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Topic: Iraq (Read 198041 times)
Reply #200 on:
July 06, 2007, 06:14:26 AM »
GIs Forge Sunni Ties
BAQUBA, Iraq, June 30 — Capt. Ben Richards had been battling insurgents from Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia for three weeks when he received an unexpected visitor.
Former Insurgents Aid U.S. Soldiers Abu Ali walked into the Americans’ battle-scarred combat outpost with an unusual proposal: the community leader was worried about the insurgents, and wanted the soldiers’ help in taking them on.
The April 7 meeting was the beginning of a new alliance and, American commanders hope, a portent of what is to come in the bitterly contested Diyala Province.
Using his Iraqi partners to pick out the insurgents and uncover the bombs they had seeded along the cratered roads, Captain Richards’s soldiers soon apprehended more than 100 militants, including several low-level emirs. The Iraqis called themselves the Local Committee; Captain Richards dubbed them the Kit Carson scouts.
“It is the only way that we can keep Al Qaeda out,” said Captain Richards, who operates from a former Iraqi police station in the Buhritz sector of the city that still bears the sooty streaks from the day militants set it aflame last year.
The American military has struggled for more than four years to train and equip the Iraqi Army. But here the local Sunni residents, including a number of former insurgents from the 1920s Revolution Brigades, have emerged as a linchpin of the American strategy.
The new coalition reflects some hard-headed calculations on both sides. Eager for intelligence on their elusive foes, American officers have been willing to overlook the past of some of their newfound allies.
Many Sunnis, for their part, are less inclined to see the soldiers as occupiers now that it is clear that American troop reductions are all but inevitable, and they are more concerned with strengthening their ability to fend off threats from Sunni jihadists and Shiite militias. In a surprising twist, the jihadists — the Americans’ most ardent foes — made the new strategy possible. Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a predominantly Iraqi organization with a small but significant foreign component, severely overplayed its hand, spawning resentment by many residents and other insurgent groups.
Imposing a severe version of Islamic law, the group installed its own clerics, established an Islamic court and banned the sale of cigarettes, which even this week were nowhere to be found in the humble shops in western Baquba to the consternation of patrolling Iraqi troops.
The fighters raised funds by kidnapping local Iraqis, found accommodations by evicting some residents from their homes and killed with abandon when anyone got in their way, residents say. A small group of bearded black-clad militants took down the Iraqi flag and raised the banner of their self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq.
“They used religion as a ploy to get in and exploit people’s passions,” said one member of the Kit Carson scouts, who gave his name as Haidar. “They were Iraqis and other Arabs from Syria, Afghanistan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. They started kicking people out of their houses and getting ransom from rich people. They would shoot people in front of their houses to scare the others.”
Collaborations like the one with the scouts in Baquba are slowly beginning to emerge in other parts of Iraq. In Baquba they face some notable obstacles, primarily from the Shiite-dominated provincial and Baghdad ministries that are worried about American efforts to rally the Sunnis and institutionalize them as a security force.
But with Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s government showing scant progress toward political reconciliation and the American military eager to achieve a measure of stability before its elevated troop levels begin to shrink, American commanders appear determined to proceed with this more decentralized strategy — one that relies less on initiatives taken by Iraqi leaders in Baghdad and more on newly forged coalitions with local Iraqis.
A West Point graduate, Idaho native and former Mormon missionary who worked for two years with Chinese immigrants in Canada, Captain Richards commands Bronco Troop, First Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment. When the 31-year-old officer was first sent to Buhritz in mid-March as part of a battalion-size task force, he encountered a deeply entrenched foe who numbered in the thousands.
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Many of the members of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia were ensconced in a sprawling palm grove-laden sanctuary south of Baquba and east of the Diyala River. The area, which is still under the group’s control, is still so replete with arms caches, insurgent leaders, fighters and their supporters that American soldiers have taken to calling it the Al Qaeda Fob, or forward operating base in American military jargon.
Former Insurgents Aid U.S. Soldiers The insurgents also had a firm grip on the city, the provincial capital of Diyala, which Abu Musab al-Zarqawi made the center of his self-styled Islamic caliphate before he was killed in an airstrike near Baquba last year. The key supply and communications lines between the insurgents’ rural staging area and the city ran through the Buhritz, making it vital ground for Al Qaeda.
The militants’ hold on the region was facilitated, senior American officers now acknowledge, by American commanders’ decision to draw down forces in the province in 2005 in the hopes of shifting most of the responsibility for securing the region onto the Iraqis. That strategy backfired when the Iraqi authorities appointed overly sectarian Shiite army and police regional commanders, alienating the largely Sunni population, and otherwise showed themselves unable to safeguard the area.
“Up until Captain Richards went in and met the 1920s guys, we fought,” recalled Lt. Col. Mo Goins, the commander of the First Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, which held the line in Baquba until reinforcements began to arrive in March. “That is what we did. Small arms. Mortars. I.E.D’s.”
Captain Richards’s soldiers arrived in Buhritz in mid-March as part of a battalion-sized operation. Unlike many earlier operations, the Americans showed up in force and did not quickly withdraw. The residents saw an opportunity to challenge Al Qaeda, and for a week, the two sides battled it out in the streets.
Initially, the Americans stood on the sidelines, concerned that they might be witnessing a turf fight among insurgents and militias. “We were not sure what was going on,” Captain Richards recalled. “We were not sure we could trust the people not to turn on us afterwards.”
But after the militants gained the upper hand and more than 1,000 residents began to flee on foot, the Americans moved to prevent the militants from establishing their control throughout the neighborhood. The soldiers called in an airstrike, which demolished a local militant headquarters.
The meeting between the residents and the Americans was Abu Ali’s initiative. The locals wanted ammunition to carry on their fight. Captain Richards had another proposal: the residents should tip off the Americans on which Iraqis belonged to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and where they had buried their bombs.
At first, no more than a dozen of the several hundred Sunnis who were taking on the militants served as Kit Carson scouts, but they made a vital difference. Unlike Anbar Province, where the American military has formed similar alliances, Diyala lacks a cohesive tribal structure. Nor did another Sunni insurgent group, the 1920s Revolution Brigades, deliver fighters en masse.
Even so, some of the main obstacles that the Americans have faced in institutionalizing the arrangement with the scouts have come from the United States’ ostensible allies in the Iraqi government. According to Captain Richards, the provincial police chief, Maj. Gen. Ghanen al-Kureshi, repeatedly resisted efforts to hire the local Sunnis.
Captain Richards rejected a group of Shiite police recruits from Baghdad, fearing they might be penetrated by Shiite militias. Determined to get his scouts hired, he loaded 50 scouts and other residents on his Stryker vehicles and drove them to the provincial headquarters over the insurgent-threatened roads.
Today, the police number only 170, a fraction of the police force in adjoining areas. The small police force, made up of scouts and Sunni residents, was provided with only two trucks, seven radios and a paltry supply of ammunition that the Sunni residents have managed to supplement by buying ammunition on the black market from corrupt Interior Ministry officials in Baghdad. Another 150 scouts participate as unpaid monitors in a neighborhood watch program to guard key routes in and out of the area that Captain Richards oversees.
“The people in the community think that he is actively trying to prevent the Buhritz police from establishing themselves because the Shia government does not want a legitimate Sunni security force in Diyala Province,” Captain Richards said, referring to General Ghanen, the provincial police chief.
Colonel Goins had a more charitable view of the provincial chief’s actions, saying that he was coping with personnel and weapons shortages, as well as Interior Ministry guidance to build up the force in other areas. “Right now, his resources are extremely limited,” Colonel Goins said.
