already ordered some service members and equipment diverted from the Iraq mission to Afghanistan, in particular surveillance aircraft and units known as “combat enablers,” which include engineers for clearing roadside bombs and military police officers for training Afghan forces.

The United States and Iraq agreed last year that American combat forces would be out of Iraq by August 2010, leaving 50,000 troops to advise and support the Iraqis. Since that schedule was set, the need for troops in Afghanistan has made that timing especially important — all the more so if commanders in Afghanistan formally request even more troops and President Obama agrees. In recent months American combat forces pulled out of Iraq’s city centers.

General Odierno described his continuing security concerns, especially in the north of Iraq, where there are deep Kurdish-Arab tensions and where homegrown insurgents who claim allegiance to Al Qaeda continue to operate.

But the general said he was confident enough in the path to stability — with orderly elections and a smooth transfer of power in the winter — that he had drafted a new plan that set out how the duties now performed by American forces would be increasingly transferred to Iraqis before the full withdrawal, planned for Dec. 31, 2011. For the final year and a half or so, the Americans would be advising and training the Iraqis and providing logistics to them.

He did caution that if the Iraqi government and military were not able to shoulder the entire burden of responsibility by that deadline, the ministries in Baghdad would have to rely for support on civilian United States agencies, in particular the State and Treasury Departments.

“We failed the first time in 2003, when things were fairly calm and we didn’t have a plan to transition what we had done militarily over to a civilian-led solution to help solve these problems,” General Odierno said.

“We have another opportunity here in 2010 and 2011 to do this,” he added. “What are the enduring functions that have to be transitioned over that will continue to build Iraqi civilian capacity and continue to improve their ability to provide security? We are very focused on that.”

The new Joint Campaign Plan was written in partnership with the American Embassy in Baghdad, the general said, and should be approved later this fall as the detailed map guiding the American withdrawal from Iraq.

The next benchmark for the American military withdrawal is Aug. 31, 2010, when forces must drop to 50,000. Military officers based in Baghdad said Tuesday that American military forces in Iraq numbered slightly more than 124,000, a reduction of 40,000 since 2008.

General Odierno said he had no intention of dropping below the 50,000-troop level required under a bilateral security agreement by the end of August, but he said he might reach that level before the deadline.

“Between now and May, I could accelerate the drawdown,” he said. “If we get through successful elections, and you seat the government peacefully, that provides another level of stability. That will help to reduce tensions.”

General Odierno said he had discussed the military needs for Afghanistan with Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the senior commander in Kabul, and with Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top officer in the Middle East, and he said all three had agreed that the military urgently required surveillance and transport aircraft in Afghanistan, as well as engineers and military police officers.

“We have been able to move some already over to Afghanistan,” General Odierno said. “We don’t want to affect the mission in Iraq, but we know some of this is needed in Afghanistan. I think we’ve been able to balance this so far.”

He said overall progress in Iraq was “slow, steady.” The leadership of Iraq’s security units has improved, and there is less sectarianism within these forces, the general said. But pitfalls remain.

“There is still too much political interference in the military,” General Odierno said. “That has always been a case there. It is better than it was, but it is still too much, and from a lot of different sources.”

The north of Iraq remains a serious security concern, especially in Nineveh Province, where, he said, “Al Qaeda in Iraq is still trying to re-establish a foothold and then be able to extend its tentacles down into Baghdad.”

Minority tensions, in particular between Kurds and Arabs in the north, are also a “driver of instability” and could be “exploited to destabilize the government of Iraq,” he noted.

And Iran has not halted its efforts to train insurgents and to send weapons and money in a bid for influence across the southern provinces of Iraq, General Odierno said, although Iranian agents “have reduced some of what they are doing.”

Even so, he said that Iraqi security forces continued to intercept large shipments of weapons and high-powered explosives sent from Iran.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #551 on: October 05, 2009, 08:15:14 AM »

By GINA CHON
BAGHDAD -- Iraqi politicians say they have put aside for the time being any plans to push for a referendum on the U.S.-Iraqi security pact governing the American troop pullout here.

The threat of a referendum had clouded U.S. withdrawal plans. If Iraqi voters were given a chance to vote on the deal some U.S. officials feared they would reject it, forcing an accelerated U.S. withdrawal.

Military officials have said they will comply with any quicker withdrawal in the case of a "no" vote in a referendum. The flagging momentum for a referendum now, however, eases pressure on U.S. commanders.

U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Stephen Lanza said the referendum is an issue that is up to the Iraqis, and American troops are focused on continuing to comply with the security pact.

The security pact calls for all American troops to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011. When the security treaty was approved, Sunni lawmakers insisted on a referendum as a condition of their support. Originally scheduled for last July, it was delayed.

Many observers suspected it might never happen. But in August, Iraq's cabinet set a new date of Jan. 16, coinciding with nationwide parliamentary polls. A "no" vote on the deal would trigger a termination clause, speeding up a full American troop withdrawal by almost a year. Lawmakers said Sunday there weren't any moves afoot to push through legislation authorizing the referendum. That, they say, means it will either be delayed once again, or dropped altogether.

Recent worry over Iraq's ability to take over security from the U.S. faster -- should the referendum force an early American withdrawal -- appears to have cooled some Sunnis' insistence on the referendum.

"A fast withdrawal of American troops may create a security vacuum," said Sunni lawmaker Saleh Mutlaq, who had pushed for a referendum.

Lawmakers are also consumed with trying to pass a crucial elections law, and they have had no time to deal with legislation for a referendum vote, said Muther al-Hakim, a member of both the largest Shiite alliance in parliament and the legal committee, which would be responsible for putting together a referendum proposal.

Mr. Hakim and Rashid al-Azawi, a lawmaker and senior member of the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party, both said a referendum was no longer necessary because the U.S. military had so far abided by the security pact.

In the battle over the separate election legislation, political leaders have largely agreed to rely on the elections law from the 2005 race, with a few changes, lawmakers said Sunday.
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Body-by-Guinness
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« Reply #552 on: October 15, 2009, 05:37:07 PM »

1,000,000 Iraqis Died As a Result of Clinton's Policies... 85,000 Died During "Bush's War" (Horrifying Video)

In 1996 Secretary of State Madeleine Albright admitted that Bill Clinton's policy that resulted in 500,000 dead Iraqi children was worth it.
In a much forgotten exchange between Lesley Stahl and Madeleine Albright on "60 Minutes" back on May 12, 1996:



Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price--we think the price is worth it.
Here's the horrifying video:

The United Nations estimated that a total of 1 million Iraqi civilians died as result of the sanctions on Iraq.
This tragedy never seemed to bother the Left for some reason.

Yesterday, the Iraqi government reported that 85,000 Iraqis were killed during the Iraq war.
Bush may have saved 750,000 Iraqis.
For some reason this was ignored by the state-run media.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #553 on: October 15, 2009, 08:17:05 PM »

Secretary Halfbright seriously bobbled this (which was widely reported in the Arab world btw) by accepting the number.  IIRC Reason Magazine did an analysis that showed the actual number was far less-- about 125,000.   This is still an outrageous number of people to die so that the French, the UN et al could make their skim off the UN embargo.

One point to draw from this little trip down the memory hole is that the UN embargo had a VERY heavy human cost.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #554 on: October 24, 2009, 01:46:37 PM »

So I am back in Amman overnighting for trip bck to Baghdad tomorrow.  The hotel has quite a few Australian soldiers staying here.  I think they arrived today and would not be surprised if they are on my flight out tomorrow.

Anyway, I have a couple of them on my floor.  They have their room door propped wide open and are walking around in shorts and t-shirts.  This is a 5 star hotel in the capital of a Muslim country.  There are even several fully covered Arab women on my floor and these clowns are walking around like they are back home in their trailers.  The only thing I haven't seen is them drinking beer but the night is still young.

Ths kind of behavior will be remembered far more and far longer than any other "good" things these soldiers may do over here.  They will be rememberedby those who saw them as uncouth and disrespectful.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #555 on: October 25, 2009, 08:55:20 AM »


Bombs in Iraq: One of them hit the Ministry of Justice building today.  A place I have been to a number of times.  In fact coming back from there was when I missed being atomized by 5 minutes a month or two ago....

Glad I was on a C-130 from Amman today....

==========
Eyes on the Prize
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Published: October 24, 2009

BAGHDAD, Aug. 25, 2012 — President Obama flew into Baghdad today on his end-of-term tour to highlight successes in U.S. foreign policy. At a time when the Arab-Israel negotiations remain mired in deadlock and Afghanistan remains mired in quagmire, Mr. Obama hailed the peaceful end of America’s combat presence in Iraq as his only Middle East achievement. Speaking to a gathering of Iraqi and U.S. officials under the banner “Mission Actually Accomplished,” written in Arabic and English, Mr. Obama took credit for helping Iraq achieve a decent — albeit hugely costly — end to the war initiated by President Bush. Aides said Mr. Obama would highlight the progress in Iraq in his re-election campaign.

Could we actually read such a news article in three years? I wouldn’t bet on it. But I wouldn’t rule it out either. Six years after the U.S. invasion, Iraq continues to unnerve and tantalize. Watching Iraqi politics is like watching a tightrope artist crossing a dangerous cavern. At every step it looks as though he is going to fall into the abyss, and yet, somehow, he continues to wobble forward. Nothing is easy when trying to transform a country brutalized by three decades of cruel dictatorship. It is one step, one election, one new law, at a time. Each is a struggle. Each is crucial.

This next step is particularly important, which is why we cannot let Afghanistan distract U.S. diplomats from Iraq. Remember: Transform Iraq and it will impact the whole Arab-Muslim world. Change Afghanistan and you just change Afghanistan.

Specifically, the Obama team needs to make sure that Iraq’s bickering politicians neither postpone the next elections, scheduled for January, nor hold them on the basis of the 2005 “closed list” system that is dominated by the party leaders. We must insist, with all our leverage, on an “open list” election, which creates more room for new faces by allowing Iraqis to vote for individual candidates and not just a party. This is what Iraq’s spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, is also demanding. It is a much more accountable system.

If we can get open list voting, the next big step would be the emergence of Iraqi parties in this election running for office on the basis of nonsectarian coalitions — where Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds run together. This would be significant: Iraq is a microcosm of the whole Middle East, and if Iraq’s sects can figure out how to govern themselves — without an iron-fisted dictator — democracy is possible in this whole region.

What is tantalizing is that the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who emerged from the Shiite Dawa Party, has decided to run this time with what he calls “The State of Law Coalition,” a pan-Iraqi, nationalist alliance of some 40 political parties, including Sunni tribal leaders and other minorities.

Mr. Maliki was in Washington last week, and I interviewed him at the Willard Hotel, primarily to ask about his new party. “Iraq cannot be ruled by one color or religion or sect,” he explained. “We clearly saw that sectarianism and ethnic grouping threatened our national unity. Therefore, I believe we should bring all these different colors together and establish Iraq as a country built on rule of law and equity and citizenship. The Iraqi people encouraged us. They want this. Other parties are also organizing themselves like this. No one can run anymore as a purely sectarian bloc. ... Our experiment is very unique in this region.”

That’s for sure. The Iranians want pro-Tehran Shiite parties to dominate Iraq. Also, the Iranian dictatorship hates the idea of “inferior” Iraq holding real elections while Iran limits voting to preselected candidates and then rigs the outcome. Most Arab leaders fear any real multisectarian democracy taking root in the neighborhood.

“The most dangerous thing that would threaten others is that if we really create success in building a democratic state in Iraq,” said Maliki, whose country today now has about 100 newspapers. “The countries whose regimes are built on one party, sect or ethnic group will feel endangered.”

Maliki knows it won’t be easy: “Saddam ruled for more than 35 years,” he said. “We need one or two generations brought up on democracy and human rights to get rid of this orientation.”

If this election comes off, it will still be held with U.S. combat troops on hand. The even bigger prize and test will be four years hence, if Iraq can hold an election in which multiethnic coalitions based on differing ideas of governance — not sectarianism — vie for power, and the reins are passed from one government to another without any U.S. military involvement. That would be the first time in modern Arab history where true multisectarian coalitions contest power, and cede power, without foreign interference. That would shake up the whole region.

Yes, let’s figure out Afghanistan. But let’s not forget that something very important — but so fragile and tentative — is still playing out in Iraq, and we and our allies still need to help bring it to fruition.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #556 on: October 27, 2009, 08:39:16 AM »

The surge is now history.  It, coupled with other events, was effective.  But it is now history.  Water under the bridge.  Irrelevant to the moment.
 
I believe when the USA leaves for good, the civil war will be on like DonkeyKong.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #557 on: October 29, 2009, 09:44:06 AM »

Iraq: A Rebounding Jihad
October 28, 2009
By Scott Stewart

On Oct. 25, militants in Iraq conducted a coordinated attack in which they detonated large vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) at the federal Ministry of Justice building and the Baghdad Provincial Council building nearly simultaneously. The two ministries are located in central Baghdad near the Green Zone and are just over a quarter of a mile apart.

The bomb-laden vehicles were driven by suicide operatives who managed to detonate them in close proximity to the exterior security walls of the targeted buildings. The attack occurred just before 10:30 a.m. on a workday, indicating that it was clearly designed to cause maximum casualties -- which it did. The twin bombing killed more than 150 people and wounded hundreds of others, making it the deadliest attack in Baghdad since the April 18, 2007, attacks against Shiite neighborhoods that killed more than 180 people.

The Oct. 25 attack was very similar in design and target set to an attack on Aug. 19, in which coordinated VBIEDs were detonated at the Iraqi Foreign Ministry and Finance Ministry buildings, along with a string of smaller attacks in other areas of the city. The Foreign Ministry building is located in the same part of Baghdad as the Ministry of Justice and the Baghdad Provincial Council, while the Finance Ministry is located a short distance away and across the river. The Aug. 19 attacks, which also were launched shortly after 10 a.m., killed at least 95 people and wounded hundreds.

On Oct. 26, in a statement posted to the jihadist al-Fallujah Web site, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) claimed responsibility for the attack against the Justice Ministry and Baghdad Provincial Council. The group had also previously claimed responsibility for the Aug. 19 attack against the Foreign and Finance ministries. Judging from the targets chosen and the use of suicide bombers, it is likely that the ISI was indeed responsible for both attacks.

These recent attacks in Baghdad reveal a great deal about the ISI and its capabilities. They also provide a glimpse of what might be in store for Iraq in the run-up to the 2010 national parliamentary and general elections, which are scheduled to be held in January.

The Islamic State of Iraq

The ISI is not a single entity but a coalition of groups that includes al Qaeda's Iraqi franchise. This coalition was formed as a result of a conscious decision by jihadist leaders to put an Iraqi face on jihadist efforts in the country rather than have the movement characterized by foreign leaders such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. This transformation was illustrated by the fact that an Iraqi named Abu Omar al-Baghdadi was named to lead the ISI and that Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the Egyptian leader of al Qaeda in Iraq who succeeded Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, pledged his allegiance to al-Baghdadi and the ISI in November 2006. This change enabled the ISI coalition to build stronger ties to the local Sunni tribal elders and to expand its support network in the Sunni-controlled areas of the country.

This link to the local Sunni leadership backfired when the Awakening Councils composed of Sunni Iraqis -- many of whom were former militants -- helped clamp down on the ISI. Because of this, large suicide attacks are less common then they were at the peak of the insurgency (and of overall violence) in 2007. But the Sunni elders never allowed the ISI to be totally dismantled. They saw the coalition as a useful tool in their negotiations with the Shia and Kurds, to ensure that they got what they saw as their fair share of power.

During the crackdown on the ISI that accompanied the U.S. surge of troops into Iraq, many of the foreign fighters were forced to leave the country and flee to greener pastures (many of them went to Pakistan and Afghanistan). However, the core jihadist operatives associated with ISI who survived and remained in Iraq were both battle-hardened and highly skilled after years of combat against coalition forces. As seen by these recent attacks, the ISI retains a great deal of its capability. It has demonstrated that it is still able to gather intelligence, plan attacks, acquire ordnance, build reliable IEDs and execute spectacular attacks in the center of Baghdad against government ministry buildings.

Tactical Clues
A tactical look at the Oct. 25 attack can tell us a great deal about the state of ISI. Perhaps the most obvious thing that can be ascertained is that ISI appears to have no problem securing large quantities of explosives. The two vehicles used in the attack are reported to have contained approximately 1,500 and 2,200 pounds of high explosives. (The larger of the two vehicles was apparently used to target the Justice Ministry.) The photos and videos of the two attack sites would seem roughly consistent with those estimates. From the damage done, it is obvious that the devices employed in the attack were very large and not merely 50 or 100 pounds of high explosives stuffed in the trunk of a car. The ISI not only needs money to purchase such explosive material (or a facility to produce it), but it also must be able to discreetly transport and store the material. So we are talking about vehicles for moving explosives around, places for caching the material and shops where the VBIEDS can be fabricated without detection.

