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Topic: Iraq (Read 223154 times)
Reply #150 on:
April 10, 2007, 11:58:35 PM »
Juan Cole is a Saudi funded jihad apologist disguised as an academic. No credibility in my book.
Ajami: Iraq in the Balance
Reply #151 on:
April 11, 2007, 09:25:43 AM »
From today's WSJ:
Iraq in the Balance
In Washington, panic. In Baghdad, cautious optimism.
BY FOUAD AJAMI
Wednesday, April 11, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
BAGHDAD--For 35 years the sun did not shine here," said a man on the grounds of the great Shia shrine of al-Kadhimiyyah, on the outskirts of Baghdad. I had come to the shrine at night, in the company of the Shia politician Ahmed Chalabi.
We had driven in an armed convoy, and our presence had drawn a crowd. The place was bathed with light, framed by multiple minarets--a huge rectangular structure, its beauty and dereliction side by side. The tile work was exquisite, there were deep Persian carpets everywhere, the gifts of benefactors, rulers and merchants, drawn from the world of Shi'ism.
It was a cool spring night, and beguilingly tranquil. (There were the echoes of a firefight across the river, from the Sunni neighborhood of al-Adhamiyyah, but it was background noise and oddly easy to ignore.) A keeper of the shrine had been showing us the place, and he was proud of its doors made of teak from Burma--a kind of wood, he said, that resisted rain, wind and sun. It was to that description that the quiet man on the edge of this gathering had offered the thought that the sun had not risen during the long night of Baathist despotism.
A traveler who moves between Baghdad and Washington is struck by the gloomy despair in Washington and the cautious sense of optimism in Baghdad. Baghdad has not been prettified; its streets remain a sore to the eye, its government still hunkered down in the Green Zone, and violence is never far. But the sense of deliverance, and the hopes invested in this new security plan, are palpable. I crisscrossed the city--always with armed protection--making my way to Sunni and Shia politicians and clerics alike. The Sunni and Shia versions of political things--of reality itself--remain at odds. But there can be discerned, through the acrimony, the emergence of a fragile consensus.
Some months back, the Bush administration had called into question both the intentions and capabilities of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. But this modest and earnest man, born in 1950, a child of the Shia mainstream in the Middle Euphrates, has come into his own. He had not been a figure of the American regency in Baghdad. Steeped entirely in the Arabic language and culture, he had a been a stranger to the Americans; fate cast him on the scene when the Americans pushed aside Mr. Maliki's colleague in the Daawa Party, Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari.
There had been rumors that the Americans could strike again in their search for a leader who would give the American presence better cover. There had been steady talk that the old CIA standby, former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, could make his way back to power. Mr. Allawi himself had fed these speculations, but this is fantasy. Mr. Allawi circles Arab capitals and is rarely at home in his country. Mr. Maliki meanwhile has settled into his role.
In retrospect, the defining moment for Mr. Maliki had been those early hours of Dec. 30, when Saddam Hussein was sent to the gallows. He had not flinched, the decision was his, and he assumed it. Beyond the sound and fury of the controversy that greeted the execution, Mr. Maliki had taken the execution as a warrant for a new accommodation with the Sunni political class. A lifelong opponent of the Baath, he had come to the judgment that the back of the apparatus of the old regime had been broken, and that the time had come for an olive branch to those ready to accept the new political rules.
When I called on Mr. Maliki at his residence, a law offering pensions to the former officers of the Iraqi army had been readied and was soon put into effect. That decision had been supported by the head of the de-Baathification commission, Ahmed Chalabi. A proposal for a deeper reversal of the de-Baathification process was in the works, and would be announced days later by Mr. Maliki and President Jalal Talabani. This was in truth Zalmay Khalilzad's doing, his attempt to bury the entire de-Baathification effort as his tenure drew to a close.
This was more than the political traffic in the Shia community could bear. Few were ready to accept the return of old Baathists to government service. The victims of the old terror were appalled at a piece of this legislation, giving them a period of only three months to bring charges against their former tormentors. This had not been Mr. Maliki's choice--for his animus toward the Baath has been the driving force of his political life. It was known that he trusted that the religious hierarchy in Najaf, and the forces within the Shia alliance, would rein in this drive toward rehabilitating the remnants of the old regime.
Power and experience have clearly changed Mr. Maliki as he makes his way between the Shia coalition that sustains him on the one hand, and the American presence on the other. By all accounts, he is increasingly independent of the diehards in his own coalition--another dividend of the high-profile executions of Saddam Hussein and three of the tyrant's principal lieutenants. He is surrounded by old associates drawn from the Daawa Party, but keeps his own counsel.
There is a built-in tension between a prime minister keen to press for his own prerogatives and an American military presence that underpins the security of this new order. Mr. Maliki does not have the access to American military arms he would like; he does not have control over an Iraqi special-forces brigade that the Americans had trained and nurtured. His police forces remain poorly equipped. The levers of power are not fully his, and he knows it. Not a student of American ways--he spent his years of exile mostly in Syria--he is fully aware of the American exhaustion with Iraq as leading American politicians have come his way often.
The nightmare of this government is that of a precipitous American withdrawal. Six months ago, the British quit the southern city of Amarrah, the capital of the Maysan Province. It had been, by Iraqi accounts, a precipitous British decision, and the forces of Moqtada al-Sadr had rushed into the void; they had looted the barracks and overpowered the police. Amarrah haunts the Iraqis in the circle of power--the prospect of Americans leaving this government to fend for itself.
In the long scheme of history, the Shia Arabs had never governed--and Mr. Maliki and the coalition arrayed around him know their isolation in the region. This Iraqi state of which they had become the principal inheritors will have to make its way in a hostile regional landscape. Set aside Turkey's Islamist government, with its avowedly Sunni mindset and its sense of itself as a claimant to an older Ottoman tradition; the Arab order of power is yet to make room for this Iraqi state. Mr. Maliki's first trip beyond Iraq's borders had been to Saudi Arabia. He had meant that visit as a message that Iraq's "Arab identity" will trump all other orientations. It had been a message that the Arab world's Shia stepchildren were ready to come into the fold. But a huge historical contest had erupted in Baghdad, the seat of the Abbasid caliphate had fallen to new Shia inheritors, and the custodians of Arab power were not yet ready for this new history.
For one, the "Sunni street"--the Islamists, the pan-Arabists who hid their anti-Shia animus underneath a secular cover, the intellectual class that had been invested in the ideology of the Baath party--remained unalterably opposed to this new Iraq. The Shia could offer the Arab rulers the promise that their new state would refrain from regional adventures, but it would not be easy for these rulers to come to this accommodation.
A worldly Shia cleric, the legislator Humam Hamoudi who had headed the constitutional drafting committee, told me that he had laid out to interlocutors from the House of Saud the case that this new Iraqi state would be a better neighbor than the Sunni-based state of Saddam Hussein had been. "We would not be given to military adventures beyond our borders, what wealth we have at our disposal would have to go to repairing our homeland, for you we would be easier to fend off for we are Shiites and would be cognizant and respectful of the differences between us," Mr. Hamoudi had said. "You had a fellow Sunni in Baghdad for more than three decades, and look what terrible harvest, what wreckage, he left behind." This sort of appeal is yet to be heard, for this change in Baghdad is a break with a long millennium of Sunni Arab primacy.
The blunt truth of this new phase in the fight for Iraq is that the Sunnis have lost the battle for Baghdad. The great flight from Baghdad to Jordan, to Syria, to other Arab destinations, has been the flight of Baghdad's Sunni middle-class. It is they who had the means of escape, and the savings.
Whole mixed districts in the city--Rasafa, Karkh--have been emptied of their Sunni populations. Even the old Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiyyah is embattled and besieged. What remains for the Sunnis are the western outskirts. This was the tragic logic of the campaign of terror waged by the Baathists and the jihadists against the Shia; this was what played out in the terrible year that followed the attack on the Askariya shrine of Samarra in February 2006. Possessed of an old notion of their own dominion, and of Shia passivity and quiescence, the Sunni Arabs waged a war they were destined to lose.
No one knows with any precision the sectarian composition of today's Baghdad, but there are estimates that the Sunnis may now account for 15% of the city's population. Behind closed doors, Sunni leaders speak of the great calamity that befell their community. They admit to a great disappointment in the Arab states that fed the flames but could never alter the contest on the ground in Iraq. No Arab cavalry had ridden, or was ever going to ride, to the rescue of the Sunnis of Iraq.
A cultured member of the (Sunni) Association of Muslim Scholars in Baghdad, a younger man of deep moderation, likened the dilemma of his community to that of the Palestinian Arabs since 1948. "They waited for deliverance that never came," he said. "Like them, we placed our hopes in Arab leaders who have their own concerns. We fell for those Arab satellite channels, we believed that Arab brigades would turn up in Anbar and Baghdad. We made room for al Qaeda only to have them turn on us in Anbar." There had once been a Sunni maxim in Iraq, "for us ruling and power, for you self-flagellation," that branded the Shia as a people of sorrow and quietism. Now the ground has shifted, and among the Sunnis there is a widespread sentiment of disinheritance and loss.
The Mahdi Army, more precisely the underclass of Sadr City, had won the fight for Baghdad. This Shia underclass had been hurled into the city from its ancestral lands in the Marshes and the Middle Euphrates. In a cruel twist of irony, Baathist terror had driven these people into the slums of Baghdad. The Baathist tyranny had cut down the palm trees in the south, burned the reed beds of the Marshes. Then the campaign of terror that Sunni society sheltered and abetted in the aftermath of the despot's fall gave the Mahdi Army its cause and its power.
"The Mahdi Army protected us and our lands, our homes, and our honor," said a tribal Shia notable in a meeting in Baghdad, acknowledging that it was perhaps time for the boys of Moqtada al-Sadr to step aside in favor of the government forces. He laid bare, as he spoke, the terrible complications of this country; six of his sisters, he said, were married to Sunnis, countless nephews of his were Sunni. Violence had hacked away at this pluralism; no one could be certain when, and if, the place could mend.
In their grief, the Sunni Arabs have fallen back on the most unexpected of hopes; having warred against the Americans, they now see them as redeemers. "This government is an American creation," a powerful Sunni legislator, Saleh al-Mutlak, said. "It is up to the Americans to replace it, change the constitution that was imposed on us, replace this incompetent, sectarian government with a government of national unity, a cabinet of technocrats." Shrewd and alert to the ways of the world (he has a Ph.D. in soil science from a university in the U.K.) Mr. Mutlak gave voice to a wider Sunni conviction that this order in Baghdad is but an American puppet. America and Iran may be at odds in the region, but the Sunni Arabs see an American-Persian conspiracy that had robbed them of their patrimony.
They had made their own bed, the Sunni Arabs, but old habits of dominion die hard, and save but for a few, there is precious little acknowledgment of the wages of the terror that the Shia had been subjected to in the years that followed the American invasion. As matters stand, the Sunni Arabs are in desperate need of leaders who can call off the violence, cut a favorable deal for their community, and distance that community form the temptations and the ruin of the insurgency. It is late in the hour, but there is still eagerness in the Maliki government to conciliate the Sunnis, if only to give the country a chance at normalcy.
The Shia have come into their own, but there still hovers over them their old history of dispossession; there still trails shadows of doubt about their hold on power, about conspiracies hatched against them in neighboring Arab lands.
The Americans have given birth to this new Shia primacy, but there lingers a fear, in the inner circles of the Shia coalition, that the Americans have in mind a Sunni-based army, of the Pakistani and Turkish mold, that would upend the democratic, majoritarian bases of power on which Shia primacy rests. They are keenly aware, these new Shia men of power in Baghdad, that the Pax Americana in the region is based on an alliance of long standing with the Sunni regimes. They are under no illusions about their own access to Washington when compared with that of Cairo, Riyadh, Amman and the smaller principalities of the Persian Gulf. This suspicion is in the nature of things; it is the way of once marginal men who had come into an unexpected triumph.
In truth, it is not only the Arab order of power that remains ill at ease with the rise of the Shia of Iraq. The (Shia) genie that came out of the bottle was not fully to America's liking. Indeed, the U.S. strategy in Iraq had tried to sidestep the history that America itself had given birth to. There had been the disastrous regency of Paul Bremer. It had been followed by the attempt to create a national security state under Ayad Allawi. Then there had come the strategy of the American envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, that aimed to bring the Sunni leadership into the political process and wean them away from the terror and the insurgency.
Mr. Khalilzad had become, in his own sense of himself, something of a High Commissioner in Iraq, and his strategy had ended in failure; the Sunni leaders never broke with the insurgency. Their sobriety of late has been a function of the defeat their cause has suffered on the ground; all the inducements had not worked.
We are now in a new, and fourth, phase of this American presence. We should not try to "cheat" in the region, conceal what we had done, or apologize for it, by floating an Arab-Israeli peace process to the liking of the "Sunni street."
The Arabs have an unerring feel for the ways of strangers who venture into their lands. Deep down, the Sunni Arabs know what the fight for Baghdad is all about--oil wealth and power, the balance between the Sunni edifice of material and moral power and the claims of the Shia stepchildren. To this fight, Iran is a newcomer, an outlier. This is an old Arab account, the fight between the order of merchants and rulers and establishment jurists on the one side, and the righteous (Shia) oppositionists on the other. How apt it is that the struggle that had been fought on the plains of Karbala in southern Iraq so long ago has now returned, full circle, to Iraq.
For our part, we can't give full credence to the Sunni representations of things. We can cushion the Sunni defeat but can't reverse it. Our soldiers have not waged wars in Afghanistan and Iraq against Sunni extremists to fall for the fear of some imagined "Shia crescent" peddled by Sunni rulers and preachers. To that atavistic fight between Sunni and Shia, we ought to remain decent and discerning arbiters. To be sure, in Iraq itself we can't give a blank check to Shia maximalism. On its own, mainstream Shi'ism is eager to rein in its own diehards and self-anointed avengers.
There is a growing Shia unease with the Mahdi Army--and with the venality and incompetence of the Sadrists represented in the cabinet--and an increasing faith that the government and its instruments of order are the surer bet. The crackdown on the Mahdi Army that the new American commander, Gen. David Petraeus, has launched has the backing of the ruling Shia coalition. Iraqi police and army units have taken to the field against elements of the Mahdi army. In recent days, in the southern city of Diwaniyya, American and Iraqi forces have together battled the forces of Moqtada al-Sadr. To the extent that the Shia now see Iraq as their own country, their tolerance for mayhem and chaos has receded. Sadr may damn the American occupiers, but ordinary Shia men and women know that the liberty that came their way had been a gift of the Americans.
The young men of little education--earnest displaced villagers with the ways of the countryside showing through their features and dialect and shiny suits--who guarded me through Baghdad, spoke of old terrors, and of the joy and dignity of this new order. Children and nephews and younger brothers of men lost to the terror of the Baath, they are done with the old servitude. They behold the Americans keeping the peace of their troubled land with undisguised gratitude. It hasn't been always brilliant, this campaign waged in Iraq. But its mistakes can never smother its honor, and no apology for it is due the Arab autocrats who had averted their gaze from Iraq's long night of terror under the Baath.
One can never reconcile the beneficiaries of illegitimate, abnormal power to the end of their dominion. But this current re-alignment in Iraq carries with it a gift for the possible redemption of modern Islam among the Arabs. Hitherto Sunni Islam had taken its hegemony for granted and extremist strands within it have shown a refusal to accept "the other." Conversely, Shia history has been distorted by weakness and exclusion and by a concomitant abdication of responsibility.
A Shia-led state in Baghdad--with a strong Kurdish presence in it and a big niche for the Sunnis--can go a long way toward changing the region's terrible habits and expectations of authority and command. The Sunnis would still be hegemonic in the Arab councils of power beyond Iraq, but their monopoly would yield to the pluralism and complexity of that region.
"Watch your adjectives" is the admonition given American officers by Gen. Petraeus. In Baghdad, Americans and Iraqis alike know that this big endeavor has entered its final, decisive phase. Iraq has surprised and disappointed us before, but as they and we watch our adjectives there can be discerned the shape of a new country, a rough balance of forces commensurate with the demography of the place and with the outcome of a war that its erstwhile Sunni rulers had launched and lost. We made this history and should now make our peace with it.
Mr. Ajami, a 2006 recipient of the Bradley Prize, teaches at Johns Hopkins and is author of "The Foreigner's Gift: The Americans, the Arabs, and the Iraqis in Iraq" (Free Press, 2006).
Reply #152 on:
April 11, 2007, 10:28:12 AM »
Thanks for the heads up. I dumped the articles just before rushing out for a meeting.
Reply #153 on:
April 11, 2007, 03:51:34 PM »
***Juan Cole is President of MESA***
Jihad Watch Board Vice President Hugh Fitzgerald introduces you to the Middle East Studies Association:
"Mesa" or "MESA" is the acronym of the Middle East Studies Association, the professional group of those who at American universities and colleges are charged with the responsibility of teaching the American young, those trusting, innocent, infinitely malleable young, with learning about the Middle East -- which is to say, about Islam.
As an organization, MESA has over the past two decades slowly but surely been taken over by apologists for Islam. Many of these are Muslims, and many are non-Muslims. The latter includes quite a few people who are married to Muslims, or who, to get along with their colleagues (and remember, the most political place in the entire universe is a university faculty, and that institution which, alas, Randall Jarrell failed to immortalize (if memory serves), the Departmental Meeting. Junior faculty owe everything to, and therefore must curry favor with, senior faculty. If that means signing an anti-divestment petition that has the mighty empire of Israel, fons et origo of everything that has ever gone wrong with the Muslim and Arab states and peoples, then so be it. Funny thing about being a trimmer, however, is that the mere act of signing something you really don't believe helps to convince you that you really do believe it, otherwise you would have to come to terms with your own cravenness, your own pusillanimity. And no one wants to do that.
The method of apologetics is simple: concentrate on Israel, or the more tendentious reification of an alternative state, "Israel/Palestine," keep clear of such topics as land ownership under the Ottoman Empire, the actual demographics of the Ottoman vilayets and sanjak that made up what became Mandatory Palestine, don't even whisper that more than half of the Jews in Israel had never left the Middle East but lived as dhimmis in the Yemen (virtual chattel slaves), in Iraq, in North Africa, in Syria and Egypt -- because officially, all Israeli Jews are "European colonialists"; finally, do not under any conditions mention that a goodly number of the ancient "Palestinian people" (invented post-1967) are the descendants of Arabs and Berbers who were veterans of Abd el-Kader's campaign, Egyptians who came with Mehmet Ali, Muslims from the Balkans and Bulgaria and other Ottoman territories in Europe who were transferred, en masse, by the Turkish government as the high tide of Islam receded -- for that area (a/k/a in the West as "Palestine") was by far the most desolate and under-populated in the Ottoman Empire, always excepting the Empty Quarter of Arabia).
The apologetics consists in hardly ever discussing Jihad, dhimmitude, or indeed even introducing the students to Qur'an, Hadith, and Sira. Sometimes an expurgated version -- the Michael Sells horror -- is assigned to students The Hadith and Sira are never mentioned. Books on the level of Armstrong and Esposito are assigned, and feelgood nonsense like Maria Rosa Menocal's The Ornament of the World.
But not everyone who is a member of MESA is completely awful. There are a few reasonable people, some of the Ottomanists and suchlike. MESA is a little like the Soviet Union of Writers, which had thousands of members and hardly a real writer. When one considers Michael Cook, Patricia Crone, Bernard Lewis, and a few others, on one scale, and the assorted Khalidis and Dabashis and Massads and Bahranis in the other, you can guess which side kicks the beam. No member of MESA has done as much to make available to a wide public important new work on Muhammad, on the origins of the Qur'an, and on the history of early Islam, as that lone wolf, Ibn Warraq. No one has done such work on the institution of the dhimmi as that lone louve, Bat Ye'or. It is an astounding situation, where much of the most important work is not being done in universities, because many university centers have been seized by a kind of Islamintern International. Willy Munzenberg could have learned a lot from Edward Said, who was only begetter, with his Orientalism for a good deal of this "post-colonial hegemonic discourse" stuff that permanently stunts the mental growth.
Recent presidents of MESA have included Lisa Anderson, the well-versed and compleat academic (and beyond, what with the Councils on this and the Committees on that, all very impressive if you are impressed with that sort of thing) operator, Dean of the School of International Blah, and Joel Beinin and Laurie Brand, about whom you may google, and Rashid Khalidi, and -- has Juan Cole served his term, or is that coming up? Well, you get the dreary picture
In any case, even MESA has its constraints. For example a few years ago it had to award, it could not avoid awarding, a prize for the best book of the year to Michael Cook for his 720-page Commanding Right and Prohibiting Wrong in Islam, even though Cook is suspiciously learned and has written a book, perhaps too warily not permitted to be reprinted, with Patricia Crone (who herself is very good, but also, at times, as in her treatment of Christoph Luxenberg, not quite as brave as she should be).
Why do I refer to MESA as "Mesa Nostra"? Because it is a kind of "Our Thing" conspiracy, but not nearly as appealing, as folkloric, as the Mafia, or the 'ndrangheta, or the camorra, for in Italy the malavita has three main components. Everyone knows everyone else; the maneuvering, the politicking, the fear that the hot breath of Campus Watch, and perhaps even Congress, will take away all that government money that the Khalidis and the Dabashis et al. wanted to use to spread their anti-Israel anti-American and "why-do-they-hate-us?" and "it is only a handful-of-extremists" message, and how can that mean old U.S. government not want to fund that, huh?
"Mesa Nostra" is my little invention. It communicates the doubtfulness, and more, of the enterprise. It has nothing to do with real scholarship. Ask yourself this: could Joseph Schacht, the great authority on Mohammedan law, or Arthur Jeffery, an authority on Islam, on Muhammad, even on aspects of the lexicon of the early Qur'an, both of them once stars in Columbia's middle-eastern firmament, have been hired today -- at Columbia, or indeed, anywhere that the plotters of Mesa Nostra rule the roost?
The Arabs have poured money into various Georgetown Centers for this and that (because that's where the power is, that's where the foreign service officers are trained, that's where Peter Bechtold, who gave a cheerleading address to the last meeting of Mesa, heads the "Foreign Policy Institute" and was so instrumental in drawing up that farcical list for General Vines). They have also bought up chairs: the nice "Guardian of the Two Holy Places" professorship of law that Frank Vogel holds, and a King Abdul Aziz Thisorthat, and so on. Oh, they get their money's worth. They do, indeed they do.
So that's why I call it "Mesa Nostra." Everybody should.
Reply #154 on:
April 12, 2007, 06:34:51 PM »
Hear it from the Marines....
Reply #155 on:
April 13, 2007, 10:41:55 AM »
Geopolitical Diary: Iraq's Worsening Crisis of Governance
The al Qaeda-claimed suicide bombing in the Iraqi parliament cafeteria on Thursday killed three members of parliament -- two Sunnis and a Kurd -- and wounded numerous others, including several Shiite parliament members.
By targeting the parliament building, which is located in the maximum-security Green Zone in Baghdad, the jihadists are trying to prove that the United States is unable to provide protection to any of the three principal ethno-sectarian groups in Iraq. Given the pressure on the Bush administration to withdraw troops from Iraq and the dire need of each communal group for U.S. protection, this attack was well timed. Moreover, it makes a mockery of the U.S. surge policy and the Baghdad Security Plan.
But though critically timed, the attack should not be viewed as evidence of jihadist dominance in Iraq. In fact, the militants are trying to counter the threats from the mainstream Sunni community and nationalist insurgent groups that have turned against them. The militants also are keeping an eye on the intensifying U.S.-Iranian back-channel negotiations because they fear the discussion will move toward a settlement on Iraq.
Al Qaeda realizes the only way it can block such a settlement is to create a crisis of governance, which could be realized if a large number of parliamentarians were eliminated. The jihadists know all too well the vulnerabilities within the fledgling Iraqi political system because they have seen how difficult it has been to establish the legislature and the Cabinet.
The deaths of a large number of parliamentarians would divert the attention of the Iraqi government and the United States toward filling the political vacuum -- a process that would only further exacerbate existing political tensions within the country.
Iraq's largest Sunni political bloc already is threatening to leave the government because it feels the Baghdad Security Plan has not contained Shiite militias. And the Sunnis believe they have upheld their end of the bargain by going after the jihadists operating within their midst.