The new police and neighborhood watch monitors appear to work well with the local Iraqi Army unit and police officials. But a local Iraqi Army commander expressed doubts that the scouts, in uniform or not, amounted to a disciplined, military unit that could take and hold ground.
During a quick visit to two villages, Guam and Abu Faad, the Americans and their Iraqi allies tried to persuade welcoming but still wary residents that they needed to overcome their fears of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and provide tips for their own security.
The American military is trying to expand the alliance into the western sector of the city, which a Stryker brigade recently wrested back from Qaeda militants. During the recent American assault in the western sector, soldiers from Blackhawk Company got a glimpse of an alliance the Americans hope to see. An Iraqi seemingly emerged from nowhere, announced himself as a member of the 1920s Revolution Brigades and warned the soldiers that insurgents could be found on the far side of a sand berm around the corner. The tip was accurate.
Reply #201 on:
July 08, 2007, 07:13:57 AM »
One of Iraq's most controversial politicians offers thoughts on the "surge," Iran and where we go from here.
BY MELIK KAYLAN
Saturday, July 7, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
BAGHDAD--"these people need help. The army must help them more. The government must help them more. They have been fighting alone against a vicious enemy, fighting for all of us to make our country safe."
I'm in Diyala province, watching Ahmed Chalabi shouting into a TV camera over the sound of mortar shells. He's imploring the Iraqi state to support tribesmen fighting off al Qaeda attacks such as the one we're now experiencing.
In the end our entourage, which had driven from Baghdad for lunch with local leaders, escaped unharmed. But the episode showed--as so many events in his turbulent past few years have--that Mr. Chalabi is hardly the transient opportunist that his detractors at the State Department, CIA and on the antiwar left once made him out to be. He's still in Iraq, despite long ago losing whatever American support he once had and failing to win a seat in the last parliamentary election. (He was deputy prime minister in Iraq's first elected government.) And almost alone among the Iraqi political figures, he not only lives but travels widely outside the Green Zone.
Last month, I spent some days in Mr. Chalabi's company in and out of the capital, and at his residence in a well-fortified warren of cul-de-sacs in the wealthy, but dangerous, Mansour district. Though he's not in the current Maliki government, he is still courted by the state and given key appointments. He heads up the De-Baathification program and the Committee for Public Support of the "surge," which engages in reconciliation activities like reopening Sunni mosques in Shiite neighborhoods. Community leaders from all sides troop through his doors daily.
Returning residents back to their purged neighborhoods, Mr. Chalabi says, "is a slow process because people have to learn to trust each other all over again. . . . They're often glad to see their old neighbor again, and it can be very emotional and moving. But underneath it you can't be sure because, after all, they've had brothers or fathers killed, perhaps by people in their neighborhood--reconciliation takes time."
On one occasion, in the post-prayer evening hours, we visited the football-field sized mosque complex of Khadimiya in Baghdad. It is one of Iraq's top Shiite holy sites decorated intricately with floral tiling and cut-mirror facades. Wearing his trademark suit and tie, Mr. Chalabi was continuously mobbed by crowds of women and children, astonished and delighted that a famous official should appear in public and lend an ear to their complaints. Not an hour before, a motorbike-borne suicide bomber had been disarmed nearby.
Mr. Chalabi would appear to be the nearest thing Iraqis currently possess to a genuine walk-and-talk democratic politician, one who will risk life and limb to embody the principle personally. In fact, the U.S.'s main error in Iraq, according to Mr. Chalabi, has been trying to micromanage the development of Iraqi politics. "The U.S. should make a choice," he says, "either to accept full democracy and live with the consequences or undertake full control. They keep trying to 'give local initiatives a boost' instead of letting Iraqi democracy succeed on its own. When you make your own mistakes, you learn. When outsiders make them, unfortunately, they get treated as the enemy."
His recounting of post-war Iraqi history--which began with the high-handed regency of L. Paul Bremer and then the appointed Iraqi government of Ayad Allawi--returns again and again to this point.
"The problems began when the U.S. declared an official occupation," he says. "We told the U.S. not to have an occupation, that it would be a disaster. We never intended that. We wanted the Iraqis to run their own affairs, but we were not trusted to do that. Two years ahead of time, we asked [the U.S.] for a 10,000 man multiethnic military police force of Iraqis to be trained. . . . We were refused."
Mr. Chalabi continues: "We could have prevented the looting and the disbanding of the army. We planned to deploy in front of the army barracks, to disarm the soldiers and keep them in their barracks and tell them 'we are your brothers. Help us run the country, keep order and have democracy.' We intended to pay them, and absorb them selectively into our ranks. We had good intelligence. We knew who was who. Look at it now. The U.S. has had six intelligence chiefs since the war started. They keep changing. Do the allies get any useful intelligence?"
With such views, Mr. Chalabi quickly added parts of the Bush administration to his enemies on the antiwar left. Relations became so strained during the Bremer-era that on May 20, 2004, U.S. soldiers raided his offices in Baghdad. He was also accused of leaking intelligence to Iranian operatives inside Iraq to the effect that the U.S. had broken their communication codes. From Mr. Chalabi's side the accusation meets with a ready dismissal: "It's strange that the Iranians then used the same code to inform Tehran of the fact."
But Mr. Chalabi remains unrepentant in his criticism of what he calls "elementary mistakes" by the U.S., which he believes would not have happened if Iraqis had run things from the start. "We always said, keep the allied military here for a while, but not as part of an occupation government--that was the point. . . . When the president said 'Mission Accomplished' he should have followed through and handed civilian government over to Iraqis, as was originally agreed."
So much for the past. Does he think the "surge" will succeed? "Not if it's just a military action," he says. "It's intended as a political initiative backed by military force. It creates the opportunity for political initiatives to work but they must be pursued. It won't work forever without underlying political agreements. If Sadr City stayed quiet for some months, it's because there was a political rapprochement and Moqtada al Sadr agreed to rein in his militia. But paradoxically, the overall political scene may not clarify while the U.S. is too engaged--all sides are waiting for the real Iraq to emerge from underneath the U.S. shadow. Only when they have to face each other directly will Iraqis make their deals."
Mr. Chalabi's hardheaded views on the allied occupation have an implicit flipside: that some beneficent outcome can still be shaped from the chaos, and that Iraq can gain stability even (or especially) without U.S. ballast. Doesn't he think, as most outside commentators do, that a U.S. withdrawal will create an all-out regional conflict, sucking in nearby countries? "I'd say it's possible but not probable. Look at everyone who works for me, from all sides of Iraqi society. People want peace. They want to go back to their homes. If the U.S. leaves, the present government will fall and there will be elections quickly." To Mr. Chalabi's thinking, this will improve things because Iraqis will choose their real leaders, and they will be accountable to the electorate for delivering peace and practical benefits such as electricity and water.
"Still, in the end," he says, "U.S. policy in Iraq will not be determined by the interests of Iraqis but by U.S. strategic interests and by U.S. domestic pressures. The Iraqi conflict's domestic unpopularity will drive America's decisions on its presence here. In my view, being constructive in preventing conflict is the surest way for the U.S. to exercise positive influence in the region. Iraq is a very strategic country. It borders six countries including the Gulf, so it's in U.S. interests to keep it stable and to keep influence in it."
After listening to Mr. Chalabi over time, one learns how to hear the meaning in his more cautious phrases. By the "real Iraq" he likely means the majority, Shiite-dominated Iraq. He talks about how "the Sunnis have lost the battle for Baghdad," and that the Arab states, having incited them to fight, ultimately abandoned them in ways comparable to the Palestinian conflicts with Israel. He believes that the Sunnis will ultimately face reality and make accommodation with fellow Iraqis once they accept that they are an even smaller minority than previously thought--some 80% Shiite to 20% Sunni in Baghdad by his estimates.