It is also important to note that the two devices functioned as designed -- they did not malfunction or have a low-order detonation where only a portion of the main charge exploded. Whoever built these two large devices (and the two from the August attack) not only had access to thousands of pounds of high explosives but knew what they were doing. Assembling a large VBIED and getting it to actually function as designed is not as easy as it might seem; it takes a great deal of expertise. And the ISI's various bombmakers have accumulated a wealth of bombmaking experience while constructing IEDs of all sorts -- including a large number of massive VBIEDs -- used in many of the hundreds, if not thousands, of terrorist attacks that the ISI's constituent groups have conducted since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Reports suggest that the devices used in the Oct. 25 attack were hidden in two small passenger buses, and that those buses were new enough to blend into the traffic in the government sector of Baghdad. It appears that the ISI used the buses to get around the greater scrutiny paid to vehicles used in past attacks like cargo and tanker trucks. It will be interesting to see whether the buses can be traced and where the ISI obtained them. Following the attack, small buses will now be placed under heightened scrutiny -- meaning we can anticipate that the group may switch to another type of vehicle for the next round of attacks. (Jihadists in Iraq have used everything from bicycles to ambulances for their VBIEDs.)

We have not seen a final report on how the completed devices got to Baghdad -- whether they were manufactured outside Baghdad and then smuggled through the various security checkpoints, or if they were constructed in Baghdad from explosives smuggled into the city in smaller quantities. There are some Iraqi politicians who are saying that devices of this size could only have passed through security with inside collaboration, and there are certainly some members of the Iraqi security forces who are either sympathetic to the jihadist cause or have been placed into the security forces to act as agents of influence. However, if the explosives were well-hidden in a nice, new passenger bus with proper documentation, or if the explosives were brought into the city in smaller quantities and the VBIEDs were constructed in Baghdad, it is quite possible that the attackers did not require high-level inside assistance to conduct the attack.

Of course, if the ISI did not have high-level inside assistance for this attack, then it means that it possesses a sophisticated network capable of gathering intelligence, planning attacks and acquiring and smuggling large quantities of explosives into the heart of Baghdad without detection -- which is not an inconsequential thing. If the ISI conducted this attack without any significant inside help, the problem is far greater that if it had; regardless of political settlements or purges of the security forces, the network will remain in place. It will be much harder to ferret out if it is external.

The ministry buildings that were attacked were secured by exterior security perimeters that prevented the vehicles carrying the explosive devices from getting right up next to them. However, they were not hardened facilities and did not present a truly hard target for the attackers. The buildings were standard office buildings built during more peaceful times in Iraq and had lots of windows. They were also built in close proximity to the street and did not have the standoff distance required to provide protection against a large VBIED. Standoff distance had been provided for these buildings previously when the streets around them were closed to traffic, but the streets were opened up a few months back by the Iraqi government as a sign that things were returning to normal in Baghdad. In past VBIED attacks in Baghdad, the ISI was forced to attack soft targets or targets on the perimeter of secure zones. The opening of many streets to traffic in 2009 has expanded the group's targeting possibilities -- especially if it can use large devices to overcome the limited protection that short standoff distance affords at targets like those recently struck.

Hardened construction, protective window film, and perimeter walls and barricades are useful, and such measures can be effective in protecting a facility against a small IED. They also certainly saved lives on Oct. 25 by not allowing the VBIEDs to pull up right next to the facilities, where they could have caused more direct structural damage and killed more people inside the buildings. (It appears that many of those killed were commuters on the street.) However, distance is the most critical thing that protects a facility against an attack with a very large VBIED, and the ministry buildings attacked by the ISI on Oct. 25 lacked sufficient standoff distance to protect them from 1,500- and 2,200-pound VBIEDs.

In practical terms, there are very few capital cities anywhere in the world that provide the space for effective standoff distance for their ministry-level buildings. Even in Washington, streets had to be closed to traffic around buildings like the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon to provide adequate standoff. There is often a great deal of tension between city officials who desire a smooth flow of traffic and security officials attempting to guard facilities against attack.

Following the Oct. 25 attacks, the Iraqi government has increased security around government facilities (as it did after the Aug. 19 attack), but the steps taken are mainly just short-term security measures that tend to gloss over the larger long-term problem of balancing security with feelings of normalcy in Baghdad and throughout Iraq.

Implications
Since August, the ISI has attacked the Iraqi Finance Ministry, Foreign Ministry and Justice Ministry and the Baghdad Provincial Council, and these attacks are being used to send a number of signals.

First, the jihadists in the ISI are attempting to split the existing power-sharing agreement in Baghdad. If the Sunni, Shia and Kurds can reach a final understanding, the jihadists lose their value as a bargaining lever for the Sunni elders and will rapidly lose their operational space (and likely their lives). Second, if the Sunni, Shia and Kurds can form a stable government, the jihadists lose all hope of forming their aspired-for caliphate in Iraq. The ISI needs chaos in Iraq to have any hope of stepping into power like the Taliban did in Afghanistan.

The local Sunni leaders likely are providing at least some level of support to the ISI -- or, at the very least, they are turning a blind eye to the various ISI activities that are almost certainly based out of Sunni-controlled areas. The Sunni sheikhs are using the ISI to send a message to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that the Sunnis must be accommodated if there is to be real peace and stability in Iraq. One sticking point for the Sunni elders is that a large percentage of the Awakening Council members have not been integrated into the security forces as promised. Of course, the Shia and Kurds then use these attacks as an excuse for why the Sunnis cannot be trusted -- and it all becomes a vicious circle.

The political situation that is driving the security problems in Iraq is complex and cannot be easily resolved. There are many internal and external players who are all trying to influence the final outcome in Iraq for their own benefit. In addition to the internal squabbles over power and oil wealth, Iraq is also a proxy battleground where the United States and Iran are attempting to maintain and assert influence. Regional players like the Saudis, Syrians and Turks also will take a keen interest in the elections and will certainly attempt to influence them to whatever degree they can. The end result of all this meddling is that peace and stability will be hard to obtain.

This means that terrorist attacks likely will continue for the foreseeable future, including attacks by the ISI. If the attacks in August and October are any indication, the remainder of the run-up to the January elections could prove quite bloody.

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #558 on: November 10, 2009, 04:29:07 AM »

By GINA CHON

KIRKUK, Iraq -- Arab and Kurdish military commanders here are making efforts at cooperation despite their bitter political differences -- a surprising development that offers some hope that one of Iraq's most difficult ethnic divides may be narrowing.


U.S. Army Lt. Col. Terry Cook, left, discusses security issues with peshmerga commander Brig. Gen. Sherko Fatah Namik at his headquarters in Kirkuk. Above hangs a portrait of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd.
Cook
Cook

Kurdish and Arab politicians in Iraq have clashed over contested land, petroleum legislation and a draft constitution that the Kurdish semiautonomous enclave is pushing. Most recently, the two sides squabbled for weeks in Parliament over an election law governing next year's parliamentary polls. Lawmakers finally passed the legislation on Sunday.

Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, has said Arab-Kurd tensions are the country's biggest security threat. But over the past six months, in parts of Iraq's north, American commanders have brokered a quiet, if uneasy, détente between the two sides' military forces. Officers from Iraq's mostly Arab national army have started working with counterparts from the Kurdish regional government's armed militia, the peshmerga.
More

    * WSJ.com/Mideast: News, video, graphics

American military officers in Kirkuk have persuaded Arab and Kurdish commanders to cooperate partly by emphasizing what it means to be a professional soldier, which is not being involved in politics. They tell them that the problems between Kurdish and Arab politicians in Baghdad, and between the Kurdish regional and Iraqi governments, need to be solved by the politicians -- that their job as soldiers is to take care of security.

When the Iraqi army's 12th Division, led by a former commander under Saddam Hussein, showed up in Kirkuk last year, Kurdish peshmerga commander Brig. Gen. Sherko Fatah Namik was ready for a fight. "If the Iraqi army comes here, I will kill them all," Gen. Namik told his American counterparts then.

These days, at twice-monthly meetings on a U.S. outpost, Gen. Namik's men, Iraqi army officers and U.S. officials coordinate security and talk out problems, participants from both sides say.

Gen. Namik isn't immune to the political debate. He often tells American commanders there needs to be a referendum on the status of Kirkuk, which he says will prove the city belongs to the Kurdish region. How voting will be held in Kirkuk, which is claimed by Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen, had been the key hurdle holding up the election law.  Still, Gen. Namik and Maj. Gen. Abdul Ameer of the Iraqi army -- the former commander under the Hussein regime -- have hammered out a joint-patrol plan for Kirkuk province, in which the U.S. military may play referee, though many Arab and Turkmen tribal and local government leaders oppose the plan. Such patrols for disputed Arab-Kurd areas were floated earlier this year by Gen. Odierno.

Cooperation between the two militaries is incremental but it has eased friction among security-service officials on both sides. There has been a surge in big bombing attacks across the region this year, even as overall violence in much of the rest of Iraq has eased. The peshmerga's contribution in northern Kirkuk province leaves Gen. Ameer free to focus on tamping down violence in the province's south.

Gen. Ameer initially opposed the peshmerga's presence in Kirkuk, saying they belonged in the Kurdish region, until he began meeting with Kurdish commanders, with the help of the U.S. military.

U.S. commanders also have proposed joint patrols in Gaware, an ethnically mixed rural area in Iraq's northern Ninewa province. Currently, peshmerga and Iraqi security forces staff their own checkpoints along a key route there, operated separately on opposite sides of the road. They don't coordinate their patrols, leaving big swaths of territory unguarded, U.S. commanders say.  The cooperation hasn't been easy, requiring U.S. troops to play arbitrator, grievance counselor and devil's advocate. Recently, American officers worked to rein in the Kurdish intelligence agency, known as the Asayeesh. U.S. commanders told the Kurds the agency can't conduct offensive operations. That's the job of the Iraqi army or police, they argued.

Both sides say the new relationship would have been impossible without a strong push from the Americans. That has raised worry about whether it will endure once U.S. forces start to draw down as planned next year.
[Iraq map]

Gen. Namik joined the peshmerga in 1985, at age 16, to fight Mr. Hussein's oppressive regime. A year later, the central government launched a campaign of oppression in the north, killing at least 150,000 Kurds and displacing hundreds of thousands. After Baghdad's military defeat in the Gulf War, the Kurdish region was given semiautonomy in 1991.  When the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, Gen. Namik joined American forces as they entered Kirkuk that April. He has been based in the province since. In 2008, Baghdad sent in the Iraqi 12th Army division, headed by Gen. Ameer.

After several near-clashes, the U.S. military convinced peshmerga and Iraqi army commanders to sit down together at a lunch in March. The Iraqi army and local police, which are ethnically mixed but led by a Kurd, started to coordinate raids against insurgents in May.

In June, representatives from the Kurdish and Iraqi security forces began working together at a U.S. base in Kirkuk, exchanging intelligence and coordinating security efforts. "Gen. Ameer and I are friends," Gen. Namik says. "I've told him the Kirkuk issue is bigger than us and can't be solved by us. We're soldiers and we have to take care of security for all Iraqis."

Gen. Ameer said communication has been key to understanding each other because their efforts are now coordinated.  Iraqi Ministry of Defense spokesman Mohammed al-Askari says the government supports cooperation between the Iraqi army and the peshmerga. Joint patrols involving the Iraqi army, peshmerga and U.S. forces in disputed areas of northern Iraq may start before the end of this year.

Write to Gina Chon at gina.chon@wsj.com
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« Reply #559 on: November 12, 2009, 07:46:16 PM »

Our man in Iraq is no longer there, but here are some letters from some of the Iraqi men from whom he worked.  For reasons of OPSEC, no fotos:

Some goodbye correspondence I felt like sharing.  I think it's important for you folks to see Iraqis as I have found many of them to be.  Many, if not most, have a great goodness in their hearts.  That is how I will remember them when I leave.  They can do some stupid, dumb mierda but I have met many who have good hearts.  I had to talk Headar out of giving me his Iraq national soccer team jersey yesterday.  Can you imagine how precious a memory that is to him?  Yet he wanted to give it to me.
 
---------
 
I am at a loss of words as am writing this mail with sadness for your leaving the JALEA. I was fortunate to work with a great advisor like you and you added a huge experience to my career, I admired your knowledge and courage from the first moment I worked with you. And I would like to thank you so much for supporting me in many occasions.

 

You will be impossible to replace.

 

I hope all the best to you in your future endeavors.

 

I would be glad if you contact me at me personal e mail: xxxxxx

 

My best wishes to you and to your family.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

---------     ----------     --------

 

Hi,

Actually, I don't know how to start to express my gratefulness and appreciation for helping my country and people to rise them up especially in the Judicial Security Sector, which is the most significant element of the Power. In addition, the great efforts and time had been assigned for behalf of our country, by putting your life under risk and terrible circumstances, and leaving your family. So I would like to convey my thanks instead of the Iraqi people and wishing you all the goodness and luck in your life.

 

And I want to thank your family, and friends for their sustaining and encouraging for being away for a year

 

Greatly appreciation to stand beside Iraqi employees and try to get the best for them

 

I hope we can keep in contact: xxxx

 

 

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« Reply #560 on: November 20, 2009, 07:04:44 AM »

Iraq - The United States' Other War
MOST NEWS IN THE UNITED STATES that touches the realm of foreign affairs these days focuses obsessively on what U.S. President Barack Obama is going to do about Afghanistan, but on Wednesday, there were a number of reminders that the war in Iraq remains unsettled. Elections that will be a critical test for the Iraqi government were once again thrown into question when the country’s Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, vetoed an election law that was cobbled together and passed by the parliament. One major problem with the law, according to al-Hashemi, was that it didn’t provide enough seats in government for refugees who have fled Iraq — many if not most of whom are Sunnis.

The law will now return to the parliament, where members will attempt to hash out yet another compromise. Despite government assurances that elections will take place as scheduled on Jan. 21, it is increasingly likely that the vote will be delayed for several weeks, if not months. The problem is that no political reconciliation is going to be possible in the short term: Elections require an election law; an election law requires a power-sharing deal; and a power-sharing deal requires a belief by all parties that their interests can be served. Yet, the Iraqi parliament is a reflection of the ethnosectarian divisions that characterize the country — and it’s not just a three-way split between Sunnis, Shia and Kurds. There are also major disagreements within the three factions. Getting to the current political agreement was an enormous battle, and finding a way to get the parliament to satisfy Sunni demands undoubtedly will involve another long, drawn-out battle.

“The Iraqi parliament is a reflection of the ethnosectarian divisions that characterize the country — and it’s not just a three-way split between Sunnis, Shia and Kurds.”
Not only are the Sunnis uncomfortable with the agreement that has been hammered out, but it has become apparent that the Kurds of northern Iraq are also gathering steam to say that they aren’t getting the representation they want. With Sunnis and Kurds each in the minority, both groups have every incentive to use their considerable political leverage to cry foul on what they consider the tyranny of the majority Shiite coalition. In the meantime, the Iraqi election commission has said it is not making any preparations for the elections because it simply doesn’t know what the timeline will be.

The shaky political situation also impacts the U.S. military withdrawal effort. There have been signs that violence is on the upswing, and this renewed challenge to political stability – in the form of a law forged through arduous negotiation — is not a positive sign.

The U.S. surge in Iraq was not about using force to impose a military reality — it was about breaking the cycle of violence in order to set some foundations upon which political reconciliation might be built. Central to its success was the accommodation reached between U.S. forces in Anbar province and the Sunni tribal leaders – an accommodation that took place even before the surge began. Those Sunnis broke with al Qaeda and other foreign jihadist elements in the hopes of integrating into the country’s formal security forces and the federal political process. But the Shia in Baghdad have continued to drag their feet on a political solution, and there are signs that Sunni support for al Qaeda and the Baath party is resurging — no doubt partly as a result of the political turmoil.

Seeking to downplay concerns about the weakening political environment, the U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, said Wednesday that a delay for elections would be no challenge to Obama’s promise to withdraw “most” troops from Iraq by Aug. 31, 2010, since the U.S. military can wait until spring to adjust and readjust as necessary. In making this statement, Odierno effectively told the Iraqi parliament that they have until spring to figure out some sort of political solution.