However, the Shia, especially the radical al-Sadrite bloc, also are threatening to leave the coalition government unless their demand for a U.S. troop withdrawal timetable is met. It is no secret that the Shia are perhaps the most internally divided of all of Iraq's communal groups, which is why Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government has been unable to make much progress with plans to disband Shiite militias -- a key prerequisite in containing the Sunni insurgency.
Meanwhile, another complex communal fault line is emerging in the northern Kurdish territory over the future of Kirkuk, where Shiite and Sunni Arabs could end up facing off with the increasingly assertive Kurdish community. Further complicating the situation in northern Iraq is the aggressive posture toward Turkey of Kurdistan Regional Government leader Massoud Barzani. Barzani has issued more than one statement warning Ankara that if it tries to intervene in northern Iraq in an effort to go after Turkish Kurdish separatist groups that Iraqi Kurds will cause trouble in Turkey's southeastern Kurdish areas.
On Thursday Turkey's military chief announced a major offensive against Kurds within Turkish borders and asked the government for permission to send troops into northern Iraq. Barzani's warnings and the resulting escalation of tensions has fellow Kurdish leader and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani worried, which would explain why he has tried to placate Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, saying he regrets Barzani's comments.
Talabani's reaction to Barzani's statements is indicative of the rivalry between the two principal Kurdish leaders and their respective groups. Barzani knows that Talabani will not be around for long because of his advanced age and declining health, and is angling to emerge as the top leader of Iraqi Kurds -- moves that will only exacerbate intra-Kurdish struggles.
Given the various moving parts that form Iraq and the multilevel conflicts in which they are engaged, it must be questioned how much stability can be derived from a U.S.-Iranian accommodation on Iraq, which is another messy affair altogether.
Reply #156 on:
April 16, 2007, 08:32:43 AM »
A discouraging piece from today's NY Times-- an often suspect source:
Attacks Surge as Iraq Militants Overshadow City
By RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr.
Published: April 16, 2007
BAQUBA, Iraq — They maneuver in squads, like the American infantrymen they try to kill. One squad fires furiously so another can attack from a better position. They operate in bad weather, knowing American helicopters and surveillance drones are grounded. Some carry G.P.S. receivers so mortar teams can calculate the coordinates of American armored vehicles. They kidnap and massacre police officers.
The New York Times
The Sunni guerrillas and extremists who now overshadow this city demonstrate a sophistication and lethality born of years of confronting American military tactics. While the “surge” plays out in Baghdad just 35 miles to the south, Baquba has emerged as a magnet for insurgents from around the country and, perhaps, the next major headache for the American military.
Some insurgents have moved into Baquba to escape the escalation in Baghdad. But the city has been attracting insurgents for years, particularly after American officials in Baghdad proclaimed it and surrounding Diyala Province relatively pacified over a year ago and drew down their troop presence.
When 70 insurgents broke out of a Mosul jail in March, for example, escapees from Chad, Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan were apprehended here, the Iraqi police said. And Sunni fighters continue to heed calls by insurgent leaders to converge here.
It is impossible to say how many insurgents are in Baquba now. Using a broad definition that comprises not just those who actively fight, but also those who place bombs and others paid by insurgents, some military officials put the number around 2,000. It is a nasty stew that includes former members of the Saddam Hussein army and paramilitary forces, the Fedayeen; angry and impoverished Sunni men; criminal gangs; Wahhabi Islamists; and foreigners.
While most insurgents here are not as hardened, that is similar to the numbers in Falluja in 2004, before a bloody Marine offensive to retake the city, said Lt. Col. Scott Jackson, deputy head of the provincial reconstruction team in Diyala, who fought in Falluja.
As the insurgent ranks have swelled, attacks on American troops have soared. The 5,000-member brigade that patrols Diyala Province has had 44 soldiers killed in five months, more than twice the number who died in the preceding year.
On the ground in Baquba, it is not hard to see why. Despite recent seizures of stockpiles, the insurgents have a ready supply of artillery shells and material to make bombs, the biggest killer of American troops here. Some bombs destroy American vehicles. Some are used to booby-trap houses to crash down on Americans. Some are used in larger battle plans: Before overrunning an Iraqi Army outpost south of Baquba, guerrillas laid bombs on the road that Iraqi and American forces would later use to try to rescue the outpost. The minefield blocked the reinforcements, and the Iraqi soldiers at the outpost fled.
The guerrillas seem increasingly well organized and trained. An insurgent force trying to overrun an American outpost in southern Baquba was repelled only after American soldiers fired more than 2,000 Coke-bottle-size rounds from Bradley fighting vehicles and 13,000 rounds from M-240 machine guns.
“They were firing from every direction, trying to get us to concentrate on one spot while the other guys were maneuvering,” said Cpl. Bill McGrath, who said the M-240 barrels glowed cherry red and had to be swapped out a half-dozen times. “These were well-trained military types, not like the guys who shoot tanks with AK-47s. A lot of these guys we never saw. We’d just see muzzle flashes.”
The tactics reflect the skill and resolve of the insurgency here, soldiers say. “To say the guys we are fighting are any less smarter than me, that would be crazy,” said Lt. Col. Morris Goins, commander of the 1-12 Combined Arms Battalion.
The Sunni groups seem to be cooperating like mob families, with ever-shifting alliances. Colonel Goins likens it to the HBO series “The Sopranos.” “We’ll work together today, but when they are no longer of any value,” he said, they part company.
They are capable of disciplined and sustained operations. In early March, a guerrilla force chased a four-man American sniper team through palm groves around the Diyala River for more than two hours, after cutting off the Americans’ escape routes. The snipers were cornered in a sharp bend of the river, officers said, before helicopters finally flew in to rescue them.
Some are purely fanatical. American forces on the main road in western Baquba reported their astonishment during a night in which, over the course of an hour and 15 minutes, they gunned down four teams of guerrillas trying one after the other to plant a bomb in the same spot.
There are many reasons for the mayhem. Diyala and Baquba had significant Shiite and Sunni populations. Shiite-dominated security forces in the city inflamed tensions by persecuting Sunnis, but remain ill prepared to fight the insurgents without support of American forces. Basic government services like food and fuel deliveries have collapsed.
Sunni extremists operate with an extraordinary ruthlessness that terrorizes residents into submission. And Baquba has always had a heavy population of former Baathists and Fedayeen, providing a sympathetic backdrop for the insurgency. Some fighters still wear black Fedayeen uniforms, American officers say.
“Our city has become ruins, even its people,” said one Baquba resident, Mohammed al-Zaidi, 34. “We have no hope to live for.”
Colonel Jackson said he believed that the largest portion of insurgents were disgruntled men or others who just needed money. The rest are homegrown Sunni insurgents, Wahhabis, foreigners and their rivals, Shiite militiamen. Falluja, he said, had a significantly higher proportion of hardened and skilled fighters.
However, he added, “the core of the insurgents in Baquba are as well trained as they were in Falluja.”
Fighters from the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia largely loyal to Moktada al-Sadr, the anti-American cleric, have also flooded north from Baghdad and now control villages west of Baquba and north of Sadr City. The police chief of Khalis, a city controlled by the Mahdi Army, was arrested by American forces in March for sectarian wrongdoing.
Thousands of Shiites have been killed or displaced in Baquba. But the roots of the gruesome toll that Sunni killers have taken here is partly a consequence of Shiite aggression in Baghdad, where Shiite death squads drove Sunnis out. Many angry Sunnis sought refuge in Baquba, and helped fuel the insurgency.
The human disaster that unfolded in Baquba was a mirror image of much of Baghdad — Sunni death squads wiping out Shiite families. The Shiite-dominated central government in Baghdad responded by sending a new Iraqi Army commander who arrested Sunnis with no evidence, while the recently fired provincial police chief stocked his ranks with Shiite Mahdi militiamen.
American soldiers cited repeated instances of Iraqi troops or police officers terrorizing Sunnis in Diyala. The Iraqi forces’ conduct induced some Sunnis to turn to the insurgency for protection, American officers said. Iraqi lawmakers in Baghdad continue to block provincial elections that would give Sunni Arabs — a majority in Diyala, but one that largely boycotted the last provincial elections — a real stake in government.
As the insurgency has swelled in Baquba, many soldiers here described an American force spread astonishingly thin. The 5,000-member Third Brigade Combat Team of the First Cavalry Division is based in Baquba. But its forces have responsibility over a wide region in Diyala, which is about the size of Maryland, and parts of neighboring Salahuddin Province.
American commanders began a strategy here similar to the new security plan in Baghdad, pushing soldiers into small forward bases deep in insurgent territory.
The troops say that before reinforcements arrived it had essentially been left up to a few dozen foot soldiers and a few tanks from Company B of the 1-12 Battalion to patrol from eastern Baquba to Zaganiya — an insurgent-dominated region of hundreds of thousands of people. “The takeaway was that we had freakin’ next to nothing” for an area with many terrorists, said Capt. Pete Chapman, the company commander.
With areas like Zaganiya receiving little attention, insurgent ranks grew unchecked. Eight of the 300 soldiers in the Fifth Squadron of the 73rd Cavalry Regiment have been killed near Zaganiya since they arrived in March to secure the village. The squadron has been sweeping the area northeast of Baquba, while the Fifth Battalion of the 20th Infantry Regiment rushed north from Taji in March to reinforce Baquba.
(Page 3 of 3)
A number of officers said additional battalions were still needed for new patrol bases and operations. None would speak for the record. The senior American commander in Diyala, Col. David Sutherland, said he believed there were enough troops in Baquba now.
The Iraqi Insurgency At one newly built outpost in Baquba, nicknamed Disneyland, soldiers staff lookouts and sniper posts and sleep on cots. They say they control little outside the tall concrete barriers. “You see anybody out there with binoculars, you light them up!” Sgt. Gary Rojas barked on a radio to American snipers one recent afternoon, after an Iraqi insurgent bullet struck the second floor.
Later, Iraqi and American troops walked out of Disneyland, sprinted alongside a wall on the deserted street and then broke into a house 200 yards away. They found the sniper’s nest on the second floor, along with a shell casing. A perfect spot for a sniper, Sergeant Rojas said. The unit climbed into a Bradley to go search another nearby house. First Lt. Karim Branford ordered a move back to the outpost, fearing a trap, before they had gone two blocks from it. “I’m not going to take guys into a baited ambush,” he said.
The Americans said the Iraqis performed well. But the Iraqi soldiers said that most Iraqis assigned to the outpost had fled, kicking back some of their pay to commanders to avoid punishment. Colonel Sutherland said the Iraqi troops were accounted for.
The Iraqi soldiers fretted that the insurgents had better equipment compared with their two clips and rickety Kalashnikov rifles. Like Baquba’s residents, they are intimidated. An Iraqi, Sgt. Raad Rashid, said his countrymen would flee if Americans abandoned the outpost. “Twenty minutes later we’d be gone,” he said. “They would surround this place and kill us.”
The insurgency’s remarkable ability to terrorize residents, killing those who help Americans while coercing others, is undeniably one of its biggest weapons. It appears to be well financed, too.
“Some guys will give you $300 to put this in a hole in the ground and attach a wire,” said John M. Jones, head of the provincial reconstruction team in Diyala, explaining how insurgents recruit bomb emplacers. “Where are the other incentives?”
With the combination of threats and money, Mr. Jones said, the insurgents’ offers are hard for residents to refuse. “You might not agree with the philosophy of what he’s saying, but he’s got the big guns, and they live in the same neighborhood. It’s you, your wife and kids. What can you do?”
Such intimidation makes progress impossible. “We are not able to make even baby steps,” he said. “I hope we’re laying the framework for future baby steps. Right now, I’d say we are pretty much frustrated.”
An Iraqi reporter for The New York Times contributed to this report. (Marc: Does this mean the NY Times never left the Green Zone?)
Reply #157 on:
April 16, 2007, 09:36:00 AM »
I'm sure that's exactly what that means.
Reply #158 on:
April 16, 2007, 10:36:01 AM »
Which is why Michael Yon et al are so important:
Reply #159 on:
April 16, 2007, 08:51:59 PM »
Second post of the day:
Iraq: Tehran's Shiite Housekeeping and U.S. Talks
Hours after six ministers belonging to radical Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr's bloc pulled out of the government April 16, protesters in the oil-rich southern city of Basra led by al-Sadr's followers demanded the dismissal of the city's governor. These latest developments reveal a strategy by Iran to restore order in the Iraqi Shiite house to better manage its dealings with the United States regarding Iraq.
Radical Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr pulled six ministers out of the government led by Iraqi Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on April 16, ostensibly in protest of al-Maliki's inability to set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Meanwhile, protesters in Basra led by al-Sadr's followers demanded the removal of the southern city's governor.
The events expose Tehran's efforts to regain control over the Iraqi Shia as it seeks leverage in its negotiations with Washington over Iraq.
Though calling for the "U.S. occupiers" to leave Iraq is a popular nationalist move, the reasons behind al-Sadr's political ploy run much deeper. Al-Sadr tried this gambit before in November 2006, when his followers boycotted parliament and ministries, also demanding a U.S. troop withdrawal. At the time, al-Sadr was focused on how to pressure al-Maliki to keep U.S. forces at bay ahead of an aggressive security crackdown targeting members of his Mehdi Army. After holding out for two months, al-Sadr realized there was nothing stopping the crackdown once Washington singled out his movement as the biggest obstacle to Iraq's stability and that he was better off preserving his political position while his militia faced the prospect of a destructive clash in Sadr City.
The U.S.-led security crackdown placed al-Sadr on the defensive, leaving the rebel leader with little choice but to flee to Iran for his own safety. While in Iran, the chinks in al-Sadr's armor were exposed as several of his commanders failed to heed his calls to stand-down, and engaged in violent clashes with U.S. forces. Al-Sadr was also forced to fire two senior lawmakers from his party when he learned the two met with Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. military forces in Iraq, during a dinner gathering. His distrust for his own party members was only enhanced when he had to ask al-Maliki on April 5 to suspend two members from his bloc after they backed a plan for the northern oil-rich city of Kirkuk that likely will see the city turned over to Kurdish control.
In an attempt to counter the unraveling of his movement, al-Sadr is now taking a calculated risk by threatening to break the already deeply fractured United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), the ruling Shiite Islamist coalition led by al-Maliki. Al-Sadr's 32 seats in parliament allow him to hold a majority in this coalition, giving him substantial bargaining power. The fourth-largest component of this coalition, the Fadhila party, recently left the UIA government, making al-Maliki all the more dependent on al-Sadrite parliamentarians. Though al-Sadr has only pulled out his ministers in this latest move, he is signaling he could just as easily withdraw completely from the government, depriving al-Maliki of his ruling coalition. Al-Sadr expects that the ruling Iraqi Shiite bloc will have little choice but to appease the rebel leader and allow his loyalists a more prominent role in the state security apparatus such that al-Sadr can preserve the Mehdi Army.
Al-Sadr's strategy is likely heavily influenced by his protectors in Iran. Al-Sadr does not see eye to eye on a number of issues with his Shiite brethren in Tehran, who have strong ties to his main rival, Abdel Aziz al-Hakim -- the leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), Iraq's most pro-Iranian Shiite party. But the Iranians shrewdly took advantage of al-Sadr's compromised position by acting quickly to provide sanctuary for the rebel leader when the U.S. crackdown intensified in Baghdad. Al-Sadr's increased dependence on the Iranian government adds to Tehran's leverage in its negotiations with the United States over Iraq in a variety of ways.
By demonstrating Iranian control over al-Sadr, Iran can make an offer to the United States to put a lid on al-Sadr and his militia as a gesture of goodwill when the time comes for Iran to offer a substantial concession to the Americans. Forging stronger ties with al-Sadr also works in Iranian interests to weed out the troublemakers within Iraq's severely fractured Shiite bloc -- one of the key obstacles to Iran's ability to consolidate its influence in Iraq.
Iran is fully aware that throughout Iraq's history, the Iraqi Shia have never managed to use their demographic majority to their advantage to dominate the Sunni faction. Under Sunni rule, the Iraqi Shia were largely shut out from government and security positions, and thus made up most of the business community in Iraq. The flow of money from commercial enterprises and oil smuggling in the south drove Iraqi Shiite interests, and created a highly self-interested, divided and competitive Shiite bloc.
In order for Iran to harness the strength of Iraq's Shiite majority, it first has to clean house. A big part of this Iranian campaign is to weaken the anti-Iranian Fadhila party, the dominant Shiite power in the oil-rich southern city of Basra. Fadhila, an offshoot of the al-Sadr movement, dominates Iraq's organized crime network in the south and has emerged from the post-Hussein anarchy as a strong player among Iraqi Shia. Fadhila members have grown accustomed to their control over Iraq's southern oil wealth, and will violently resist any Iranian attempt to take over these oil assets.
It comes as little surprise, then, that just hours after al-Sadr's ministers left the government, thousands of his followers carried out large-scale protests in Basra to demand the resignation of Basra Gov. Mohammed Mosbeh al-Waeli, a Fadhila member. The protesters also included SCIRI members, Fadhila's biggest opponent. The head of Fadhila, Member of Parliament Hussein al-Shimari, said he had seen government intelligence reports that revealed a scheme to assassinate al-Waeli and all of his family April 16. Al-Shimari on April 15 appealed to al-Sadr's followers to prevent these violent outbreaks as a show of good faith, and said the demonstration only aimed to contribute to the overall chaos in Basra by calling for raids on the local council and important buildings, such as banks and the South Oil Co. Fadhila party members have good reason to worry about the death threats against the Basra governor. Losing control over Basra would cripple Fadhila politically and financially, leaving Iran's proxies free to firm up their control over Iraq's oil assets in the south.
The recent behavior of al-Sadr's movement reveals three major points behind Iran's strategy for Iraq:
1. By unleashing the al-Sadrites against Fadhila, Iran aims to weaken its potential foes in the oil-rich south and create enough of a power vacuum that it can insert its more loyal allies.
2. The resignation of the six al-Sadrite ministers sends a wake-up call to Iraq's Shiite bloc to pull itself together and work out an effective power-sharing agreement, or else the U.S. hints of re-inserting a Sunni-dominated government in Iraq could become a reality.
3. The added instability in the south, combined with al-Sadr's move to give up his six ministry positions, allows the Iranians to signal to Washington that Tehran has the pieces in place to make it virtually impossible for the United States to reach a political accommodation in Baghdad that would allow for a U.S. exit strategy from Iraq.
Restoring order in the Iraqi Shiite house is a primary objective for the Iranians to centralize Shiite control across its western border. Until that happens, no major leaps will be taken in its negotiations with the United States over Iraq.
Reply #160 on:
April 17, 2007, 08:35:47 AM »
Geopolitical Diary: U.S., Iran Lose from Major Changes in Baghdad
The al-Sadrite bloc pulled out of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's coalition government on Monday. This move is a function of intra-Shiite wrangling at the tactical level. The development also affects U.S.-Iranian relations and the stabilization of Iraq, but the question is whether it has brought the United States and Iran closer to a deal on Iraq or has had the opposite effect.
The biggest problem for the United States in Iraq remains radical Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr's movement. In 2004 al-Sadr's Mehdi Army fought battles with U.S. and Iraqi forces to gain recognition as a major Shiite political force and to establish a political presence in Baghdad.
Once in government, and after the eruption of Shiite sectarian attacks against Sunnis following the destruction of the Al Askariyah shrine in As Samarra in February 2006, the al-Sadrites became the major obstacle to containing the Sunni insurgency because of their hyper-indulgence in sectarian killings of Sunnis. And though it already was having trouble in trying to contain this Sunni insurgency, Washington faced an even bigger challenge when Mehdi Army attacks against Sunnis torpedoed negotiations with Sunni political principals.
Since many observers see the al-Sadrites as a major obstacle to U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq, and are aware of the hostility between Washington and Tehran, most wrongly infer that the radical Iraqi Shiite Islamist movement is Iran's main proxy in Iraq. The reality is that al-Sadr also has been a problem for the Iranians. Because of its Arab/Iraqi nationalist tendencies and its rivalry with the most pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite group -- the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) -- Iran has had a difficult time utilizing the al-Sadrite movement for its own goal of securing influence in Iraq.
To realize this goal, Iran knows it must either attain its objective through a Shiite-dominated strong central government in Baghdad or through an autonomous Shiite federal zone in southern Iraq that would be similar to the Kurdistan Regional Government in the north. The al-Sadrites pose a problem to both scenarios.
The establishment of an autonomous southern Shiite zone involves the creation of regional government that would be dominated by the SCIRI since it has a far better organizational setup in the nine Shiite majority governorates in the south. The al-Sadrite power base, on the other hand, would get divided between pockets in the south and in Baghdad -- which is why the al-Sadrites oppose this idea. But even under current arrangements, the al-Sadrites have been the key obstacle in preventing the ruling Shiite coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance, from emerging as a coherent Shiite political bloc -- a medium the Iranians need to pursue their agenda in Iraq.
Though Iran has indeed obtained short-term tactical benefits by playing the various Shiite factions against each other and by causing inter-faction rifts, a factionalized Iraqi Shiite community is a liability to Iranian interests. The al-Sadrites left the Cabinet to secure their own partisan goals, likely with Tehran's blessing. Iran needed this to happen in order to counter U.S. moves against the clerical regime. But eventually Iran must get al-Sadr to stop being a maverick and fall in line with the Iraqi Shiite establishment because instability within this community is dangerous for Tehran.
This is the point at which U.S. and Iranian interests begin to converge; both Washington and Tehran cannot afford to see the collapse of the current political arrangement. The Bush administration can no longer afford to start from scratch in forming a new coalition government. As for the Iranians, the current arrangement is the best it can expect from a Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad. It cannot get any better for Tehran but it can certainly get worse.
Therefore, Cabinet reshuffles in keeping with the current power-sharing mechanism are tolerable, but any changes to the basic political formula brought about by the withdrawal of one or more factions from the Cabinet and/or parliamentary coalition could be detrimental to both Washington and Tehran.
Sunni Tribes in Anbar form anti-insurgent party
Reply #161 on:
April 20, 2007, 11:03:23 AM »
Today's LA Times:
THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ: A COUNCIL OF SHEIKS
Iraqi tribal chiefs forming an anti-insurgent party
The Sunni sheiks aim to set up a council and enter elections. They also seek to enhance U.S. troops' image.
By Chris Kraul, Times Staff Writer
April 20, 2007
RAMADI, IRAQ — A group of Sunni tribal leaders in beleaguered Al Anbar province said Thursday that it intended to form a national party to oppose insurgents such as Al Qaeda in Iraq and reengage with Iraq's political process.
The announcement came after 200 sheiks said to represent 50 tribes met here and agreed to form a provincial sheiks council and hold the first convention in May of their new party, called Iraq Awakening. Sheiks from three other provinces will attend, organizers said.
The driving force behind the new party, Sheik Abdul-Sattar abu Risha, said in an interview that the tribal leaders would be pushing a slate of candidates in Al Anbar provincial elections later this year, as well as in the next round of national parliamentary balloting, scheduled for 2009.
One purpose of the party, Sattar said, is to promote a better image of American-led forces "to the Iraqis here." He added that the tribes also would participate in a U.S.-backed effort to reestablish a court system in Ramadi, the provincial capital.
The sheik is a leader of the Abu Risha tribe that is part of the larger Dulaimi tribal confederation in Al Anbar. His grab for power has been resented by some. His base of support remains around Ramadi, although he has been trying to reach out to other branches of the Dulaimi tribe around the province. Still, his history remains the subject of speculation, and others are wary of him, even though they may seek nominal affiliation with his movement as tribal leaders move to battle Al Qaeda in Iraq and its affiliates.
U.S. military leaders here said they were cheered by the announcement because cooperation from sheiks in Al Anbar in recent months had contributed to a rise in Iraqi police and army recruitment and a sharp reduction in insurgent attacks on U.S. troops and their Iraqi allies.
After remaining neutral or in favor of the insurgency that followed the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, many Al Anbar sheiks eventually grew disenchanted due to the brutality of foreign-led militants. Sattar said he began organizing sheiks in September after his father and three brothers were killed by insurgents.
"The terrorists destroyed the network of people and how they communicate, and the new sheiks council is here to bring it back and fight the insurgents until they are out of the country," Sattar said.