This perhaps is what Mr. Chalabi means by "letting Iraqi democracy succeed"--that is, letting the sheer weight of numbers dictate. "Being constructive in preventing conflict" likely refers to the U.S. reining in Arab support of Sunni Baathists and al Qaeda in Iraq.
Mr. Chalabi has had a lifelong feud with Baathists and one feels that he regards their car bombs as more dangerous and destructive to Iraq's future than the Shiite militias. Still, he defends his position as evenhanded. "With Baathists, it's more complicated than Sunni vs. Shiite," he says. "There were more Shiite than Sunni Baathists. The Shiites hate them, whereas in Sunni areas they're quite popular." In his de-Baathification program, he has, he says, returned most of the Baathists either to their jobs or pensions. "There were some 1.2 million party members, and we have reintegrated all but some 30,000, and those are the hardcore ones, and only 6,000 of those don't have their pensions. [The U.S.] now wants us to return all the Baathists to their former positions or comparable ones, but with the old military and security personnel, that's impossible. They're too hated. We just can't do it."
It's dangerous, Mr. Chalabi believes, even to return Sunni Baathists to certain key strategic posts such as those responsible for guarding electricity plants. He draws a rough 'S'-shaped diagram and says, "Saddam positioned electric plants around Baghdad in that configuration. The very people he put in charge of protecting them are now wrecking them to choke the city. That's one reason why we don't have electricity."
Most interesting perhaps are Mr. Chalabi's views on Iran, which differ substantially from the alarm expressed by many of his current and former American backers. "The influence of Iran on Iraq is inevitable," he says. "It's been there for centuries. They supported the anti-Saddam resistance for years. They were the first to accept trade agreements, transit rights, electricity linkups and the like with the new Iraqi government. Some 90% of Iraq's population lives within 100 miles of Iran. We have an enormous land border in common and it's the only country that ships goods to us unhindered."
"I understand the U.S. has worries about Iranian power so here's a solution," he continues. "Let us quantify and monitor the amount of Iranian influence: Let's make an agreement on how much trade, how much electricity, how many trucks and so on can come through. Iraq needs as many friends as possible and nobody wants to be dependent on one source of help. Everything can be worked out. We will have to in the end anyway. What choice is there?"
Mr. Kaylan is a writer living in New York.
Reply #202 on:
July 09, 2007, 11:40:49 PM »
Official: Iraq Gov't Missed All Targets
Jul 9, 9:45 PM (ET)
By ANNE FLAHERTY and ANNE GEARAN
WASHINGTON (AP) - A progress report on Iraq will conclude that the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad has not met any of its targets for political, economic and other reform, speeding up the Bush administration's reckoning on what to do next, a U.S. official said Monday.
One likely result of the report will be a vastly accelerated debate among President Bush's top aides on withdrawing troops and scaling back the U.S. presence in Iraq.
The "pivot point" for addressing the matter will no longer be Sept. 15, as initially envisioned, when a full report on Bush's so-called "surge" plan is due, but instead will come this week when the interim mid-July assessment is released, the official said.
"The facts are not in question," the official told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because the draft is still under discussion. "The real question is how the White House proceeds with a post-surge strategy in light of the report."
The report, required by law, is expected to be delivered to Capitol Hill by Thursday or Friday, as the Senate takes up a $649 billion defense policy bill and votes on a Democratic amendment ordering troop withdrawals to begin in 120 days.
Also being drafted are several Republican-backed proposals that would force a new course in Iraq, including one by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Ben Nelson, D-Neb., that would require U.S. troops to abandon combat missions. Collins and Nelson say their binding amendment would order the U.S. mission to focus on training the Iraqi security forces, targeting al-Qaida members and protecting Iraq's borders.
"My goal is to redefine the mission and set the stage for a significant but gradual drawdown of our troops next year," said Collins.
GOP support for the war has eroded steadily since Bush's decision in January to send some 30,000 additional troops to Iraq. At the time, Bush said the Iraqis agreed to meet certain benchmarks, such as enacting a law to divide the nation's oil reserves.
This spring, Congress agreed to continue funding the war through September but demanded that Bush certify on July 15 and again on Sept. 15 that the Iraqis were living up to their political promises or forgo U.S. aid dollars.
The official said it is highly unlikely that Bush will withhold or suspend aid to the Iraqis based on the report.
A draft version of the administration's progress report circulated among various government agencies in Washington on Monday.
White House Press Secretary Tony Snow on Monday tried to lower expectations on the report, contending that all of the additional troops had just gotten in place and it would be unrealistic to expect major progress by now.
"You are not going to expect all the benchmarks to be met at the beginning of something," Snow said. "I'm not sure everyone's going to get an 'A' on the first report."
In recent weeks, the White House has tried to shore up eroding GOP support for the war.
Collins and five other GOP senators - Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Robert Bennett of Utah, John Sununu of New Hampshire and Pete Domenici of New Mexico - support separate legislation calling on Bush to adopt as U.S. policy recommendations by the Iraq Study Group, which identified a potential redeployment date of spring 2008.
Other prominent Republican senators, including Richard Lugar of Indiana, George Voinovich of Ohio, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Olympia Snowe of Maine, also say the U.S. should begin redeployments.
Several GOP stalwarts, including Sens. Ted Stevens of Alaska, Christopher Bond of Missouri, Jon Kyl of Arizona and James Inhofe of Oklahoma, said they still support Bush's Iraq strategy.
Kyl said he would try to focus this week's debate on preserving vital anti-terrorism programs, including the detention of terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The defense bill is on track to expand the legal rights of those held at the military prison, and many Democrats want to propose legislation that would shut the facility.
"If Democrats use the defense authorization bill to pander to the far left at the expense of our national security, they should expect serious opposition from Republicans," Kyl said.
As the Senate debate began, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee arranged to run television commercials in four states, beginning Tuesday, to pressure Republicans on the war.
The ads are to run in Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota and New Hampshire, according to knowledgeable officials, but the DSCC so far has committed to spending a relatively small amount of money, less than $100,000 in all. Barring a change in plans that means the ads would not be seen widely in any of the four states.
The targets include Sens. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Collins of Maine, Sununu of New Hampshire and the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. All face re-election next year.
The boost in troop levels in Iraq has increased the cost of war there and in Afghanistan to $12 billion a month, with the overall tally for Iraq alone nearing a half-trillion dollars, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, which provides research and analysis to lawmakers.
The figures call into question the Pentagon's estimate that the increase in troop strength and intensifying pace of operations in Baghdad and Anbar province would cost $5.6 billion through the end of September.
US Envoy offers grim prediction
Reply #203 on:
July 10, 2007, 12:09:22 AM »
Who is "a US official" and why is he trying to frame the debate before the report is actually written and released?
The Surge has just finally reached full force, yet the same Congress that voted support for Gen. Petraeus has been yapping for months about how we have already "lost" (e.g. Sen. Harry Reid). How on earth can Iraqis be expected to commit to working with the US when the Congress makes it clear every day that the big bug out is coming?!?
Frankly I find this to be a despicable display of p*ss-poor partisanship, political cowardice and in many cases an profound absence of patriotic feeling. Do these people not realize that Tehran TV broadcasts what they say?!?
It is no coincidence that the stampede of the weak horses of Washington coincides with Syria predicting the outbreak of war in Lebanon in the next couple of weeks and Turkey lining up on the border of Kurdistan with a massive amount of troops and open declarations of intent to cross the border.
The things these people say and do in Washington have real consequences and cost real lives-- shame!!!
Gen Petraeus and President Bush asked for a chance with the Surge until mid-September. This was and is a reasonable request and should be granted.