But it not clear that a political solution will be forthcoming, or when — and in the meantime, the security situation likely will get steadily worse. So far, the Sunni insurgency that prompted the U.S. surge has remained quiet; the Sunnis have waited to see if the political solution would work its magic. As the date for elections draws closer, however, the chance that this faction could revive its violent activities grows.

Meanwhile, back in the United States, Obama’s administration has set about putting the Iraq war behind it, while focusing on finding a solution to the war in Afghanistan. The ability to do so was based on the continued stability of Iraq, achieved through the surge. However, the sustainability of the gains from the surge in Iraq — in terms of political consolidation and breaking the cycle of violence — is fragile and questionable. Delays in these critical elections are a reminder that the situation is far from settled.
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« Reply #561 on: December 08, 2009, 08:55:19 AM »

"Our man in Iraq" is back home in America, but today he writes:

"One of the bombs today targeted the new location that the Iraqi HJC (Higher Judiciary Council) guys I used to work and coordinate with moved to (the old "Karkh Appellate courthouse").  That is where they moved much of the judicial operations to after the October bomb destroyed the Ministry of Justice building. Several of those guys did not survive the blast.  One of them was a guy named Ahmad Diaa who I probably liked more than any other Iraqi I met over there.
 
"It is a very sad day for me."
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« Reply #562 on: December 08, 2009, 10:06:29 AM »

I posted about Ahmad Diaa in the Rest in Peace thread with some comments about his courage against Islamic Fascism and the comments of so many other ordinary Iraqi Muslims.

My friend then said:

"Most of the Muslims I met over there could have cared less about a caliphate.  Extremist Islam was not their thing.  Many did not even go to mosque on Friday.  They are Muslim like I am Catholic.  That is their religious identification, as Catholic is mine. They have their cultural values that comport with Islamic principles but a desire to impose their view of the world on others?  Absolutely not.

"But those wielding weapons and planting bombs command attention and "respect.". They dominate moderates who are by definition moderate.

"I blame al Maliki for his insistence on tearing down T-walls and opening up the Iraqi people once again to be bled out by Jihadists and other anti-government insurgents. T-walls and tight checkpoints gave the Iraqi people some breathing room over the past few years, and he is throwing all caution to the wind."
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« Reply #563 on: December 10, 2009, 10:26:44 AM »

Summary
Kurdish Regional Government President Massoud Barzani has announced his intention to establish a unified Kurdish army in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region. Combining Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan forces will not be an easy task, but Iraq’s Kurdish leaders have a strategic imperative to band together in dealing with their Arab rivals in the Iraqi central government. The Kurdish proposal signals a potential revival of militia building in Iraq, which carries significant implications for the U.S. exit strategy.

Analysis
As sectarian tensions flare ahead of Iraq’s parliamentary elections in early 2010, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in the north has announced plans to build its own army. KRG President Massoud Barzani said Nov. 22 that he intends to establish a unified Kurdish army in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region by outlawing the areas’ private militias (peshmerga) and bringing them under the direct jurisdiction of the Ministry of Peshmerga. The KRG leaders hope this initiative will mend a political rift within Iraqi Kurdistan and give the KRG more strength in battling its Arab rivals in Iraq’s central government.





(Click here to read a STRATFOR translation of the proposed law taken from the Kurdistan National Assembly’s Web site)
Iraq’s Kurds inhabit a mountainous region in the country’s north. While this terrain has protected them from foreign invasion, it has also nurtured deep-seated tribal rivalries. These rivalries are so strong that Kurds have often sided with a common enemy (like Iran, Turkey or Baathist Iraq) to undermine each other. However, in 2003, rivals Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) put aside their differences and formed a unified regional government to represent Kurdish interests in Iraq’s post-Saddam Hussein government. The alliance has remained intact through a series of formal agreements that have roughly divided power between the parties.

Barzani is hoping the creation of a unified army will consolidate the KDP and PUK and insure the integrity of their alliance. Barzani saw the alliance threatened most recently in July, in the Kurdish provincial election, with the rise of the Goran (“Change”) party. Goran — which campaigned on an anti-corruption, reformist platform — did particularly well in the PUK’s stronghold in Iraqi Kurdistan’s east, claiming 25 parliamentary seats and winning nearly a quarter of the popular vote.

The erosion of PUK’s power has become obvious. Already Jalal Talabani, head of the PUK, has acquiesced to several KDP demands. For example, the KDP has held the KRG’s premiership since 2005 when, according to the KDP-PUK agreement, it should have relinquished control of the post in 2007. However, the KDP does not want to see the PUK deteriorate any further. The KDP is aware of the PUK’s fragile unity, especially following the political turmoil the PUK experienced in the past year, and is concerned that any further weakening will exacerbate existing fissures and splinter the group. Barzani is loath to see a political vacuum develop in the north — especially one that might be filled by Goran, whose demands for a more transparent government and the establishment of the rule of law directly challenge the delicate power balance between the KDP and PUK.

Barzani’s bid to consolidate peshmerga forces is also a direct response to the Kurds’ uncertain relationship with its neighbors. The KRG’s relationship with Baghdad has deteriorated significantly in recent months. As the presence of U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq diminishes, and as the country readies itself for its second post-Hussein parliamentary elections early next year, the nation’s ethno-sectarian tensions have started bubbling to the surface again. In November, Barzani announced that the Kurds will boycott the upcoming election unless the election laws are amended to increase Kurdish representation in the national parliament. Furthermore, Iraq’s upcoming round of oil auctions has reignited the debate over the distribution of oil revenues from Iraq’s northern fields (the Iraqi central government’s November statement that it would not honor oil contracts signed by the KRG is an example of the strife over oil revenues).

Not only is Baghdad working to contain Iraqi Kurdistan’s economic gains, it also does not want to see the region gain influence in security issues. Starting in 2005, Iraq’s central government, with a strong push from the United States, half-heartedly announced several steps to heal the country’s ethno-sectarian wounds by integrating Kurdish and Sunni militias into the Shiite-dominated army and police force. The plan, however, has not been fully realized. Kurds currently compose 7.2 percent of the Iraqi army, well below the 18-20 percent mandated by the country’s constitution. Nearly 200,000 peshmerga have yet to be integrated into the Iraqi army. Furthermore, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s announcement in November that he would prioritize reconstruction over security could provide him the cover to impede the integration of Kurdish and Sunni forces into the country’s military and maintain the Shiite’s dominance of the army. Baghdad has also dragged its feet on its promise to create two Kurdish brigades in the KRG and recently shut down two military colleges located in the Zakho and Qalachwalan districts in the Kurdistan region.

The slow progress is in no small part due to the Shiite-dominated government’s reluctance to share its security responsibilities with its ethno-sectarian rivals, but the Kurdish leadership is just as wary of relinquishing control of its entire security apparatus to the central government. The KDP and PUK each control about 100,000 peshmerga. Iraq’s army currently numbers just under 260,000 soldiers. If the PUK and KDP can work out their internal differences to create an umbrella group, the Kurds will be able to better resist their Arab rivals in Baghdad, not to mention the Kurds’ array of external rivals in Turkey, Iran and Syria.

While the idea for a unified Kurdish army came from the KDP, the PUK will control the Ministry of Peshmerga — an indication that the plan enjoys at least some high-level support from both parties. However, implementing the plan will be difficult. The KDP and the PUK each control their own police, security and intelligence peshmerga, and it is uncertain how effectively the Ministry of Peshmerga can streamline its operations and overcome substantial issues of distrust. Also, the KRG, which is running a budget deficit of more than $500,000,000 according to some reports, will be hard-pressed to find funding for this plan: The estimated cost of funding a Kurdish army is more than $100 million a month. The KRG’s prime minister and Iraq’s finance minister met Dec. 8 to discuss a host of financial issues, but given the tensions between the KRG and the Iraqi central government, Baghdad is not likely to be willing to bail out the KRG.

The KRG’s proposal that would legalize the plan for a unified army notably specifies that this force will “defend Kurdistan and protect the security of Kurdistan-Iraq, its soil, and the Kurdish people and law.” In previous bills, the KRG has referred to its jurisdiction as “Iraqi Kurdistan.” The shift to “Kurdistan-Iraq” signifies that the Kurds’ ambitions have become more nationalistic. This type of rhetoric is bound to worry Baghdad as well as Turkey, Iran and Syria, all of whom have significant Kurdish populations.

With ethno-sectarian tensions reaching a fever pitch, Iraq’s rival factions can be expected to rely more heavily on their traditional insurance policy: private militias. As the Shiite-dominated government continues to block the integration of its rivals into the security apparatus, the Kurds are unifying their peshmerga while many of Iraq’s Sunnis continue to use the threat of an insurgency as leverage in getting their demands met. Should Iraq witness a resurgence of private militias amidst rising ethno-sectarian tensions, the U.S. exit strategy for Iraq could face serious complications.
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« Reply #564 on: December 16, 2009, 09:29:49 AM »

Oilman Bush went into Iraq for the oil!  Here's proof!

====================

Iraq's oil auction hits the jackpot

Russia and China were the big winners in the latest auction of Iraq's oil rights, as was the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki; United States companies were conspicuous by their absence. If the oil starts to flow as now promised, the next few years should see the rise of a relatively wealthy, Shi'ite-controlled Iraq, friendly with Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah. Does this make Maliki the new Saddam Hussein? - Pepe Escobar (Dec 15, '09)

 
Surprises aplenty in  selloff
The impression that the West would renew its dominance of the Iraqi oil extraction industry has been shattered with the latest auction of oil rights, with Russia's Lukoil leading the winning bids. Other successful parties include interests from as far afield as Malaysia and Angola. - Robert M Cutler (Dec 15, '09)
 
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« Reply #565 on: January 08, 2010, 09:54:17 AM »

forwards me this:

Deadly blasts underscore tenuous security in Iraq's Anbar province

By Leila Fadel and Michael Hastings
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, January 8, 2010; A10

BAGHDAD -- Five explosions that targeted mostly law enforcement officials ripped through a city in Iraq's Anbar province Thursday, killing at least eight people and underscoring fears that the region's fragile security is deteriorating.

The homemade bombs struck the homes of the deputy police chief, two counterterrorism police officials and a lawyer in the small city of Hit, about 120 miles west of Baghdad, and injured at least 10. The attacks occurred one week after twin explosions killed at least 24 people in Anbar and ripped off the hand of provincial Gov. Qassim Mohammed Fahdawi. They also follow a series of about 40 assassination attempts in the province that have primarily targeted politicians, police officers, tribal chiefs and religious figures.

Anbar was considered an American model of success after Sunni tribal leaders and U.S. forces struck a deal to rein in insurgents in a place once known as a militant heartland. As American troops begin to withdraw from Iraq, the number of U.S. military enclaves in the western province has shrunk from 35 last year to five at present, and by August only three outposts will remain. American forces are largely confined to their base in Ramadi and no longer regularly accompany Iraqi security forces on operations.

Of late, a widespread and complicated power struggle has roiled the province, with elections scheduled for early March and multiple factions trying to assert control over the area, which makes up about one-third of Iraq.

Those forces include the newly elected provincial government, the central government in Baghdad and the traditional tribal leadership. At the same time, insurgents groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq have used the turmoil to reassert themselves.

After last week's bombings, police chief Tariq al-Assal -- widely viewed as ineffective -- was forced out and replaced with a temporary commander from the Iraqi army in Baghdad. Bahaa al-Azzawi was appointed directly by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, angering tribal chiefs, who saw the move as an affront to their power as well as that of the Sahwa fighters, members of the resistance who allied themselves with the U.S. military to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq but now feel abandoned by the government.

"If this weak government still exists after the election, we anticipate a disaster will happen in Anbar," said Sheik Mohammed Albuthaab, who leads an influential Anbar tribe but was left out of the consultations about the new police chief. "The provincial council spends its time traveling abroad to Turkey, Syria and Jordan, not living here."

It is unclear how long Azzawi will hold this post. The provincial council said it will select a permanent commander but did not specify when.

Assal, who had served as the head of Anbar police for two years, accused members of the provincial council of interfering in police matters, which he said led to the recent security lapses.

"Maybe the situation will be better now," he said in an interview. "How the government interferes with security is unacceptable."

Assal charged that last week's dual bombings were made easier because the 29 provincial council members have their own security details and convoys, which he said were not subject to his authority and could be easily infiltrated by insurgent groups.

He said he had urged Fahdawi, the governor, not to visit the scene of a car bombing last week outside the Anbar police headquarters in Ramadi. When the governor did arrive, with an entourage of bodyguards and vehicles, a man wearing a police uniform was able to sneak through the perimeter and blow himself up, injuring Fahdawi and killing a provincial council member, among others.

"The governor was playing Sherlock Holmes," Assal said. "How can I protect them when they don't follow my advice?"

Tribal leaders blamed Assal for the security lapses, saying that he was more interested in bringing investment to the province, not in security, and that the police were corrupt and the provincial government too weak to deal with al-Qaeda in Iraq.
"We don't need a jury system, we don't need a judge. The tribes will implement the punishments ourselves," Albuthaab said. "I would execute them all by my own hands. Anyone who is killing people deserves to be executed."

He said members of al-Qaeda in Iraq have been released from local prisons after the U.S. military turned them over to Iraqi authorities as part of the withdrawal agreement, an assertion supported by some Iraqi officials. Many of those former inmates have gone on to engage in attacks, Albuthaab said.

Despite the turmoil, all the parties want the Americans to stick to the pullout timetable.

Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, said that although the violence has caused him some concern, the "security situation in Anbar isn't crumbling."

Hastings is a special correspondent. Special correspondents Aziz Alwan and Uthman al-Mokhtar contributed to this report.
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« Reply #566 on: January 09, 2010, 09:19:33 AM »


Across Divide in Iraq, a Sunni Courts Shiites
By ANTHONY SHADID
Published: January 8, 2010
RAMADI, Iraq — In the unforgiving badlands of western Iraq’s Anbar Province, once a cradle of the insurgency and now a muddled landscape of corruption, simmering strife and spirited electoral campaigning, no one seems ready to pardon Hamid al-Hais.

“I always take the path that poses the most obstacles. I always go where no one else dares to go,” said Sheik Hamid al-Hais.
Mr. Hais is a sheik, a title that conveys his tribal pedigree. But that title is too facile in describing one of the more complicated figures in Iraq today. He is also a veteran of the American-backed war against insurgents, a Sunni Muslim politician, and now, in his most recent incarnation, an unlikely confederate of the Iraqi National Alliance, the Shiite Muslim standard-bearer in elections in March for a new Parliament.

A bid for national unity, Mr. Hais calls his foray across Iraq’s entrenched sectarian divide. Many of his neighbors do not see it that way. A traitor to his sect, a stooge of neighboring Iran’s Shiite government, and a rank opportunist, they say.

In his bid for office, Mr. Hais is a bit player in the larger drama of Iraq’s March 7 elections, which United States officials hope will help bridge divisions in the country as the military withdraws its combat troops by August. But in Mr. Hais’s quixotic trek, there is a warning that the elections may just as easily deepen the cleavages — tribal, ethnic and sectarian — that still threaten Iraq’s stability nearly seven years after the American-led invasion.

NOWHERE is that warning more stark than in Anbar, once a showcase of American success in quelling the insurgency. It is now an increasingly unsettled terrain beset by suicide attacks, bombings and assassinations that prompted a Sunni leader to declare that working as a politician here qualifies as the most dangerous job in Iraq.

“I always take the path that poses the most obstacles,” Mr. Hais said, scoffing at the risk, as he took the wheel of his white sport utility vehicle and careened through back roads of countryside he considers his. “I always go where no one else dares to go.”

He quoted a song by Um Kalthoum, the Egyptian diva. “A confident man walks like a king,” he declared.

With hands like a spatula, and girth that rivals his height, Mr. Hais struck an imposing figure as he campaigned along the irrigated farms and groves of date palms outside the provincial capital of Ramadi, populated by families that belong to his tribe of Albu Diyab. Tribal loyalties still run deep in Anbar, and Mr. Hais suggested that they would trump any misgivings his constituency might have over his alliance with Shiite parties that many Sunnis blame for some of the worst sectarian bloodletting in 2006 and 2007.

“I can’t say all of them, but my feeling?” he asked. “They’ll follow me.”

Mr. Hais, 42, still evokes his youthful days as a ne’er-do-well.

In his car, he played loudly a frenetic strain of Arabic pop and, in jest, swerved toward a neighbor riding a bicycle. (The neighbor frowned.) On the trail, he walked with the swagger that a 9-millimeter Beretta in his leather holster brings. Most of his sentences seemed to end in an exclamation point.

“Listen to me!” the married Mr. Hais barked into the phone at his girlfriend.