Improved security in Al Anbar, for which the U.S. military gives strong credit to the evolving views of the region's sheiks, has been something of a bright spot in Iraq in recent months.
The sheiks, who have long served as cultural leaders here, felt marginalized by the political system imposed after the 2003 invasion. Some U.S. occupation officials viewed the sheiks and their hold over extended families as undemocratic.
Al Anbar Gov. Mamoun Sami Rasheed said Thursday that the sheiks marginalized themselves by refusing to participate in Iraq's 2005 elections and, in some cases, supporting the Al Qaeda in Iraq organization.
The sheiks in turn have mocked some of the provincial representatives for being absentee politicians with no local track record.
But some sheiks in Ramadi and other parts of Al Anbar have established closer links with U.S. armed forces since last year, when they began speaking out against the insurgency and Al Qaeda in Iraq.
With the sheiks' encouragement, Al Anbar tribes have contributed thousands of recruits to Iraq's security forces in recent months, enabling U.S.-led troops to hold and pacify parts of the restive province.
The number of insurgent attacks in Ramadi and its outlying areas has fallen to a fraction of what it was a year ago, said U.S. Army Col. John Charlton, commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, who is overall military commander in the Ramadi area.
Sattar said the sheiks council would offer "full accountability for anyone in his tribe. Also they will know of any strangers — man, woman or child — who try to mix in their neighborhoods."
Analysts who lauded the sheiks' announcement as well as U.S. efforts to work with them cautioned that the political situation remained fluid.
"It's only now that the United States appears convinced of the need to build up local support against Al Qaeda," said Joost Hiltermann, a consultant with the International Crisis Group in Amman, the capital of Jordan. "What these people want is a restoration of Sunni power, or a preservation of certain privileges, or more simply, protection of their community from the Shiite majority and Iran."
Vali Nasr, a Middle East expert at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., said the "most important result may not be in the battlefield but in producing new Sunni voices that Shiites and Kurds can negotiate with."
Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution in Washington said that improving U.S. relations with Sunni sheiks made "eminent sense" but that officials needed to be thinking about the "next step."
"We need better contacts among Sunnis for the purposes of negotiating an end to the civil war," he said, "and this could create an opportunity to create partners in the larger project while also serving an immediate need."
Times staff writer Ned Parker in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
Reply #162 on:
April 24, 2007, 12:40:32 PM »
"Against [the] historical backdrop, two facts stand out about our collection of enemies in Iraq, with a particular focus on the ex-Ba'athists and the terrorists who produced the bulk of the violence over the conflict's first three years. First, they are a small group relative to the population within which they are found. And second, even by the standards of our nation's past enemies, they are a despicable lot... National pride should not of course keep us in a war we have indeed lost. But we should give the surge a chance, and consider a number of 'Plan Bs' if it fails, before giving up this important fight to this heinous foe in this crucial part of the world" -- Michael O'Hanlon, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, writing in the Washington Times.
Reply #163 on:
April 25, 2007, 10:46:09 AM »
1108 GMT -- IRAQ -- The body of Mohammad al-Issawi, a top al Qaeda leader in Iraq, has been identified by Multinational Forces (MNF) officials, the MNF said in an April 25 statement. Al-Issawi, who was known to have supplied weapons to insurgents and support an Iraqi car bombing network, was killed in a raid against insurgents April 20.
Reply #164 on:
April 29, 2007, 07:46:53 AM »
By JAMES GLANZ
Published: April 29, 2007
In a troubling sign for the American-financed rebuilding program in Iraq, inspectors for a federal oversight agency have found that in a sampling of eight projects that the United States had declared successes, seven were no longer operating as designed because of plumbing and electrical failures, lack of proper maintenance, apparent looting and expensive equipment that lay idle.
The United States has previously admitted, sometimes under pressure from federal inspectors, that some of its reconstruction projects have been abandoned, delayed or poorly constructed. But this is the first time inspectors have found that projects officially declared a success — in some cases, as little as six months before the latest inspections — were no longer working properly.
The inspections ranged geographically from northern to southern Iraq and covered projects as varied as a maternity hospital, barracks for an Iraqi special forces unit and a power station for Baghdad International Airport.
At the airport, crucially important for the functioning of the country, inspectors found that while $11.8 million had been spent on new electrical generators, $8.6 million worth were no longer functioning.
At the maternity hospital, a rehabilitation project in the northern city of Erbil, an expensive incinerator for medical waste was padlocked — Iraqis at the hospital could not find the key when inspectors asked to see the equipment — and partly as a result, medical waste including syringes, used bandages and empty drug vials were clogging the sewage system and probably contaminating the water system.
The newly built water purification system was not functioning either.
Officials at the oversight agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, said they had made an effort to sample different regions and various types of projects, but that they were constrained from taking a true random sample in part because many projects were in areas too unsafe to visit. So, they said, the initial set of eight projects — which cost a total of about $150 million — cannot be seen as a true statistical measure of the thousands of projects in the roughly $30 billion American rebuilding program.
But the officials said the initial findings raised serious new concerns about the effort.
The reconstruction effort was originally designed as nearly equal to the military push to stabilize Iraq, allow the government to function and business to flourish, and promote good will toward the United States.
“These first inspections indicate that the concerns that we and others have had about the Iraqis sustaining our investments in these projects are valid,” Stuart W. Bowen Jr., who leads the office of the special inspector general, said in an interview on Friday.
The conclusions will be summarized in the latest quarterly report by Mr. Bowen’s office on Monday. Individual reports on each of the projects were released on Thursday and Friday.
Mr. Bowen said that because he suspected that completed projects were not being maintained, he had ordered his inspectors to undertake a wider program of returning to examine projects that had been completed for at least six months, a phase known as sustainment.
Exactly who is to blame for the poor record on sustainment for the first sample of eight projects was not laid out in the report, but the American reconstruction program has been repeatedly criticized for not including in its rebuilding budget enough of the costs for spare parts, training, stronger construction and other elements that would enable projects continue to function once they have been built.
The new reports provide some support for that position: a sophisticated system for distributing oxygen throughout the Erbil hospital had been ignored by medical staff members, who told inspectors that they distrusted the new equipment and had gone back to using tried-and-true oxygen tanks — which were stored unsafely throughout the building.
The Iraqis themselves appear to share responsibility for the latest problems, which cropped up after the United States turned the projects over to the Iraqi government. Still, the new findings show that the enormous American investment in the reconstruction program is at risk, Mr. Bowen said.
Page 2 of 2)
Besides the airport, hospital and special forces barracks, places where inspectors found serious problems included two projects at a military base near Nasiriya and one at a military recruiting center in Hilla — both cities in the south — and a police station in Mosul, a northern city. A second police station in Mosul was found to be in good condition.
Skip to next paragraph
Reach of War
Go to Complete Coverage » The dates when the projects were completed and deemed successful ranged from six months to almost a year and a half before the latest inspections. But those inspections found numerous instances of power generators that no longer operated; sewage systems that had clogged and overflowed, damaging sections of buildings; electrical systems that had been jury-rigged or stripped of components; floors that had buckled; concrete that had crumbled; and expensive equipment that was simply not in use.
Curiously, most of the problems seemed unrelated to sabotage stemming from Iraq’s parlous security situation, but instead were the product of poor initial construction, petty looting, a lack of any maintenance and simple neglect.
A case in point was the $5.2 million project undertaken by the United States Army Corps of Engineers to build the special forces barracks in Baghdad. The project was completed in September 2005, but by the time inspectors visited last month, there were numerous problems caused by faulty plumbing throughout the buildings, and four large electrical generators, each costing $50,000, were no longer operating.
The problems with the generators were seemingly minor: missing batteries, a failure to maintain adequate oil levels in the engines, fuel lines that had been pilfered or broken. That kind of neglect is typical of rebuilding programs in developing countries when local nationals are not closely involved in planning efforts, said Rick Barton, co-director of the postconflict reconstruction project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a research organization in Washington.
“What ultimately makes any project sustainable is local ownership from the beginning in designing the project, establishing the priorities,” Mr. Barton said. “If you don’t have those elements it’s an extension of colonialism and generally it’s resented.”
Mr. Barton, who has closely monitored reconstruction efforts in Iraq and other countries, said the American rebuilding program had too often created that resentment by imposing projects on Iraqis or relying solely on the advice of a local tribal chief or some “self-appointed representative” of local Iraqis.
The new findings come after years of insistence by American officials in Baghdad that too much attention has been paid to the failures in Iraq and not enough to the successes.
Brig. Gen. Michael Walsh, commander of the Gulf Region Division of the Army Corps, told a news conference in Baghdad late last month that with so much coverage of violence in Iraq “what you don’t see are the successes in the reconstruction program, how reconstruction is making a difference in the lives of everyday Iraqi people.”
And those declared successes are heavily promoted by the United States government. A 2006 news release by the Army Corps, titled “Erbil Maternity and Pediatric Hospital — not just bricks and mortar!” praises both the new water purification system and the incinerator. The incinerator, the release said, would “keep medical waste from entering into the solid waste and water systems.”
But when Mr. Bowen’s office presented the Army Corps with the finding that neither system was working at the struggling hospital and recommended a training program so that Iraqis could properly operate the equipment, General Walsh tersely disagreed with the recommendation in a letter appended to the report, which also noted that the building had suffered damage because workers used excess amounts of water to clean the floors.
The bureau within the United States Embassy in Baghdad that oversees reconstruction in Iraq was even more dismissive, disagreeing with all four of the inspector general’s recommendations, including those suggesting that the United States should lend advice on disposing of the waste and maintaining the floors.
“Recommendations such as how much water to use in cleaning floors or disposal of medical waste could be deemed as an intrusion on, or attempt to micromanage operations of an Iraqi entity that we have no controlling interest over,” wrote William Lynch, acting director of the embassy bureau, called the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office.
Reply #165 on:
April 29, 2007, 07:57:17 AM »
Second post of the morning, also from the NYTimes:
RAMADI, Iraq — Anbar Province, long the lawless heartland of the tenacious Sunni Arab resistance, is undergoing a surprising transformation. Violence is ebbing in many areas, shops and schools are reopening, police forces are growing and the insurgency appears to be in retreat.
Eros Hoagland for The New York Times
ON THE JOB TOGETHER Iraqi policemen and American troops patrol near Ramadi in Anbar. Ramadi’s police force has sharply increased in the past year.
“Many people are challenging the insurgents,” said the governor of Anbar, Maamoon S. Rahid, though he quickly added, “We know we haven’t eliminated the threat 100 percent.”
Many Sunni tribal leaders, once openly hostile to the American presence, have formed a united front with American and Iraqi government forces against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. With the tribal leaders’ encouragement, thousands of local residents have joined the police force. About 10,000 police officers are now in Anbar, up from several thousand a year ago. During the same period, the police force here in Ramadi, the provincial capital, has grown from fewer than 200 to about 4,500, American military officials say.
At the same time, American and Iraqi forces have been conducting sweeps of insurgent strongholds, particularly in and around Ramadi, leaving behind a network of police stations and military garrisons, a strategy that is also being used in Baghdad, Iraq’s capital, as part of its new security plan.
Yet for all the indications of a heartening turnaround in Anbar, the situation, as it appeared during more than a week spent with American troops in Ramadi and Falluja in early April, is at best uneasy and fragile.
Municipal services remain a wreck; local governments, while reviving, are still barely functioning; and years of fighting have damaged much of Ramadi.
The insurgency in Anbar — a mix of Islamic militants, former Baathists and recalcitrant tribesmen — still thrives among the province’s overwhelmingly Sunni population, killing American and Iraqi security forces and civilians alike. [This was underscored by three suicide car-bomb attacks in Ramadi on Monday and Tuesday, in which at least 15 people were killed and 47 were wounded, American officials said. Eight American service members — five marines and three soldiers — were killed in two attacks on Thursday and Friday in Anbar, the American military said.]
Furthermore, some American officials readily acknowledge that they have entered an uncertain marriage of convenience with the tribes, some of whom were themselves involved in the insurgency, to one extent or another. American officials are also negotiating with elements of the 1920 Revolution Brigades, a leading insurgent group in Anbar, to join their fight against Al Qaeda.
These sudden changes have raised questions about the ultimate loyalties of the United States’ new allies. “One day they’re laying I.E.D.’s, the next they’re police collecting a pay check,” said Lt. Thomas R. Mackesy, an adviser to an Iraqi Army unit in Juwayba, east of Ramadi, referring to improvised explosive devices.
And it remains unclear whether any of the gains in Anbar will transfer to other troubled areas of Iraq — like Baghdad, Diyala Province, Mosul and Kirkuk, where violence rages and the ethnic and sectarian landscape is far more complicated.
Still, the progress has inspired an optimism in the American command that, among some officials, borders on giddiness. It comes after years of fruitless efforts to drive a wedge between moderate resistance fighters and those, like Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, who seem beyond compromise.
“There are some people who would say we’ve won the war out here,” said Col. John. A. Koenig, a planning officer for the Marines who oversees governing and economic development issues in Anbar. “I’m cautiously optimistic as we’re going forward.”
A New Calm
For most of the past few years, the Government Center in downtown Ramadi, the seat of the provincial government, was under near-continual siege by insurgents, who reduced it to little more than a bullet-ridden bunker of broken concrete, sandbags and trapped marines. Entering meant sprinting from an armored vehicle to the front door of the building to evade snipers’ bullets.
Now, however, the compound and nearby buildings are being renovated to create offices for the provincial administration, council and governor. Hotels are being built next door for the waves of visitors the government expects once it is back in business.
Page 2 of 4)
On the roof of the main building, Capt. Jason Arthaud, commander of Company B, First Battalion, Sixth Marines, said the building had taken no sniper fire since November. “Just hours of peace and quiet,” he deadpanned. “And boredom.”
Marriage of Convenience With the encouragement of Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar Province, many local residents have joined the police force in cities like Ramadi. American and Iraqi forces also work with auxiliary police forces, above, mainly local tribesmen, who often wear scarves or balaclavas to conceal their identities.
Eros Hoagland for The New York Times
A NEW DYNAMIC American officers with leaders from Anbar, including Sheik Tahir Sabbar Badawie, second from right.
Violence has fallen swiftly throughout Ramadi and its sprawling rural environs, residents and American and Iraqi officials said. Last summer, the American military recorded as many as 25 violent acts a day in the Ramadi region, ranging from shootings and kidnappings to roadside bombs and suicide attacks. In the past several weeks, the average has dropped to four acts of violence a day, American military officials said.
On a recent morning, American and Iraqi troops, accompanied by several police officers, went on a foot patrol through a market in the Malaab neighborhood of Ramadi. Only a couple of months ago, American and Iraqi forces would enter the area only in armored vehicles. People stopped and stared. The sight of police and military forces in the area, particularly on foot, was still novel.
The new calm is eerie and unsettling, particularly for anyone who knew the city even several months ago.
“The complete change from night to day gives me pause,” said Capt. Brice Cooper, 26, executive officer of Company B, First Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, First Infantry Division, which has been stationed in the city and its outskirts since last summer. “A month and a half ago we were getting shot up. Now we’re doing civil affairs work.”
A Moderate Front
The turnabout began last September, when a federation of tribes in the Ramadi area came together as the Anbar Salvation Council to oppose the fundamentalist militants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.
Among the council’s founders were members of the Abu Ali Jassem tribe, based in a rural area of northern Ramadi. The tribe’s leader, Sheik Tahir Sabbar Badawie, said in a recent interview that members of his tribe had fought in the insurgency that kept the Americans pinned down on their bases in Anbar for most of the last four years.
“If your country was occupied by Iraq, would you fight?” he asked. “Enough said.”
But while the anti-American sheiks in Anbar and Al Qaeda both opposed the Americans, their goals were different. The sheiks were part of a relatively moderate front that sought to drive the Americans out of Iraq; some were also fighting to restore Sunni Arab power. But Al Qaeda wanted to go even further and impose a fundamentalist Islamic state in Anbar, a plan that many of the sheiks did not share.
Al Qaeda’s fighters began to use killing, intimidation and financial coercion to divide the tribes and win support for their agenda. They killed about 210 people in the Abu Ali Jassem tribe alone and kidnapped others, demanding ransoms as high as $65,000 per person, Sheik Badawie said.
For all the sheiks’ hostility toward the Americans, they realized that they had a bigger enemy, or at least one that needed to be fought first, as a matter of survival.
The council sought financial and military support from the Iraqi and American governments. In return the sheiks volunteered hundreds of tribesmen for duty as police officers and agreed to allow the construction of joint American-Iraqi police and military outposts throughout their tribal territories.
A similar dynamic is playing out elsewhere in Anbar, a desert region the size of New York State that stretches west of Baghdad to the Syrian and Jordanian borders. Tribal cooperation with the American and Iraqi commands has led to expanded police forces in the cities of Husayba, Hit, Rutba, Baghdadi and Falluja, officials say.
With the help of the Anbar sheiks, the military equation immediately became simpler for the Americans in Ramadi. The number of enemies they faced suddenly diminished, American and Iraqi officials said. They were able to move more freely through large areas. With the addition of the tribal recruits, the Americans had enough troops to build and operate garrisons in areas they cleared, many of which had never seen any government security presence before.
And the Americans were now fighting alongside people with a deep knowledge of the local population and terrain, and with a sense of duty, vengeance and righteousness.
Page 3 of 4)
“We know this area, we know the best way to talk to the people and get information from them,” said Capt. Hussein Abd Nusaif, a police commander in a neighborhood in western Ramadi, who carries a Kalashnikov with an Al Capone-style “snail drum” magazine. “We are not afraid of Al Qaeda. We will fight them anywhere and anytime.”
Ramadi Beginning last summer and continuing through March, the American-led joint forces pressed into the city, block by block, and swept the farmlands on its outskirts. In many places the troops met fierce resistance. Scores of American and Iraqi security troops were killed or wounded.
The Ramadi region is essentially a police state now, with some 6,000 American troops, 4,000 Iraqi soldiers and 4,500 Iraqi police officers, including an auxiliary police force of about 2,000, all local tribesmen, known as the Provincial Security Force. The security forces are garrisoned in more than 65 police stations, military bases and joint American-Iraqi combat outposts, up from no more than 10 a year ago. The population of the city is officially about 400,000, though the current number appears to be much lower.
To help control the flow of traffic and forestall attacks, the American military has installed an elaborate system of barricades and checkpoints. In some of the enclaves created by this system, which American commanders frequently call “gated communities,” no vehicles except bicycles and pushcarts are allowed for fear of car bombs.
American commanders see the progress in Anbar as a bellwether for the rest of country. “One of the things I worry about in Baghdad is we won’t have the time to do the same kind of thing,” Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of day-to-day war operations in Iraq, said in an interview here.
Yet the fact that Anbar is almost entirely Sunni and not riven by the same sectarian feuds as other violent places, like Baghdad and Diyala Province, has helped to establish order. Elsewhere, security forces are largely Shiite and are perceived by many Sunnis as part of the problem. In Anbar, however, the new police force reflects the homogeneous face of the province and appears to enjoy the support of the people.
A Growing Police Force
Military commanders say they cannot completely account for the whereabouts of the insurgency. They say they believe that many guerrillas have been killed, while others have gone underground, laid down their arms or migrated to other parts of Anbar, particularly the corridor between Ramadi and Falluja, the town of Karma north of Falluja and the sprawling rural zones around Falluja, including Zaidon and Amariyat al-Falluja on the banks of the Euphrates River. American forces come under attack in these areas every day.
Still other guerrillas, the commanders acknowledge, have joined the police force, sneaking through a vetting procedure that is set up to catch only known suspects. Many insurgents “are fighting for a different side now,” said Brig. Gen. Mark Gurganus, commander of ground forces in Anbar. “I think that’s where the majority have gone.”
But American commanders say they are not particularly worried about infiltrators among the new recruits. Many of the former insurgents now in the police, they say, were probably low-level operatives who were mainly in it for the money and did relatively menial tasks, like planting roadside bombs.
The speed of the buildup has led to other problems. Hiring has outpaced the building of police academies, meaning that many new officers have been deployed with little or no training. Without enough uniforms, many new officers patrol in civilian clothes, some with their heads wrapped in scarves or covered in balaclavas to conceal their identities. They look no different than the insurgents shown in mujahedeen videos.
Commanders seem to regard these issues as a necessary cost of quickly building a police force in a political environment that is, in the words of Colonel Koenig, “sort of like looking through smoke.” The police force, they say, has been the most critical component of the new security plan in Anbar.
Page 4 of 4)
Yet, oversight of the police forces by American forces and the central Iraqi government is weak, leaving open the possibility that some local leaders are using newly armed tribal members as their personal death squads to settle old scores.
Ramadi Several American officers who work with the Iraqi police said a lot of police work was conducted out of their view, particularly at night. “It’s like the Mafia,” one American soldier in Juwayba said.
General Odierno said, “We have to watch them very closely to make sure we’re not forming militias.”
But there is a new sense of commitment by the police, American and Iraqi officials say, in part because they are patrolling their own neighborhoods. Many were motivated to join after they or their communities were attacked by Al Qaeda, and their successes have made them an even greater target of insurgent car bombs and suicide attacks.
Abd Muhammad Khalaf, 28, a policeman in the Jazeera district on Ramadi’s northern edge, is typical. He joined the police after Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia killed two of his brothers, he said. “I will die when God wills it,” he said. “But before I die, I will support my friends and kill some terrorists.”
The Tasks Ahead
Some tribal leaders now working with the Americans say they harbor deep resentment toward the Shiite-led administration of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, accusing it of pursuing a sectarian agenda. Yet they also say they are invested in the democratic process now.
After boycotting the national elections in 2005, many are now planning to participate in the next round of provincial elections, which have yet to be scheduled, as a way to build on the political and military gains they have made in recent months.
“Since I was a little boy, I have seen nothing but warfare — against the Kurds, Iranians, Kuwait, the Americans,” Sheik Badawie said. “We are tired of war. We are going to fight through the ballot box.”
Already, tribal leaders are participating in local councils that have been formed recently throughout the Ramadi area under the guidance of the American military.
Iraqi and American officials say the sheiks’ embrace of representative government reflects the new realities of power in Anbar. “Out here it’s been, ‘Who can defend his people?’ ” said Brig. Gen. John R. Allen, deputy commanding general of coalition forces in Anbar. “After the war it’s, ‘Who was able to reconstruct?’ ”
Indeed, American and Iraqi officials say that to hold on to the security gains and the public’s support, they must provide services to residents in areas they have tamed.
But successful development, they argue, will depend on closing the divide between the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad, which has long ignored the province, and the local leadership in Anbar, which has long tried to remain independent from the capital. If that fails, they say, the Iraqi and American governments may have helped to organize and arm a potent enemy.
Congress should listen to soldiers re: winning the war, not Reid!
Reply #166 on:
April 30, 2007, 11:07:42 AM »
An Appeal for Courage
by Lt. Jason Nichols
Recently a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle called me here in Baghdad and asked why the active duty military wasn’t opposing the war in Iraq in numbers similar to those that opposed the war in Vietnam. Not surprisingly, he didn’t print my answer.
He was asking my opinion as a co-founder of AppealForCourage.org, an ongoing effort to allow currently serving military personnel to send a message to Congress asking them to support victory in Iraq. I do not speak as a representative of the Defense Department or the Navy but simply as an individual and on behalf of the signers of the Appeal with respect to the wording of the Appeal. Nevertheless my answer was a military answer. It was a ‘root cause’; a term the military commonly uses to describe the source of an event, a foundation that must be identified before further action is taken. My answer was that the military overwhelmingly wants to win the war, and believes we can. Hence we don’t oppose it.
The primary reason we support the war is because we believe it is just and right, and we were given a mission to win it. The mission was clearly stated: overthrow Saddam and install an independent, stable, democratic government in Iraq. The military necessity was obvious after 9/11, the President said it was required and the Congress voted overwhelmingly in favor of it. We were given a mission and the means to carry it out. The military is highly mission-oriented. It is ingrained in us during our training that excuses and rationalizing failure are not ‘the military way’. We must face reality and accomplish the mission within that framework.