BAGHDAD, July 9 — As the Senate prepares to begin a new debate this week on proposals for a withdrawal from Iraq, the United States ambassador and the Iraqi foreign minister are warning that the departure of American troops could lead to sharply increased violence, the deaths of thousands and a regional conflict that could draw in Iraq’s neighbors.
Two months before a pivotal assessment of progress in the war that he and the overall American military commander in Iraq are to make to the White House and Congress in September, Ryan C. Crocker, the ambassador, laid out a grim forecast of what could happen if the policy debate in Washington led to a significant pullback or even withdrawal of American forces, perhaps to bases outside the major cities.
“You can’t build a whole policy on a fear of a negative, but, boy, you’ve really got to account for it,” Mr. Crocker said Saturday in an interview at his office in Saddam Hussein’s old Republican Palace, now the seat of American power here. Setting out what he said was not a policy prescription but a review of issues that needed to be weighed, the ambassador compared Iraq’s current violence to the early scenes of a gruesome movie.
“In the States, it’s like we’re in the last half of the third reel of a three-reel movie, and all we have to do is decide we’re done here, and the credits come up, and the lights come on, and we leave the theater and go on to something else,” he said. “Whereas out here, you’re just getting into the first reel of five reels,” he added, “and as ugly as the first reel has been, the other four and a half are going to be way, way worse.”
Hoshyar Zebari, the foreign minister, sounded a similar warning at a Baghdad news conference on Monday. “The dangers vary from civil war to dividing the country or maybe to regional wars,” he said, referring to an American withdrawal. “In our estimation the danger is huge. Until the Iraqi forces and institutions complete their readiness, there is a responsibility on the U.S. and other countries to stand by the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people to help build up their capabilities.”
Fearing that the last pillars of Republican support for the war were eroding, the White House invited Senators John W. Warner, Republican of Virginia, who has been critical of the administration’s war policy, and Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, a supporter of the American troop presence, to the White House to ask them to delay votes on withdrawal until the administration delivers an interim progress report on the war, due in September.
Administration officials say Mr. Bush is considering a news conference on Iraq this week and is also likely to talk about it Tuesday during a trip to Cleveland that was intended to focus on his domestic agenda.
Although Senator Warner said he was inclined to heed the president’s request to delay a vote, the Democratic leader, Senator Harry Reid, of Nevada, said Monday afternoon that he would not wait. Indeed, hours later, the Senate began debate on the National Defense Authorization Act, the main military spending bill for the next budget year — and a vehicle for trying to force the administration to change its policy.
The bill calls for the military to balance the amount of time American troops spend overseas and on American soil, a measure that would limit troop deployments to Iraq.
While Senators Richard G. Lugar, of Indiana, and Pete V. Domenici, of New Mexico, and other Republicans have publicly urged a change of course, the Senate debate is testing party alliances. Mr. Warner and Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, are set to speak Tuesday morning at a rare bipartisan meeting to discuss Iraq. And Senator Olympia J. Snowe, a Maine Republican, said she was strongly supporting for the first time a bill with a specific timetable to remove troops from Iraq.
But the White House insisted Monday that Mr. Bush did not intend to change gears. “Don’t expect us to lift a veil and have a whole different strategy,” the spokesman, Tony Snow, said. “We’re not going to have a strategy jumping out of a cake.”
Mr. Crocker’s remarks echoed warnings that have been made for months by President Bush and other administration officials. But Mr. Crocker, a career diplomat,, seemed eager to emphasize that the report he and Gen. David H. Petraeus are to make in September — an event Mr. Bush and his war critics have presented as a watershed moment — would represent their professional judgment, unburdened by any reflex to back administration policy.
In the interview, which was requested by The New York Times, he said, “We’ll give the best assessment we can, and the most honest.” Unusually for American officials here, who have generally avoided any comparisons between the situation in Iraq and the war in Vietnam, he compared the task that he and General Petraeus face in reporting back in September to the one faced by Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker and Gen. Creighton W. Abrams Jr., the two top Americans in Vietnam when the decisions that led to the American withdrawal there were made nearly 40 years ago.
General Petraeus, too, has warned in recent months that while there is a high price for staying in Iraq, including mounting American casualties, the price for leaving could be higher than many war critics have acknowledged. Some opponents of the war have argued the contrary, saying that keeping American troops in Iraq provokes much of the violence and that withdrawing could force Iraq’s feuding politicians into burying their sectarian differences.
(Page 2 of 2)
In the interview, Mr. Crocker said he based his warning about what might happen if American troops left on the realities he has seen in the four months since he took up the Baghdad post, a knowledge of Iraq and its violent history dating back to a previous Baghdad posting more than 25 years ago, and lessons learned during an assignment in Beirut in the early 1980s. Then, he said, a “failure of imagination” made it impossible to foresee the extreme violence that enveloped Lebanon as it descended into civil war. He added, “And I’m sure what will happen here exceeds my imagination.”
On the potential for worsening violence after an American withdrawal from Iraq, he said: “You have to look at what the consequences would be, and you look at those who say we could have bases elsewhere in the country. Well yes, we could, but we would have the prospect of American forces looking on while civilians by the thousands were slaughtered. Not a pretty prospect.”
In setting out what he called “the kind of things you have to think about” before an American troop withdrawal, the ambassador cited several possibilities. He said these included a resurgence by the insurgent group Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, which he said had been “pretty hard-pressed of late” by the additional 30,000 troops Mr. Bush ordered deployed here this year; the risk that Iraq’s 350,000-strong security forces would “completely collapse” under sectarian pressures, disintegrating into militias; and the specter of interference by Iran, neighboring Sunni Arab states and Turkey.
The ambassador also suggested what is likely to be another core element of the approach that he and General Petraeus will take to the September report: that the so-called benchmarks for Iraqi government performance set by Congress in a defense authorization bill this spring may not be the best way of assessing whether the United States has a partner in the Baghdad government that warrants continued American military backing. “The longer I’m here, the more I’m persuaded that Iraq cannot be analyzed by these kind of discrete benchmarks,” he said.
After the Iraqi government drew up the first list of benchmarks last year, American officials used them as their yardstick, frequently faulting the Iraqis for failure to act on them, especially on three items the Americans identified as priorities: a new oil law sharing revenue between Iraq’s main population groups; a new “de-Baathification” law widening access to government jobs to members of Saddam Hussein’s former ruling party; and a law scheduling provincial elections to choose representative governments in areas where Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds are competing for power.
But Mr. Crocker said there were better ways to measure progress, including the levels of security across Iraq, progress in delivering basic services like electricity to the population, and steps by Iraqi leaders from rival groups to work more collaboratively.
Measured solely by the legislative benchmarks, he said, “you could not achieve any of them, and still have a situation where arguably the country is moving in the right direction. And conversely, I think you could achieve them all and still not be heading towards stability, security and overall success for Iraq.”
Last Edit: July 10, 2007, 06:58:20 AM by Crafty_Dog
Reply #204 on:
July 10, 2007, 04:12:08 PM »
Gen Petraeus and President Bush asked for a chance with the Surge until mid-September. This was and is a reasonable request and should be granted.
No doubt. Amazing how politics and polls sway our elected officials. Makes you wonder how the government would work if polls didn't exist.
I worry about what happens
things don't pan out by mid-September? I'm still waiting for
, to offer a viable, realistic strategy in case the surge doesn't work.
I sure as heck can't figure one out.
Reply #205 on:
July 10, 2007, 04:40:15 PM »
1. Stay in the fight. It isn't over until we say it's over.
2. Secure Kurdistan and the borders. No jihadis get in or out.
There is no "Gordian knot" solution waiting, at least not that I can see, but giving a win to al qaeda and Iran isn't smart.