He hung up, shaking his head. “She’s driving me crazy,” he said.

But beneath the bluster is a compelling argument for an Iraqi identity that transcends sect and allows a man like Mr. Hais, a sheik from Iraq’s most ardently Sunni region, to join hands with parties led by some of the most dogmatic Shiite clergy.

“We’re actually working against sectarianism on the ground, not just through the beautiful words of our speeches,” he said. “The interests of our country require it.”

So far, his words and actions have prompted more outrage than reconsideration. Many in Anbar remain angry about a weeklong trip that Mr. Hais took in June to Iran, a country many Sunnis believe dominates the current government and poses a greater threat to Iraq’s interests than the United States. Since then, some neighbors have taken to calling Mr. Hais’s villa, along the Euphrates, “the Iranian house” or “Khomeini’s house.”

“Absolutely, he’s carrying out an Iranian agenda — without a doubt,” said Dhari al-Hadi, an adviser to Anbar’s governor and deputy of Ahmed Abu Risha, a leading tribal figure in the province. “You wouldn’t find anyone in Anbar who would dare go to Iran.”

MR. HAIS’S Shiite allies at times seem baffled by him, in an Iraqi version of culture shock. They respect his credentials in leading the fight against insurgents and feel confident he can win over enough of his tribe to capture a seat or two. But they are often taken aback by his freewheeling comments in the alliance’s meetings. At various times, he has promised to open bars in Ramadi, stop veiled women from entering Anbar University, break the legs of rival candidates and pursue Baathists in nightclubs in Syria.

“Crazy,” a Shiite colleague said on condition of anonymity, fearful of provoking him. “Then again, if you call someone crazy in Anbar, they consider it a compliment.”

For his part, Mr. Hais finds his new colleagues too reticent.

“They’re always calculating before they say a single word,” he complained.

Lately, though, Mr. Hais seems just as bewildered by his fellow Sunnis.

On a crisp winter day this week, he made his way to the Nineveh Elementary School for Girls in a hardscrabble neighborhood of Ramadi. Teachers there unleashed a torrent of complaints: trash-strewn streets, a lack of money for schools, and drinking water that mixed with sewage and, at times, blood running off from butcher shops.

Mr. Hais listened, slipped the principal an envelope with $1,000, then urged the teachers to organize demonstrations. “It’s up to you to change the reality,” he insisted.

Before long, a former army officer spoke up. “I want to speak frankly,” he said. “We hoped you wouldn’t abandon your province and join the alliance.” Others nodded. “We don’t want Shiites coming into Ramadi,” a woman shouted. “We don’t want Shiite places of worship here.”

More criticism ensued. “We need someone like Saddam Hussein,” a woman cried.

“Someone who will get you into a war and make you all widows?” Mr. Hais asked, with a grimace that suggested he might want his money back.

“At least we’re fighting Iranians and defending our country,” she answered.

An hour later, the meeting ended uneasily. “They’re worn out,” Mr. Hais said, in explanation. But the anger seemed to run deeper, be more intractable.

“He’s a son of Ramadi,” one of the teachers said. “We respect him in that way.”

“But,” she added, “he’s made a mistake.”
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« Reply #567 on: January 25, 2010, 10:13:47 PM »

Chemical Ali meets the noose. An overview of his crimes:


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« Reply #568 on: January 26, 2010, 08:31:43 AM »

Without notice, our ongoing exit from Iraq coincides with a deteriorating situation.  It would appear that without notice our CinC is throwing away pretty much everything that was accomplished there.

Marc
============================================

Yesterday it was three hotels. Today it was the Iraqi forensics operation. Yet I still read pundits who state that AQI/the insurgency is demolished.

Get a grip:

Blast at Baghdad crime lab kills 18
Dozens injured as bomber drives pickup truck through police checkpoint
The Associated Press
updated 6:29 a.m. ET, Tues., Jan. 26, 2010

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A suicide car bomber killed at least 18 and injured dozens more Tuesday in a strike against a police crime lab in central Baghdad, a day after several hotels were hit by suicide attacks, officials said.

Rescue crews are still combing through the rubble looking for casualties. Officials say the majority of those killed were likely police officers who worked in the forensic investigation office at Tahariyat Square in the central neighborhood of Karradah. At least 82 people were reported injured.

This week's bombings — all against prominent and heavily fortified targets — dealt yet another blow to the image of an Iraqi government struggling to answer for security lapses that have allowed bombers to carry out a number of massive attacks in the heart of the capital since August.

Police and hospital officials said the bomber in Tuesday's attack tried to drive a pickup truck through a checkpoint and blast walls protecting the forensic evidence office.
Among those confirmed killed were 12 police officers and six civilians who were visiting the office. Officials said more than half the wounded were police.
Shortly after the bombing, rescue teams in blue jumpsuits combed through the debris of the partially damaged three-story building as a crane removed some of the 10-foot, 7-ton blast walls toppled by the blast.

The office targeted in the attack mainly deals with data collected during criminal investigations, including fingerprints and other pieces of evidence. The office is located next to the Interior Ministry's major crimes office, which deals with terrorism cases.

Government offices have been frequent targets of major attacks in the capital since blasts struck the foreign and finance ministries in August, raising questions about the ability of Iraqi security forces to keep the country safe. While the criminal evidence offices have not been targeted by a major suicide bombing before, attackers have struck nearby.

Shops, restaurants damaged
The attack destroyed rooms on the ground floor of the building and damaged parts of the second floor, raising fears the number of casualties could grow, a police officer on the scene said.

The site is surrounded by low-rise buildings that contain shops, restaurants and offices that were also damaged.

Tuesday's attack comes one day after a series of bombings targeting hotels favored by Westerners.

The toll from those blasts continued to rise, with 41 people confirmed killed and up to 106 reported injured, police and health officials said Tuesday.
The bombings Monday targeted the Sheraton Ishtar Hotel, Babylon Hotel and Hamra Hotel, which are popular with Western journalists and foreign security contractors.
All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release details.

'Senseless crimes'
U.S. Ambassador Christopher R. Hill issued a statement Tuesday strongly condemning the attacks against the hotels.
"The terrorists who committed these senseless crimes aim to sow fear among the Iraqi people," he said. "We call upon all Iraqis to unite in combating all forms of violence and attempts at intimidation."

Also on Tuesday, Ahmed Fadhil Hassan al-Majid, the nephew of the man known as Chemical Ali arrived in Baghdad to collect the body of Saddam Hussein's cousin and close deputy who was hanged Monday.

A grave was dug for Ali Hassan al-Majid near his hometown of Tikrit next to Saddam's two sons and grandson.

© 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35072893/ns/world_news-mideastn_africa/
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« Reply #569 on: February 20, 2010, 07:24:13 PM »



http://davidbellavia.com/2010/our-mission-is-finally-accomplished-anyone-care/
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« Reply #570 on: February 21, 2010, 06:35:08 AM »

BO's strategy begins to bear its fruit:

==============

Kurdish news website Hawlati and Iraqi news site Aswat al Iraq reported Feb. 20, citing a security source, that Iranian forces have made an incursion in Iraq’s Diyala province north of Baghdad. The alleged incursion reportedly occurred near the Munzrya border crossing. According to the report, Iranian forces were seen removing concrete barriers that mark the border demarcation between the two countries. Iraqi border security officials have reportedly sent a memorandum to their superiors in Baghdad explaining the incident and are awaiting their response. STRATFOR is working to verify this report. The last major Iranian provocation in Iraq occurred in late Dec. 2009 when Iranian forces briefly occupied an oil well in Iraq’s southern Missan province. These moves are designed to signal Iran’s dominance over Baghdad and warn the United States of the consequences of carrying out military strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities. As tensions escalate over the Iranian nuclear program, such provocations will likely become more frequent, particularly in the lead-up to contentious parliamentary elections in Iraq on March 7. Iran has already demonstrated through its Shiite political allies in Baghdad that it has the upper hand in this election, as well as the means to destabilize Iraq and ensure that Iraq’s Sunni faction remains sidelined.
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« Reply #571 on: February 21, 2010, 11:14:35 AM »

It is easier to see why our military wants no part in provoking Iran when one looks at the map.
We have our troops to the west in Iraq and our troops to the east of Iran in Afghanistan.

No one appears to want to go the route of using nucs to destroy their capabilities.

It is obvious as to why but Bolton's simple and straight forward question makes me think that may be our best option:

"If anyone thinks Iran or the middle East is a problem now just imagine what it would be like with an Iran that has nucs" [on missles that can reach Europe and is a spark for a nuclear arms race among Middle Eastern monarchies.]

The choice is we either deal with it now or throw the dice and hope it goes away (regime change) or deal with an ever worse situation later.

And of course our economic situation just makes doing anything now even more a problem.
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« Reply #572 on: February 23, 2010, 10:56:42 AM »

Iraq, U.S: A 'Plan B' for Withdrawal Emerges
Stratfor Today » February 23, 2010 | 1549 GMT



WIN MCNAMEE/Getty Images
U.S. Gen. Ray Odierno at a Pentagon press briefing on Feb. 22 The commanding general of United States Forces-Iraq (USF-I), U.S. Gen. Ray Odierno, spent the past week briefing Washington on a “Plan B” for withdrawal from Iraq should conditions require it. With concerns about the durability of the fragile balance of power in Baghdad in the buildup to and the aftermath of the parliamentary elections slated for March 7, there are mounting concerns over whether the already-delayed rapid drawdown of U.S. troops now slated to begin in mid-May is realistic. Between mid-May and the end of August, 46,000 U.S. troops — including all remaining “combat” troops — are scheduled to be pulled out of the country, leaving 50,000 troops engaged in training, advising and supporting Iraqi security forces.

A contingency plan for deteriorating political and security conditions is prudent military planning, and the USF-I would be negligent if it did not have such plans. The Iraq withdrawal is about more than just extricating itself from Iraq. It is also about lightening the burden on U.S. ground combat forces at a time when some 30,000 additional troops are being sent to Afghanistan. Modest delays are not necessarily problematic and the September deadline for the drawdown in Iraq is a political date. But the Pentagon is also counting on not sustaining troop levels as they stand in Iraq through the end of the year. Disengagement is necessary.

Despite the prudence of forming a Plan B, the past week is, to our knowledge, the first time such a plan has been presented publicly. While Washington may well have requested the briefings from Odierno, the heart of the issue is that it is being publicized now. Odierno insisted that there were no signs that implementation of the contingency plan would be necessary, but there are clearly concerns about the fate of Iraq with regard to the looming elections and this may also be an attempt to moderate expectations for the promised rapid drawdown of forces. Whatever the case, he came to Washington to publicize the plan: He did not do this without direction, authorization and coordination with the White House.

Until fairly recently, despite looming concerns about the deterioration of the security situation and ethno-sectarian tensions, there was no reason to publicize contingency plans. The issue is not just the elections. Having a smooth election — one that would be acceptable across the board — is only the first issue of concern. Forming a coalition government (which took six months to finalize after the last parliamentary elections) is another major issue. And this election is expected to have even more participation and factionalism. Furthermore, as the confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program appears to be reaching a decision point, Iran may decide to use its assets in Iraq to retaliate against the United States. Though Odierno insisted that Iranian pressures would not influence the drawdown, Tehran has the ability to affect both Iraq’s security situation and the government in Baghdad through Shiite proxies, a cause of concern for the Sunnis and their allies in the Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia.

Events in Iraq have yet to play out. But the Iraq drawdown and the timetable it follows cuts across a broad spectrum of issues — not just Iraq, but Iran, Afghanistan and domestic U.S. politics. Any shift has potentially wide-reaching strategic significance.
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« Reply #573 on: March 24, 2010, 07:41:13 AM »

forwards this to me:
----------------------------------

Link to a decent article about how the Sadrists did pretty well in the recent Iraqi election, at the expense of the Kurds.  To the point that, because of the relative neck and neck tie between the two major parties, the Sadrists may well be the bloc that tips the scales in favor of a coalition that can prevail.
 
There is mention several times about how the Sadrists essentially game the system quite effectively with the people in order to achieve their political goals, yet certainly haven't surrendered their military arm.
 
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/23/AR2010032304319.html 
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« Reply #574 on: April 03, 2010, 08:06:20 AM »

Forwarded to me by Our Man Formerly in Iraq"
============
This looks suspiciously like the sectarian violence of 2006-2007:
 

Gunmen kill 25 in attack on Iraqi village
 
Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) -- Gunmen wearing military uniforms stormed houses and killed 25 people, including five women, in a Sunni village south of Baghdad, officials said Saturday. The attack took place late Friday night in a village in Arab Jabour, a predominantly Sunni region about 15 miles southeast of the capital. Most of the victims in Friday's attacks were local members of the Sons of Iraq, the group which helped U.S. and Iraqi forces fight against al Qaeda and suppress the insurgency.
 
The 25 victims were found handcuffed and died from small arms fire, police said.
 

Iraqi security forces have arrested 25 suspects in the incident.
=======================

My comments:  Perhaps if His Glibness had not run against The Surge and for Immediate Bug-Out things might be different now. 
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« Reply #575 on: April 21, 2010, 07:34:05 AM »

Tuesday, April 20, 2010   STRATFOR.COM  Diary Archives 

Considering a Possible Super Shia Bloc in Iraq
IRAQ SAW PERHAPS THE SINGLE BIGGEST potential speed bump yet since the March 7 parliamentary elections as the winners attempt to form a coalition government. By most measures, the Shia blocs of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law and the sectarian Iraqi National Alliance (which came in second and third in the polls, respectively) appear to be moving toward the formation of a “super Shia” bloc. The Kurdish bloc has pledged to join such an alliance. Taken as a whole, this presents the serious threat that Iraq’s Sunnis may again be politically marginalized.

A super Shia bloc could outmaneuver al-Iraqiya, the centrist, non-sectarian grouping led by former interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. Al-Iraqiya had broad appeal across ethno-sectarian lines at the polls and won the most seats in the election. It was widely supported by the Sunnis, and so its success would bring them to the center of the political process, while its marginalization would risk another political disenfranchisement. In response to the prospects of the super Shia bloc, on Monday al-Iraqiya’s spokeswoman reportedly threatened to withdraw from “the entire political process, including withdrawal from the next Iraqi parliament, if some parliamentary blocs insist on concluding an alliance between them in an attempt to exclude or marginalize [al-Iraqiya].”

This may simply be political maneuvering, and al-Iraqiya is certainly not averse to a brinksmanship strategy if that is what it takes to ensure that it is brought into the ruling coalition. Parliamentary coalition building is often a particularly messy process, even in countries with a long history of it. In Baghdad, this is in many ways the first time it has ever been attempted; the Sunnis largely boycotted the 2005 polls. This led to their disenfranchisement and intensified the insurgency, but dramatically simplified the formation of a coalition government because an entire swath of the population was effectively uninvolved.

Al-Iraqiya could get shut out of the government. It could voluntarily choose to go into opposition. There is no shortage of potential scenarios in parliamentary coalition building, and the Iraqi case this year is particularly intricate.

“Iraq is moving from comparative post-election quietude into a phase of decisive maneuvering.”
The coalition-building process is the dynamic of central importance in Iraq right now. There is still room for all sides to maneuver, but as Iraq inches closer to a firm coalition, there will necessarily be winners and losers. There is little to suggest that the State of Law and Iraqi National Alliance blocs will not be able to agree upon the formation of a super Shia bloc, thus creating a sectarian Shia group rather than the more diverse al-Iraqiya, the single most powerful political entity in the country. With the Kurds’ imperative being to side with the winner, and having already pledged to join the super Shia bloc, al-Iraqiya getting shut out of the ruling coalition is a very real possibility.

And this strikes at the heart of the fate of Iraq. The Sunnis appeared to have made enormous political progress at the polls in March, compared to 2005. Now they face potentially being shut out of Iraqi politics yet again. The Sunnis in Iraq are fractious, and the downfall of al-Iraqiya would not necessarily lead to widespread violence. But the re-emergence of some levels of violence are certainly not outside the realm of possibility, even following the reported deaths of top al Qaeda leaders Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayub al-Masri in Iraq.

But Iraq’s fate is not the only issue in question. A super Shia bloc would provide Iran with substantial influence within the central government of Iraq — something the Turks, Saudis and other Arabs are aggressively attempting to counterbalance, namely by supporting al-Iraqiya. And they are not likely to take any potential marginalization of al-Iraqiya lightly either. After years of violence, most everyone in the region wants a more stable Iraq. But what sacrifices each player in the region is willing to make to facilitate Iraqi stability is another question entirely.