Iraqi democracy is a mission we know we can accomplish, given time. The honest reality is that we are winning the war in Iraq. Both militarily and politically we are progressing at the pace expected, though not as well as the most idealistic hopes of a cakewalk nor as badly as the most dire predictions of quagmire. al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) is terrified of a democratic country in their midst, and is still brutally attacking Iraqi civilians. But we are implementing a steady buildup of Iraqi military and police and seeing the rewards of having worked with the Iraqis in a cooperative way, often at increased risked to our soldiers. Simultaneously the extremists are learning the consequences of having bombed the Iraqi civilians for the past 4 years. Sunni Sheiks are joining together to fight them, proving AQI’s strategy is a short term one that is unsustainable during years of political progress.
It is a mentality of mission accomplishment that has spurred the Appeal for Courage effort. Just as victory in Iraq seems likely, defeat back home has begun to loom as a real possibility. Vietnam-era Defense Secretary Melvin Laird’s words in Foreign Affairs are a call to action for the modern military:
“The truth about Vietnam that revisionist historians conveniently forget is that the United States had not lost when we withdrew in 1973. In fact, we grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory two years later when Congress cut off the funding for South Vietnam that had allowed it to continue to fight on its own”.
Members of the military have a duty to ensure this mistake is not repeated. We have a responsibility to complete the mission. If that requires us to educate others on the reasons for staying in Iraq, so be it. Yes it’s outside our normal duties and professionally risky. Should we be unwilling to take professional risks while we ask junior soldiers to risk their lives?
The American public is not tired of the war; they are tired of believing that they are losing. They are tired of the daily drumbeat of pessimism and defeat promoted daily by our media and by some in our Congress. They don’t understand that building a democracy is a slow process that takes years, that victory in Iraq will be more like the fall of communism than like VE day in 1945. Like it or not, it is incumbent upon us in the military to correct this misrepresentation of our efforts. We have a duty to convince the American public why we must stay and finish the mission. Should we have to? Did we sign up to do that? The answers are no and yes, respectively. No we shouldn’t have to ask to be allowed to win a war, but yes we signed up to complete a mission. No whining allowed.
The response to the Appeal For Courage seems to suggest that much of the military agrees. It is a large and growing number of service members with over 2,600 signatories, encompassing a broad cross section of the military; both officer and enlisted, deployed and at home. They have signed a message to Congress respectfully asking them to support our mission. There is much more that we can do. We must educate ourselves on why we’re winning and what victory -- i.e. a stable, democratic Iraq -- will look like. We must then tell our families and friends that victory is possible and what is required. From there we should do whatever is in our power to legally accomplish, within military regulations.
It is not enough that we are making progress here in Iraq. We must make progress at home as well to ensure we are given the funds, support and time needed to finish the job. There is no doubt that we can create a stable democracy in Iraq -- if we have courage enough to do so.
Lt. Jason Nichols is an officer in the US Navy stationed in Iraq. SSG Dave Thul is co-founder of AppealforCourage.org
Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam.
(I have a catapult. Give me all the money, or I will fling an enormous rock at your head.)
Good brief rant
Reply #167 on:
May 01, 2007, 12:35:22 PM »
"As to why some of Capitol Hill's would-be war managers can't name more than a single Iraqi province, officers and journalists offer all kinds of theories.... But, then, expertise may be beside the point. Obliviousness, after all, has its uses.... Where all this leads is clear. Piece together a string of demonstrably false 'facts on the ground' from a suitably safe remove, and you're left with a scenario where we can walk away from Iraq without condition and regardless of consequence. You don't need to watch terrified Iraqis pleading for American forces to stay put in their neighborhoods. You don't need to read the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, which anticipates that a precipitous U.S. withdrawal will end in catastrophe. Why, in the serene conviction that things are the other way around, you don't even need to read at all. Chances are, your congressman doesn't either" -- Lawrence Kaplan, writing in the New Republic, on the basic ignorance about Iraq displayed by Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, John Murtha and other Democratic leaders.
Reply #168 on:
May 04, 2007, 08:44:52 AM »
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What's Going Right in Iraq
By JOHN D. NEGROPONTE
May 4, 2007; Page A15
By now it goes without saying that sectarian conflict and extremism in Iraq cannot be solved by military means alone -- it will take national reconciliation, economic reform and development, and international support as well. And as a former ambassador to Iraq, I know how difficult it is to create an alternative to coercive violence in a country that has lived under these conditions for decades.
In 2004 the U.N. Security Council laid out an arduous agenda for Iraq when it regained its sovereignty. This included setting up an interim government and electing a transitional government, writing and adopting a constitution, electing a permanent government, and developing national reconciliation based on the rule of law, tolerance and pluralism.
Despite horrific violence, much of that agenda has been implemented, though not national reconciliation. Nonetheless, the Iraqis have come a long way in what has been a short time for them. Pressing them to continue moving ahead on national reconciliation and reform is well-justified. But imposing fixed deadlines would be ill-advised.
Fixed deadlines would empower the obstructionists, stiffening their resolve to resist and delay by showing them where to concentrate their efforts. It would also weaken the moderates who -- forced to face a near-term future without us -- would hedge their bets and be less willing to broker hard political compromises. This could provoke even greater violence and insecurity, the opposite effect of that presumably intended by those advocating deadlines. That is why President Bush just issued only the second veto of his administration.
The fact is that critically important economic, political and diplomatic progress is being made; we must not allow the fog of war to obscure major developments that are fundamental to stability in Iraq and the region. These developments are more powerful than bombs -- they are the stuff of which modern nation states are made and the basis upon which they survive and thrive.
The U.S. has spent more than 84% of its major reconstruction appropriation in 11 sectors. Despite some missteps, inevitable given the chaotic conditions, these projects have brought significant benefits to the Iraqi people and will continue to do so for decades.
Now we are shifting toward increasing the capacity of Iraqis to meet their own needs. This is critical to Iraq's prospects for effective self-governance. In 2006 we began a ministerial capacity development program and completed the initial rollout of our Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) program. We're on track to double the number of PRTs from 10 to 20, deploying specialists to support moderates in local government, civil society and business.
Without question, oil is the most important and contentious economic sector. The Iraqis are making progress on a legislative package that is extremely important for national reconciliation. That this will prompt a great deal of debate should surprise no one. Such debate is healthy. Politically and economically, the stakes are high.
Iraq's financial position is improving, and the government is making budget execution a priority for 2007. The $1 billion that the Ministry of Finance released upon enactment of the budget has been delivered. Thus far, 94 of 128 spending units have opened the capital expenditure accounts needed for the full Iraqi budget to be disbursed. Some key ministries like Oil have not performed well. Others -- such as Communications, which has allocated 90% of its capital budget already -- are making good headway.
The International Compact with Iraq -- a road map for what Iraq will need to do over the next five years to achieve economic self-sufficiency -- is another step forward. Iraq has produced this credible package of economic reforms in 10 short months. There's no package like this anywhere else in the region.
Another positive development is that the IMF Board of Directors has approved the combined third and fourth reviews of Iraq's Stand-By Arrangement, keeping Iraq on track for the final 20% of Paris Club debt relief due in 2008. As part of this arrangement, Iraq has cut fuel subsidies, increased hard currency reserves to $18 billion, and mitigated inflationary pressure by appreciating the Iraqi dinar against the U.S. dollar and raising interest rates. These are tough measures. Countries less troubled than Iraq have balked or failed when trying to take similar steps.
Iraq's national reconciliation, reconstruction and stability depend not only on its internal policies but also on its relations with its neighbors. The Neighbors Conference being held this week in Sharm el-Sheikh is giving Iraq an important opportunity to improve those relations. We strongly support this effort.
As Gen. Petraeus explained last week, security is a necessary condition for sustained progress in the political, economic and diplomatic dimensions. By the same token, political, economic and diplomatic progress is necessary for achieving improved security. The two go hand-in-hand.
When I was ambassador to Iraq two years ago, the country had no permanent government, no Council of Representatives, no constitution, no IMF Stand-By Arrangement, no hydrocarbon laws in draft or otherwise, no willingness to cut subsidies, no International Compact with Iraq, and no forum for constructive dialogue with its neighbors and international community leaders. Now all that exists. It is what the Iraqis and we are fighting for, and what the terrorists and extremists are fighting against.
Mr. Negroponte is the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State.
Reply #169 on:
May 04, 2007, 10:31:03 AM »
Second post of the morning:
By Hoshyar Zebari
Friday, May 4, 2007; A23
Last weekend a traffic jam several miles long snaked out of the Mansour district in western Baghdad. The delay stemmed not from a car bomb closing the road but from a queue to enter the city's central amusement park. The line became so long some families left their cars and walked to enjoy picnics, fairground rides and soccer, the Iraqi national obsession.
Across the city, restaurants are slowly filling and shops are reopening. The streets are busy. Iraqis are not cowering indoors. The appalling death tolls from suicide attacks are often high because of crowding at markets. These days you are as likely to hear complaints about traffic congestion as about the security situation. Across Baghdad there is a cacophony of sirens from ambulances, firefighters and police providing public services. You cannot even escape the curse of traffic wardens ticketing illegally parked cars.
These small but significant snippets of normality are overshadowed by acts of gross violence, which fuel the opinion of some that Iraq is in a downward spiral. The Iraqi people are indeed suffering tremendous hardships and making grave sacrifices -- but daily life goes on for 7 million Baghdadis struggling to take back their capital and country.
Today, at an international summit on the future of Iraq in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, my government will ask the international community to maintain its engagement in our country to help us achieve our goals of security and stability. We recognize that our request conflicts with a plethora of voices decrying the situation in Iraq and those in the British and American publics who seek an expeditious withdrawal from a war they claim is all but lost.
So why should the world remain engaged in Iraq?
There is no denying the difficulties Iraq faces, and no amount of good news can obscure the demons of terrorism and sectarianism that have risen in my country. But there is too much at stake to risk failure, and everything to gain by helping us protect our hard-won democratic achievements and emerge as a stable, self-sustaining country.
We remain determined in spite of our losses. Spectacular attacks may dominate foreign headlines, but they cannot change the reality that Iraq has made steady political, economic and social progress over the past four years. We continue to strengthen our nascent democratic institutions, pursue national reconciliation and expand Iraqi security forces. The Baghdad security plan was conceived to give us breathing space to expedite political and economic development by "securing and holding" neighborhoods across the capital. There is no quick fix, but there have been real results: Winning public confidence has led to a spike in intelligence, a disruption of terrorist networks and the capture of key leaders, as well as the discovery of weapons caches. In Anbar province, Sunni sheikhs and insurgents have turned against al-Qaeda and to the side of Iraqi security forces. This would have been unthinkable even six months ago.
Contrary to popular belief, most government ministries are located outside the Green Zone, and employees drive to work every day despite death threats and attacks on colleagues and families. We government ministers are always at risk of assassination. When a suicide bomber attacked parliament last month, the legislators sat in defiance in an extraordinary session the following day. I am particularly inspired by the commitment of the young diplomats in the Foreign Ministry, a diverse mix of Sunni, Shiite, Christian, Arab and Kurdish men and women who serve their country without subscribing to religious or sectarian divisions.
Iraqis are standing up every day, and we persevere because there is no other option. We will not surrender our country to terrorists. They have failed to cripple the elected government, and they have failed to intimidate us into submission. Iraqis reject their vision of a future whose hallmarks are bloodshed and hatred.
Those calling for withdrawal may think it is the least painful option, but its benefits would be short-lived. The fate of the region and the world is linked with ours. Leaving a broken Iraq in the Middle East would offer international terrorism a haven and ensure a legacy of chaos for future generations. Furthermore, the sacrifices of all the young men and women who stood up here would have been in vain.
Iraqis, for all our determination and courage, cannot succeed alone. We need a healthy and supportive regional environment. We will not allow our country to be a battleground for settling scores in regional and international conflicts that adversely affect stability inside our borders. Only with continued international commitment and deeper engagement from our neighbors can we establish a stable democratic, federal and united Iraq. The world should not abandon us.
The writer is foreign minister of Iraq.
Sent to me by an officer friend
Reply #170 on:
May 12, 2007, 01:07:38 PM »
Soldiers in Iraq do the State Department's job.
Missing in Action
by Lawrence F. Kaplan
Only at TNR Online | Post date 02.20.07 Discuss this article (26)
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world away, the Senate was bracing for a solemn debate over whether to debate the war in Iraq. But, in Iraq the place, the soldiers of the Tenth Mountain Division's Second Brigade Combat Team (2-10 Mtn.) had a slightly more pressing concern. The sectarian mix in 2-10 Mtn.'s area of operations--which runs from the Shia-dominated city of Mahmudiyah south of Baghdad to the Sunni areas bordering Anbar Province to the west--offers a microcosm of Iraq and all of its problems. Not the least of these is that, until recently, Mahmudiyah's mayor--a plump Shia who favors Western attire and socialist literature--refused to talk to the Sunni sheiks who lord over the city's western outskirts. 2-10 Mtn.'s Captain Palmer Phillips, a young company commander who doubles as a liaison to the sheiks, had spent the better part of a month arranging for the mayor to visit with his Sunni counterparts. "Then the sheiks got upset," Phillips recounts, "and chaos ensued."
The mayor, too, had second thoughts about the meeting, informing the U.S. battalion commander in Mahmudiyah that he had other plans. The officer replied that his boss, 2-10 Mtn. commander Colonel Michael Kershaw, would be displeased. To bolster the point, Kershaw rolled up behind the mayor on the highway, and had his soldiers escort the mayor directly to the sheiks. The meeting proved to be a modest success. But what really made it notable was, first, that it happened at all and, second, the occupation of the men who arranged it--all of them soldiers, none of them diplomats.
Tribal diplomacy is very much the business of civilian agencies that operate, or ought to operate, in Iraq. In the five months that 2-10 Mtn. has been maneuvering in and around Mahmudiyah, however, diplomatic officials from the nearest provincial reconstruction team (PRT)--housed in Baghdad's Green Zone--have shown up once. Which is more than in some places. In a counterinsurgency whose main thrust ought to be nonmilitary, the full force and expertise of the U.S. government is nowhere to be seen in Iraq. Were the combined resources of the State Department, the Justice Department, and other government agencies actually brought to bear in this war, things in Iraq might have turned out much differently. Instead, we have in Iraq an answer to the old question: What if they threw a war and nobody came?
he spectacle of young Army captains cajoling and corralling sheiks three times their age is an everyday staple in Iraq. Over the years, I've watched the same scene unfold at mosques and homes in Baghdad, Mosul, Ramadi, Tall Afar, and Sinjar. Typically, it unfolds well. The sheiks and the captains often develop close friendships (at a memorial service a couple of months ago for Captain Travis Patriquin--a young officer-cum-tribal diplomat in Ramadi--nearly every sheik in the city turned up). Tribal leaders know that, despite their age, their U.S. interlocutors can generate funds, infrastructure projects, bureaucratic shortcuts, firepower, and just about anything else. They know, too, that their own government cannot procure any of these things. For their part, the young American officers tend to be skilled professionals, well-versed in the techniques of warfare and much else besides.
But they are, first and last, military professionals. Few of the officers engaged in tribal diplomacy have the benefit of any formal training; most aren't even civil affairs officers. The best ones rely on their wits, but not every young officer boasts the wits of a Phillips or a Patriquin. Hence, the logic of the civilian-led PRTs--unveiled in 2005 to, in the words of a State Department cable, "assist Iraq's provincial government with developing a transparent and sustained capability to govern ... promoting political and economic development, and providing the provincial administration necessary to meet the basic needs of the population." That the PRTs have accomplished none of these things owes something to former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who initially objected to the military's role on the teams. But the Pentagon long ago reversed course--to the point that the Army now supplies most of the manpower for the PRTs. Persuading their civilian counterparts to show up is another matter.
Six months after they were unveiled, the PRTs had attracted all of twelve job applicants from the State Department, according to The Washington Post, and only one of those was qualified. Despite a flurry of memos pleading for recruits, guarantees of salary and career boosts, and a consensus about the importance of the teams that ran from the Iraq Study Group down to platoon leaders in Iraq, civilian agencies have declined to revive the Vietnam-era practice of compulsory war-zone assignments. According to The New York Times, federal employees have flatly refused requests that they go to Iraq. Others have been swayed by inducements yet have demanded that they be posted in the Green Zone. Outside Baghdad, "attracting civilians to serve at the PRTs in austere and dangerous locations has proved even more difficult," in the words of a report by the Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.
o understand what a pitiful contribution civilian agencies have made in Iraq, just consider the prototype the PRTs were meant to replicate, the Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS) program in Vietnam. With the same mandate assigned the PRTs in Iraq, CORDS director Robert Komer (the president's special assistant for pacification, a title that came with ambassadorial rank) dispatched nearly 8,000 civilian and military advisers to fan out across South Vietnam's provinces. Extrapolating from U.S. Census Bureau abstracts, one of every 25 State Department/USAID employees was deployed to Vietnam as part of CORDS, versus roughly one out of every 300 today in the Iraqi PRTs. According to its program reports from the era, USAID alone had nearly 2,000 of its civilian employees working in South Vietnam, where they served 12-18 month tours. Until recently, civilian agencies couldn't muster a fraction of that to serve 3-6 month tours in Iraq. Relative to the size of the Iraqi and Vietnamese populations, the U.S. government sent more than twenty times as many civilian federal employees to assist in the reconstruction of Vietnam as it fields today in Iraq.
The hallmarks of the civilian contribution to the CORDS program were, in the words of a U.S. Army Center for Military History study, "aggressive leadership, bureaucratic skill, real and perceived Presidential interest, and a degree of cooperation and tolerance that was remarkable among disparate U.S. foreign policy agencies." The hallmarks of the PRT program have been exactly the reverse. Nor, contrary to Condoleezza Rice's recent assertion that that the State Department was "ready to strengthen, indeed to 'surge,' our civilian efforts," has this latest commitment been matched by anything more than the usual disconnect between empty words and actual deeds. No sooner, indeed, had Rice issued the pledge than she reversed herself, telling congress that more than 40 percent of the State Department posts to be created as part of the surge would have to be staffed by military personnel. Never mind the government's well-chronicled failure to mobilize the public for war. The government can't even mobilize itself.
Lawrence F. Kaplan is a senior editor at The New Republic.
Reply #171 on:
May 13, 2007, 04:29:56 AM »
Iraq: Transforming Iran's Shiite Proxy, Assisting the United States
Iran's main Iraqi Shiite proxy announced May 11 it is about to undergo a process of "Iraqization." The move is part of Tehran's detailed offer to assist the United States in stabilizing Iraq. A fresh power-sharing agreement likely will emerge out of this process -- one that will lead to an increase in the Sunni share of the Iraqi political pie, but could upset the Kurds.
Officials from Iraq's largest and most pro-Iranian Shiite party, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), on May 11 said the group will make significant changes to its platform. These include seeking greater guidance from the country's top cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. This is a symbolic shift from SCIRI's current platform, under which the group primarily seeks guidance from the Velayat-e-Faqih, led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Iran.
Following the conclusion of a two-day meeting in Baghdad, an unnamed senior SCIRI official described the move as the "Iraqization" of the country's Shiite Islamist groups. The official added that "significant decisions" pertaining to domestic, regional and international issues were agreed upon during the meeting and will be announced May 12. Among the changes to the group will be changing its name to Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council -- removing the word "revolution" because of the negative connotations it entails, such as the Iranian connection. "There will be a change in two aspects -- the structure of the group and also in its political language, taking into consideration the political facts on the ground," another official said.
Given SCIRI's close alignment with Iran, this move likely has Iran's blessings, and does not represent a real split between SCIRI and its patrons in Tehran. In fact, these details very likely were finalized during Iranian national security chief Ali Larijani's April 30-May 2 visit to Iraq, during which he met with al-Sistani on May 1. Through this overhaul of SCIRI, Tehran and its main Iraqi Shiite proxy are trying to placate the Iraqi Sunnis, who have been clamoring that they have begun the purge of transnational jihadist allies and are worried about the attachment of the Iraqi Shia to Iran. The move to repackage SCIRI will likely be instrumental in steps toward a fresh power-sharing agreement. This will involve the Sunnis acquiring a larger stake in the political system, as is obvious from Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi's May 10 remarks that he is encouraged by recent developments -- just a few days after he threatened to pull out of the government.
But such a fresh social contract will not necessarily lead to security and stability in Iraq -- at least not any time soon. This is mainly because the move to reshape SCIRI is just one part of a much more detailed Iranian offer to work with the United States to stabilize Iraq. For example, though Abbas Araghchi, Iran's deputy foreign minister for legal and international affairs, says he has been misquoted, he has not denied saying Tehran is willing to assist Washington achieve an "honorable" exit from Iraq. It is this U.S.-Iranian cooperation that has the Iraqi Sunnis and their allies among the Arab states (especially Saudi Arabia) worried that even after making concessions to the Sunnis, Iraq will be dominated by Shia -- and, by extension, Iran.
According to the May 5 issue of the Saudi-owned Arabic daily Al Hayat, during the May 4 international meeting on Iraq in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki put forward a preliminary proposal on how to put Iraq back together. In this proposal, the Iranians for the first time offered to use their influence to rein in Shiite militia activity, a key Sunni demand. But in return, the Iranians have demanded that once the Iraqi military takes over security from U.S. forces, it should not be given any weapons affording it offensive capabilities -- an issue noted with great alarm in the May 10 issue of Al Hayat.
The Iranians also are in favor of constitutional amendments that would increase the Sunni share in government to as much as 40 percent while retaining 60 percent for the Shia. Furthermore, Tehran has expressed its willingness to hold fresh parliamentary elections. In other words, it has signaled a willingness to go beyond a mere Cabinet reshuffle, agreeing to alterations to the Iraqi state's current structure in order to accommodate the Sunnis -- which likely will upset the Kurdish side of the triangular ethno-sectarian arrangement.
Here again, the Iranians are motivated by their own interests. It is true that the current Iraqi state based on the constitution ratified Oct. 15, 2005, and the subsequent Dec. 15, 2005, elections did not produce the desired results from the Bush administration's viewpoint. And the outcome of the vote and the government did not jibe with Iranian expectations either. Iran knew it could bargain for more, hence it did not settle for the June 2006 deal under which Iraq's security ministries were finalized.
Another key aspect on which the Iranians are prepared to compromise is the future of the Baathists. This a sticking point for the Sunnis because the elements of the former regime constitute a significant portion of the Sunni insurgency and are the teeth of the Sunni community. Tehran is willing to allow a review of the de-Baathification law, but does not want to see a Baathist assume the premiership.
Here, Baathist does not just mean a Sunni political figure, because former President Saddam Hussein's ousted regime had no shortage of Shiite officials, and the Iranians remember how the Iraqi Shia fought against the Iranian army during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. Moreover, by using the word Baathist, the Iranians are saying they do not want any Shi'i to emerge as prime minister who is not a pro-Iranian Islamist because the Shiite south is replete with such individuals. This would explain the attempts at a SCIRI makeover.
In essence, the Iranians are prepared to make all these concessions to satisfy the Sunnis, and more important the United States, because the Iranians also relayed at Sharm el-Sheikh that it is in their interest to see a planned U.S. exit from Iraq as opposed to a rush job. Tehran knows that an abrupt U.S. departure from Iraq could spoil its gains there because Iran would be left to clean up the mess afterward.
Reply #172 on:
May 15, 2007, 08:18:43 AM »
Surging Ahead in Iraq
The new strategy can work. But Washington has to give it time.
BY MAX BOOT
Tuesday, May 15, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
There is a serious and widening disconnect between the timetables that commanders are using to guide their actions in Iraq and those being demanded by politicians in Washington. Gen. David Petraeus and Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, the senior U.S. commanders in Iraq, are quite properly planning for the troop "surge" to extend well into next year. That's why the Pentagon has alerted 10 combat brigades with some 40,000 soldiers to get ready to deploy in August. They will be needed to replace troops rotating home.
Back home, however, politicians are demanding results in the next few months--or else. And not just Democrats. House Minority Leader John Boehner has said that if they don't see progress by the fall, even House Republicans will start demanding a Plan B for Iraq, which would presumably involve pulling troops out, not sending more. That message was reinforced by the group of 11 House Republicans who visited the White House last week.
Gen. Petraeus has promised to report back to Congress by September on what kind of progress he is making, but don't expect a definitive answer. He is unlikely to say "the surge has worked" or "the surge has failed." He will instead probably point to a variety of indicators, some of which will be positive, others negative. It will be left to the American people and their leaders to interpret these results as they see fit.