Reply #206 on:
July 10, 2007, 07:00:34 PM »
Not a critique, just questions:
1. Stay in the fight.
Which fight? Against the terrorists? Against the insurgents? At this point can we tell the difference?
It isn't over until we say it's over.
Does anyone actually see an Iraq that has the ability to fend for itself? At what point do we go from being attackers (anti-terrorist/insurgent) to defenders (backing up IDF only when absolutely necessary)? And when is the friggin' Iraqi government going to step up to the plate?
2. Secure Kurdistan and the borders. No jihadis get in or out.
Is this realistic? We have problems securing our own border in peacetime. How do we protect the borders in a country ruled by chaos?
I guess I've just burned out from hearing rhetoric from politicians on both sides who are more interested in keeping their jobs than actually "getting the job done".
Sorry, I'm just frustrated by a perceived lack of progress...
Reply #207 on:
July 11, 2007, 06:28:21 PM »
Moving Forward in Iraq
The "surge" is working. Will Washington allow the current progress to continue?
BY KIMBERLY KAGAN
Wednesday, July 11, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
In Washington perception is often mistaken for reality. And as Congress prepares for a fresh debate on Iraq, the perception many members have is that the new strategy has already failed.
This isn't an accurate reflection of what is happening on the ground, as I saw during my visit to Iraq in May. Reports from the field show that remarkable progress is being made. Violence in Baghdad and Anbar Province is down dramatically, grassroots political movements have begun in the Sunni Arab community, and American and Iraqi forces are clearing al Qaeda fighters and Shiite militias out of long-established bases around the country.
This is remarkable because the military operation that is making these changes possible only began in full strength on June 15. To say that the surge is failing is absurd. Instead Congress should be asking this question: Can the current progress continue?
From 2004 to 2006, al Qaeda established safe havens, transport routes, vehicle-bomb factories and training camps in the rural areas surrounding Baghdad, where U.S. forces had little or no footprint. Al Qaeda used these bases to conduct bombings in Baghdad, to displace Shia and Sunni from local towns by sparking sectarian killings, and to force Iraqis to comply with the group's interpretation of Islamic law. Shiite death squads roamed freely around Baghdad and the countryside. The number of execution-style killings rose monthly after the Samarra mosque bombing of February 2006, reaching a high in December 2006. Iranian special operations groups moved weapons across the borders and into Iraq along major highways and rivers. U.S. forces, engaged primarily in training Iraqis, did little to disrupt this movement.
Today, Iraq is a different place from what it was six months ago. U.S. and Iraqi forces began their counterinsurgency campaign in Baghdad in February. They moved into the neighborhoods and worked side-by-side with Baghdadis. As a result, sectarian violence is down. The counterinsurgency strategy has dramatically decreased Shiite death squad activity in the capital. Furthermore, U.S. and Iraqi special forces have removed many rogue militia leaders and Iranian advisers from Sadr City and other locations, reducing the power of militias.
As a consequence, execution-style killings, the hallmark of Shiite militias, have fallen to the lowest level in a year; some Iranian- and militia-backed mortar teams firing on the Green Zone have been destroyed. Equally important, U.S. and Iraqi forces have restricted al Qaeda's bases to ever smaller areas of the city, so that reinforcements cannot flow easily from one neighborhood to another.
Many in Washington say the Baghdad Security Plan has just pushed the enemy to other locations in Iraq. Though some of the enemy certainly left Baghdad when the security plan began, this metaphor is inaccurate. The enemy has long been located outside of Baghdad and was causing violence from suburban bases. What has changed is the disposition of U.S. forces, which are now actively working to expel the enemy from its safe havens rather than ignoring them.
To accomplish this, Gens. David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno have encircled Baghdad with a double cordon of U.S. and Iraqi forces. They have been preparing the cordons patiently since February, as the new "surge" units arrived. The surge was completed only in mid-June, and the first phase of the large-scale operations it was intended to support began only on June 15. Since then, U.S. forces have begun blocking major road, river, and transportation route around Baghdad. They are also deployed in critical neighborhoods around outskirts and the interior of the city.
On June 15, Gens. Petraeus and Odierno launched a major offensive against al Qaeda strongholds all around Baghdad. "Phantom Thunder" is the largest operation in Iraq since 2003, and a milestone in the counterinsurgency strategy. For the first time, U.S. forces are working systematically throughout central Iraq to secure Baghdad by clearing its rural "belts" and its interior, so that the enemy cannot move from one safe haven to another. Together, the operations in Baghdad and the "belts" are increasing security in and around the capital.
U.S. and Iraqi forces are thereby attacking enemy strongholds and cutting supply routes all around the city, along which fighters and weapons moved freely in 2006. Coordinated operations south and east of Baghdad are at last interdicting the supply of weapons moving along the Tigris River to the capital. U.S. and Iraqi forces are operating east of Baghdad for the first time in years, disrupting al Qaeda's movement between bases on the Tigris and in Sadr City, a frequent target of its car bombs. North of Baghdad, U.S. forces recently cleared al Qaeda from the city of Baqubah, from which terrorists flowed into Baghdad. They are clearing al Qaeda's car bomb factories from Karmah, northwest of Baghdad, and its sanctuaries toward Lake Tharthar. These operations are supported by counterinsurgency operations west of the capital, from Fallujah to Abu Ghraib. U.S. forces are now, for the first time, fighting the enemy in the entire ring of cities and villages around Baghdad.
This is the Baghdad Security Plan, and its mission is to secure the people of Baghdad. Even so, commanders are not ignoring the outlying areas of Iraq. U.S. forces have killed or captured many important al Qaeda leaders in Mosul recently, and destroyed safe havens throughout northern Iraq. Troops are conducting counterinsurgency operations in Bayji, north of Tikrit. And Iraqi forces have "stepped up" to secure some southern cities. The Eighth Iraqi Army Division has been fighting Shiite militias in Diwaniyah, an important city halfway between Basrah and Baghdad. As commanders stabilize central Iraq, they will undoubtedly conduct successive operations in outlying regions to follow up on their successes and make them lasting.
The larger aim of the new strategy is creating an opportunity for Iraq's leaders to negotiate a political settlement. These negotiations are underway. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is attempting to form a political coalition with Amar al-Hakim and Kurdish political leaders, but excluding Moqtada al-Sadr, and has invited Sunnis to participate. He has confronted Moqtada al-Sadr for promoting illegal militia activity, and has apparently prompted this so-called Iraqi nationalist to leave for Iran for the second time since January.
Provincial and local government is growing stronger. Local and tribal leaders in Anbar, Diyala, Salah ad-Din, North Babil and even Baghdad have agreed to fight insurgents and terrorists as U.S. forces have moved in to secure the population alongside their Iraqi partners. As a result, the number of Iraqis recruited for the police forces, in particular, has risen exponentially since 2006.
This is war, and the enemy is reacting. The enemy uses suicide bombs, car bombs and brutal executions to break our will and that of our Iraqi allies. American casualties often increase as troops move into areas that the enemy has fortified; these casualties will start to fall again once the enemy positions are destroyed. Al Qaeda will manage to get some car and truck bombs through, particularly in areas well-removed from the capital and its belts.
But we should not allow individual atrocities to obscure the larger picture. A new campaign has just begun, it is already yielding important results, and its effects are increasing daily. Demands for withdrawal are no longer demands to pull out of a deteriorating situation with little hope; they are now demands to end a new approach to this conflict that shows every sign of succeeding.
Ms. Kagan, an affiliate of Harvard's John M. Olin Institute of Strategic Studies, is executive director of the Institute for the Study of War in Washington.