Meanwhile, the formation of the government and the durability of the fragile balance of power and hard-won stability in the country is of central importance for the looming U.S. drawdown of all combat troops, which would see current troop levels halved to 50,000 by the end of August. And even after that drawdown, the only thing that has counterbalanced Persian power in the region since 2003 has been the U.S. military. How Tehran will be managed, especially with what is sure to be a strong Shia presence in any governing coalition in Baghdad, remains an open question.

And so Iraq is moving from comparative post-election quietude into a phase of decisive maneuvering within the country and beyond that will define the existence of Iraq — and the wider region — for years to come.

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« Reply #576 on: April 28, 2010, 11:43:22 AM »

Iraq: A Super Shia Bloc and Iranian Calculus
April 27, 2010 | 2032 GMT
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ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images
Former Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie (L) in 2009Summary
Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, Iraq’s former national security adviser and a key leader in the country’s Shia Islamist coalition, the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), said April 26 that merger talks between the INA and current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law bloc have come to a dead end. Al-Rubaie’s statement is the first sign that intra-Shia negotiations are not going well, but it is not clear whether the moves toward the creation of a super Shia parliamentary bloc have completely failed. Such an outcome would undermine Iran’s efforts to consolidate its influence in Iraq and, by extension, its bargaining power with the United States.

Analysis
Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, a former Iraqi national security adviser and an influential figure in the country’s Shia Islamist coalition, the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), said April 26 that merger negotiations between his group and incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law (SoL) coalition have reached an impasse. Speaking to reporters after a meeting in Najaf with top Iraqi cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, al-Rubaie said the two Shia blocs ran into problems over the issue of selecting the next prime minister. He said the INA was now looking into forging an alliance with the Kurdistan Alliance in an effort to form the largest parliamentary bloc, which he described as “an attempt to break the political deadlock plaguing the country and escape this political crisis.”

Al-Rubaie’s statements constitute the first significant indication that several weeks of intra-Shia negotiations over creating a super Shia parliamentary bloc are not progressing well. The INA is the country’s most pro-Iran Shia coalition and it won 70 parliamentary seats in the March 7 elections. The bloc had been negotiating a merger with the Shia SoL, which won 89 seats, to counter former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s non-sectarian al-Iraqiya List, which swept the Sunni vote to win 91 seats — the most in the elections.

Negotiations between the INA and SoL had reportedly worked out all issues other than the question of how to choose the next prime minister. SoL, which has been trying to balance its Shia sectarian core with a centrist agenda, wants to see al-Maliki continue as prime minister in the next government. But it faces opposition from the al-Sadrite movement, which controls as many as 40 of the INA’s 70 seats. Because Sunni-backed al-Iraqiya came in first in the elections, al-Maliki realizes a merger with the INA is the only way to ensure Shia communal interests.

At the same time, though, al-Maliki does not want to lead a government held hostage by the al-Sadrite movement or the INA’s patrons in Iran. Hence, there are reports he has been attempting to put SoL ahead in parliamentary seats by reaching out to some in al-Iraqiya to join his group and attempting to find legal loopholes to bar others from serving in parliament. In response, the INA, which wants to see the creation of a super Shia bloc, is exploiting al-Maliki’s tensions with the Kurds to force him into a merger.

At this point it is too early to conclude that a super Shia bloc is no longer in the making, but that possibility bodes ill for Iran’s plans for a post-American Iraq. Tehran, which has long been working on getting the Iraqi Shia house in order to maximize its influence in its western neighbor, needs to see a single Shia bloc in parliament. The combined 159 seats of a potential INA-SoL coalition, along with the 43 won by the Kurdistan Alliance, could be sufficient to force al-Iraqiya into a power-sharing settlement. If that coalition does not form, it limits Tehran’s bargaining power in its negotiations with the United States on Iraq, the nuclear issue, Afghanistan and other regional disputes.

Therefore, Iran can be expected to accelerate its efforts to sort out intra-Shia issues in Iraq. These could involve visits by Iranian officials to Iraq, or vice versa, to mediate between SoL and INA. The Iranians will be trying to get al-Maliki and the al-Sadrites to see the benefits of a merger and the vulnerabilities of maintaining their separate partisan status, but it is unclear what the outcome of Tehran’s efforts will be.
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« Reply #577 on: April 29, 2010, 06:49:07 AM »

   
Jihadists in Iraq: Down For The Count?
April 29, 2010




By Scott Stewart

On April 25, The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) posted a statement on the Internet confirming that two of its top leaders, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayub al-Masri, had been killed April 18 in a joint U.S.-Iraqi operation in Salahuddin province. Al-Baghdadi (an Iraqi also known as Hamid Dawud Muhammad Khalil al-Zawi), was the head of the ISI, an al Qaeda-led jihadist alliance in Iraq, and went by the title “Leader of the Faithful.” Al-Masri (an Egyptian national also known as Abu Hamzah al-Muhajir), was the military leader of the ISI and head of the group’s military wing, al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).

Al-Masri replaced Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike in June 2006. Al-Zarqawi had alienated many Iraqi Sunnis with his ruthlessness, and al-Baghdadi is thought to have been appointed the emir of the ISI in an effort to put an Iraqi face on jihadist efforts in Iraq and to help ease the alienation between the foreign jihadists and the local Sunni population. Al-Masri, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq and the military leader of the ISI, was considered the real operational leader of ISI/AQI efforts in Iraq.

STRATFOR viewed the initial announcement by Iraqi authorities of the deaths of the two leaders with a healthy degree of skepticism. After all, they had been declared dead before, only to later release statements on the Internet mocking the Iraqi government for making false claims. But the details provided in the April 19 press conference by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (complete with photos of the deceased) and the confirmation by the U.S. military helped allay those initial doubts. The recent admission by the ISI, which made a similar statement following the death of al-Zarqawi, has all but erased our doubts about the deaths.

But the ISI’s statement has raised some other questions. It claimed that the deaths of the two leaders would not affect the group’s operations in Iraq because new members had recently joined it. But when viewed in the context of other recent developments in Iraq, it appears that the operational capability of the ISI will indeed be affected — at least in the near future.

Recent Activity
The operation that resulted in the deaths of al-Baghdadi and al-Masri did not occur in a vacuum. Rather, it was a part of a series of operations targeting the ISI in recent months. The raids have come as a result of a renewed effort to counter the ISI following a resurgence in the group’s operations that included high-profile multiple-vehicle bombings directed against targets in central Baghdad on Aug. 19, 2009, Oct. 25, 2009, Dec. 8, 2009, and Jan. 25, 2010.

The raids that resulted in the deaths of the ISI leaders on April 18 were part of a chain of events that stretches back for months, and appear to be the result of the effective exploitation of intelligence gained in one raid used to conduct the next. For example, Iraqi Maj. Gen. Qasim Ata, the spokesman for the Baghdad Operations Command, told Al-Iraqiya TV on April 20 that the intelligence that led to the location of al-Baghdadi and al-Masri was obtained during the March 11, 2010, arrest of Manaf Abdul Raheem al-Rawi, the AQI commander in Baghdad. Iraqi government sources claim al-Rawi is the man responsible for planning the multiple-vehicle bombings in Baghdad. If so, he is another effective operational leader who has been taken out of the ISI/AQI gene pool.

Then, following the April 18 raid, Ahmad al-Ubaydi — aka Abu-Suhaib, whom Iraqi officials identify as the AQI military commander for the northern Iraqi provinces of Ninevah, Salahuddin and Kirkuk provinces — was killed April 20. The next day, Iraqi authorities located an improvised explosive device (IED) factory in western Anbar province and seized two vehicle bombs and some smaller IEDs. On April 22, the U.S. Army announced the arrest of a bombmaker in Anbar province. On April 23, Iraqi police arrested another AQI military leader in Anbar, Mahmoud Suleiman, who was reportedly found with several IEDs in his home. Also on April 23, an Iraqi police SWAT team reportedly killed two AQI leaders during a raid in eastern Mosul. They claimed that one of the AQI leaders, Yousef Mohammad Ali, was also a bombmaker. In recent days, dozens of other alleged AQI members have either surrendered or been arrested in Diyala, Mosul, Salahuddin and Basra.

There have even been unconfirmed reports that Izzat al-Douri was captured April 25. Al-Douri, the “king of clubs” in the U.S. military’s 2003 deck of most-wanted Iraqis and who has a $10 million bounty on his head, was a vice president of Iraq under Saddam Hussein and an important insurgent leader.

In late March, progress was also made against AQI in Mosul. Several suspects were arrested or killed, and among the latter were major AQI figures Khalid Muhammad Hasan Shallub al-Juburi, Abu Ahmad al-Afri and Bashar Khalaf Husayn Ali al-Jaburi.

This type of rapid, sequential activity against jihadists by U.S. and Iraqi forces is not a coincidence. It is the result of some significant operational changes that were made in 2007 in the wake of the American surge in Iraq. The then-commander of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), Gen. Stanley McChrystal, was instrumental in flattening hierarchies and reducing bureaucratic inefficiencies in both intelligence and special operations forces activities inside Iraq in order to create a highly integrated and streamlined organization. The result was the capability to rapidly plan and execute special operations forces raids based on actionable intelligence with a limited shelf life — and then to rapidly interrogate any captives, quickly analyze any material of intelligence value seized and rapidly re-task forces in a series of follow-on operations. The resulting high tempo of operations was considered enormously successful and a key factor in the success of the surge, and recent developments in Iraq appear to be a continuation of this type of rapid and aggressive activity.

Such operations not only can produce rapid gains in terms of capturing and killing key targets, they also serve to disrupt and disorient the enemy. According to Iraqi Maj. Gen. Qasim Ata, AQI is currently in disarray and panic, and he believes that the organization is also facing money problems, since it reportedly has been in contact with al Qaeda prime in an attempt to secure financial assistance. This stands in stark contrast to the 2005 letter in which al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri asked AQI leader al-Zarqawi for funding. At that time there was a large flow of men and money into Iraq, but it now appears that AQI is facing some financial difficulties. Following the recent raids in which senior operational commanders and bombmakers have been captured or killed, it also appears that the group may also be facing some leadership and operational-expertise difficulties.

Leadership
As STRATFOR has previously noted, leadership is a critical factor in the operational success of a militant group. Without skilled leadership, militant groups lose their ability to conduct effective attacks, particularly ones of a sophisticated nature. Leadership, skill and professionalism are the factors that make the difference between a militant group wanting to attack something — i.e., its intent — and the group’s ability to successfully carry out its intended attack — i.e., its capability. The bottom line is that new recruits simply cannot replace seasoned operational commanders, as the ISI suggested in its statement.

Although it might seem like a simple task to find a leader for a militant group, effective militant leaders are hard to come by. Unlike most modern militaries, militant groups rarely invest much time and energy in leadership development training. To compound the problem, the leader of a militant group needs to develop a skill set that is quite a bit broader than most military leaders. In addition to personal attributes such as ruthlessness, aggressiveness and fearlessness, militant leaders also must be charismatic, intuitive, clever and inspiring. This last attribute is especially important in an organization that seeks to recruit operatives to conduct suicide attacks. Additionally, an effective militant leader must be able to recruit and train operatives, enforce operational security, raise funds, plan operations and then methodically execute a plan while avoiding the security forces constantly hunting the militants down.

Of course, not every leadership change is disastrous to a militant group. Sometimes a new leader breathes new life and energy into an organization (like Nasir al-Wahayshi in Yemen), or the group has competent lieutenants able to continue to operate effectively after the death of the leader (like AQI after the death of al-Zarqawi). But the current environment in Iraq, where numerous individuals have been rapidly and sequentially killed or captured, makes this sort of orderly leadership replacement more difficult.

Therefore, it will be important to watch the ISI carefully to see who is appointed as the group’s new emir and military commander. (In practical terms, the emir may be easier to replace than the military commander, especially if the former is just a figurehead and not a true operational commander.) The group may have had a clear chain of command and competent, designated successors who have survived the recent operations. But if not, the leadership vacuum at the top could result in infighting over control, or result in an ineffective leader assuming control. The jury is still out, but with the recent successes against the ISI, there is a very good chance that it may take some time for the group to regain its footing. This, of course, is the objective of the up-tempo operations recently seen in Iraq. Effective counterterrorism programs seek to keep the militants (and especially their leaders) off balance by killing or capturing them while also rolling up the lower levels of the group. Militants scrambling for their lives seldom have the opportunity to plan effective attacks, and sustained pressure makes it difficult for them to regain the offensive.

Like operational leaders, competent bombmakers are not easy to replace. They also need to possess a broad set of skills and require a great deal of training and practical experience to hone their skills. A master bombmaker is a rare and precious commodity in the militant world. Therefore, the bombmakers recently arrested in Iraq could prove to be almost as big a loss to AQI as the operational leaders.

When we discussed the resurgence of the ISI/AQI back in October, we noted that at that time they had retained a great deal of their capability and that they were able to gather intelligence, plan attacks, acquire ordnance, build reliable IEDs and execute spectacular attacks in the center of Baghdad against government ministry buildings. We also discussed how the polarization surrounding the election in Iraq was providing them an opportunity to exploit. That polarization has continued in the wake of the elections as the factions jockey for position in the new government, but the extent of the damage done to the jihadists through the loss of so many commanders and operatives may not allow the successors of al-Masri and al-Baghdadi to take advantage of the situation before their window of opportunity closes.

We will be watching the jihadists in Iraq carefully in the coming months to see if they can regroup and retain their operational capability. The big question is: Will the recent operations against the ISI/AQI merely serve as another temporary setback like the killing of al-Zarqawi, or do they portend something more long-term for the future of the organization? The ISI/AQI has proved to be resilient and resourceful in the past, but we are not sure they have the ability to bounce back this time.

 
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« Reply #578 on: May 06, 2010, 07:52:06 AM »

Iran and the United States, Grasping for Diplomacy
THE IRAQI BALANCE SWUNG IN TEHRAN’S DIRECTION Tuesday when an announcement was made that Iraq’s two main rival Shiite coalitions have finally agreed to merge into a single parliamentary bloc. While there is still more political wrangling to be had, including the chore of picking the prime minister, this development carries enormous implications for the United States and its allies in the region. Before diving into those implications, we first need to review the results of the March 7 Iraqi elections.

The Iraqi vote was primarily split four ways: Former Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, a Shi’i leading the Sunni-concentrated al-Iraqiya bloc, barely came in first with 91 seats, while Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s predominantly Shiite State of Law (SoL) bloc took second place with 89 seats. In third place, the Iranian-backed Shiite Islamist Iraqi National Alliance (INA) won 70 seats, while the unified Kurdish bloc came out with 43 seats. The magic number to form a ruling coalition is 163, raising all sorts of ethno-sectarian coalition possibilities that could make or break the stability the United States created with the 2007 troop surge.

The Kurdish strategy was the most predictable in this fractured political landscape. Knowing that their Arab rivals would lack enough seats on their own to form a coalition, the Kurds positioned themselves early on to ensure their kingmaker status in the new government. An SoL-INA coalition is just four seats shy of the 163 needed to form the government, and the Kurds fully expect to fill that gap.

The Sunni-Shiite and the Shiite-Shiite divisions are where things get much more complicated. With just two seats between them, al-Iraqiya and SoL were both intent on ruling the next government. Since neither bloc could get along with one another, two possibilities emerged over the course of the last eight weeks: Either a super Shiite bloc could be formed between the INA and SoL, effectively sidelining the Sunnis in Allawi’s al-Iraqiya bloc, or the INA could join with al-Iraqiya, leaving al-Maliki in the dust.

“An INA-SoL coalition is thus political poison for Iraq’s Sunnis, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and anyone else in the region that is highly uncomfortable with the idea of Iraq living under an Iranian shadow.”
Such political wrangling may be taken as a sign of a healthy democracy in most countries, but in Iraq, coalition politics can turn very deadly, very fast. It is important to remember that when Iraq held its first democratic experiment in 2005, the bulk of Iraq’s Sunnis chose the bullet over the ballot. This time around, the Sunnis are looking to regain their political voice in Baghdad, and they still have the guns and militant connections to return to if that search ends in failure.

An INA-SoL coalition is thus political poison for Iraq’s Sunnis, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and anyone else in the region who is highly uncomfortable with the idea of Iraq living under an Iranian shadow. The United States did not anticipate having more than 98,000 troops in Iraq more than seven years after it toppled Saddam Hussein, and needs at least half of those troops out of Mesopotamia within the next three months. To do that, Washington needs to leave at least some semblance of a Persian-Arab balance in the Middle East, and that means ensuring a place for the Sunnis at the winners’ table in Baghdad.