Inevitably, since suicide attacks will still be occurring in Iraq in September, many commentators and politicians will write off the surge as a failure. Many are already doing so, even though the Baghdad Security Plan is barely three months old and the fourth extra U.S. brigade has only recently arrived. The fifth and final one won't be in place until June. It will take many months after that to see whether security conditions are improving--and even if they are (perhaps especially if they are) it would be the height of folly to then start withdrawing U.S. troops, something that Secretary of Defense Bob Gates has indicated might happen.
An article in USA Today reported on a Pentagon-funded study which confirms what military historians already know--an average insurgency can run for a decade, but most fail in the end. Translation: If we're going to be successful in Iraq, we're going to have to make a long-term commitment. That doesn't mean 170,000 U.S. combat troops stationed there for 10 years, but it does mean a substantial force--tens of thousands of soldiers--will be needed for many years to come. If we're planning to start withdrawing in September 2007--or even September 2008--we might as well run up the white flag now and let the great Iraqi civil war unfold in all its horror.
Most Americans seem resigned to that fate. In fact many think that the civil war has already begun, and we can't or shouldn't do anything about it. We hear all the time that "we have no business getting into the middle of someone else's civil war"--often from the very same people who in the 1990s were (rightly) urging that we get involved in the civil wars of the former Yugoslavia or who today (rightly) urge us to get involved in the civil war in Sudan.
The reality is that Iraq has been experiencing a fairly low-grade civil war until now--one that has been contained by the presence of U.S. troops. While the troop surge in Baghdad hasn't yet decreased the overall level of violence--suicide bombings, which are notoriously difficult to stop, remain undiminished--the presence of more Iraqi and American troops on the streets has managed to reduce sectarian murders by two-thirds since January. Sunni fanatics are still able to set off their car bombs, but Shiite fanatics are not able to respond in kind by torturing to death 100 Sunnis a night. In other words, the surge is containing the results of the suicide bombings, slowing the cycle of violence that last year was leading Iraq to the brink of the abyss.
If U.S. troops were to pull out anytime in the foreseeable future, the probable result would not be (as so many advocates of withdrawal claim) that Iraqis would "get their act together" and take care of their problems themselves. The far more likely consequence would be an all-out civil war. Not only would this be a humanitarian tragedy for which the U.S. would bear indirect responsibility, but it would also be a catastrophe for American interests in the region. If we are seen as the losers in Iraq, al Qaeda would be seen as the winner. The perception of American weakness fed by a pullout would lead to increased terrorism against the U.S. and our allies, just as occurred following our withdrawal from Somalia in 1993 and from Beirut in 1983.
In the ensuing chaos, it is quite possible that al Qaeda terrorists would succeed in turning western Iraq into a Taliban-style base for international terrorism. Although the momentum at the moment is running against al Qaeda in Anbar Province, the tribal forces who are now cooperating with the Iraqi government would be incapable of defeating al Qaeda on their own. If the U.S. were to pull out, the tribes would likely go back to cooperating with al Qaeda for the sake of self-preservation. And a handful of American Special Operations Forces operating from far-off bases would be helpless to stop the terrorists because they would lack the kind of human intelligence now generated by U.S. troops on the ground.
That is only one of many possible effects of an Iraqi civil war that we need to contemplate before making the fateful decision to give up the fight. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution, two serious Democratic analysts, issued a sobering study in January called "Things Fall Apart: Containing the Spillover From an Iraqi Civil War" that should be required reading for anyone calling for a pullout. Messrs. Byman and Pollack studied a number of civil wars stretching back to the 1970s in countries from Congo to Lebanon, and found that they are never confined within the borders drawn neatly on maps.
Civil wars export refugees, terrorists, militant ideologies and economic woes that destabilize neighboring states, and those states in turn usually intervene to try to limit the fallout or to expand their sphere of influence. "We found that 'spillover' is common in massive civil wars; that while its intensity can vary considerably, at its worst it can have truly catastrophic effects; and that Iraq has all the earmarks of creating quite severe spillover problems," they write. No surprise: After all, Iraq, with its oil wealth, has far more to fight over than Congo or Lebanon or Chechnya.
While a civil war is the most likely outcome in Iraq, it is not inevitable. Contrary to the common myth, Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis have not been at daggers drawn since the dawn of time. Until fairly recently, they lived peaceably side by side; intermarriage was common and major tribes still have both Sunni and Shiite components. The slide toward civil war occurred because of an implosion of central authority and a breakdown of law and order that allowed demagogues on both sides--the likes of Moqtada al Sadr and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi--to posture as the defenders of their sectarian groups. That dynamic, while strong, could still be reversed if the Iraqi government, with American support, were able to offer ordinary people what they most ardently desire--security.
With U.S. and Iraqi forces now on the offensive, there have been some encouraging signs of responsible leaders on both sides pulling back from the brink. Sunni tribal chiefs have organized themselves into the Anbar Salvation Council to try to work with the U.S. and the government of Iraq, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has made some important gestures toward the Sunnis, such as his support for an equitable oil-revenue sharing law (which hasn't yet passed parliament).
Slow progress toward an acceptable modus vivendi may still be possible as long as the U.S. doesn't insist on artificial timetables to resolve complex and emotional issues. What incentive do Iraqi politicians have to make compromises if they think that American troops are heading out the door? If that's the case, Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds would be well advised to avoid making any concessions that would strengthen their mortal enemies. Thus all the talk in Washington about troop withdrawals has the opposite effect from what is intended. Instead of spurring Iraqi politicians to compromise, it leads them to be more obdurate.
It's still possible to stave off catastrophic defeat in Iraq. But the only way to do it is to give Gen. Petraeus and his troops more time--at least another year--to try to change the dynamics on the ground. The surge strategy may be a long shot but every alternative is even worse.
Mr. Boot is a senior fellow in national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of "War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History, 1500 to Today" (Gotham Books, 2006).
Reply #173 on:
May 19, 2007, 08:32:59 AM »
Iraq Facing `Many' Civil Wars, Country `Fractured,' Report Says
By Robin Stringer
May 17 (Bloomberg) -- Iraq is facing several civil wars between a number of rival communities struggling for power and has ``fractured'' into regional power bases, a report by an adviser to the U.K. government said.
There are ``many civil wars and insurgencies,'' and the Middle Eastern country has fractured into ``regions dominated by sectarian, ethnic or tribal political groupings,'' said a report released today by Chatham House, a London-based international affairs organization which advises European governments, including Britain.
Iraq's ethnic and sectarian communities include minority Sunni Muslims, majority Shiites, Kurds and Turkmen. Some 1,500 civilians were killed in April, the report said, citing official Iraqi statistics. The U.S. military is deploying about 30,000 additional forces to Baghdad and surrounding areas in an attempt to quell rampant violence in the country.
This year will be ``a particularly crucial period,'' as many of the ``most destabilizing issues,'' including an oil revenue sharing law, federalism and the territorial borders of the autonomous Kurdish region in the north of the country, are due to be resolved, said the report, titled ``Accepting Realities in Iraq.''
The U.S. and U.K., the main military partners in a coalition that invaded Iraq in March 2003, ``continue to struggle'' in their analysis of the country's political and social structures, said Gareth Stansfield, author of the report.
``This analytical failing has led to the pursuit of strategies that suit ideal depictions of how Iraq should look, but are often unrepresentative of the current situation,'' Stansfield said in the report.
Control of the State
In Baghdad, Sunni and Shiite groups are fighting for control of the state. There is a ``rapidly emerging conflict'' between Kurds and non-Kurds in the northern oil hub of Kirkuk, where the majority of the population is Kurdish, Stansfield said.
Tribal Sunni groups are clashing with fighters loyal to al- Qaeda in the western province of al-Anbar. In the south, Shiite groups are fighting for control over Basra, the oil-rich city near the Iranian border, Stansfield said. Anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, which is Iraqi nationalist and opposed to federalism, is coming into conflict with other Shiite groups, such as the Badr militia, that have close ties with Iran.
In addition, Sunni insurgents are fighting U.S. forces in the country's north and center, and Shiite militiamen are attacking U.K. forces in the south of the country around Basra, the report said.
At least 63,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion, according to the Iraqi Body Count Web site, which tracks media reports of civilian deaths. This may be a conservative total; the United Nations said in January that at least 34,000 civilians were killed around the country last year alone.
U.S. military deaths have risen every month since the intensified security efforts began in February. At least 49 U.S. soldiers have been killed this month, according to Department of Defense statistics. Some 148 U.K. service members have been killed since the invasion.
Stansfield recommends the better inclusion of Sunni representatives and al-Sadr, who has widespread support in the south and Baghdad, in the political process, and backing for Kurdish hopes of a formally autonomous state in the north of the country.
``Iraq must become federal if it is to survive, quite simply because there is no other way to ensure that the Kurds will peacefully remain within the state,'' Stansfield said.
A centralized Iraqi government has resulted in a ``zero-sum competition for power'' and the country instead needs regional arrangements, the report said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Robin Stringer in London at
Last Updated: May 16, 2007 19:34 EDT
Reply #174 on:
May 21, 2007, 05:35:30 PM »
Battling al Qaeda in Iraq
The Iraqi Army is stepping up the fight against terror. On Saturday, I saw the terrorists strike back.
BY MELIK KAYLAN
Monday, May 21, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
Diyala Province, Iraq--Saturday I witnessed a violent and dramatic illustration of how the Iraqi Army has, in places, begun to work effectively with tribesmen against determined al Qaeda insurgents.
The incident occurred some 50 miles north of Baghdad at a remote dusty village in Diyala province, which is now a kind of frontline between the two sides. We were there in the punishing noonday heat, with a rustic crowd on hand, to witness an emotional meeting between tribal chiefs in long robes and a lone, clean-shaven figure in a suit and tie--Ahmed Chalabi. Mr. Chalabi, the elite Shiite politician and former exile, a controversial figure in the U.S., came to thank the elders for their courage and sacrifice.
Until recently, Sunnis and Shiites had tilled the land together for miles around, intermarried and mutually inhabited a checkerboard of villages. A year ago, al Qaeda had forced its strategy of sectarian hatred on the area, purging the Shiites while executing Sunnis who resisted their authority. It remains one of Iraq's most volatile zones. Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, the sanguinary leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, had his headquarters in the area and was ultimately killed less than 20 miles away.
Suddenly hefty explosions shook the ground while automatic gunfire rent the air. We were under attack, and al Qaeda had chosen a perfect moment to ignite disaster. All their local opponents were there, plus Mr. Chalabi, a top Iraqi government figure known around the world.
Mr. Chalabi lives outside the security of the Baghdad's Green Zone, albeit in a well-defended series of cul-de-sacs. One of his official functions requires him to raise public support for Baghdad's security plan, so he likes to be mobile and takes risks to stay in touch with things. Abroad, he has been accused of everything from luring the U.S. and other allies into toppling Saddam to passing sensitive information to Iran. Among Iraqis he is highly respected.
At about 10 a.m. on Saturday, we had taken off across Baghdad in a convoy of a dozen white pickups and SUVs, some with mounted machine guns, on our way to Diyala. We passed through notorious neighborhoods: one infamous for kidnapping, another where street battles have been fought between Shiites and Palestinian gangs. Often there were miles of static cars queuing for gasoline. We passed by the old U.N. High Commission building, truck-bombed in 2003, now empty. We passed Saddam's giant, turquoise, egg-shaped "Monument to the Martyrs" of the Iran-Iraq war, a bright contrast to the faded saffron brick of Baghdad's peeling facades. Suddenly a sharp explosive sound went off nearby and Ali, the security chief shouted "go, go, go" into the intercom. Our convoy raced off.
Out in the country, cracked dry earth and chalky bare scrubland stretched away. An hour out, the convoy slowed almost to standstill and stayed that way. Never a good thing. Al Qaeda had blown up all the bridges linking Baghdad to Iran, and a mile or more of trucks waited to cross a makeshift mud-and-stone bridge across the Diyala river. A bulldozer helped us jump the queue by carving an improvised path. We passed some miles of mud-brick dwellings and arrived at a village square encircled by earthen ramparts with a T-55 tank, a cannon and a bunker embedded along it. We had arrived at the front line in the village of Dafaa. Nearby stood a long, low reception hall, and, just in front, a large tent with long tables for the tribal buffet lunch.
Mr. Chalabi entered the building followed by Al-Iraqiyya TV crews. An aging sheik, in black-checkered headdress and sheer ochre robe--said to be the richest landowner--came in and sat beside him. Much of his property lay fallow out in no man's land. He'd lost seven sons and grandsons to the conflict there. "We've had no support from the government since the fighting started," he said, "no one has visited us or asked what we need. We've been on our own fighting al Qaeda which gets money and arms from around the world. Only recently, the Iraqi Army has given us some soldiers and weapons, and that has helped very much, but we need more, much more help, money, arms, provisions. We ask that you pass this on to the government." Above his head hung a moonlit poster of the Shiite martyr Imam Ali on a white horse crossing a river. One sheik after another came in and repeated the same concerns.
Dafaa has perforce become an exclusively Shiite village, an international force of militant Sunnis having occupied the villages roundabout. They are led, according to locals, by Afghans who have forced farmers to give them their daughters in marriage and "made everyone look Afghani like them, with long beards." They decapitate doubters and float them down the river to Dafaa village. "No fish anymore," say the locals.
In wider Diyala province, wedged strategically between Iran and Baghdad, many of the Sunnis were in Saddam's security forces, and for a while the al Qaeda leader was a former Saddam army colonel, according to Mr. Chalabi. They consider themselves a last line of resistance to the Shiite continuum between Iran and Iraqi Shiites to the south, so they accommodate foreign Sunni fighters more readily than, say, the Sunni tribes in Anbar province who feel more secure.
In the last year, al Qaeda rolled up the front until Dafaa village lay exposed like an arrowhead surrounded on three sides. It served as the final redoubt protecting the last bridge open to vital goods from the north directly supplying Baghdad. Finally, some months ago, a small contingent of 15 Iraqi Army troops moved in with high-caliber armor and stabilized the front. "That's all it took," said the young lieutenant in charge as he showed us and the 20-foot earthen ramparts, "because we fight alongside the people." Listening to anecdotes and viewing bullet marks from snipers, we stood outlined on the ridge squinting across empty cracked fields. The nearest village shaded by date trees sat a mere 900 meters away. Our self-exposure proved foolhardy in short order.
As the buffet lunch got going, a soldier ran over and reported two pickups racing across no man's land towards us. He was told to report developments. He raced back saying that they seemed to be unloading mortars. This time, he was told to repel them. The opposition had no doubt seen all the ridge-top activity, the civilians, camera crews, berobed sheiks--and responded briskly. The first high-explosive shell, later identified as launched from an 82mm heavy mortar, must have landed to the left of the village. It shook everything and blurred my sight. Our side opened fire with Kalashnikovs, perhaps some 30 fighters in all slithering up the slope, one standing on the skyline with a full machine gun while being fed the magazine-belt by his friend. The tank too thundered away. Then the APC cannon.
I lost my head somewhat and ran at the rampart to look over the top but was thankfully tackled and stopped. The visiting sheiks crowded into the community hall. Mr. Chalabi never ceased talking to the TV camera, demanding help for the village. The second shell landed closer and behind us and fine yellow earth-dust floated over us. The sheiks were herded outside as a direct hit would have killed them all. It seemed the enemy had hit the structure before, maybe even had its GPS coordinates. The chaos intensified, the fighters now ducking from incoming fire. It was frustrating not to see the full picture. Two U.S. choppers flew overhead toward the opposition. The third mortar detonated, quite close this time, perhaps some 30 yards to the left, behind shuddering mud-brick structures, making my clothing flicker in the blast and my breath drop out. The tank fired again. The sheiks ran around ascending their SUVs with help from villagers. I counted three shells in all but some say six landed. It was hard to tell in the confusion. Suddenly a shout rose up and the fighters danced up and down below the ridge and came running down to us laughing. They'd destroyed one of the targets, it seemed.
What about the other? "It's OK, it's OK," someone shouted to me, and everyone began firing into the air to the great anger of a visiting army officer. They could scarcely afford the ammunition. We later found out, though, that the combined sound of gunfire, added to by bodyguards, had impressed the attackers--they apparently feared the presence of a much bigger force. They stopped, at least for now, which gave us the chance to leap into our vehicles, with Mr. Chalabi in his blue Parisian suit and poplin shirt pleading to the last in front of the cameras, before being bundled off to safety.
As we drove away from the village along the raised earth road, I looked back to see perhaps a hundred SUVs, a mile long, belting along behind carrying the elders. An Iraqi Army Humvee with mounted machine gun charged past us to the front. They'd been helping to guard the last bridge to Baghdad. But now, one felt, the villagers could guard it handily. They no longer felt isolated and forgotten by the world, as the television sets showed this night all over the Mideast.
Mr. Kaylan is an Istanbul-born writer based in New York.
Reply #175 on:
May 21, 2007, 10:25:54 PM »
My understanding is that The Guardian is quite the leftist publication. Nonetheless, a depressing piece-- especially the comment on our political will here at home.
Iran's secret plan for summer offensive to force US out of Iraq
Tuesday May 22, 2007
US soldiers visit an Iraqi army base in Amiriya, a Sunni neighbourhood in west Baghdad. Photograph: Sean Smith
Iran is secretly forging ties with al-Qaida elements and Sunni Arab militias in Iraq in preparation for a summer showdown with coalition forces intended to tip a wavering US Congress into voting for full military withdrawal, US officials say.
"Iran is fighting a proxy war in Iraq and it's a very dangerous course for them to be following. They are already committing daily acts of war against US and British forces," a senior US official in Baghdad warned. "They [Iran] are behind a lot of high-profile attacks meant to undermine US will and British will, such as the rocket attacks on Basra palace and the Green Zone [in Baghdad]. The attacks are directed by the Revolutionary Guard who are connected right to the top [of the Iranian government]."
The official said US commanders were bracing for a nationwide, Iranian-orchestrated summer offensive, linking al-Qaida and Sunni insurgents to Tehran's Shia militia allies, that Iran hoped would trigger a political mutiny in Washington and a US retreat. "We expect that al-Qaida and Iran will both attempt to increase the propaganda and increase the violence prior to Petraeus's report in September [when the US commander General David Petraeus will report to Congress on President George Bush's controversial, six-month security "surge" of 30,000 troop reinforcements]," the official said.
"Certainly it [the violence] is going to pick up from their side. There is significant latent capability in Iraq, especially Iranian-sponsored capability. They can turn it up whenever they want. You can see that from the pre-positioning that's been going on and the huge stockpiles of Iranian weapons that we've turned up in the last couple of months. The relationships between Iran and groups like al-Qaida are very fluid," the official said.
"It often comes down to individuals, and people constantly move around. For instance, the Sunni Arab so-called resistance groups use Salafi jihadist ideology for their own purposes. But the whole Iran- al-Qaida linkup is very sinister."
Iran has maintained close links to Iraq's Shia political parties and militias but has previously eschewed collaboration with al-Qaida and Sunni insurgents.
US officials now say they have firm evidence that Tehran has switched tack as it senses a chance of victory in Iraq. In a parallel development, they say they also have proof that Iran has reversed its previous policy in Afghanistan and is now supporting and supplying the Taliban's campaign against US, British and other Nato forces.
Tehran's strategy to discredit the US surge and foment a decisive congressional revolt against Mr Bush is national in scope and not confined to the Shia south, its traditional sphere of influence, the senior official in Baghdad said. It included stepped-up coordination with Shia militias such as Moqtada al-Sadr's Jaish al-Mahdi as well as Syrian-backed Sunni Arab groups and al-Qaida in Mesopotamia, he added. Iran was also expanding contacts across the board with paramilitary forces and political groups, including Kurdish parties such as the PUK, a US ally.
"Their strategy takes into account all these various parties. Iran is playing all these different factions to maximise its future control and maximise US and British difficulties. Their co-conspirator is Syria which is allowing the takfirists [fundamentalist Salafi jihadis] to come across the border," the official said.
Any US decision to retaliate against Iran on its own territory could be taken only at the highest political level in Washington, the official said. But he indicated that American patience was wearing thin.
Warning that the US was "absolutely determined" to hit back hard wherever it was challenged by Iranian proxies or agents inside Iraq, he cited the case of five alleged members of the Revolutionary Guard's al-Quds force detained in Irbil in January. Despite strenuous protests from Tehran, which claims the men are diplomats, they have still not been released.
"Tehran is behaving like a racecourse gambler. They're betting on all the horses in the race, even on people they fundamentally don't trust," a senior administration official in Washington said. "They don't know what the outcome will be in Iraq. So they're hedging their bets."
The administration official also claimed that notwithstanding recent US and British overtures, Syria was still collaborating closely with Iran's strategy in Iraq.
"80% to 90%" of the foreign jihadis entering Iraq were doing so from Syrian territory, he said.
Despite recent diplomatic contacts, and an agreement to hold bilateral talks at ambassadorial level in Baghdad next week, US officials say there has been no let-up in hostile Iranian activities, including continuing support for violence, weapons smuggling and training.
"Iran is perpetuating the cycle of sectarian violence through support for extra-judicial killing and murder cells. They bring Iraqi militia members and insurgent groups into Iran for training and then help infiltrate them back into the country. We have plenty of evidence from a variety of sources. There's no argument about that. That's just a fact," the senior official in Baghdad said.
In trying to force an American retreat, Iran's hardline leadership also hoped to bring about a humiliating political and diplomatic defeat for the US that would reduce Washington's regional influence while increasing Tehran's own.
But if Iran succeeded in "prematurely" driving US and British forces out of Iraq, the likely result would be a "colossal humanitarian disaster" and possible regional war drawing in the Sunni Arab Gulf states, Syria and Turkey, he said.
Despite such concerns, or because of them, the US welcomed the chance to talk to Iran, the senior administration official said. "Our agenda starts with force protection in Iraq," he said. But there were many other Iraq-related issues to be discussed. Recent pressure had shown that Iran's behaviour could be modified, the official claimed: "Last winter they were literally getting away with murder."
But tougher action by security forces in Iraq against Iranian agents and networks, the dispatch of an additional aircraft carrier group to the Gulf and UN security council resolutions imposing sanctions had given Tehran pause, he said.
Washington analysts and commentators predict that Gen Petraeus's report to the White House and Congress in early September will be a pivotal moment in the history of the four-and-a-half-year war - and a decision to begin a troop drawdown or continue with the surge policy will hinge on the outcome. Most Democrats and many Republicans in Congress believe Iraq is in the grip of a civil war and that there is little that a continuing military presence can achieve. "Political will has already failed. It's over," a former Bush administration official said.
A senior adviser to Gen Petraeus reported this month that the surge had reduced violence, especially sectarian killings, in the Baghdad area and Sunni-dominated Anbar province. But the adviser admitted that much of the trouble had merely moved elsewhere, "resulting in spikes of activity in Diyala [to the north] and some areas to the south of the capital". "Overall violence is at about the same level [as when the surge began in February]."
Iranian officials flatly deny US and British allegations of involvement in internal violence in Iraq or in attacks on coalition forces. Interviewed in Tehran recently, Mohammad Reza Bagheri, deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs with primary responsibility for Iran's policy in Iraq, said: "We believe it would be to the benefit of both the occupiers and the Iraqi people that they [the coalition forces] withdraw immediately."
Reply #176 on:
May 22, 2007, 09:16:56 AM »
The Left's Iraq Muddle
Yes, it is central to the fight against Islamic radicalism.
BY BOB KERREY
Tuesday, May 22, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
At this year's graduation celebration at The New School in New York, Iranian lawyer, human-rights activist and Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi delivered our commencement address. This brave woman, who has been imprisoned for her criticism of the Iranian government, had many good and wise things to say to our graduates, which earned their applause.
But one applause line troubled me. Ms. Ebadi said: "Democracy cannot be imposed with military force."
What troubled me about this statement--a commonly heard criticism of U.S. involvement in Iraq--is that those who say such things seem to forget the good U.S. arms have done in imposing democracy on countries like Japan and Germany, or Bosnia more recently.