Reply #208 on:
July 12, 2007, 03:20:42 AM »
Quote from: SB_Mig on July 10, 2007, 07:00:34 PM
Not a critique, just questions:
1. Stay in the fight.
Which fight? Against the terrorists? Against the insurgents? At this point can we tell the difference?
****Sure, in fact many Iraqis have turned against the foreign jihadists.****
It isn't over until we say it's over.
Does anyone actually see an Iraq that has the ability to fend for itself? At what point do we go from being attackers (anti-terrorist/insurgent) to defenders (backing up IDF only when absolutely necessary)? And when is the friggin' Iraqi government going to step up to the plate?
****I share your frustration. I don't have a good answer.****
2. Secure Kurdistan and the borders. No jihadis get in or out.
Is this realistic? We have problems securing our own border in peacetime. How do we protect the borders in a country ruled by chaos?
****We can secure our borders, we haven't chosen to do so. The Army and Marines can secure the border (Either ours or Iraq's).****
I guess I've just burned out from hearing rhetoric from politicians on both sides who are more interested in keeping their jobs than actually "getting the job done".
Sorry, I'm just frustrated by a perceived lack of progress...
****I think everyone feels the same, however our enemies understand that our culture is one of instant gratification while they plan on winning over the centuries.****
Reply #209 on:
July 12, 2007, 08:40:12 AM »
****This is what we need to be shutting down.****
200 explosive belts seized in Iraq
By ROBERT H. REID, Associated Press Writer
Wed Jul 11, 2:29 PM ET
Iraqi security forces seized 200 explosive belts along the Syrian border Wednesday, a police spokesman said, reinforcing Baghdad's claims that its western neighbor isn't doing enough to stop the flow of fighters and weapons to al-Qaida in Iraq.
The belts were found during a search of a truck that had crossed into Iraq from Syria at the Waleed border station, Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf said.
"When the truck was searched, 200 explosives belts were found in it," the general said. He said the driver was detained but he would not give his name or nationality.
Iraqi and U.S. authorities have long complained that Syria is not doing enough to stem the flow of weapons, ammunition and foreign fighters into Iraq. Syria insists it is trying to stop the flow but that it is impossible to seal off the long desert border.
But U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner told reporters that 60 to 80 foreign fighters enter Iraq "in any given month" — 70 percent of them through Syria. He said up to 90 percent of the suicide attacks in Iraq were carried out by "foreign-born al-Qaida terrorists."
Bergner did not offer detailed evidence to support the claim.
However, he cited the July 1 suicide attack that collapsed part of a major bridge across the Euphrates River north of Ramadi. A second bomber was supposed to have attacked the bridge but backed out and was captured, Bergner said.
The surviving attacker told interrogators he had been recruited by al-Qaida in his home country, flown to Syria and smuggled across the border to Ramadi, where he stayed for about 10 days before the attack.
Bergner would not give the would-be attacker's nationality, but other military officials said he was a Saudi. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not supposed to release the information.
Bergner said the U.S. command expected al-Qaida in Iraq fighters "to lash out and stage spectacular attacks to reassert themselves" after U.S. troops' gains in their stronghold of Baqouba, located northeast of Baghdad.
A number of private security analysts have questioned the U.S. military's emphasis on al-Qaida in Iraq, saying it is one of many Sunni and Shiite groups threatening Iraq's stability. Some have suggested that the emphasis on al-Qaida is to link the fight in Iraq to the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks in the U.S. at a time when the American public is turning against the conflict.
But Bergner insisted al-Qaida in Iraq and its allies were the main focus because they were the "main accelerant in sectarian violence and the greatest source of these spectacular" suicide attacks "that are killing Iraqis in such large numbers."
U.S. officials maintain that violence in Anbar province, long the focal point of the Sunni insurgency, dropped by 50 percent after local Sunni tribes joined U.S. and Iraqi forces in fighting al-Qaida last year.
That has led to a series of reprisal attacks by al-Qaida, a Sunni terror group, against Sunnis in Anbar and elsewhere who have abandoned the insurgency.
On Wednesday, insurgents drove to a house in the Anbar town of Karmah, locked the occupants inside, and blew up the house, Iraqi police and U.S. military officials said. Eleven people were killed.
The house was owned by a member of the Provincial Security Forces organized to protect towns and villages against extremists, the U.S. military said.
Early Wednesday, U.S. and Iraqi forces drove out dozens of insurgents who had attacked and seized control of a remote village northeast of Baghdad. Residents of Sherween had telephoned Iraqi officials a day earlier pleading for help, saying armed villagers were trying to defend themselves against the attackers.
The U.S.-Iraqi forces killed 20 militants and captured 20 others in the battle overnight, the U.S. military said.
Lt. Col. Fred Johnson said the attackers had fled Baqouba, focus of the U.S. offensive north of the capital, and had attacked Sherween 35 miles to the northeast in an attempt to "raise the morale" of their fighters.
In the city of Samarra — a region 60 miles north of Baghdad that has seen frequent insurgent attacks — U.S. troops uncovered 12 bodies this week, according to Iraqi police and AP Television News footage of the bodies. The bodies were partially decomposed, and it was not known who killed them or when.
Also Wednesday, a U.S. soldier died of an unspecified "non-battle related cause," the U.S. military said without elaborating.
A German woman who was kidnapped in Iraq was freed after 155 days in captivity, but her son is still being held. Hannelore Krause, 62, told Al-Arabiya television that her adult son, Sinan, would be killed if German troops do not leave Afghanistan.
"They kidnapped me and my son and we are German citizens," she said, speaking in German with Arabic voice-over. "I call on the Germans to leave Afghanistan and that the Germany army withdraw from Afghanistan. If they don't respond to this demand, my son will be slaughtered."
The mother and son, who disappeared Feb. 6, were shown twice in videos released by an insurgent group calling itself "Arrows of Righteousness." The group threatened to kill the hostages if Germany did not begin withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan within 10 days.
An Anglican priest who may have received a cryptic warning of recent failed car bombings in London and Glasgow has fled Iraq after threats against his life, an associate said.
Canon Andrew White, a British national who ran Iraq's only Anglican church, left Tuesday and returned to Britain, the associate said on condition of anonymity, saying the British Foreign Office had asked that it be the only source of information on the case.
The associate refused to elaborate on the threats. But the British Broadcasting Corp. Web site said pamphlets dropped in Shiite areas of Baghdad branded the vicar as "no more than a spy."
White had been working to secure the release of five British hostages who were seized at the Iraqi Finance Ministry on May 29 by gunmen wearing police uniforms.
White told The Associated Press that while in Amman, Jordan, in April, he had met a man identified by religious leaders as an al-Qaida leader. The man told him "Those who cure you will kill you."
White said in retrospect that may have been a warning of last month's failed plot to blow up car bombs in London and Scotland. Nearly all the suspects worked in medical professions.
Reply #210 on:
July 13, 2007, 12:30:25 AM »
The "Quit Iraq" Caucus
By Ralph Peters
New York Post | July 12, 2007
Even as our troops make serious progress against al-Qaeda-in-Iraq and other extremists, Congress - including Republican members - is sending the terrorists a message: "Don't lose heart, we'll save you!"
Iraq's a mess. Got it. The Bush administration has made so many mistakes I stopped counting a year ago. But we've finally got a general in Baghdad - Dave Petraeus - who's doing things right. Iraqi politicians are still disgracing themselves, but our troops are killing America's enemies - with the help of our former enemies.
Al-Qaeda-in-Iraq is suffering a humiliating defeat, as fellow Sunni Muslims turn against the fanatics and help them find the martyrdom they advertise.
Yet for purely political reasons - next year's elections - cowards on Capitol Hill are spurning the courage of our troops on the ground.