But Iran is not about to make things easy for the United States. The Iranians can see that the U.S.-led sanctions effort, while irritating, lacks bite. They can also see that the U.S. administration is not interested at the moment in waging a third military campaign in the Islamic world, no matter how much Israel complains. Iran is thus in a prime position. They have a super Shiite majority getting ready to rule Iraq, while the United States is left helpless for the most part.

That does not mean Iran is home free, however. In spite of the daily barrages of rhetoric emanating from Tehran on Iranian military might, the country is ill at ease with having the world’s most powerful military stacked on its eastern and western borders. Iran would very much like those U.S. troops to go home, but only if it can be assured somehow that a U.S. military with more of an attention span will not show up in the neighborhood again with plans for an air campaign against Iranian nuclear facilities. For Iran to get this security assurance, it needs to set a high price: American recognition of Iranian dominance in the Persian Gulf.

Given the United States’ need for a Sunni-Shiite balance in this region, this is likely too high a price for Washington to pay at this point in time. So Iran has to turn to more coercive means to capture the United States’ attention. This could include the threat of disenfranchising Iraq’s Sunnis, upping the ante on the nuclear issue, bolstering Taliban forces when U.S. troops are surging into Afghanistan and a resurgence of Shiite militia activity. Indeed, the same day the Iraqi Shiite political merger was announced, radical Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, who has been living under Tehran’s protection since 2007, proclaimed the official revival of his Mehdi Army and threatened to attack U.S. forces should they outstay their Dec. 31, 2011, deadline. This was not exactly a subtle signal on Iran’s part.

There is no shortage of reasons for the United States and Iran to come back to the negotiating table, but the process will be a painful one. Moreover, the fact that Iran is holding the upper hand in this round is a bitter pill for Washington to swallow. Many in Washington will make the case that it is better for the United States to focus on bolstering its regional allies and rely on a residual force of 50,000 troops in Iraq to keep Iran at bay until more options come into view. But Iran has a plan for that, too. If Tehran cannot get the United States to leave Iraq on its terms, then it might as well have U.S. forces concentrated in places where Iran carries influence through proxies. In other words, maintain the status quo. Either way, Iran has options.

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« Reply #579 on: May 13, 2010, 11:46:43 AM »

Summary
The rapid withdrawal of some 40,000 U.S. troops from Iraq over the course of three months looms even as the delicate ethno-sectarian balance of power in Baghdad looks shakier than it has in years and violence appears to be on the rise. STRATFOR examines this withdrawal and its implications.


There are 94,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. Although reports emerged May 11 that the long-anticipated drawdown to 50,000 troops might not begin in earnest until June, the Pentagon maintains that everything is on track to meet the deadline for all combat troops to be out of the country at the end of August.

The planned drawdown comes as violence in Iraq appears to be on the rise and the ethno-sectarian balance of power holding the country together looks to be growing ever more delicate. The drawdown certainly will have implications for the situation in Iraq, but even a reduced U.S. force remains a significant presence in the country and an important factor in the effectiveness of the Iraqi security forces.

The Basics
The drawdown of just more than 40,000 troops in three months (only 91,000 troops are expected to remain in Iraq by the end of May) can only be described as rapid. Even U.S. Army Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. officer in Iraq, described it as a “waterfall.” But a drawdown of this scale at this pace does not happen without immense preparation, and that is a key aspect of the plan; many of the shifts the drawdown entails have already taken place. Since the 2007 surge, during which the number of U.S. troops in the country peaked at around 170,000, the U.S. military in Iraq slowly shifted from being at the forefront of security efforts to playing a tactical overwatch role. That role has continued to evolve, with U.S. forces continuing to move toward a more operational or, in some cases, even a higher, strategic-level overwatch.

Joint patrols are still conducted, especially in more contentious areas such as the northern city of Kirkuk. U.S. training, advising and support — particularly in terms of intelligence and logistics — are still essential to the effective functioning of the Iraqi security forces, which are not expected to be fully effective until at least the end of 2011. But by and large, the United States has already handed over its role in directly maintaining routine security.

The U.S. role is still practical in terms of facilitating and overseeing the day-to-day maintenance of security. But the drawdown schedule has been informed by projections and calculations about what the Iraqi security forces will need from U.S. forces in terms of said facilitation and oversight. In short, if the overarching but delicate sectarian balance of power holds, the United States will have sufficient forces in place to continue supporting the Iraqis in providing for basic internal security.

The Catch
However, that remains a rather large “if.” Even at the height of the surge, the United States has never had anywhere near enough troops in Iraq to militarily impose a political reality on the entire country. The surge’s success was founded upon the 2006-7 decision by the Sunni tribal chiefs in Anbar and other Sunni provinces to reject al Qaeda in Iraq and form Awakening Councils that worked directly with the U.S. military. It also succeeded because of the 2006 agreement in Baghdad on an acceptable division of control over the various security and intelligence organs of state among Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish leadership.

It was this division of control that provided the foundation for the delicate sectarian balance of power that has made the security environment in Iraq fairly stable and permissive for the last few years. The relatively calm and peaceful March 7 elections appeared promising in terms of sustaining this balance, but the formation of a governing coalition has been fraught with difficulty and sectarian strife. Moreover, in Iraq the winners must not only form a parliamentary coalition but must also decide whether to divvy up the various security and intelligence posts in line with the 2006 deal or to strike a new one. That process remains very much in flux.

Meanwhile, sectarian tensions have begun to flare back up, and Sunnis have serious concerns about being marginalized after they threw their weight behind the non-sectarian al-Iraqiya party, which won the most votes. At the moment, STRATFOR remains fairly confident in its assessment that a massive and devastating blow has been struck against al Qaeda in Iraq, but should the Sunnis return to arms, they could again become more welcoming to foreign jihadists.

So while it is clear that the post-drawdown provisions for security in the country are likely sufficient to maintain the status quo in a benign security environment, the real heart of the matter is the Iraqi security forces’ ability to hold together and impose security, as well as Baghdad’s writ in a more contentious and charged sectarian environment.

Since Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s botched dispatch of Iraqi security forces to Basra in 2008 to take action against Shiite militias — especially the armed wing of Muqtada al-Sadr’s movement — without prior consultation with the United States (an operation that was woefully underplanned and undersupplied and was only saved by quick U.S. intervention), very real and important improvements have been made to the Iraqi security forces. But while some units have performed well under fire, the overall environment has been relatively benign and free of excessive sectarian tension, so the forces have gone effectively untested with respect to the situations they may face in the next year.

The military is institutionally stronger and more coherent than even the National Police service, but Iraqis largely still identify along ethno-sectarian lines. This can create multiple senses of identity and thus competing loyalties — not just among the soldiers but also among the commanders and civilian leaders. Amid the current ethno-sectarian tensions, the security forces remain coherent and intact. But if tensions seriously escalate, the list of potential scenarios is almost limitless. A major breakdown in Iraq could lead to not just desertions but the use of security forces for sectarian purposes and even different elements of the forces fighting amongst themselves.

U.S. Combat Capability
The United States has limited ability to ramp its forces in Iraq back up to intervene in a civil war. With nearly 100,000 U.S. troops slated to be committed to Afghanistan by the end of the summer, the United States simply lacks the troops to return to surge levels in Iraq even if it wanted to — and it certainly has no appetite to do so. Meanwhile, the disposition of U.S. forces has fundamentally shifted and contracted considerably. Not only joint security stations but whole forward operating bases have been decommissioned and handed over to the Iraqis. U.S. troops are becoming less dispersed and less exposed, concentrating at bases that are better protected and less vulnerable. But they are also losing some of their nuanced situational awareness and certainly their ability to respond rapidly across the country. Simultaneously, massive amounts of materiel have either been liquidated or shipped back out of the country. So even with the troops still in place, there are logistical and infrastructural complications to returning to Iraq in a big way.

In any event, the United States requires either a coherent Iraqi security force to support in dealing with widespread sectarian tension or for the violence to take place only in isolated areas where force can be concentrated and Iraqi security personnel can be more carefully selected to minimize ethno-sectarian conflicts of interest.

And while all combat troops are supposed to be out of the country by the end of August, this is less of a distinction than it might seem. In terms of day-to-day operations, Americans remain important force multipliers and enablers for Iraqi security forces, with whom they work regularly. This means that, in areas where U.S. troops remain involved after August, the shift will not necessarily be as sharp and sudden as it might first seem.

An Advisory and Assistance Brigade (AAB) is still, at heart, a brigade combat team — simply under a different name with some reorganization and reorientation. Five of the 10 brigade combat teams in Iraq (not counting three brigades dedicated to convoy and base security) are already designated as AABs. They continue to have not only infantry, but cavalry and in some cases even armored battalions under their command, and even the smallest contingent of American advisers should have the ability to call for artillery support or close air support.

In short, there is no denying that slashing more than 40,000 troops from Iraq in three months will entail significant shifts on the ground. But 50,000 troops is still an enormous commitment of forces (as a point of comparison, U.S. forces in Korea number less than 30,000). The contingent is still larger and more capable than many countries’ entire militaries, and that is without mentioning the potent special operations forces that will remain on the ground. Though these forces will be unable to impose a reality on Iraq as was done in post-World War II Germany and Japan, they will be able to help maximize the effectiveness of Iraqi security forces. They can also defend themselves and, if necessary, conduct limited operations themselves.

This utilization of U.S. forces is not something that would be done lightly or without consequence, but it is a reminder of the enduring, if declining, military capability and subsequent influence that the United States will continue to enjoy in Iraq and with the government in Baghdad. The American position should not be overstated, but it must also not be understated. The essential fact is that it is on a steady, downward trajectory. It is neither precipitous nor cautious, but in the end remains extremely difficult to reverse.

Ultimately, everything rests on the formation of a government in Baghdad and the establishment of an equitable power-sharing agreement for the security and intelligence organs. It need not be perfect, and it need not be without contention. But the more contained and more limited the sectarian flare-ups, the more manageable they will be for the fledgling Iraqi security forces and the remaining U.S. troops. Conversely, if the descent into sectarian chaos becomes deep and sustained, the question will become not if but when the security forces will begin to fracture — and even 170,000 U.S. troops would not be able to manage that without some underlying political understanding between ethno-sectarian factions.
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« Reply #580 on: May 13, 2010, 01:45:34 PM »

Second post of the day:

The Iraq Question
ON MAY 11, AN AP REPORT CITED multiple anonymous U.S. military sources stating that the planned American drawdown of combat troops from Iraq had been delayed. Later that same day, a Pentagon spokesman denied the veracity of those claims. In his rebuttal, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said that of the 94,000 U.S. soldiers currently in Iraq, only 50,000 would remain by the end of August, with the accelerated drawdown set to begin in earnest in June, keeping in line with previous pledges made by U.S. President Barack Obama. Speaking hypothetically, Morrell said that even if the withdrawal timetable had truly been drawn out, it would not have represented a “dramatic development.”

Despite the Pentagon’s official position on the matter, it is undeniable that Iraq has seen a ramp up in violence and political tension of late. This makes it hard to believe that the Obama administration is not wondering just how strong the hand it holds on the Iraq question is these days in relation to the other player at the table: Iran. Make no mistake, however. The United States is leaving Iraq, even if later than the currently scheduled date for total departure, the end of 2011. And while over the long run the United States holds clear advantages over Iran, the question that affects the more immediate future is how much (if at all) the United States will be able to utilize the time it has left in Iraq to ensure that the country will not be politically dominated by Tehran once the United States is gone.

Judging from the results of the March 7 parliamentary elections in Iraq, the United States may have a harder time than it had previously hoped in seeing this goal through. It is now clear that the Shia will hold the upper hand over the Sunnis when it comes to dictating the terms of who gets what in the new Iraqi government, which is good news indeed in Tehran. It is not good news in Washington, which now faces the prospect of a Shia-run Baghdad — albeit with a significant Sunni population acting as a natural check — being heavily influenced by its eastern Shiite neighbor. As American foreign policy in the region is heavily centered upon maintaining balances of power (one of which, the Iran-Iraq balance, was shattered as a result of the 2003 U.S. invasion), an emboldened Iran flanking its Iraqi satellite state would represent a setback for the United States.

There are options for what the Obama administration may decide to do about the Iraq question, but none of them are very appealing from the United States’ point of view. Washington could attempt to renegotiate its Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the Iraqi government and prolong its military occupation of the country past 2011. In this case, it could opt for either a prolonged presence involving a large number of troops (the least preferable option in the United States’ eyes), or an extended presence with a smaller number of troops. Both scenarios would generate fierce opposition from Iran and many sectors of Iraqi society, not to mention Obama’s constituents at home. Choosing an extended occupation — assuming it got the go ahead for the renegotiation of the SOFA with Baghdad — would see the United States keeping its forces in Iraq and re-evaluating its options as time progresses.

“There are options for what the Obama administration may decide to do about the Iraq question, but none of them are very appealing from the United States’ point of view.”
If Washington eschews both options, it could, of course, simply accept Iran as the dominant regional power. The United States’ geopolitical interests make all of these unattractive choices, however, meaning the United States could seek to alter the equation, in this case through negotiations with Iran. To do this, Washington must be prepared to give Iran credible security guarantees in exchange for a promise from Tehran to allow an independent Iraq at least a modicum of political independence.

Iran may hold the better hand at the moment, but the United States is still the global hegemon, meaning that despite being in a pretty good situation these days, the Iranian regime is anything but overly confident. The threat of war or sanctions may have subsided, but Tehran knows that its fortunes could change rapidly.

The Iranians know the United States wants to leave Iraq — sooner rather than later — and despite their bellicose rhetoric, are willing to work to accommodate the American aspiration to leave behind a relatively stable country. What Tehran desires more than anything is to guarantee its national security. It hopes it can take advantage of America’s momentary weakness to extract concessions, using its potential leverage over Iraq as its prized bargaining chip. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s routine reminders that the only way for Obama to solve his country’s problems in the Middle East is to enlist Iranian support serves to highlight this point.

Already, there have been vague signs of a possible opening in dialogue between the two countries. While in New York last week, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki hosted a dinner that brought together representatives from United Nations Security Council member states. The United States sent Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Alejandro Wolff, a low-ranking official, but a representative of the United States government nonetheless. Wolff and Mottaki reportedly discussed the status of four American citizens currently believed to be held in Iran, including former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who has not been seen since 2007. On May 11, Mottaki announced that the mothers of the other three Americans discussed at the dinner — a trio of hikers detained on the Iranian side of the border near Iraqi Kurdistan in July 2009 — would be granted visas to come visit their children.

It is exactly these types of gestures, however insignificant they may appear in isolation, that must precede any meaningful dialogue on a topic as momentous as the future of an independent Iraq.
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« Reply #581 on: June 10, 2010, 07:10:18 AM »

Looks like "Our man in Iraq" may be headed back.  He writes:
===========================================================
"This is from my 'terp in Iraq.  He is a Christian.  And a very smart, well educated man.  I think it is important to be able to see what is percolating inside their minds."
 

"People with no hope, when they are forbidden from living normal life, when ambitions die, moments of happiness were stolen from them, when they are forced to see dead bodies only...no newborns, when life become cheaper than an IED or a bullet, life becomes a burden."
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« Reply #582 on: July 02, 2010, 08:42:32 AM »


"Risk-tolerant China investing heavily in Iraq as U.S. companies hold back"
 
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/01/AR2010070103406.html
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« Reply #583 on: August 06, 2010, 09:24:19 AM »

Ralph Peters in the NY Post has a good read on the situation IMO:

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/will_bam_lose_iraq_LEtd1utUwlgTYS3pE4lVNP

President's weird 'victory' lap

One president gave his premature "Mission Accomplished" speech about Iraq on the deck of an aircraft carrier. Now another has given his own version as part of a Chicago-ward-politics sales pitch to disabled veterans.

The difference is that the first guy was sincere.

President Obama's pork-barrel speech to the Disabled Veterans of America yesterday (if you want to help our vets, shut up and do it) would have drawn a blush from those Soviet propagandists who cropped purged Politburo members from Stalin-era photographs.

Ignoring his own opposition to the liberation of Iraq, supporting our troops and the surge, Obama spoke as if all's well in Baghdad -- thanks to him.

As part of his weird victory lap, the president rightfully praised the way "our troops adapted and adjusted" to the insurgency in Iraq, then stressed that 90,000 service members have come home during his administration.

He preened that we'll meet his Aug. 31 deadline to transition "from combat to supporting and training Iraqi security forces" and reaffirmed that we'll remove the last of our troops in 2012. But the portion of yesterday's speech that focused on Iraq left out . . . Iraq.