Let me restate the case for this Iraq war from the U.S. point of view. The U.S. led an invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein because Iraq was rightly seen as a threat following Sept. 11, 2001. For two decades we had suffered attacks by radical Islamic groups but were lulled into a false sense of complacency because all previous attacks were "over there." It was our nation and our people who had been identified by Osama bin Laden as the "head of the snake." But suddenly Middle Eastern radicals had demonstrated extraordinary capacity to reach our shores.
As for Saddam, he had refused to comply with numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions outlining specific requirements related to disclosure of his weapons programs. He could have complied with the Security Council resolutions with the greatest of ease. He chose not to because he was stealing and extorting billions of dollars from the U.N. Oil for Food program.
No matter how incompetent the Bush administration and no matter how poorly they chose their words to describe themselves and their political opponents, Iraq was a larger national security risk after Sept. 11 than it was before. And no matter how much we might want to turn the clock back and either avoid the invasion itself or the blunders that followed, we cannot. The war to overthrow Saddam Hussein is over. What remains is a war to overthrow the government of Iraq.
Some who have been critical of this effort from the beginning have consistently based their opposition on their preference for a dictator we can control or contain at a much lower cost. From the start they said the price tag for creating an environment where democracy could take root in Iraq would be high. Those critics can go to sleep at night knowing they were right.
The critics who bother me the most are those who ordinarily would not be on the side of supporting dictatorships, who are arguing today that only military intervention can prevent the genocide of Darfur, or who argued yesterday for military intervention in Bosnia, Somalia and Rwanda to ease the sectarian violence that was tearing those places apart.
Suppose we had not invaded Iraq and Hussein had been overthrown by Shiite and Kurdish insurgents. Suppose al Qaeda then undermined their new democracy and inflamed sectarian tensions to the same level of violence we are seeing today. Wouldn't you expect the same people who are urging a unilateral and immediate withdrawal to be urging military intervention to end this carnage? I would.
American liberals need to face these truths: The demand for self-government was and remains strong in Iraq despite all our mistakes and the violent efforts of al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias to disrupt it. Al Qaeda in particular has targeted for abduction and murder those who are essential to a functioning democracy: school teachers, aid workers, private contractors working to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure, police officers and anyone who cooperates with the Iraqi government. Much of Iraq's middle class has fled the country in fear.
With these facts on the scales, what does your conscience tell you to do? If the answer is nothing, that it is not our responsibility or that this is all about oil, then no wonder today we Democrats are not trusted with the reins of power. American lawmakers who are watching public opinion tell them to move away from Iraq as quickly as possible should remember this: Concessions will not work with either al Qaeda or other foreign fighters who will not rest until they have killed or driven into exile the last remaining Iraqi who favors democracy.
The key question for Congress is whether or not Iraq has become the primary battleground against the same radical Islamists who declared war on the U.S. in the 1990s and who have carried out a series of terrorist operations including 9/11. The answer is emphatically "yes."
This does not mean that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11; he was not. Nor does it mean that the war to overthrow him was justified--though I believe it was. It only means that a unilateral withdrawal from Iraq would hand Osama bin Laden a substantial psychological victory.
Those who argue that radical Islamic terrorism has arrived in Iraq because of the U.S.-led invasion are right. But they are right because radical Islam opposes democracy in Iraq. If our purpose had been to substitute a dictator who was more cooperative and supportive of the West, these groups wouldn't have lasted a week.
Finally, Jim Webb said something during his campaign for the Senate that should be emblazoned on the desks of all 535 members of Congress: You do not have to occupy a country in order to fight the terrorists who are inside it. Upon that truth I believe it is possible to build what doesn't exist today in Washington: a bipartisan strategy to deal with the long-term threat of terrorism.
The American people will need that consensus regardless of when, and under what circumstances, we withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq. We must not allow terrorist sanctuaries to develop any place on earth. Whether these fighters are finding refuge in Syria, Iran, Pakistan or elsewhere, we cannot afford diplomatic or political excuses to prevent us from using military force to eliminate them.
Mr. Kerrey, a former Democratic senator from Nebraska and member of the 9/11 Commission, is president of The New School.
Reply #177 on:
May 26, 2007, 07:02:19 AM »
White House Is Said to Debate ’08 Cut in Iraq Troops by 50%
By DAVID E. SANGER and DAVID S. CLOUD
Published: May 26, 2007
WASHINGTON, May 25 — The Bush administration is developing what are described as concepts for reducing American combat forces in Iraq by as much as half next year, according to senior administration officials in the midst of the internal debate.
It is the first indication that growing political pressure is forcing the White House to turn its attention to what happens after the current troop increase runs its course.
The concepts call for a reduction in forces that could lower troop levels by the midst of the 2008 presidential election to roughly 100,000, from about 146,000, the latest available figure, which the military reported on May 1. They would also greatly scale back the mission that President Bush set for the American military when he ordered it in January to win back control of Baghdad and Anbar Province.
The mission would instead focus on the training of Iraqi troops and fighting Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, while removing Americans from many of the counterinsurgency efforts inside Baghdad.
Still, there is no indication that Mr. Bush is preparing to call an early end to the current troop increase, and one reason officials are talking about their long-range strategy may be to blunt pressure from members of Congress, including some Republicans, who are pushing for a more rapid troop reduction.
The officials declined to be quoted for attribution because they were discussing internal deliberations that they expected to evolve over several months.
Officials say proponents of reducing the troops and scaling back their mission next year appear to include Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. They have been joined by generals at the Pentagon and elsewhere who have long been skeptical that the Iraqi government would use the opportunity created by the troop increase to reach genuine political accommodations.
So far, the concepts are entirely a creation of Washington and have been developed without the involvement of the top commanders in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus and Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, both of whom have been enthusiastic supporters of the troop increase.
Those generals and other commanders have made it clear that they are operating on a significantly slower clock than officials in Washington, who are eager for significant withdrawals before the president leaves office in January 2009.
In an interview in Baghdad on Thursday, General Odierno, the senior United States ground commander, said any withdrawal of American troops was not advisable until December, “at a minimum.”
Even then, he said, redeployments should be carried out slowly, to avoid jeopardizing security gains.
General Odierno, who has pushed for extending the troop increase into next year, noted that units were in place or available to continue that effort through next April.
But the ideas under discussion, from the National Security Council to the Pentagon, envision reductions beginning well before then. The last time American troop levels in Iraq were anywhere near 100,000 was in January 2004, when they fell briefly to about 108,000.
One of the ideas, officials say, would be to reduce the current 20 American combat brigades to about 10, which would be completed between the spring of 2008 and the end of the year.
Several administration officials said they hoped that if such a reduction were under way in the midst of the presidential campaign, it would shift the debate from whether American forces should be pulled out by a specific deadline — the current argument consuming Washington — to what kind of long-term presence the United States should have in Iraq.
“It stems from a recognition that the current level of forces aren’t sustainable in Iraq, they aren’t sustainable in the region, and they will be increasingly unsustainable here at home,” said one administration official who has taken part in the closed-door discussions.
But other officials in Washington cautioned that any drawdown could be jeopardized by a major outbreak of new violence. Vice President Dick Cheney and others might argue that even beginning a withdrawal would embolden elements of Al Qaeda and the Shiite militias that have recently appeared to go underground.
Missing from much of the current discussion is talk about the success of democracy in Iraq, officials say, or even of the passage of reconciliation measures that Mr. Bush said in January that the troop increase would allow to take place. In interviews, many senior administration and military officials said they now doubted that those political gains, even if achieved, would significantly reduce the violence.
The officials cautioned that no firm plans have emerged from the discussions. But they said the proposals being developed envision a far smaller but long-term American presence, centering on three or four large bases around Iraq. Mr. Bush has told recent visitors to the White House that he was seeking a model similar to the American presence in South Korea.
Both Mr. Bush and Secretary Gates appeared to allude to the new ideas at separate news conferences on Thursday, though they were careful not to be specific about how or when what they are terming the post-surge phase would begin.
Mr. Gates described the administration’s goal of eventually shifting the mission in Iraq to one that is “more to train, equip, continue to go after Al Qaeda and provide support.” Such a mission, he noted, “clearly would involve fewer forces than we have now.”
Any change of course “is going to be the president’s decision,” Mr. Gates said, but one greatly influenced by assessments from General Petraeus and the new American ambassador to Iraq, Ryan C. Crocker, who are to provide an assessment of the situation in September. Mr. Gates also referred to “the possible need for some kind of residual force in Iraq for some protracted period of time.”
A rapid transfer of responsibility to Iraqi forces and withdrawal to large bases was attempted in 2005 and 2006, with disastrous results when the Iraqi units proved incapable of halting major attacks, and sectarian violence worsened.
“We’ve been here before,” General Odierno said in the interview, referring to the decisions that are coming up on how quickly to hand over authority to Iraqi units. “We’ve rushed the transition and soon lost many areas that we had before. This time it’s about having enough combat power to stay.”
But what is different now is the political environment in the United States. While Democrats in Congress relented this week and dropped demands to attach a schedule for withdrawal to a bill to finance military efforts in Iraq, White House officials concede that they have bought a few months, at best.
By the fall, they say, they are likely to lose several Republican senators and many members of the House who voted with Mr. Bush in recent weeks.
During his own news conference, Mr. Bush referred on four separate occasions to the report of the Iraq Study Group, headed by the former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and the former Congressman Lee H. Hamilton.
That report, about which Mr. Bush appeared distinctly unenthusiastic when it was issued in December, called for the withdrawal of all American combat troops by the end of March 2008. Mr. Gates was a member of the study group, though he resigned to take up his current post before the report was written.
David E. Sanger reported from Washington and David S. Cloud from Baghda
Reply #178 on:
May 31, 2007, 10:38:08 AM »
Geopolitical Diary: Keeping U.S. Troops in Iraq
The White House on Wednesday compared the future U.S. troop presence in Iraq to that in South Korea. This is not so much an announcement of a plan to create a specific force structure or basing arrangement as it is a statement about the length and character of Washington's commitment to Baghdad. The real underlying significance of the announcement is simple: the United States is not leaving Iraq any time soon.
While perhaps at first indistinguishable from the Bush administration's well-rehearsed company line -- that the United States is committed to Iraq -- White House Press Secretary Tony Snow's choice of analogies comes amid the first public negotiations between Washington and Tehran on Iraq's stability. These negotiations themselves are the product of years of behind-the-scenes discussions aimed at finding a way to reconcile nearly incompatible national interests. Nevertheless, the very existence of public negotiations on the subject suggests substantial progress has been made from the impasse that existed earlier in the year.
The South Korea analogy is thus no small statement, no accident and no coincidence. This was not the standard "we stand by Iraq" press conference; the White House appears to have made an assertion that reflects a much deeper agreement with Tehran. Washington could well be positioning itself to garner domestic and Iraqi support for a U.S. military presence in Iraq that will continue for the foreseeable future (significantly, while reassuring Sunni allies in Iraq they will not be abandoned).
That presence, of course, will shift dramatically from the current arrangement. This is consistent with some changes already in the cards: a reduced U.S. troop presence and operational tempo, a shift from combat to advising and support, and a withdrawal from day-to-day security operations. The exact basing configuration and force structure are mere details, yet to be decided and -- especially in the case of Iraqi Kurdistan -- up for negotiation. But at the end of the day, a significant U.S. military presence will remain in Iraq.
That presence ultimately will mean the same thing for Iraq that it has meant for South Korea: an attack on Iraq is the same as an attack on the United States.
This position, whether official or unstated, has little to do with Iraq's internal sectarian strife. Rather, it creates a strategic tripwire in the region: the U.S. military physically interposes itself between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and gives Washington enough sway in Baghdad to provide a counterweight to Tehran's very real influence there. If the public talks continue to progress, Iraq could become the next nation to have its security (at least in terms of border integrity, if not internal stability) guaranteed by the United States -- a commitment from Washington that has rarely proven to be short-lived.
But first, of course, there are the negotiations. For Iran, a large U.S. military presence in Iraq would be little better than a U.S.-backed Sunni puppet government in Baghdad (which is Tehran's worst fear, whether or not Washington thinks it is attainable). Thus, if the Iranians have truly agreed to this arrangement -- and that is an exceedingly large "if" -- serious U.S. concessions will be forthcoming.
High on Iran's list of priorities, for example, is a significant role for Tehran in training (and thus influencing and controlling) Iraqi security forces. With a continued but more isolated U.S. military presence in the country, Iran needs a counterbalance. The trick, of course, is that these very security forces have been Washington's own counterbalance to Tehran's power over the Shiite militias -- and U.S. influence over the security apparatus will become increasingly important as the U.S. military draws back from day-to-day security operations.
In other words, Washington appears poised to set up a long-term presence in Iraq that is very nearly unacceptable for Tehran. If a deal is to proceed, Washington will have to reciprocate in kind with an equally unappetizing and nearly unacceptable concession, like sharing influence and perhaps even military participation in Iraq's security apparatus. It is a concession Washington could have a difficult time living with, even if the White House's representatives have agreed to it in principle.
The ability of the two sides to put this prospective compromise into practice is therefore far from certain. The situation is extremely fragile. Elections are looming in the United States and crucial power brokers in Iraq and Iran are falling ill. With both sides walking so close to the line, either could renege at the slightest provocation or the merest perceived shift in national interest.
Complicating matters further, any long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq will have to be worked out with the Iraqi government itself. Even after reaching this compromise with Washington, Tehran will need to convince its Shiite allies in Iraq to play ball -- and, through them, it will need to compel a controlling share of all Iraqi Shia to go along.
The Sunnis, and especially the Kurds, can probably follow suit. However, the Shiite and Sunni landscapes in Iraq are both highly fractured and dominated by Islamist forces, which will oppose a long-term U.S. military presence on Iraqi soil.
Should all go incredibly well -- should the various pieces of the puzzle not only fit into place but also hold their positions -- there will be a long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq. But while this might serve Washington's interests in part by providing a bulwark against jihadists, it also will fuel the jihadist fire. It is worth remembering that the origins of al Qaeda trace back to a single issue: the long-term U.S. military presence in nearby Saudi Arabia.
Reply #179 on:
June 05, 2007, 07:27:09 AM »
Realists on Iraq
Democratic presidential candidates should listen to the "experts" they so often cite.
BY DAN SENOR
Tuesday, June 5, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
During Sunday night's Democratic presidential debate, the candidates cited an oft-repeated source of the mess in Iraq: The White House's refusal to heed knowledgeable advice.
Indeed, it has often been said that the president got into Iraq because he disregarded advice from the true regional experts: foreign-policy "realists" who put together the Gulf War I coalition and counseled President George H.W. Bush against regime change; "moderate" Sunni Arab Governments; and the U.S. intelligence community.
But what if today these groups were actually advising against an American withdrawal?
Consider Brent Scowcroft, dean of the Realist School, who openly opposed the war from the outset and was a lead skeptic of the president's democracy-building agenda. In a recent Financial Times interview, he succinctly summed up the implication of withdrawal: "The costs of staying are visible; the costs of getting out are almost never discussed. If we get out before Iraq is stable, the entire Middle East region might start to resemble Iraq today. Getting out is not a solution."
And here is retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, former Centcom Commander and a vociferous critic of the what he sees as the administration's naive and one-sided policy in Iraq and the broader Middle East: "When we are in Iraq we are in many ways containing the violence. If we back off we give it more room to breathe, and it may metastasize in some way and become a regional problem. We don't have to be there at the same force level, but it is a five- to seven-year process to get any reasonable stability in Iraq."
A number of Iraq's Sunni Arab neighbors also opposed the war as well as the U.S. push for liberalizing the region's authoritarian governments. Yet they now backchannel the same two priorities to Washington: Do not let Iran acquire nukes, and do not withdraw from Iraq.
A senior Gulf Cooperation Council official told me that "If America leaves Iraq, America will have to return. Soon. It will not be a clean break. It will not be a permanent goodbye. And by the time America returns, we will have all been drawn in. America will have to stabilize more than just Iraq. The warfare will have spread to other countries, governments will be overthrown. America's military is barely holding on in Iraq today. How will it stabilize 'Iraq Plus'?" (Iraq Plus is the term that some leaders in Arab capitals use to describe the region following a U.S. withdrawal.)
I heard similar warnings made repeatedly on a recent trip to almost every capital in the Persian Gulf--to some of America's closest allies and hosts of our military.
Likewise, withdrawal proponents cite career U.S. intelligence professionals as war skeptics, and not without basis. Yet here is what the U.S. intelligence community predicted in its National Intelligence Estimate early this year: "Coalition capabilities, including force levels, resources, and operations, remain an essential stabilizing element in Iraq. If Coalition forces were withdrawn rapidly during the term of this Estimate, we judge that this almost certainly would lead to a significant increase in the scale and scope of sectarian conflict in Iraq. . . .
"If such a rapid withdrawal were to take place, we judge that the Iraqi Security Forces would be unlikely to survive as a non-sectarian national institution: neighboring countries--invited by Iraqi factions or unilaterally--might intervene openly in the conflict; massive civilian casualties and forced population displacement would be probable; al Qaida in Iraq would attempt to use parts of the country--particularly al-Anbar province--to plan increased attacks in and outside of Iraq; and spiraling violence and disarray in Iraq, along with Kurdish moves to control Kirkuk and strengthen autonomy, could prompt Turkey to launch a military incursion."
If the presidential candidates go on a listening tour, it's important to consider one additional group: A number of Western reporters who have spent the past few years in Iraq.
The White House has actually been inviting Baghdad bureau reporters to the Oval Office--however belatedly--so the president can hear their observations. One of them is John Burns of the New York Times. He won Pulitzers for his coverage in Bosnia and Afghanistan before throwing himself full-bore into Iraq. This is how he described the stakes of withdrawal on "The Charlie Rose Show" recently:
"Friends of mine who are Iraqis--Shiite, Sunni, Kurd--all foresee a civil war on a scale with bloodshed that will absolutely dwarf what we're seeing now. It's really difficult to imagine that that would happen . . . without Iran becoming involved from the east, without the Saudis, who have already said in that situation that they would move in to help protect the Sunni minority in Iraq.
"It's difficult to see how this could go anywhere but into a much wider conflagration, with all kinds of implications for the world's flow of oil, for the state of Israel. What happens to King Abdullah in Jordan if there's complete chaos in the region? . . . It just seems to me that the consequences are endless, endless."
Earlier on the same program, Mr. Burns laid out his own version of Iraq Plus. "If you pull out now, and catastrophe ensues, then it is very likely that the United States would have to come back in circumstances which, of course, would be even less favorable, one might imagine, than the ones that now confront American troops here."
It would be one thing if only the architects of the Bush policy and their die-hard supporters opposed withdrawal. But four separate groups of knowledgeable critics--three of whom opposed going into Iraq--now describe the possible costs of withdrawal as very high.
If the Realists, neighboring Arab regimes, our intelligence community and some of the most knowledgeable reporters all say such a course could be disastrous, on what basis are the withdrawal advocates taking their position?
The American people are understandably frustrated with Iraq. But this does not mean they will be satisfied with politicians who support a path that could make matters much worse.
Mr. Senor, a former foreign policy advisor to the Bush administration, was based in Baghdad from April 2003 through June 2004. He is a founding partner of Rosemont Capital.
Reply #180 on:
June 09, 2007, 12:58:20 AM »
Iraq's Dangerous Diyala Province
Unknown gunmen attacked the home of the police chief in Baqubah, Iraq, on June 8, killing the man's wife and 11 guards, and kidnapping three of his grown children. The chief, Col. Ali Dilayan al-Jorani, was not at home at the time of the attack.
Diyala province, the capital of which is Baqubah, is now the site of some of the worst violence in Iraq, in part because the foreign jihadists and the Sunnis have turned on one another there. However, the fighting, which pits the jihadists against Sunni tribes and Sunni nationalist militants, also is going on in the other central Iraqi provinces of Anbar and Babil, as well as in the country's capital, Baghdad. Meanwhile, the other conflicts that have been raging for years -- between coalition forces and jihadists, Shia and jihadists, and Sunnis and Shia -- continue unabated. Jihadists also are increasingly attacking Iraqi Kurds in the North.
Anbar province was once a haven for foreign jihadists and a major point on the so-called "rat line" used by the jihadists to enter Iraq from Saudi Arabia, Syria and Jordan. Coalition troops, in fact, engaged in frequent pitched battles with insurgents in Anbar's cites of Al Fallujah and Ar Ramadi, though they failed to permanently drive out the jihadists. Around October 2005, however, the Sunni tribes in Anbar turned on the jihadists, and the fighting between the two groups is now in full swing. The jihadists have struck back by attacking the tribes with suicide bombs, truck bombs and bombs laced with chlorine in an effort to coerce the tribes to fall back in line.
It does not appear to be working.
U.S. forces, however, enlisted the support of Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar, as well as leaders who have sought refuge in Jordan and Syria but retain influence at home. This has led to a major reduction in the number of foreign jihadists in Anbar. The tribal leaders started coming on board after the jihadists began attacking their tribes and disrespecting their culture in an effort to coerce them to cooperate. Once the tribal leaders started to ally themselves with U.S. and Iraqi security forces, young tribesmen joined the Iraqi army, police and provincial security units (PSU) that patrol the province. These recruits have been critical to the coalition's success in Anbar. The tribesmen in the PSUs have been especially vital to this effort because they know who belongs and who does not, leaving the jihadists with little sanctuary.
The situation in Anbar in recent months, along with the surge in U.S. security operations in Baghdad, has compelled the jihadists to regroup in Diyala province, where they historically have had some level of influence. In fact, slain al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was seeking refuge in Diyala when he was betrayed by Sunni tribes.
The situation in Diyala, however, differs from that in Anbar as regards the number of actors involved. In Diyala, the jihadists are encountering the Sunni nationalist militias, Sunni tribes (though the tribes are not as fully engaged as in Anbar), Shiite militias and increasing numbers of U.S. troops who are being steadily shifted from other provinces. Also contributing to the level of violence in Diyala are the Kurds, who want the province incorporated into a Kurdish autonomous region; the Iranians just over the border, who are supporting different factions in this fight; and the Shiite-on-Sunni fighting.
As a result of all this, Diyala has seen a significant rise in attacks since February -- and has now become one of the most dangerous provinces in Iraq for U.S. and Iraqi troops, their foes and civilians.
Violence also is increasing in Babil province, which lies on a fault line between the Sunni and Shiite areas. Not only has Babil witnessed some of the most devastating attacks against Shiite targets in the war, but the jihadists in Babil also have been fighting Sunni tribes as they try to maintain their position in the province.
This trend of Sunni nationalist-jihadist fighting reflects the growing momentum of political negotiations between Iran, the United States and the various Iraqi factions to reach a political resolution in Iraq. For the Shiite and Sunni factions to get on board with the deal, each side will have to deliver on its end of the bargain. For the Shia, it means reining in the militias -- a process that appears to be under way. For the Sunnis, this means wiping out the jihadists.
Al Gore in 1992 on Iraq
Reply #181 on:
June 12, 2007, 09:47:47 PM »
Al Gore in 1992 on Iraq:
Reply #182 on:
June 14, 2007, 01:52:16 PM »
The Prime Minister of Iraq wrote an op-ed published yesterday in the WSJ, posted below. Very worthwhile read IMO. First my comments on the previous 2 posts here.
My conclusion from the Strat piece, if they are correct, is that the Americans are now allied with the Sunni, Shia and Kurd political leaders and populations along with the Iraqi government and the Iraqi security forces, and are fighting against mainly foreign jihadists and Shia militias. Sounds like the political side is going well but violence continues because the enemy believes that continuing war is their victory.
The Gore video is amazing. He strongly attacks Bush I for being soft on Saddam in years prior. It is perhaps easier to understand as a 1992 Clinton attack piece in the general campaign with the VP candidate with his 'hawk' credentials delivering the attack. Amazingly they weakened Bush for raising taxes when they would raise them more and for being soft on tyrants when they would be softer. Masterful political selling if deception is your product.
Here is the Prime Minister of Iraq from yesterday:
Our Common Struggle
America had its civil war. Why expect freedom to come easy to Iraq?
BY NOURI AL-MALIKI
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
BAGHDAD, Iraq--Americans keen to understand the ongoing struggle for a new Iraq can be guided by the example of their own history. In the 1860s, your country fought a great struggle of its own, a civil war that took hundreds of thousands of lives but ended in the triumph of freedom and the birth of a great power. Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation signaled the destruction of the terrible institution of slavery, and the rise of a country dedicated, more than any other in the world of nation-states then and hence, to the principle of human liberty.