The frantic political gamesmanship in Congress would nauseate a ghoul. Pols desperate for any cover and concealment they can get have dragged the Iraq Study Group plan from the grave.
Masterminded by former Secretary of State Jim "Have Your Hugged Your Saudi Prince Today?" Baker, the report is a blueprint for a return to yesteryear's dictator-smooching policy (which helped create al Qaeda - thanks, Jimbo!).
That Baker report reminds me of cheap horror films where the zombies just keep coming back - except that zombies retain a measure of integrity.
But if Republicans are rushing to desert our troops and spit on the graves of heroes, the Democratic Party at least has been consistent - they've supported our enemies from the start, undercutting our troops and refusing to explain in detail what happens if we flee Iraq.
So I'll tell you what happens: massacres. And while I have nothing against Shia militiamen and Sunni insurgents killing each other 24/7, the overwhelming number of victims will be innocent women, children and the elderly.
Bosnia? That was just rough-necking at recess compared to what Islamist fanatics and ethnic beasts will do. Given that Senate Majority Misleader Harry Reid and Commissar of the House Nancy Pelosi won't tell us what they foresee after we quit, let me lay it out:
* After suffering a strategic defeat, al-Qaeda-in-Iraq comes back from the dead (those zombies again . . .) and gets to declare a strategic victory over the Great Satan.
* Iran establishes hegemony over Iraq's southern oil fields and menaces the other Persian Gulf producers. (Sorry, Comrade Gore, even that Toyota Prius needs some gasoline . . . )
* Our troops will have died in vain. Of course, that doesn't really matter to much of anyone in Washington, Democrat or Republican. So we'll just write off those young Americans stupid enough to join the military when they could've ducked out the way most members of Congress did.
* A slaughter of the innocents - so many dead, the bodies will never be counted.
But I hope somebody tries to count the dead after our Congress kills them. As for those on the left who sanctimoniously set out rows of shabby combat boots to "teach" the rest of us the cost of war, I fully expect them to put out displays of women's slippers and children's shoes to show the world how many innocents died when they "brought our troops home now." (Note to the demonstrators - better start bulk-ordering those slippers and booties now.)
I hate the long-mismanaged mess in Iraq. I wish there were a sensible, decent way to get out that wouldn't undercut our security and produce massive innocent casualties. But there isn't. Not now. And, like it or not, we have a moral responsibility as well as practical interests in refusing to surrender to the butchers in Iraq.
This has been the Bush-Cheney War. But it will only be fair to call the carnage after we run away the "Reid-Pelosi Massacres."
Ralph Peters' new book, "Wars of Blood and Faith," goes on sale next week
Reply #211 on:
July 13, 2007, 06:33:22 AM »
The Surge Is Working
By OMAR FADHIL
July 13, 2007; Page A13
For nearly three-and-a-half years, the two most dangerous enemies of the American mission in Iraq -- and of the majority of Iraqis who want to build a stable democracy -- had been growing in terms of their capacity to inflict damage. This despite the losses they suffered in battles with Iraqi and American security forces.
Moqtada al-Sadr, on the one hand, grew from a small annoyance as a gang leader in Najaf in April 2003 to become the leader of a monstrous militia that, with the spark al Qaeda provided by bombing the Askari shrine in Samarra, created the sectarian bloodbath we witnessed throughout 2006.
On the other side, al Qaeda's network in Iraq grew from a few dozen infiltrators, supported by disgruntled locals, to an entity that was until recently bragging about establishing Islamic rule on the soil of at least two Iraqi provinces east and west of Baghdad.
And so this country was going through the worst times ever as we moved towards the end of 2006. Iraq was being torn apart by these two terror networks and Iraq was said to be on the verge of "civil war," if it wasn't actually there already.
But the situation looks quite different now.
Last year's crisis made Washington and Baghdad realize that urgent measures needed to be taken to stop the deterioration, and ultimately reverse it. So Washington decided to send in thousands of additional troops. And Baghdad agreed to move its lazy bones and mobilize more Iraqi troops to the capital and coordinate a joint crackdown with the American forces on all outlaw groups, Sunni and Shiite alike.
The big question these days is, did it actually work? Even partially?
First I think we need to remember that states and their traditional armies need to be judged by different metrics than gangs and terror organizations. The latter don't need to win the majority of their battles with American and Iraqi forces. The strength of terrorists and militias is simply their ability to subjugate the civilian populace with fear.
Here is exactly where the American surge and Iraqi plan have proven effective in Baghdad.
The combined use of security walls, the heavy security-force presence in the streets, and an overwhelming number of checkpoints have highly restricted the movement of terrorists and militias inside Baghdad and led to separation. Not a separation of ordinary Sunnis from ordinary Shiites but a separation of both Sunni and Shiite terrorists from their respective priority targets, i.e., civilians of the other sect.
With their movement restricted and their ability to perform operations reduced, they had to look for other targets that are easier to reach. After all, when the goal is to defeat America in Iraq and undermine the democratic political process any target is a good target.
Just look at the difference between the aftermath of the first Samarra bombing in February of 2006 and that of the second bombing in June of 2007. Days after the 2006 bombing more than a hundred Sunni mosques were hit in retaliatory attacks, and thousands of Sunnis were executed by militias in the months that followed. This time only four or five mosques were attacked, none of them in Baghdad proper that I know of.
Sadr's militias have moved the main battlefield south to cities like Samawah, Nasiriyah and Diwaniyah where there's no American surge of troops, and from which many Iraqi troops were recalled to serve in Baghdad. But over there, too, the Iraqi security forces and local administrations did not show the weakness that Sadr was hoping to see. As a result, Sadr's representatives have been forced to accept "truces."
I know this may make things sound as if Sadr has the upper hand, that he can force a truce on the state. But the fact that is missing from news reports is that, with each new eruption of clashes, Sadr's position becomes weaker as tribes and local administrations join forces to confront his outlaw militias.
Al Qaeda hasn't been any luckier than Sadr, and the tide began to turn even before the surge was announced. The change came from the most unlikely city and unlikely people, Ramadi and its Sunni tribes.
In Baghdad the results have been just as spectacular so far. The district where al Qaeda claimed to have established its Islamic emirate is exactly where al Qaeda is losing big now, and at the hands of its former allies who have turned on al Qaeda and are slowly reaching out to the government.
While al Qaeda and Sadr are by no means finished off militarily, what has changed is that both of them are fighting their former public base of support. That course can't lead them to success in fomenting the sectarian war they had bet their money on.
It would be unrealistic to expect political progress to take place along the same timeline as this military progress. The obvious reason is that Iraqi politics tend to be affected by developments on the battlefield. Anyone familiar with the basics of negotiations should understand this.
First things first. Let's allow our troops to finish their job. And when that is done nation-building will follow, and that's where diplomats and politicians will have to do the fighting in their own way while American soldiers can finally enjoy a well-deserved rest.
Backing off now is not an option. The light at the end of the tunnel faded for a whole dark year, but we can see it again now and it's getting brighter. It's our duty to keep walking towards it.
Mr. Fadhil co-writes a blog, IraqTheModel.com, from Baghdad.
Reply #212 on:
July 13, 2007, 07:43:11 AM »
Victor Davis Hanson
The New York Times Surrenders
A monument to defeatism on the editorial page
12 July 2007
On July 8, the New York Times ran an historic editorial entitled “The Road Home,” demanding an immediate American withdrawal from Iraq. It is rare that an editorial gets almost everything wrong, but “The Road Home” pulls it off. Consider, point by point, its confused—and immoral—defeatism.
1. “It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit.”