While that country has passed its military crisis, it's now in political turmoil -- from which our government has utterly disengaged. We won that war, but we still can lose the peace. Obama shunned the fact that, almost half a year after its last national election, Iraq doesn't have a new government. Determined to abandon "Bush's war," Obama's been AWOL in Baghdad.

His neglect may prove disastrous. And the saddest aspect is that the Iraqis wanted us to step in and act as referees, to press them to get past their political differences.

The Iraqi elections were so close that both main camps claimed victory. In the macho atmosphere of Iraq, neither side could back down or compromise after that without an excuse ("Those mean Americans made me do it!"). Our essential and dirt-cheap role would have been to hand the posturing parties a fig leaf.

We've seen this before, in the Balkans, where all sides wanted to stop fighting but were too macho to be the first to suggest a truce. When American troops arrived, they had their excuse. We just don't get it that a key role for our soldiers and diplomats is to enable foreign parties to do what they already want to do themselves.

The situation in Iraq this year didn't call for more troops. Those force reductions were fine. But after hearing for years about the supremacy of political over military solutions, it was odd to witness this administration's neglect of basic statesmanship (which opened the door to the Iranians).

The problem is that this White House and its left-wing base now believe their own propaganda that Iraq was just a distraction, that Afghanistan's all that matters.

So when his script reached the part about Afghanistan yesterday, the president spoke with the rhetoric of a warlord, insisting that "we are going on the offensive against the Taliban" and "we will disrupt, we will dismantle and we will ultimately defeat al Qaeda."

Apart from sounding like George W. Bush (after extensive training by a public-speaking coach), it was noteworthy that, in the course of rattling his light saber, Obama didn't mention his deadline for troop withdrawals from Afghanistan next year.

We'll see how that one goes. Meanwhile, the really-big-booboo aspect of his speech was Obama's utter refusal to acknowledge that Iraq matters to us at all, that it has any strategic value. Yet Iraq, not Afghanistan, lies at the heart of the Middle East, has a profound psychological grip on the Arab world, possesses a critical geo-strategic location -- and, yes, has a lot of oil.

Even a sloppy, kinda-sorta, not-downright-awful outcome in Iraq improves the Middle East enormously. But all this administration cares about is getting out. We're in danger of throwing away seven years of sacrifices -- many made by those disabled veterans to whom Obama pandered -- because our president won't tell our diplomats to step up.

Sure, some on the left would delight in a belated disaster in Iraq to spite the long-gone bogeyman, George W. Bush. I do not believe President Obama is among them. He just doesn't understand the stakes in Baghdad -- and doesn't want to.

But, then, he never has.
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« Reply #584 on: August 19, 2010, 08:13:15 AM »

Looks like "Our man in Iraq" will be going back , , ,.  Our prayers for his safety and the success of his good work, and our gratitude for the reports he will be sending back.

PS:  He sent this to me while I was out of town. 
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/08/AR2010080801923.html
« Last Edit: August 19, 2010, 08:16:50 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #585 on: August 21, 2010, 11:29:09 AM »

Our man soon to return to Iraq reports:
-------------------------------------


This is the type of information that is more meaningful to me than the proclamations of western journalists:
 

Security in Karbala “confusing” due to security forces “reluctance” – source
August 21, 2010 - 10:13:48
 

KARBALA: Security situation in Karbala province is “confusing” due to security forces “reluctance,” the head of the Karbala Provincial Council said on Saturday.
 
“Criminal and terror acts currently taking place in Karbala are due to the weak performance of security services,” Mohammed Hameed al-Mosawi told the press.
 
He explained that security commands in Karbala do not control the performance and work of their personnel.
 
The holy city of Karbala lies 110 km southwest of Karbala.
MH (P)/SR
 
'''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''

Bomb hits US PRT in Nasseriya
August 21, 2010 - 09:20:56
 

THI-QAR: A roadside bomb on Saturday dawn hit a convoy of the U.S. Provincial Reconstruction Team (P.R.T) northwestern the al-Nasseriya city, causing no casualties or damage.
 
“The attack occurred at the al-Chibiesh Intersection, northwestern al-Nassiriya,” a local provincial source told Aswat al-Iraq news agency.
 
He noted that the blast caused no casualties or damage.
 
Nassiriya, the capital city of Thi-Qar province, lies 380 km south of Baghdad.
MH (P)/SR
 
'''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''
 

U.S. patrol came under attack by thermal bomb in Kirkuk
August 20, 2010 - 12:14:29

 
KIRKUK: A U.S. vehicle patrol was attacked on Friday by a thermal bomb in central Kirkuk, without casualties, according to a senior security source.
 
“Unknown gunmen threw a thermal bomb on Friday afternoon (Aug. 20) on a U.S. vehicle patrol in al-Khadraa neighborhood, central Kirkuk,” Brigadier Sarhad Qader told Aswat al-Iraq news agency.
 
“The forces was distributing food and aids to poor families in al-Khadraa neighborhood,” he added.
 
“Policemen cordoned off the region and started to search it, where they arrested two suspects,” the officer noted.
SH (P)
 
''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''
 

3 judges injured in blast in Diala
August 17, 2010 - 10:11:22
 

DIALA: Three judges were wounded on Tuesday when a roadside bomb hit their civilian vehicle southwest of Baaquba city.
 
“The blast occurred at the major street in Baladroz district, 45 km southwest of Baaquba,” a local provincial source told Aswat al-Iraq news agency.
 
In addition to the three judges, a policeman was also wounded as he was with the judges in the same vehicle.
 
“The four injuries are serious, and were all admitted to hospital,” the source added.
 
He explained that the four victims were on their way to work at the Diala Court in central Baaquba when the bomb hit their vehicle.
 
The source accused the al-Qaida organization and banned political parties of targeting the three judges.
 
Baaquba, the capital city of Diala province, lies 57 km northeast of Baghdad.
MH (P)/SR
 
 
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« Reply #586 on: September 02, 2010, 06:42:57 AM »

From the vantage point of history, Barack Obama's prime-time speech
announcing the Iraq war's end is less important than the speech he gave
eight years ago as a state senator in Illinois. This was the October 2002
"dumb war" speech to an anti-Iraq war rally in Chicago's Federal Plaza. Back
then, Mr. Obama had a more complex view of the stakes in Iraq than he does
now.

Today, the Iraq war has been reduced to not much more than a long, bloody
and honorable gunfight between U.S. troops and various homicidal jihadists
and insurgents inside Iraq, a war sustained by George Bush, Dick Cheney and
some neocon advisers mainly to "impose" democracy on the Iraqis.

I think it is a profound mistake to confine the war's significance to the
borders of Iraq. Mr. Obama himself raised the central question about Iraq in
that 2002 speech: Did Saddam Hussein pose a danger beyond his borders, or
not?

"Let me be clear," State Senator Obama told the Federal Plaza crowd, "I
suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. . . . He has repeatedly thwarted
U.N. inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons and coveted
nuclear capacity. . . . But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and
direct threat to the United States. . . [H]e can be contained."

This is a widely held view. The Economist's editors this week said Mr. Obama
was largely right that Iraq was a dumb war. What the war did, they say, was
"rid the Middle East of a bloodstained dictator."

It did a lot more than that.

Let us assume that Mr. Obama's "smarter" view had prevailed, that we had
left Saddam in power in Iraq. What would the world look like today?

Mr. Obama and others believe that Saddam and his nuclear ambitions could
have been contained. I think exactly the opposite was likely.

At the time of Mr. Obama's 2002 antiwar speech, three other significant,
non-Iraqi events were occurring: Iran and North Korea were commencing toward
a nuclear break-out, and A.Q. Khan was on the move.

In March 2002, Mr. Khan, the notorious Pakistani nuclear materials dealer,
moved his production facilities from Pakistan to Malaysia.  In August, an
Iranian exile group revealed the existence of a centrifuge factory in
Natanz, Iran. A month later, U.S. intelligence concluded that North
Korea had almost completed a "production-scale" centrifuge facility.

It was also believed in 2002 that al Qaeda was shopping for nuclear
materials. In The Wall Street Journal this week, Jay Solomon described how
two North Korean operatives through this period developed a network to
acquire nuclear technologies. In short, the nuclear bad boys club was on the
move in 2002. Can anyone seriously believe that amidst all this Saddam
Hussein would have contented himself with administering his torture
chambers? This is fanciful.

Saddam was centrifugal. He moved outward, into war with Iran in 1980 and
into Kuwait 10 years later. Saddam was a player, and from 2002 onward the
biggest game in his orbit was acquiring nuclear capability.

The definitive account of Saddam's WMD ambitions is the Duelfer Report,
issued by the Iraq Survey Group in 2005. Yes, the Duelfer Report concluded
that Saddam didn't have active WMD. But at numerous points in the 1,000-page
document, it asserted (with quotes from Iraqi politicians and scientists)
that Saddam's goal was to free himself of U.N. sanctions and restart his
efforts to acquire nuclear weapons and other WMD.

The report: "Saddam wanted to recreate Iraq's WMD capability. . . . Saddam
aspired to develop a nuclear capability." The Survey Group described Iraqi
plans to develop three long-range ballistic missiles.

Saddam was obsessed with Iran. Imagine the effect on the jolly Iraqi's
thinking come 2005 and the rise to stardom of Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,
publicly mocking the West's efforts to shut his nuclear program and
threatening enemies with annihilation. That year Ahmadinejad broke the U.N.
seals at the Isfahan uranium enrichment plant. In North Korea, Kim Jong Il
was flouting the civilized world, conducting nuclear-weapon tests and
test-firing missiles into the Sea of Japan. In such a world, Saddam would
have aspired to play in the same league as Iran and NoKo. Would we have
"contained" him?

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran and Saddam Hussein in Iraq simultaneously would
have incentivized Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Sudan to enter the nuclear
marketplace. Pakistan and India would be increasing their nuke-tinged
tensions, not trying as now to ease them.

We ought to be a lot prouder of our troops coming home from Iraq than we are
showing this week. They deserve a monument. That war wasn't just about
helping Iraq. It was about us. The march across the nuclear threshold by
lunatic regimes is a clear and present danger. The sacrifice made by the
United States in Iraq took one of these nuclear-obsessed madmen off the
table and gave the world more margin to deal with the threat that remains,
if the world's leadership is up to it. A big if.

MARC:  The author forgets to mention that Libya coughed up its nuclear program.
« Last Edit: September 02, 2010, 06:45:15 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #587 on: September 25, 2010, 01:53:10 PM »

Our man in Iraq is back there again and we begin anew an intermittent sharing of his slice of real life observations:

From Jordan:

 24 Sep 2010 02:13:01 +0000
 
Well the young folks in Amman sure love their night life. Since I was last here they opened a disco near the hotel I stayed at. The line was like something from the old Studio 54 days. Plenty of girls wearing head scarves. And tight jeans. The music emanating from that place was very loud and booming. I'm gonna go ahead and say that place was smokin' last night. Thursday night in Amman is like Friday night in USA. They are off Friday and Saturday. Friday is religious day. Saturday is family day.
 
I got up at 02:45 because my internal clock is messed up. And I couldn't get my mind off of the fact that in this part of the world hotels occasionally go boom. Plus I didn't work out yesterday so I was obsessing over that.
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Fisticuffs at Amman airport

, , , It took 4 lame ass cop/guard types to drop a guy. I came close to jumping in and taking him down and out because it was taking them forever. I have no idea what it's about. This guy had numerous opportunities to grab a gun from a holster, if any were present because they could not easily take him out
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Baghdad

One of the first thing somebody who has been to Baghdad before will notice is the essential lack of air assets moving all about.  I am out at BIAP right now.  Several years aho the whine of USAF aircraft engines, and the taking off and landing of choppers, was almost non-stop (especially at night).  It now seems eerily quiet of such background noise.  I am told that the several times a week embassy flights often have only 15-25 people on them, whereas they were packed to the gills back in the day.  The pervasive sound of non-stop generators also seems somewhat lessed as well.
 
If one saw the feeble patdowns that were given to guys in Amman who triggered the magnetometer at the airport, one might not want to get on a commerical airliner.
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« Reply #588 on: September 26, 2010, 12:21:45 AM »

Well I have been here in the IZ all of 24 hours and I can already tell you that nothing has changed effectiveness and efficiency wise as far as the USG goes.  I still see a fragmented, non-critical area focus in the security project I will be working on.  This was one of the huge frustrations I had in 2008-2009 when I did a whole year here.  Thank God this time is only 90 days.
 
The sad truth is that, contrary to popular belief and in my humble opinion, America's best and brightest are not over here.  I almost feel like this work milieu (international assistance work) is where all the C students went after graduation.  The same incompetent, inefficient people are running the show, and still blaming the Iraqis for everything that does not go according to plan.  When you pick up the paper at home and read about how the Iraqis (and Afghans) are still all screwed up after all these years, you should know that our incompetence (which we are in denial of) is as much a root cause as any part the Iraqis (and presumably Afghans) play.  They are convenient scapegoats.
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« Reply #589 on: September 27, 2010, 06:23:05 AM »

I hear that the Iraqis recently opened fire on a Danish embassy vehicle in the IZ that tried to roll past a checkpoint without stopping.  I am told bullets hit vehicle.
 
No surprise.  My old partner and I saw far too many people in the IZ who drove up too fast on these checkpoints and didn't give the Iraqis time to digest their approach.  I always considered it utter arrogance.  And then they would come back to the office and whine how the Iraqis were harrassing them.
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« Reply #590 on: September 27, 2010, 10:24:50 AM »

Second post of the day:

A few weeks back I told some of you I noticed a trend towards silenced pistols in hits.  Well I spoke today to somebody who works closely with the Ministry of Interior, and he said attacks by silenced pistols are off the charts and are now a more likely occurrence than a non-silenced pistol.
 
Since the jihadist movement learns from each other, and adopts each other's effective tactics, and since we know stuff happening stateside is only a matter of time, keep this in mind even in the homeland.
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« Reply #591 on: September 30, 2010, 12:27:06 AM »

I heard yesterday that the plethora of silenced pistols finding their way into Iraq, and which are becoming the preeminent means of hits, are coming in from Iran.
 
I also heard that one member of the Commission on Integrity was whacked several weeks back by a gunman with silenced pistol, as he sat in his car right at an entrance into the Green Zone.  The gunman then just melted away.
 
This is always a difficult senario when pontificating on personal security in a place like Iraq.  We always tell them "alter your routes."  Well there aren't very many entrances into the Green Zone, and it's not like it's convenient to go to another one.  That could add another hour to your commute.  Sometimes there simply aren't any alternate routes.  In Karmah, or Hadithah, or other places I have been, there is basically one road in and out of those places.
 
So what does that leave?  Altering your times?  Well you can't get into the Green before a certain time.  And you pretty much want to be out before sunset.  So once again the window of option is not that large.
 
I am sure it doesn't help that half the Iraqis I see driving are on a cell phone, so they don't have the alert level they need to maybe pickup on an attack in progress.

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« Reply #592 on: October 01, 2010, 11:14:34 AM »

I have been asked what it's like in the Green Zone, especially how is it different than when I was here 11/2008-11/2009.
 
Well I'll try.  But first a little background.
 
There are many Amercians who reside and operate in the IZ.  Soldiers on FOBs (forward operating bases).  Embassy employees on the NEC (New Embassy Complex).  And sundry other contractors who do not reside or work on either of those. (Generally speaking I fall into that last category).  Many soldiers and civilians never leave the FOBs they work on.  Many embassy employees never leave the NEC. 
 
For the embassy employees, even if they leave the NEC to go somewhere they have to get permission.  They have to be transported in an armored vehicle with a driver who waits for them.  They are not allowed to walk around in the IZ.
 
Many contractors never leave the bases they work on.
 
So all in all there are not too many people driving around the IZ by themselves, in a thin skinned vehicle, sometimes parking out of the street, and working in a complex that is not part of a FOB or the embassy.  And there are even fewer who are living in a building by themselves, that has only some Iraqis living in containerized housing units on the same grounds (that will change soon when my partner gets here).
 
As far as "being safe", the siutation here like this.  The chances of a VBIED detonation are much less likely than out in the Red Zone because ostensibly all vehicles allowed into the IZ are thoroughly searched.  Regular IEDs would still be more difficult to emplace, but not impossible.  Heck, a sticky bomb was found on a car inside the IZ on Christmas Eve 2008.  However, the IZ is a mortars and rockets magnet.  The NEC is right on the Tigris, and the Red Zone is right across from it (the Sdar City side I might add).  So rockets and mortars fly into here with some regularity.  In the past 2-years several Triple Canopy Peruvian guards have died on their posts.  Also some U.N. employees around December 2008/January 2009.  Since the IZ is rather small to begin with, the footprint insurgents need to get rockets or mortars into in order to mess with the Americans, Brits, and Iraqi govt. is not that large.
 