Our struggle in Iraq is similar to the great American quest, and is perhaps even more complicated. As your country was fighting that great contest over its unity and future, Iraq was a province of an Ottoman empire steeped in backwardness and ignorance. A half a century later, the British began an occupation of Iraq and drew the borders of contemporary Iraq as we know them today. Independence brought no relief to the people of our land. They were not given the means of political expression, nor were they to know political arrangements that respected their varied communities.
Under the Baath tyranny, Iraqis were to endure a brutal regime the likes of which they had never known before. Countless people were put to death on the smallest measure of suspicion. Wars were waged by that regime and our national treasure was squandered without the consent of a population that was herded into costly and brutal military campaigns. Today when I hear the continuous American debate about the struggle raging in Iraq, I can only recall with great sorrow the silence which attended the former dictator's wars.
It is perhaps true that only people who are denied the gift of liberty can truly appreciate its full meaning and bounty. I look with admiration at the American debate surrounding the Iraq war, and I admire even those opinions that differ from my own. As prime minister of Iraq I have been subjected to my share of criticism in that American debate, but I harbor no resentment and fully understand that the basic concerns of Americans are the safety of their young people fighting in our country and the national interests of their society. As this American debate goes on, I am guided and consoled by the sacred place of freedom and liberty in the American creed and in America's notion of itself.
War being what it is, the images of Iraq that come America's way are of car bombs and daily explosions. Missing from the coverage are the great, subtle changes our country is undergoing, the birth of new national ideas and values which will in the end impose themselves despite the death and destruction that the terrorists have been hell-bent on inflicting on us. Those who endured the brutality of the former regime, those who saw the outside world avert its gaze from their troubles, know the magnitude of the change that has come to Iraq. A fundamental struggle is being fought on Iraqi soil between those who believe that Iraqis, after a long nightmare, can retrieve their dignity and freedom, and others who think that oppression is the order of things and that Iraqis are doomed to a political culture of terror, prisons and mass graves. Some of our neighbors have made this struggle more lethal still, they have placed their bets on the forces of terror in pursuit of their own interests.
When I became prime minister a year and a half ago, my appointment emerged out of a political process unique in our neighborhood: Some 12 million voters took part in our parliamentary elections. They gave voice to their belief in freedom and open politics and their trust imposed heavy burdens on all of us in political life. Our enemies grew determined to drown that political process in indiscriminate violence, to divert attention from the spectacle of old men and women casting their vote, for the first time, to choose those who would govern in their name. You may take this right for granted in America, but for us this was a tantalizing dream during the decades of dictatorship and repression.
Before us lies a difficult road--the imperative of national reconciliation, the drafting of a new social contract that acknowledges the diversity of our country. It was in that spirit that those who drafted our constitution made provisions for amending it. The opponents of the constitution were a minority, but we sought for our new political life the widest possible measure of consensus. From the outset, I committed myself to the principle of reconciliation, pledged myself to its success. I was determined to review and amend many provisions and laws passed in the aftermath of the fall of the old regime, among them the law governing de-Baathification. I aimed to find the proper balance between those who opposed the decrees on de-Baathification and others who had been victims of the Baath Party. This has not been easy, but we have stuck to that difficult task.
Iraq is well on its way to passing a new oil law that would divide the national treasure among our provinces and cities, based on their share of the population. This was intended to reassure those provinces without oil that they will not be left behind and consigned to poverty. The goal is to repair our oil sector, open the door for new investments and raise the standard of living of Iraqi families. Our national budget this year is the largest in Iraq's history, its bulk dedicated to our most neglected provinces and to improving the service sector in the country as a whole. Our path has been made difficult by the saboteurs and the terrorists who target our infrastructure and our people, but we have persevered, even though our progress has been obscured by the scenes of death and destruction.
Daily we still fight the battle for our security. We lose policemen and soldiers to the violence, as do the multinational forces fighting along our side. We are training and equipping a modern force, a truly national and neutral force, aided by our allies. This is against the stream of history here, where the armed forces have traditionally been drawn into political conflicts and struggles. What gives us sustenance and hope is an increase in the numbers of those who volunteer for our armed forces, which we see as proof of the devotion of our people to the stability and success of our national government.
We have entered into a war, I want it known, against militias that had preyed upon the weakness of the national government and in the absence of law and order in some of our cities, even in some of the districts in Baghdad, imposed their own private laws--laws usually driven by extremism and a spirit of vengeance. Some of these militias presented themselves as defenders of their own respective communities against other militias. We believe that the best way to defeat these militias is to build and enhance the capabilities of our government as a defender of the rights of our citizens. A stable government cannot coexist with these militias.
Our conflict, it should be emphasized time and again, has been fueled by regional powers that have reached into our affairs. Iraq itself is eager to build decent relations with its neighbors. We don't wish to enter into regional entanglements. Our principle concern is to heal our country. We have reached out to those among our neighbors who are worried about the success and example of our democratic experiment, and to others who seem interested in enhancing their regional influence.
Our message has been the same to one and all: We will not permit Iraq to be a battleground for other powers. In the contests and ambitions swirling around Iraq, we are neutral and dedicated to our country's right to prosperity and a new life, inspired by a memory of a time when Baghdad was--as Washington is today--a beacon of enlightenment on which others gazed with admiration. We have come to believe, as Americans who founded your country once believed, that freedom is a precious inheritance. It is never cheap but the price is worth paying if we are to rescue our country.
Mr. Maliki is prime minister of Iraq.
Reply #183 on:
June 15, 2007, 11:06:48 AM »
What I Saw in Iraq
Iran remains a problem, but Anbar has joined the fight against terror.
BY JOSEPH LIEBERMAN
Friday, June 15, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
I recently returned from Iraq and four other countries in the Middle East, my first trip to the region since December. In the intervening five months, almost everything about the American war effort in Baghdad has changed, with a new coalition military commander, Gen. David Petraeus; a new U.S. ambassador, Ryan Crocker; the introduction, at last, of new troops; and most important of all, a bold, new counterinsurgency strategy.
The question of course is--is it working? Here in Washington, advocates of retreat insist with absolute certainty that it is not, seizing upon every suicide bombing and American casualty as proof positive that the U.S. has failed in Iraq, and that it is time to get out.
In Baghdad, however, discussions with the talented Americans responsible for leading this fight are more balanced, more hopeful and, above all, more strategic in their focus--fixated not just on the headline or loss of the day, but on the larger stakes in this struggle, beginning with who our enemies are in Iraq. The officials I met in Baghdad said that 90% of suicide bombings in Iraq today are the work of non-Iraqi, al Qaeda terrorists. In fact, al Qaeda's leaders have repeatedly said that Iraq is the central front of their global war against us. That is why it is nonsensical for anyone to claim that the war in Iraq can be separated from the war against al Qaeda--and why a U.S. pullout, under fire, would represent an epic victory for al Qaeda, as significant as their attacks on 9/11.
Some of my colleagues in Washington claim we can fight al Qaeda in Iraq while disengaging from the sectarian violence there. Not so, say our commanders in Baghdad, who point out that the crux of al Qaeda's strategy is to spark Iraqi civil war.
Al Qaeda is launching spectacular terrorist bombings in Iraq, such as the despicable attack on the Golden Mosque in Samarra this week, to try to provoke sectarian violence. Its obvious aim is to use Sunni-Shia bloodshed to collapse the Iraqi government and create a failed state in the heart of the Middle East, radicalizing the region and providing a base from which to launch terrorist attacks against the West.
Facts on the ground also compel us to recognize that Iran is doing everything in its power to drive us out of Iraq, including providing substantive support, training and sophisticated explosive devices to insurgents who are murdering American soldiers. Iran has initiated a deadly military confrontation with us, from bases in Iran, which we ignore at our peril, and at the peril of our allies throughout the Middle East.
The precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces would not only throw open large parts of Iraq to domination by the radical regime in Tehran, it would also send an unmistakable message to the entire Middle East--from Lebanon to Gaza to the Persian Gulf where Iranian agents are threatening our allies--that Iran is ascendant there, and America is in retreat. One Arab leader told me during my trip that he is extremely concerned about Tehran's nuclear ambitions, but that he doubted America's staying power in the region and our political will to protect his country from Iranian retaliation over the long term. Abandoning Iraq now would substantiate precisely these gathering fears across the Middle East that the U.S. is becoming an unreliable ally.
That is why--as terrible as the continuing human cost of fighting this war in Iraq is--the human cost of losing it would be even greater.
Gen. Petraeus and other U.S. officials in Iraq emphasize that it is still too soon to draw hard judgments about the success of our new security strategy--but during my visit I saw hopeful signs of progress. Consider Anbar province, Iraq's heart of darkness for most of the past four years. When I last visited Anbar in December, the U.S. military would not allow me to visit the provincial capital, Ramadi, because it was too dangerous. Anbar was one of al Qaeda's major strongholds in Iraq and the region where the majority of American casualties were occurring. A few months earlier, the Marine Corps chief of intelligence in Iraq had written off the entire province as "lost," while the Iraq Study Group described the situation there as "deteriorating."
When I returned to Anbar on this trip, however, the security environment had undergone a dramatic reversal. Attacks on U.S. troops there have dropped from an average of 30 to 35 a day a few months ago to less than one a day now, according to Col. John Charlton, commander of the 1st Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division, headquartered in Ramadi. Whereas six months ago only half of Ramadi's 23 tribes were cooperating with the coalition, all have now been persuaded to join an anti-al Qaeda alliance. One of Ramadi's leading sheikhs told me: "A rifle pointed at an American soldier is a rifle pointed at an Iraqi."
The recent U.S. experience in Anbar also rebuts the bromide that the new security plan is doomed to fail because there is no "military" solution for Iraq. In fact, no one believes there is a purely "military" solution for Iraq. But the presence of U.S. forces is critical not just to ensuring basic security, but to a much broader spectrum of diplomatic, political and economic missions--which are being carried out today in Iraq under Gen. Petraeus's counterinsurgency strategy.
In Anbar, for example, the U.S. military has been essential to the formation and survival of the tribal alliance against al Qaeda, simultaneously holding together an otherwise fractious group of Sunni Arab leaders through deft diplomacy, while establishing a political bridge between them and the Shia-dominated government in Baghdad. "This is a continuous effort," Col. Charlton said. "We meet with the sheikhs every single day and at every single level."
In Baghdad, U.S. forces have cut in half the number of Iraqi deaths from sectarian violence since the surge began in February. They have also been making critical improvements in governance, basic services and commercial activity at the grassroots level.
On Haifa Street, for instance, where there was bloody fighting not so long ago, the 2nd "Black Jack" Brigade of our First Cavalry Division, under the command of a typically impressive American colonel, Bryan Roberts, has not only retaken the neighborhood from insurgents, but is working with the local population to revamp the electrical grid and sewer system, renovate schools and clinics, and create an "economic safe zone" where businesses can reopen. Indeed, of the brigade's five "lines of operations," only one is strictly military. That Iraq reality makes pure fiction of the argument heard in Washington that the surge will fail because it is only "military."
Some argue that the new strategy is failing because, despite gains in Baghdad and Anbar, violence has increased elsewhere in the country, such as Diyala province. This gets things backwards: Our troops have succeeded in improving security conditions in precisely those parts of Iraq where the "surge" has focused. Al Qaeda has shifted its operations to places like Diyala in large measure because we have made progress in pushing them out of Anbar and Baghdad. The question now is, do we consolidate and build on the successes that the new strategy has achieved, keeping al Qaeda on the run, or do we abandon them?
To be sure, there are still daunting challenges ahead. Iraqi political leaders, in particular, need to step forward and urgently work through difficult political questions, whose resolution is necessary for national reconciliation and, as I told them, continuing American support.
These necessary legislative compromises would be difficult to accomplish in any political system, including peaceful, long-established democracies--as the recent performance of our own Congress reminds us. Nonetheless, Iraqi leaders are struggling against enormous odds to make progress, and told me they expect to pass at least some of the key benchmark bills this summer. It is critical that they do so.
Here, too, however, a little perspective is useful. While benchmarks are critically important, American soldiers are not fighting in Iraq today only so that Iraqis can pass a law to share oil revenues. They are fighting because a failed state in the heart of the Middle East, overrun by al Qaeda and Iran, would be a catastrophe for American national security and our safety here at home. They are fighting al Qaeda and agents of Iran in order to create the stability in Iraq that will allow its government to take over, to achieve the national reconciliation that will enable them to pass the oil law and other benchmark legislation.
I returned from Iraq grateful for the progress I saw and painfully aware of the difficult problems that remain ahead. But I also returned with a renewed understanding of how important it is that we not abandon Iraq to al Qaeda and Iran, so long as victory there is still possible.
And I conclude from my visit that victory is still possible in Iraq--thanks to the Iraqi majority that desperately wants a better life, and because of the courage, compassion and competence of the extraordinary soldiers and statesmen who are carrying the fight there, starting with Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker. The question now is, will we politicians in Washington rise to match their leadership, sacrifices and understanding of what is on the line for us in Iraq--or will we betray them, and along with them, America's future security?
Mr. Lieberman is an Independent Democratic senator from Connecticut.
Reply #184 on:
June 18, 2007, 02:27:14 PM »
The Baghdad Bar
American lawyers more interested in helping terrorists than their own beleaguered colleagues in Iraq.
BY MELANIE KIRKPATRICK
Sunday, June 17, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
At last count, 46 lawyers have been assassinated in Iraq since the summer of 2003, according to a grim tally compiled by the Iraqi Bar Association. Some of the victims were kidnapped before being murdered; others were gunned down in the street or caught in crossfire. A recent casualty is Abdul-Sahib Abdulla al-Kanani, who was killed on his way to the grocery store in Baghdad on May 20. He leaves behind a wife and five children.
Aswad al-Minshidi, president of the Iraqi Bar Association, recounted this story in a phone call from Baghdad the other day. He is anguished at his association's scant ability to help the murdered lawyers' families, who often have no means of support. "Dear Miss Melanie," he says, "I know when a journalist is killed in Iraq, his or her colleagues around the world provide support and raise their voices in outrage. But where are the voices of outrage of lawyers in other countries when a lawyer is killed for doing his job?"
Where, indeed? Here in the U.S., it would be nice to think that part of the answer is that the lawyers, law firms and legal associations that might provide assistance are ignorant of the need. But part of the answer lies, too, in the different priorities many attorneys have set for themselves. Bar associations churn out papers on Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and the execution of Saddam Hussein. Law firms line up to provide legal services to detainees. Cully Stimson, a deputy assistant secretary of defense, lost his job earlier this year for criticizing American lawyers for such work. The legal establishment's outrage against Mr. Stimson would have been easier to take had it been working even half as hard to help re-establish the rule of law in Iraq.
The legal profession "is the pillar on which any society is built," says Feisal al-Istrabadi, Iraq's deputy permanent representative to the United Nations. "Clearly the insurgents are trying to disrupt our society at every level." The rule of law is a primary target -- and the killings include judges, police officers and recruits, as well as ordinary lawyers. Mr. Minshidi says he and his family have been threatened.
The Iraqi legal system is based on the Napoleonic Code, and in the first half of the 20th century it served as a model for other countries in the region. Mr. Istrabadi, a U.S.-trained attorney who practiced law in Indiana and Illinois from 1988 until 2004, says that after decades of operating under totalitarian rule, the Iraqi legal system is much stronger than he had anticipated. After Saddam's ouster, "we expected to find that judicial system and the legal profession had been politically corrupted by the previous regime . . . but that was not the fact."
Saddam created an alternative judicial system, where political crimes were tried. The code of ethics among the Iraqi bar was so strong, Mr. Istrabadi says, that "Saddam was unable to corrupt the judicial system and was therefore forced to create an extra-judicial system." Iraq has a cadre of "world-class" judges and professors educated in the 1950s and 1960s, he says, but "young law professors have been cut off from the world for two decades or more" and younger attorneys need help.
So far the assistance has been meager. While the American Bar Association and the International Bar Association have operated programs, the focus has been on training judges and prosecutors, and most or all of their efforts have been funded by the U.S. and other governments. A program to refurbish Iraqi law schools, operated by DePaul University College of Law, lost its U.S. AID funding after one year. Mr. Minshidi of the Iraqi Bar Association says he is unaware of any efforts to date by U.S. bar associations, law schools or other non-governmental organizations to help, though he notes that the ABA has invited him to attend its annual meeting in August and the Federalist Society will host a small conference for Iraqi bar leaders this fall.
"There is much to do to establish the rule of law," he says. "So far it has mostly been training judges and prosecutors. Little has been done for law students and lawyers." (A model here could be the Afghan Women Leaders Connect, founded by American businesswomen to assist Afghan women, including lawyers and judges.)
"Where are the great associations of law we hear about?" asks Mr. Minshidi. "Where are the great law firms? . . . Where are the law schools? . . . The help we need is not only the help of the government. We need the help of our brothers in the law."
Ms. Kirkpatrick is a deputy editor of the Journal's editorial page.
Reply #185 on:
June 18, 2007, 06:12:58 PM »
Gen. David Petraeus with Chris Wallace on Sunday. It was too long to post, but here is the link:
I found it relevant and helpful. To me, he seems like a straight shooter giving the good and the bad as he sees it. Unlike a post I just read, I'm pulling for the coalition government, supported by the Americans, to win the war, and to win the peace.
Reply #186 on:
June 18, 2007, 09:33:38 PM »
Thanks for that Doug.
Here's Stratfor's assessment:
Iraq: Sectarian Concerns and the High-Stake U.S.-Iranian Talks
June 18, 2007 19 00 GMT
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has criticized the U.S. backing of Sunni militias engaged in fighting jihadists. Al-Maliki's comments highlight the concerns that the Iraqi Shia and Iran have about the Sunnis' potential empowerment as an outcome of the ongoing U.S.-Iranian talks on Iraq. However, these concerns are unlikely to derail the talks, given what is at stake for all the players involved.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Baghdad disagrees with Washington's moves to arm and equip Sunni tribal militias engaged in fighting al Qaeda. In an interview published in the June 17-23 issue of Newsweek, al-Maliki said the Iraqi government is not against backing tribes in the fight against al Qaeda and its allies, but that Baghdad wants assurances about the tribal elements' credentials before such support is granted. Al-Maliki added that certain U.S. commanders are making mistakes because they do not know the tribes' backgrounds and are contributing to the proliferation of militias in the country.
Around the time of the May 4 meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, the Iranians and Americans reached an understanding that Tehran would take responsibility for cleaning up the state of affairs within the Iraqi Shiite community while the United States would do the same with the Sunnis. The Iranians have moved to rein in radical Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army movement and "Iraqize" Tehran's main Iraqi Shiite proxy, the Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council, led by Abdel Aziz al-Hakim.
All this is meant to prepare the Sunnis, the Shia, Washington and Tehran for a final deal. But the Iranians do not like the idea of U.S. unilateral actions in their area of responsibility, especially regarding the Mehdi Army. Tehran also does not want to let the Bush administration dominate the process of cleaning out Sunnidom, because Tehran knows Washington is interested not only in neutralizing the jihadists but also in building a robust Sunni community to counterbalance the Shia (and, by extension, Iran).
Al-Maliki's remarks constitute a diplomatic and politically correct way for the Iraqi Shia and their Persian patrons to let Washington know they are displeased with the U.S. approach to preparing the Sunnis for a deal that will eventually emerge from the now-public U.S.-Iranian negotiations. The Shia realize that Sunni political and militant actors must be brought into the mainstream in order to contain the insurgency and give the Shiite-dominated government stability, but they want to retain political oversight over -- and military superiority in -- the process so the Shia will be able to approve of the Sunnis that enter the mainstream. In fact, the Shia also would prefer greater authority in dealing with jihadists and Baathists.
Al-Maliki is correct in saying the Bush administration's actions will increase the number of armed groups in an already militia-rich environment, particularly since the United States has added an armed group to the Sunni side of the equation, where the number of militant groups already is growing. For the Shia, who already are trying to limit the number of former regime elements (i.e., Baathists) being brought back into the system by the Bush administration, the U.S. actions are a major problem. Not only does U.S. backing improve the Sunnis' military capabilities, but it also could improve the Sunnis' collective bargaining position against the Shia. The Shia would love to see jihadist war-making capabilities destroyed, but not if it means empowering mainstream Sunnis.
Incidentally, the Iranians are not alone in their concern about the U.S. backing of tribal militias. Many Sunni political actors have expressed their reservations as well. These include Sunni nationalist insurgent groups, the main Sunni political blocs in parliament and the Sunni religious establishment. These groups fear they will lose power to tribal leaders who have agreed to fight the jihadists in return for a seat at the table. In other words, the U.S. move has created problems both between Sunnis and Shia and within the Sunni community itself, even though the intent is to get the two sectarian communities to agree on a power-sharing mechanism.
Meanwhile, the Kurds are highly concerned about the prospect of a Shiite-Sunni accommodation because this would translate into a unified Arab position against them and threaten Kurdish interests -- particularly their bid for maximum regional autonomy.
That said, these problems will not derail the U.S.-Iranian negotiations or those at the intra-Iraqi level, because both the United States and Iran are playing with busted flushes and, for the Iraqis, it is an existential issue.
Reply #187 on:
June 19, 2007, 12:14:16 PM »
The General’s Report
How Antonio Taguba, who investigated the Abu Ghraib scandal, became one of its casualties.
by Seymour M. Hersh June 25, 2007
[Kind of long, so I didn't post it all here. But well worth reading.]
Reply #188 on:
June 19, 2007, 07:59:18 PM »
Iraq: A New Offensive in Diyala
In one of the largest operations since the Iraq war began in 2003, the U.S. military led some 10,000 coalition troops into Diyala province June 19 as part of an offensive against al Qaeda. Building on successes in Anbar province, the United States is attempting to take the fight to the jihadists. But, like the U.S. troop surge, this offensive will not be short-lived, and success is far from assured.
Operation Arrowhead Ripper, led by the U.S. Army's third Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 2nd Infantry Division, began early June 19 in Diyala province. Some 10,000 coalition troops are involved in the offensive against al Qaeda, other foreign jihadist groups and their local supporters. The focus of the operation is the city of Baqubah, where Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. airstrike in June 2006, and which is home to all the major sectarian groups in Iraq. The operation will attempt to shut down jihadist operations there and establish some semblance of security. But the United States still cannot impose a military solution in Iraq; it can only attempt to make the security landscape conducive to political negotiations on the litany of Iraq's intractable issues.
During the last six months, many militant elements have been driven into Diyala, and U.S. fatalities in the province have seen a very distinct increase since January. Coalition efforts to talk with Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar province -- the traditional support base of al Qaeda in Iraq and Sunni jihadist elements -- have seen recent success. Sunni tribal militias' opposition to al Qaeda has been building for some time, but struggles within the larger Sunni camp and pressure from security operations in Baghdad proper have gradually pushed the jihadists from Anbar province into Diyala. Coalition troops have simply followed the jihadists; a U.S. Stryker battalion has been operating in eastern Baqubah for several months, and more than 2,000 Kurdish peshmerga fighters were deployed to Baqubah the week of June 10 to assist with U.S. security operations already under way.
Though the coalition met with some success in working with Anbar's Sunni tribal leaders against jihadists, Diyala's population -- 40 percent Sunni Arab, 35 percent Shiite Arab and 20 percent Kurdish -- is much more diverse than Anbar's. Diyala is one of three provinces that will be heavily contested in the Kirkuk referendum, which -- according to Iraq's constitution -- is to take place before the end of 2007. However, volatile resistance from Iraq's Sunni and Shiite factions likely will scupper the timeline. In the midst of these delicate sectarian tensions, however, last week's peshmerga deployment was particularly unsettling for Diyala's Arab population, since it gives the Kurds more armed influence in the province just as the United States attempts to deal with Shiite extremism within the leadership of Diyala's Iraqi National Police units (a move that was key to successes in Anbar province and Tal Afar). But given the influence of both Kurds and Shia in Diyala right now, the province's Sunni factions will be more difficult to split from their well-armed al Qaeda allies than the Sunnis in Anbar.