On a good day the counter rocket and mortar system (CRAM) which is able to detect flying objects of specified speeds and angles will sound an alarm and you have maybe 15-seconds to get under cover.  They have a video here of a guy who suddenly took off running for a duck and cover bunker (sample photo attached), and maybe 10-seconds later a mortar landed on the exact spot he was standing on when the alarm first sounded.  The duck and cover photo attached is actually a better one because it has sandbags around the concrete overhead and side cover.http://
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« Reply #593 on: October 06, 2010, 07:05:37 PM »

By FOUAD AJAMI
The chronicles now assign Iraq a distinction all its own. It holds the world record for the longest period of time spent without a government in the aftermath of a contested election. Seven months on, the Baghdad political bazaar is still open. (Consolation to the Iraqis: Holland had held the distinction of longest without a government.)

This is a far cry from the ways of the Arab autocracies and despotisms in Iraq's neighborhood. The pharaonic state in Egypt would have dispensed overnight with the formation of a cabinet. In the monarchies next door to Iraq, the palace makes ministers and sends them packing. There is mayhem in Iraq to be sure, but there are the growing pains of a new democracy as well. Those who see this frustrating interlude in Iraq as evidence of the waste and the futility of the American project in Iraq give voice to a traditional hostility to the idea of democracy taking root in a distant, non-Western setting.

Incumbency appears to have paid dividends in Iraq as it does in many political contests. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is now all but sure to form and lead the new government. Dogged and taciturn, he hunkered down, cut political bargains, and promised greater patronage in the days ahead—all to cobble together a broad coalition.

The elections last March yielded no clear winner. Four big slates divided and claimed the electorate. There was the Sunni vote, and it went to a Shiite standard-bearer, former prime minister and CIA favorite Ayad Allawi—91 seats in a parliament of 325 members. There was the slate of Prime Minister Maliki, overwhelmingly Shiite, which claimed 89 seats. Another broad Shiite coalition, the National Alliance, came third, with 70 parliamentary seats. The Kurds got roughly their share of the population, a total of 57 seats. All four blocks were far from united movements. They were ramshackle structures, riven by personal ambitions, made up of splinter groups, in quest of what could be had and gotten in a free-for-all scramble.

"Politics has no heart," said the radical firebrand, Muqtada al-Sadr, from his Iranian exile, in response to a follower puzzled by his decision to cease his veto of Mr. Maliki and back his coalition. "Be informed," Mr. Sadr continued, "politics is giving and taking."

For Mr. Sadr this is a remarkable transformation. His hatred of Mr. Maliki ran deep. It was Mr. Maliki who in early 2008 launched a decisive military campaign against Mr. Sadr's Shiite militia, the Mahdi Army. Mr. Maliki had made this decision alone, as the American military command had been dubious about his chances of success. Having won the war for Baghdad against the Sunnis, the Mahdi Army had grown brazen, it had become an instrument of outright pillage and mayhem. The Shiites themselves had grown weary of it, and Mr. Maliki would show its brigades and petty warlords no mercy.

By then Mr. Sadr had quit Iraq for his Iranian exile. He was afraid for his safety, afraid of the Americans, afraid of potential assassins. Above all, there was the sword of Damocles hanging over his head: an arrest warrant for the brutal murder in the spring of 2003 of a scion of one of the most illustrious Shiite clerical families, Abdul Majid al-Khoei.

For Mr. Sadr, his Iranian exile is a gilded cage—no one takes seriously his claim that he is there for religious studies. He chose Iran because no other place was safe for him, and he was largely able to hold his movement together by remote control. On his coattails 40 members made it to the new parliament.

Has Mr. Sadr bent to the will of Iran by backing Mr. Maliki? Conceivably so. Much of the recent commentary takes that as evidence of Iran's power in the making of a new government. But there is a simpler explanation. A political man with 12% of the parliamentary seats wanted access to state treasure and resources, opportunities for patronage and government employment for his brigades. Baghdad is not Chicago, but it has shades of it as the struggle for the oil bounty plays out.

So we can now see the broad outlines of a post-American order in Iraq. The withdrawal of the Americans is already "baked into the cake," a senior Iraqi politician recently told me. This is "the East," and in the East people have an unerring instinct for the intentions and the staying power of strangers. Iraqis needn't rush to the pages of Bob Woodward's "Obama's Wars" to know of the disinterest of the president in the affairs of Iraq. There's little doubt that he'll carry out his promise to withdraw U.S. troops by Dec. 31, 2011. But it would make a great difference to Iraqis were he to signal that Washington has a strategic doctrine for the region, and for Iraq's place in it, that goes beyond that date.

The Iraqis have a fetish about their sovereignty, but they also understand their dependence. They will need American help, cover for their air space, protection for their oil commerce in the sea lanes of the Persian Gulf. This Iraqi government will remain, for the foreseeable future, a Shiite-led government anxious about the intentions of the Sunni Arab states; about the Turks now pushing deeper into Iraq's affairs, armed with Neo-Ottomanist ideas about Turkey as a patron of the Sunnis of Iraq. And there will always play upon Iraqis—Shiites in particular—a healthy fear of Iran and a desire to keep the Persian power at bay. There will be plenty of room for America in Iraq even after our soldiers have packed up their gear and left.

The question posed in the phase to come will be about the willingness of Pax Americana to craft a workable order in the Persian Gulf, and to make room for this new Iraq. It is a peculiarity of the American presence in the Arab- Islamic world, as contrasted to our work in East Asia, that we have always harbored deep reservations about democracy's viability there and have cast our lot with the autocracies. For a fleeting moment, George W. Bush broke with that history. But that older history, the resigned acceptance of autocracies, is the order of the day in Washington again.

It isn't perfect, this Iraqi polity midwifed by American power. But were we to acknowledge and accept that Iraqis and Americans have prevailed in that difficult land, in the face of such forbidding odds, we and the Iraqis shall be better for it. We have not labored in vain.

Mr. Ajami is a professor at The Johns Hopkins School of Advance International Studies and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.
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« Reply #594 on: October 09, 2010, 10:25:33 PM »

So my partner and I are coming out of the embassy the other day, a little bit ahead of this American officer (LTC) wearing a U.N. blue beret.  Turns out his car is parked across the street right next to ours.  My partner and I start our comprehensive search for sticky bombs.  Now you can just tell that this guy has never searched his car, but he wants the chick he is with to think he's all fly like that, and proceeds to conduct 20-seconds of the most lame ass search I have ever seen.  Not once did his eyes go lower than the level of his already visible gut.
 
Does putting on a sky blue beret, in and of itself, just make you a straight up pussy?
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« Reply #595 on: October 19, 2010, 07:44:07 AM »

As I opened the exterior door of the Villa this morning at about 0655, I heard a huge boom.  Second loudest boom I have heard in all thiem time I have been over here combined.
 
At about 0720 while in the NEC DFAC, I heard another big boom.
 
Both sounded like truck bombs would.
 
So, it has been on like Donkeykong in Baghdad this morning.
 
Which is ironic because just last night as I was surfing the web to see what bad things have been going on in Iraq today, I thought to myself "man it's been very quiet.  We are due for something." 
 
Then I thought to myself "I wonder if the Iraqis think like that and warn their security folks the equivalent of we're due for something!"
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« Reply #596 on: November 03, 2010, 06:35:17 AM »

Summary
More than 50 people were killed Oct. 31 after Iraqi security forces raided a Baghdad church where members of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), Iraq’s al Qaeda node, had taken about 135 individuals hostage. This incident demonstrated a shift in ISI tactics from bombings and small-arms attacks to taking large numbers of hostages. It also showed Iraqi security forces are capable of putting down a hostage situation much quicker than witnessed during the 2008 Mumbai attacks, even if not necessarily bloodlessly.

Analysis
At about 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 31, Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) militants set off an explosive device inside a car and staged an assault on the Iraq Stock Exchange and the Sayidat al-Nejat Church in the Karada district of Baghdad. Following the blast, at least 10 gunmen breached the church, two detonated suicide vests, and about 135 people were taken hostage. The attackers then called media outlets to demand that suspected al Qaeda militants held in Iraqi jails be released. The hostage situation lasted less than four hours, until an elite Baghdad counterterrorism force raided the church to end the standoff. At least 58 hostages, soldiers and gunmen were killed and another 75 were wounded during the raid.

On the surface, this incident would appear to bear similarities to the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai, with jihadists taking hostages and attacking targets likely to garner Western media attention — in this case, a Christian Church — in order to provoke a standoff. However there are several differences from the Mumbai attacks that make this incident notable, including a shift in tactics by the ISI to include large hostage-taking operations, an activity long-practiced by other militant groups, as well as the ability of the Iraqi security forces to quickly bring the situation to a close, even if the presence of suicide vests on the gunmen made a bloodless end to the incident nearly impossible.


The Attack

The gunmen, armed with assault rifles, grenades and suicide vests, initially attacked the Iraq Stock Exchange, wounding four civilians and killing two guards in the car bombing. After failing to enter the stock exchange, the attackers moved on to the Sayidat al-Nejat Church. The church appears to have been the main target as the attackers already prepared demands related to Christian interests, and the attack was timed when there would be a large number of parishioners attending services. The gunmen detonated two more explosive devices before taking an estimated 135 parishioners hostage.

As occurred during the Mumbai assault, Al-Baghdadia, a local television station, soon reported that it received calls from the attackers, who claimed they were from the ISI, issuing their demands. The gunmen told Al-Baghdadia they wanted several suspected members of al Qaeda held in Iraqi jails, as well as two women from a Coptic church who they said were detained in Egypt after converting to Islam, to be released. A statement from the ISI released on the Internet after the attack confirmed these demands. Also like the Mumbai siege, it appears that the militants were trying to create a hostage situation and may have planned to take over multiple buildings — they failed to enter the stock exchange — with the intention of dispersing security forces over a wider area and preventing them from focusing on one particular target.

The response by Iraqi security forces demonstrated why the militants would pursue this strategy. With only one building to focus on, Baghdad police and counterterrorism units quickly arrived on the scene and, likely with U.S. support including reconnaissance aircraft, surrounded the church within an hour of the attack. All surrounding homes and buildings were evacuated and a response plan was prepared. At approximately 8:40 p.m., counterterrorism units raided the church, killing five of the attackers, arresting five and freeing all the surviving hostages. The operation to end the hostage situation was over in less than 20 minutes, within four hours of the initial attack.

The Iraqi government is facing criticism for the response by security forces that left 58 killed, including 43 civilians and 10 security forces, and around 75 wounded. Approximately 92 hostages were freed, including many who suffered injuries at some point in the ordeal. As noted before, most of the deaths were caused by the attackers’ suicide vests loaded with ball bearings, though it is unclear if the casualties occurred when the ISI militants initially took the church or during the security response. Some survivors claimed to have survived by barricading themselves with bookshelves in a front room of the church, creating a safe-haven.

The decision by Baghdad forces to raid the building was due to their belief that the attackers were going to kill the hostages, as well as their desire to prevent a drawn-out siege and the accompanying media attention that would increase pressure on them to meet the attackers’ demands. Considering that the attackers made demands they knew would not be fulfilled, set off explosive devices when they took the church and wore suicide vests, increasing the likelihood of mass casualties in a raid, there is reason to believe the militants had no concern for the lives of their hostages.


A Growing Trend

While Iraqi officials and security forces will face scrutiny over the raid, they demonstrated a quick response to an armed assault and hostage situation. After the warnings of similar threats in Europe in September, this incident shows how difficult it is for militants to maintain a hostage situation for more than a few hours, even for heavily armed militants in an insurgency-ravaged country like Iraq.

The ISI employed similar tactics to those used by other groups in attacks such as a May 2010 attack in Lahore, a December 2009 attack in Rawalpindi and a January 2010 attack in Kabul. All of these incidents involved several teams of gunmen, some of whom took hostages, prolonging the incident and complicating the security response.

This tactic of combining assault rifles, suicide vests and other weapons in a hostage or siege situation, while certainly not novel, has increased in popularity since the Mumbai attacks. While this poses challenges for security forces, they are not insurmountable ones. The Baghdad Operations Command response to the Oct. 31 attack demonstrated the ability to end the situation quickly, unlike India’s response to Mumbai, though it may take more training to avoid the high casualty count. Whether the ISI will decide this attack is a success is unclear, but the report by Baghdad officials that most of the attackers were foreign fighters means they may have found a new source for militants, and they may have more resources to carry out fresh attacks.

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« Reply #597 on: November 03, 2010, 07:08:21 AM »

Second post of the day:

Count me as amongst those who think BO and the Dems have thrown away everything we finally achieved in Iraq. 

Stratfor
Approximately 100 people have been reported killed and nearly 300 injured in up to 21 seemingly coordinated improvised explosive device (IED) blasts throughout Baghdad the evening of Nov. 2, beginning at 6:15 p.m. At least 10 IEDs were placed in vehicles, four were along roadsides and two were sticky bombs generally placed underneath cars (though their exact positions upon detonation are unknown). The bombings occurred almost exclusively in Shiite neighborhoods — Sadr City, Kadhimiya, Shula, Shab, Ur, Amil, Bayaa and Abu Dshir — with the mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhood of Yarmouk and the Sunni neighborhoods of Waziryah, Azamiyah and Karkh also being struck. The IEDs targeted popular civilian areas including cafes, restaurants, markets and residential buildings, and there are reports of mortar attacks on a Shiite mosque and blasts in Abu Ghraib, a town outside of Baghdad.



(click here to enlarge image)
The high casualty count is due to the quantity of explosive devices rather than the quality of their construction and placement. The exact locations of the devices are unclear, but their being spread across the city is evidence that the attackers were attempting to thin out the emergency response to the bombings. The timing and number of explosions indicates a coordinated plan to increase ethno-sectarian tensions, likely with the goal of disrupting the formation of an Iraqi government.

The bombings follow the Oct. 31 armed suicide assault and bombing of an Assyrian Catholic Church in Baghdad by the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), Iraq’s al Qaeda franchise, and taken together, these could represent increased capability for the group. However, a large number of individuals and groups in Iraq have the capability to carry out these types of attack, and coordinated IED attacks in the country are nothing new. While the ISI may be the first suspect, there is no shortage of groups and individuals looking to spark renewed ethno-sectarian tensions.



Read more: Coordinated Bombings Across Baghdad | STRATFOR
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« Reply #598 on: November 05, 2010, 12:10:26 AM »



The job description for many of the existing Police Advisor/Police Trainer positions is written such that somebody who has experience as a deputy sheriff in a podunk county in the USA, somebody who barely ever sees anything more than a medium sized city (if that) and patrols hundreds of square miles by himself, suddenly has some expertise in training and advising police officers in large cities in war torn zones.  Maybe it's just me but simply don't see the connection between experince possessed and skills required.
 
Now if a lawman has spent time over here (e.g. Reserve duty), then I would probably feel differently.  But absent that I just don't see how 20-years service patrolling Podunk, TN, gives you the experience and knowledge to train and advise the Baghdad police force.
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« Reply #599 on: November 06, 2010, 08:17:35 AM »

I just spent 5-minutes hiding under my desk while 2-4 mortars landed not too awful far away (echoes can make it hard to tell).  They sure didn't seem too far off.....
=================================

It never ceases to amaze me how many security "experts" here don't even have the talent or skills that a switched on mall cop might have in the USA....

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Well, several ________ (guys from the office) just came into my office because they heard I had a "complaint."  (How does a serious question on matters of life and death become a "complaint?").
 
Anyway, the bottom line is that at this moment in time and space there is no procedure for ensuring that "convicts" (in other words cooperating witnesses no matter their custody status) are searched prior to entry onto the compound.
 
Despite the incident in Khost on 12/30/2009, I guess there are still those who believe such could never happen to them.
======================================
Urgent - Two Katyusha rockets hit Baghad’s fortified “Green Zone”
November 6, 2010 - 09:50:37
 

BAGHDAD / Aswat al-Iraq: Two Katyusha rockets fell Saturday on west Baghdad’s fortified “Green Zone,” where the main offices of the Iraqi government, U.S., British and other Western embassies exist, a security source said.
 
“The rockets fell on Baghdad’s Green Zone, but the human and material losses were not known,” he said, adding that police forces have managed to discover the area, where the rockets were fire from, on a building in Aqaba bin-Naf’i'e square in central Baghdad.
 
SKH/SR
 
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Apparently several more fell just outside the Green Zone, which since it's rather small would actually make sense as to why they all sounded so close.

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