However, the U.S. ability to shift 10,000 coalition soldiers into a major operation outside Baghdad in the midst of a major security crackdown is the mark of significant operational flexibility. This flexibility will allow the United States to keep pressure on the jihadists and thus (it is hoped) impede their ability to plan complex operations and maintain the supply lines necessary to build explosives, such as those used in the recent spate of bridge bombings. Thus far, neither the recent bridge bombings nor jihadists' attempts to supplement their bombs with chlorine gas have proven particularly effective. However, the latest bombing of the revered Shiite al-Askariyah shrine June 13 and the June 19 bombing of the Khillani mosque in Baghdad serve as reminders that al Qaeda is still capable of stoking the fire of sectarian tension in Iraq.
In Diyala, however, both the foreign jihadists and their domestic allies are beginning to feel cornered, with few places left to hide. They face hostile Kurdish majorities to the north in As Sulaymaniyah, Iranian and Iraqi Shiite majorities to the east and south (especially in Wasit, where they have been unable to establish a long-term presence), growing Sunni nationalist and tribal hostility to the west in Salah ad Din and Anbar and a strong-handed security operation in Baghdad. Meanwhile, the coalition is turning up the heat elsewhere; elements of the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division began sweeping through other Sunni strongholds south of Baghdad in Babil province the weekend of June 16-17.
Of course, the jihadists in Iraq are not going to simply go away. They have proven to be a resilient and innovative opponent for Iraq's government and the U.S. military, and some will escape the latest coalition operation. The United States will attempt to impede the most destabilizing and violent jihadist attacks. Meanwhile, Washington's negotiations with Tehran will continue, and Iraq will remain fragile.
What do our Enemies Seek?
Reply #189 on:
June 22, 2007, 08:04:20 AM »
The good ole’ days in the Middle East.
By Victor Davis Hanson
“Mess,” “fiasco,” “disaster,” “blunder,” and “catastrophe.”
Fill in the blanks with almost any stock noun of gloom these days when speaking about Iraq.
For finger-in-the-wind politicians, writing off Iraq is mere throat-clearing before moving on to any discussion of immigration reform or taxes. For ahead-of-the-curve pundits, starting out with “The failure in Iraq” is like opening their browser before daily pontificating. No need of explanation or empiricism, one just gets things out of the way at the very beginning with our new postmodern ritual.
Usually the more vehemently one used to clamor for the idea of removing Saddam Hussein — such as a Sen. Harry Reid or an Andrew Sullivan — the more now they are likely to use superlatives in damning the enterprise.
That there are 160, 000 Americans — at the moment in an enormous offensive against al Qaeda — fighting to save Iraqi democracy means little, as evocation of pullouts, withdrawals, and timetables is mixed in with the language of defeat, despair, and finger-pointing.
That the war has morphed once again into one largely against al Qaeda and Islamic terrorists is lost on critics. All the old bogeymen — Ashcroft, Bremmer, Feith, Libby, Pearl, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz — are gone. But the media and opposition searches for new ones to blame for a policy they largely once endorsed. Witness the new slurring of the Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Pace as incompetent and Gen. Petraeus — our most innovative commander in a generation — as less than candid and not in touch with operations under his command.
But then few have offered any consistent policy of what we are to do after Iraq. Once again generalities — best mouthed by John Edwards — about multilateralism, restoring American popularity abroad, working with allies — are thrown out, as if the world will be safer and more harmonious once we return to some mythical Democratic past. By default that could only mean something akin to the foreign policy of our last two such presidents, Messrs. Carter and Clinton.
Have we gone mad in our amnesia about that awful past? The epithet “the Great Satan” was coined out of hatred for the diplomatic efforts of Jimmy Carter. Do we want Andrew Young back praising the humanitarianism of Khomeini?
Bin Laden started out his 1996 promise to slaughter Americans with the warning to a sober and judicious Secretary of Defense Perry “I say to you William…” — in furor over the basing of American troops in Saudi Arabia.
Al Gore weighed in on the aftermath of the Gulf War by damning the senior Bush — but for doing too little, allowing Saddam to stay in power, and proceed to acquire nuclear technology and weapons of mass destruction.
Just as journalists, generals, and politicians rush to get into print another tell-all, I-know-the-answers book about the “disaster” in Iraq, so too in the 1990s the mini-Middle East publishing industry used to be devoted to equally furious attacks on realism, neo-isolation, and cynicism of Republicans and conservatives for an array of sins — sacrificing the Kurds and Shiites, not supporting Democratic reformers abroad, leaving Saddam in power, failing to prod Gulf sheikdoms to liberalize, cynically prodding on the Iran-Iraq war, etc.
What is lost, then, in the present pre-election hysteria and the repositioning on Iraq, is that there were never any good American choices in the Middle East. The present ones in Iraq and Afghanistan came about only from 9/11 and a general consensus that the failures of the past had led to that mass murder — and thus a new course of action was needed to replace both the liberal appeasement and conservative realism that had worked in the interest of bin Ladenism.
Legitimate debate is necessary about the mistakes in Iraq, as it is about the blunders of every war. But before writing off Iraq as lost, unnecessary, or a result of some such conspiracy, we had better ask ourselves whether a return to the sermonizing of Carterism or Clintonian diplomacy by focus group and straw polls — or even cynical horse-trading of Jim Baker — is what we really want.
So here are questions to ponder as reactionaries yearn for a pre-Bush past. Imagine: One of the various foiled terrorist plots — a Fort Dix slaughter, a JFK airport attack, or the suicide teams ABC news claims are headed our way from Afghanistan — succeed after 2008. Thousands of Americans die.
What does President Clinton or Obama do? Draft a tough federal indictment? Ask for a U.N. resolution condemning such violence? Count on a unified response with NATO, battle-seasoned after its heroic offensives in Afghanistan? Hope for help from the EU rapid-response force? Bomb the source where the jihadists trained (Gaza?, Pakistan? Syria? Iran?) — but only from 30,000 feet, and, as in 1998, without U.N. or congressional approval? Work with the Saudis and Egyptians and Mr. Abbas to curb such atypical zealots? Have John Edwards globe-trot the globe to use his courtroom flair to win over allies?
Or imagine that Iran announces that it is going to set off a bomb in its desert. Do we resurrect the EU3? Ask Hans Blix to return as nuclear inspector with Mr. El-Baradei and others to assure us the test was genuine? Send Jimmy Carter to Teheran (or better, find an aged Ramsey Clark to return as a special envoy as in 1979?). Or maybe beseech the new U.N. head, Mr. Ki-Moon who just enlightened us that global warming (read the U.S.) — not Islamic Jihadism and age-old sub-Saharan thuggery — caused Darfur?
Or imagine the very real possibility of an Islamic takeover of Pakistan, in which a theocratic nuclear jihadist government becomes a Sunni version of Iran and begins to send tens of thousands of jihadists into Afghanistan. What to do? Put our eye back on the ball? Bomb whom and what?
The point is twofold. Our present policy, however poorly managed in postbellum Iraq, arose as a reaction both to the do-nothingism of past administrations, which, by general consensus, had emboldened al Qaeda to up its ante on 9/11, and the decades of amoral realism that propped up thugs and dictators who ruined their societies but blamed the ensuing mess on Americans and Jews.
After 9/11, we did not, as alleged, invade countries serially, but removed only two fascistic governments, the worst in the Middle East — both with a record of supporting enemies of the United States, and both of whom we had bombed or sent missiles against in the very recent past.
We did not leave after such punitive measures because we felt that the last time we did that, whether in Afghanistan in the 1980s, or Iraq in 1991, or Lebanon, or Somalia, things only got worse — and after 9/11 they might well get much worse. And unlike the bombing of 1998 in the Balkans, both operations in Afghanistan and Iraq were sanctioned by the U.S. Congress, discussed at the U.N., and widely supported by the American people.
Removing the Taliban and Saddam, and promoting constitutional governments in their places, were not the only options after 9/11, but they were good choices — if the desire was to address comprehensively a quarter-century of terrorism that was insidiously escalating both in frequency and vehemence.
If both governments can be stabilized even at this late date, the landscape in the Middle East from Lebanon to the West Bank will be much improved; if not, much worse. For those who wish to give up the struggle in Iraq, go home, and stay clear of the Middle East, a final question: What would Mr. Assad in Syria, al Qaeda in Iraq, President Ahmadinejad in Iran, or Hamas and Hezbollah wish us to do — and why?
And what in turn would Mr. Karzai, Mr. Maliki, the women educators of Iraq, the Lebanese democrats, the Syrian exiles, and the Iranian dissidents prefer? And which group should we in turn enlist as friends and which accept are our enemies?
It would be nice to go back to our pre-9/11 past, just as in a bloody 1944 the calm of 1937 looked to many of the starry-eyed far preferable, just as in the midst of the nuclear stand-off of 1962 we lamented the loss of the old “friendly” Russia and China of 1945.
But while our ancestors engaged in the same despair, the same blame-gaming that we so enjoy, they at least were not stupid enough to lose those far more deadly and dangerous wars. We can win like they did as well, but only if we face the future with confidence, and not pine for the return of a mythical past that never was.
National Review Online -
Reply #190 on:
June 29, 2007, 12:25:24 PM »
TURKEY: Turkey is prepared to attack Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said. Gul said Turkey has comprehensive plans to invade northern Iraq, but will not occupy foreign territory. Gul added that an army invasion of Iraq would require parliamentary approval, but said airstrikes against Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq would not.
Reply #191 on:
July 02, 2007, 09:37:24 PM »
TURKEY/U.S.: Turkey will not seek U.S. permission to invade Iraq should it consider its national security at risk, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said in an interview with Today's Zaman. Gul added it is the responsibility of the United States to rein in the Kurdistan Workers' Party in Iraq. Turkey will not seek to delay its national elections even if it does get drawn into a war, Gul said.
Reply #192 on:
July 03, 2007, 07:56:50 AM »
From today's NY Times-- what are the implications here?
BAGHDAD, July 2 — Agents of Iran helped plan a January raid in Shiite holy city of Karbala in Iraq in which five American soldiers were killed by Islamic militants, an American military spokesman said Monday. The charge was the most specific allegation of Iranian involvement in an attack that killed American troops, at a time of rising tensions with Iran over its role in Iraq and its nuclear program.
Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner, the military spokesman here, said an elite unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, a force under the control of Iran’s most powerful religious leaders, had used veterans of the Lebanese Islamic militia group Hezbollah as a “proxy” to train, arm and plan attacks by an array of Shiite militant cells in Iraq.
One high-ranking Hezbollah commander from Lebanon was captured in Basra in March, and after weeks of pretending that he could not hear or speak, he gave American interrogators details of the Iranian role, the general said.
Earlier briefings by the American command on accusations about an Iranian role focused on technical analyses of arms said to have been supplied by Iran to Shiite militias in Iraq, including explosively formed penetrators, an exceptionally lethal form of bomb responsible for killing 170 American soldiers as of February and a substantial number since.
But some critics said the evidence was circumstantial and charged that the Americans appeared to be offering a new rationale for maintaining or increasing the military commitment in Iraq.
The briefings on Monday shifted the focus from the weapons to what General Bergner described as a network of secret militant cells armed, financed and directed by the Iranians. He said the information was drawn from interrogations of three men captured in a raid in Basra on May 20, and from documents found with them.
He identified the three men by name and said one was a Lebanese Hezbollah agent and two were Iraqi Shiites working as agents for the Quds Force, the elite Iranian unit. He did not present transcripts of the interrogations or the seized documents for inspection. The general said the captured men had been deeply involved in organizing Iranian-backed militia cells, including the one that killed the Americans.
It was the first time that the United States had charged that Iranian officials had helped plan operations against American troops in Iraq and had advance knowledge of a specific attack that led to the death of American soldiers. In effect, the United States is charging that Iran has been engaged in a proxy war against American, British and Iraqi forces here in an effort to shore up Iranian Shiite militant allies in Iraq and to raise the cost of the American military presence here.
General Bergner, seemingly keen to avoid a renewal of the criticism that the American command has used the allegations of Iranian interference here to lend momentum to the Bush administration’s war policy, declined to draw any broader political implications, although he did say that American intelligence indicated that “the senior leadership in Iran is aware of this activity.”
A statement by the Iranian Foreign Ministry rejected the American claims, describing them as “fabricated and ridiculous.”
Much of the briefing centered on the captured Hezbollah agent, known to the American command as “Hamid the Mute” because Hamid was part of the false name he gave after his capture and because of the weeks he spent after his capture pretending that he could not speak or hear. The man, identified as Ali Musa Daqduq, was said by General Bergner to be a Lebanese citizen with a 24-year history in Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group based in southern Lebanon.
General Bergner said Mr. Daqduq had previously commanded a Hezbollah special operations unit and “coordinated protection” for Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader. The general said Mr. Daqduq had been sent by Hezbollah to Iran in 2005 with orders to work with the Quds Force, an elite unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, to train “Iraqi extremists.”
In the past year, the general said, Mr. Daqduq made four trips to Iraq, to report on the training and operations of underground militia cells, and to organize them in ways that mirrored Hezbollah’s structure.
“He also helped the Quds Force in training Iraqis inside Iran,” the general said, taking groups of 20 to 60 Iraqis at a time to three camps in the vicinity of Tehran and instructing them in the use of shaped charges, mortars, rockets and “intelligence, sniper and kidnapping operations.”
Page 2 of 2)
The general said the cells had been responsible for much violence. “I think the reality of this is that they’re killing American forces, they’re killing Iraqis, they’re killing Iraqi security forces, and they are disrupting the stability in Iraq,” he said.
Another senior American official said Mr. Daqduq had pretended to be unable to hear or speak, probably to disguise his Lebanese-accented Arabic. Later, the official said, he admitted in notes to his interrogators that he could hear. Finally, he passed a note saying that he could speak but that he would not do so until May 1. Presumably, the temporary silence was intended to give others a chance to get away. On that day, the official said, “he did talk, and he’s been quite talkative ever since.”
The official said the shift had been achieved without harming Mr. Daqduq. “We don’t torture,” the official said. “We follow scrupulously the interrogation techniques in the Army’s new field manual, which forbids torture, and has the force of law.”
The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mohammad Hosseini Ali Hosseini, said the American attempt to blame the Quds Force for instigating violence in Iraq was part of a wider pattern of baseless allegations. “It has been four and a half years that U.S. officials have sought to cover up the dreadful situation in Iraq, which is a result of their mistakes and wrong strategies, by denigration and blaming others,” he said.
When the Karbala attack was carried out on Jan. 20, American and Iraqi officials said it had been meticulously planned. The attackers carried forged identity cards, wore American-style uniforms and drove vehicles of a kind used by Americans here. One American was killed at the start of the raid, and the other Americans were captured, then shot to death and dumped beside the road.
Some officials speculated at the time that the goal of the raid might have been to exchange the Americans for Iranian officials American forces had seized in Iraq and identified as members of the Quds Force, not diplomats as the Iranians claimed. General Bergner said the evidence of Iranian involvement in the Karbala killings came from interrogations of Qais Khazali, an Iraqi Shiite who oversaw operations of the Iranian-supported cells in Iraq that were under the direction of Mr. Daqduq, and who was seized in the same raid, along with another militant, Laith Khazali, his brother.
Along with the three men, the Americans also seized a 22-page document they had on the Karbala attack, General Bergner said. That document, he said, showed that the Quds Force had gathered detailed information on the activities of American soldiers in Karbala, including shift changes and the defenses at the site where they were seized. The general said other information about attacks by the Iranian-supported groups came from Mr. Daqduq’s personal journal and other documents.
“Both Ali Musa Daqduq and Qais Khazali state that senior leadership within the Quds Force knew of and supported planning for the eventual Karbala attack that killed five coalition soldiers,” General Bergner said.
American officials said one reason for holding the briefing nearly 15 weeks after capturing the three Quds Force agents was that Shiite officials in Baghdad, reluctant to inflame relations with Iran’s ruling Shiite clergy, had resisted having the case against Iran made so publicly. At the same time, a senior American official said, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and other Shiites in the government seemed to have been shaken by the evidence of “the nefarious and lethal” Iranian role the American command had uncovered.
General Bergner said much of the Iranian activity had centered on ties with groups linked to the Mahdi Army, a Shiite militia in Iraq that has mounted countless attacks on Americans and has killed thousands of Iraqi Sunnis. The Shiite cleric who founded the Mahdi Army, Moktada al-Sadr, has longstanding ties with Iran and spent months there this year, apparently fearful of arrest, American commanders have said.
The American command has long said that much of the worst violence by Mahdi Army groups appears to have been carried out by “rogue” groups that Mr. Sadr does not control. General Bergner said the groups under the Quds Force seemed to be in that category.
Another high-ranking American official said that Iranian financing for the Tehran-linked militias — said by General Bergner to amount to $750,000 to $3 million a month — had long been channeled through Mr. Sadr, and that American intelligence was not clear on whether some or all the money was still to him.
“One of the big questions is, ‘Who controls the secret cells, if anyone does?’ ” the official said. “The fact is, it’s hard to tell where the militias end and the secret cells begin. There is a pre-existing relationship between Sadr and the Iranians, but I think the answer is that some of them are out of control.”
Reply #193 on:
July 03, 2007, 03:34:39 PM »
Iraqi oil bill heads to parliament
By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Associated Press Writer 48 minutes ago
The Iraqi Cabinet signed off Tuesday on a revised bill to regulate the country's oil industry and sent it to parliament — a major step in reaching a long-delayed benchmark sought by the U.S. to promote reconciliation between Iraq's Sunnis and Shiites.
Within hours of the announcement, however, the legislation hit a snag — the Kurds said they had neither seen nor approved the final text and might oppose it.
American officials are hoping that passage of the oil bill and companion legislation to distribute oil revenues will help rally Sunni support for the government and reduce backing for the insurgents.
In the latest violence, a car bomb exploded late Tuesday at an outdoor market in the Shaab area of northeast Baghdad, killing 18 people and wounding 35, a police officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not supposed to release the information.
The market is in a Shiite neighborhood frequently target by Sunni bombers.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told reporters his Cabinet had unanimously approved the oil draft and that the parliament would begin discussing it the following day. He called the bill "the most important law in Iraq."
The Cabinet endorsed one version of the legislation last February. But the Kurds protested that that measure was unconstitutional because it gave too much power to a yet-to-be-established national oil company in managing the country's oil fields.
Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh did not release the bill's final version.
In a statement posted on its Web site, the Kurdistan Regional Government said it would reject the latest text if it made "material and substantive changes" to the outline agreed upon during weeks of protracted negotiations.
"We have not seen the final text of the law that the Iraqi Cabinet says it will put to parliament," the statement said. "We hope that the Cabinet is not approving a text with which the (Kurdish administration) disagrees because this would violate the constitutional rights of the Kurdistan region."
The Kurds control 53 of the 275 seats — not enough to defeat the measure on its own but enough to stall approval.
Only 24 of the Cabinet's 37 members were present for the vote because of boycotts by ministers from the Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front and the Shiite bloc local to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Both groups have separate political disputes with al-Maliki.
Nevertheless, government officials expressed confidence that parliament would approve the measure.
Al-Dabbagh said Cabinet approval came after amendments prompted by the Accordance Front, but he gave no details.
The bill is part of a package of legislation that would establish rules for exploiting Iraq's vast oil wealth and provide a formula for distributing revenues among the 18 provinces. Iraq's proven oil reserves have been estimated at 115 billion barrels — second largest in OPEC after Saudi Arabia.
Some petroleum experts believe the real figure is even higher because Iraq lagged behind other countries in using modern surveying technology during the years of international sanctions under Saddam Hussein.
Production has fallen from 3.5 million barrels a day to 2 million since the U.S. invasion because of security problems, especially in the northern fields. The bill is aimed at encouraging international investments to modernize the fields.
The issue of oil distribution is a top concern of Iraq's Sunni Arab minority, which is centered in regions of the country with little proven reserves. The 2005 constitution gave regional administrations considerable powers in managing oil resources in their areas.
Most of Iraq's known reserves lie in the Kurdish north and the Shiite south. Sunnis feared the Shiites and Kurds — who now dominate the government — would monopolize profits from the industry.
U.S. officials are hoping that passage of an oil bill will help rally Sunni support for the government and the political process and reduce backing for insurgents.
Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish officials agreed last month on the distribution of revenues, with the northern Kurdish autonomous region getting 17 percent of the net revenues each month, after deducting federal government expenditures.
Kurds make up about 20 percent of the population nationwide. The rest of the revenues will be divided among the other provinces according to population.
If parliament approves the bill, it would be the first of a series of benchmark legislation to be enacted. The Iraqis pledged to meet the benchmarks by the end of last year but failed due to political haggling and the security crisis.
President Bush has pressed al-Maliki to take a series of other political steps aimed at bringing Sunni Arabs into the political process. Such measures include opening jobs to Sunnis who supported Saddam, amending the constitution to satisfy Sunni aspirations and holding local elections.
Al-Dabbagh said the Cabinet could take up the draft bill on restoring government jobs to many former Saddam loyalists on Thursday.
With support for the war at an all-time low in the United States, those measures would also help convince the U.S. public and Congress that Iraqi leaders are doing what is needed to halt the violence.
Bush ordered 28,000 more U.S. troops to Iraq this year to try to reduce the violence and encourage the Iraqis to reach political agreements among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.
The offensive in Baghdad and areas to the north and south has boosted American casualties, although the number of bombings and shootings has fallen in the capital in recent days.
In June, Iraqi civilian deaths dropped to their lowest monthly level since the start of the Baghdad security operation, according to the Interior Ministry. Iraqi officials attribute the decline to the offensive, which has put pressure on insurgents.
Nevertheless, violence continued.
The U.S. command said American troops fought a large battle with gunmen near the western Sunni city of Ramadi over the weekend, in fighting that left 23 insurgents dead. The insurgents had massed on Donkey Island, a patch of land in a canal outside the city, and opened fire on U.S. troops, prompting the gunbattle Saturday.
Troops found caches of weapons, explosives and suicide vests, the military said.
Also Tuesday, the command said insurgents forced down a U.S. military Kiowa helicopter south of Baghdad the day before. An Apache helicopter rescued the two pilots, who were slightly hurt, it said.
In Baghdad, an Iraqi army lieutenant colonel and an Interior Ministry intelligence officer were killed in separate drive-by shootings Tuesday, police said. A car bomb hit the convoy of an Iraqi police colonel in the northern city of Kirkuk, killing two passers-by and wounding 17, though the colonel survived, police in the city said. Police in both cities spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not supposed to release such information.
Reply #194 on:
July 03, 2007, 03:47:57 PM »
From the article posted above:
The bill is aimed at encouraging international investments to modernize the fields.
Yeah, I like how this is mentioned in passing, as though it were of only minor significance. Not too difficult to guess who these "investors" are.
Reply #195 on:
July 03, 2007, 04:44:54 PM »
Ooh! Ooh! May I guess?
Is it the same folks who made Saudi Arabia fabulously wealthy?
Reply #196 on:
July 03, 2007, 04:54:36 PM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on July 03, 2007, 04:44:54 PM
Ooh! Ooh! May I guess?
Is it the same folks who made Saudi Arabia fabulously wealthy?
Only if by "Saudi Arabia" you mean the royal family.
Reply #197 on:
July 03, 2007, 11:10:56 PM »
Move to strike your honor as non-responsive to the point being made.
Reply #198 on:
July 04, 2007, 11:01:58 AM »
It's a perfectly valid response. When you say Saudi Arabia is a "fabulously wealthy" country, you're only talking about a small group of people that's enjoying the wealth.
To the extent that any of this "international investment" would make Iraq a wealthier country, they didn't ask for it. You're not stupid, so you know as well as I do that the Iraqis are not free to simply reject the investment if they choose.
Reply #199 on:
July 04, 2007, 08:11:38 PM »
"It's a perfectly valid response. When you say Saudi Arabia is a "fabulously wealthy" country, you're only talking about a small group of people that's enjoying the wealth."
The point of your original comment seemed to be directed at the "investors", not the recipients of the investment. My point was, and is, that the recipients of the investment have benefitted extraordinarily. About SA's income distribution of wealth numbers I haven't a clue. I am under the impression that most folks don't have to exert themselves very much.
"To the extent that any of this "international investment" would make Iraq a wealthier country, they didn't ask for it. You're not stupid, so you know as well as I do that the Iraqis are not free to simply reject the investment if they choose."
OK, I'll bite. Why can't they reject the investment if they choose?
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