Rarely in military history has an “orderly” withdrawal followed a theater-sized defeat and the flight of several divisions. Abruptly leaving Iraq would be a logistical and humanitarian catastrophe. And when scenes of carnage begin appearing on TV screens here about latte time, will the Times then call for “humanitarian” action?
2. “Like many Americans, we have put off that conclusion, waiting for a sign that President Bush was seriously trying to dig the United States out of the disaster he created by invading Iraq without sufficient cause, in the face of global opposition, and without a plan to stabilize the country afterward.”
We’ll get to the war’s “sufficient cause,” but first let’s address the other two charges that the Times levels here against President Bush. Both houses of Congress voted for 23 writs authorizing the war with Iraq—a post-9/11 confirmation of the official policy of regime change in Iraq that President Clinton originated. Supporters of the war included 70 percent of the American public in April 2003; the majority of NATO members; a coalition with more participants than the United Nations alliance had in the Korean War; and a host of politicians and pundits as diverse as Joe Biden, William F. Buckley, Wesley Clark, Hillary Clinton, Francis Fukuyama, Kenneth Pollack, Harry Reid, Andrew Sullivan, Thomas Friedman, and George Will.
And there was a Pentagon postwar plan to stabilize the country, but it assumed a decisive defeat and elimination of enemy forces, not a three-week war in which the majority of Baathists and their terrorist allies fled into the shadows to await a more opportune time to reemerge, under quite different rules of engagement.
3. “While Mr. Bush scorns deadlines, he kept promising breakthroughs—after elections, after a constitution, after sending in thousands more troops. But those milestones came and went without any progress toward a stable, democratic Iraq or a path for withdrawal. It is frighteningly clear that Mr. Bush’s plan is to stay the course as long as he is president and dump the mess on his successor. Whatever his cause was, it is lost.”
Of course there were breakthroughs: most notably, millions of Iraqis’ risking their lives to vote. An elected government remains in power, under a constitution far more liberal than any other in the Arab Middle East. In the region at large, Libya, following the war, gave up its advanced arsenal of weapons of mass destruction; Syria fled Lebanon; A.Q. Khan’s nuclear ring was shut down. And despite the efforts of Iran, Syria, and Sunni extremists in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, a plurality of Iraqis still prefer the chaotic and dangerous present to the sure methodical slaughter of their recent Saddamite past.
The Times wonders what Bush’s cause was. Easy to explain, if not easy to achieve: to help foster a constitutional government in the place of a genocidal regime that had engaged in a de facto war with the United States since 1991, and harbored or subsidized terrorists like Abu Nidal, Abu Abbas, at least one plotter of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaida affiliates in Kurdistan, and suicide bombers in Gaza and the West Bank. It was a bold attempt to break with the West’s previous practices, both liberal (appeasement of terrorists) and conservative (doing business with Saddam, selling arms to Iran, and overlooking the House of Saud’s funding of terrorists).
Is that cause in fact “lost”? The vast majority of 160,000 troops in harm’s way don’t think so—despite a home front where U.S. senators have publicly compared them with Nazis, Stalinists, Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge, and Saddam Hussein’s jailers, and where the media’s Iraqi narrative has focused obsessively on Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo, and serial leaks of classified information, with little interest in the horrific nature of the Islamists in Iraq or the courageous efforts of many Iraqis to stop them.
4. “Continuing to sacrifice the lives and limbs of American soldiers is wrong. The war is sapping the strength of the nation’s alliances and its military forces. It is a dangerous diversion from the life-and-death struggle against terrorists. It is an increasing burden on American taxpayers, and it is a betrayal of a world that needs the wise application of American power and principles.”
The military is stretched, but hardly broken, despite having tens of thousands of troops stationed in Japan, Korea, the Balkans, Germany, and Italy, years—and decades—after we removed dictatorships by force and began efforts to establish democracies in those once-frightening places. As for whether Iraq is a diversion from the war on terror: al-Qaida bigwig Ayman al-Zawahiri, like George W. Bush, has said that Iraq is the primary front in his efforts to attack the United States and its interests—and he often despairs about the progress of jihad there. Our enemies, like al-Qaida, Iran, and Syria, as well as opportunistic neutrals like China and Russia, are watching closely to see whether America will betray its principles in Iraq.
5. “Americans must be clear that Iraq, and the region around it, could be even bloodier and more chaotic after Americans leave. There could be reprisals against those who worked with American forces, further ethnic cleansing, even genocide. Potentially destabilizing refugee flows could hit Jordan and Syria. Iran and Turkey could be tempted to make power grabs.”
The Times should abandon the subjunctive mood. The catastrophes that it matter-of-factly suggests have ample precedents in Vietnam. Apparently, we should abandon millions of Iraqis to the jihadists (whether Wahhabis or Khomeinites), expect mass murders in the wake of our flight—“even genocide”—and then chalk up the slaughter to Bush’s folly. And if that seems crazy, consider what follows, an Orwellian account of the mechanics of our flight:
6. “The main road south to Kuwait is notoriously vulnerable to roadside bomb attacks. Soldiers, weapons and vehicles will need to be deployed to secure bases while airlift and sealift operations are organized. Withdrawal routes will have to be guarded. The exit must be everything the invasion was not: based on reality and backed by adequate resources.
“The United States should explore using Kurdish territory in the north of Iraq as a secure staging area. Being able to use bases and ports in Turkey would also make withdrawal faster and safer. Turkey has been an inconsistent ally in this war, but like other nations, it should realize that shouldering part of the burden of the aftermath is in its own interest.”
This insistence on planned defeat, following incessant criticism of potential victory, is lunatic. The Times’s frustration with Turkey and other “inconsistent” allies won’t end with our withdrawal and defeat. Like everyone in the region, the Turks want to ally with winners and distance themselves from losers—and care little about sermons from the likes of the Times editors. The ideas about Kurdish territory and Turkey are simply cover for the likely consequences of defeat: once we are gone and a federated Iraq is finished, Kurdistan’s democratic success is fair game for Turkey, which—with the assent of opportunistic allies—will move to end it by crushing our Kurdish friends.
7. “Despite President Bush’s repeated claims, Al Qaeda had no significant foothold in Iraq before the invasion, which gave it new base camps, new recruits and new prestige.
“This war diverted Pentagon resources from Afghanistan, where the military had a real chance to hunt down Al Qaeda’s leaders. It alienated essential allies in the war against terrorism. It drained the strength and readiness of American troops.”
The Times raises the old charge that if we weren’t in Iraq, neither would be al-Qaida—more of whose members we have killed in Iraq than anywhere else. In 1944, Japan had relatively few soldiers in Okinawa; when the Japanese learned that we planned to invade in 1945, they increased their forces there. Did the subsequent carnage—four times the number of U.S. dead as in Iraq, by the way, in one-sixteenth the time—prove our actions ill considered? Likewise, no Soviets were in Eastern Europe until we moved to attack and destroy Hitler, who had kept communists out. Did the resulting Iron Curtain mean that it was a mistake to deter German aggression?
And if the Times sees the war in Afghanistan as so important, why didn’t it support an all-out war against the Taliban and al-Qaida, as it apparently does now, when we were solely in Afghanistan?
8. “Iraq may fragment into separate Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite republics, and American troops are not going to stop that from happening. . . . To start, Washington must turn to the United Nations, which Mr. Bush spurned and ridiculed as a preface to war.”
But Bush did go to the United Nations, which, had it enforced its own resolutions, might have prevented the war. In fact, the Bush administration’s engagement with the UN contrasts sharply with President Clinton’s snub of that organization during the U.S.-led bombing of the Balkans—unleashed, unlike Iraq, without Congressional approval. The Times also neglects to mention that the UN was knee-deep in the mess of its cash cow Iraq, from its appeasement of the genocidal Hussein regime to its graft-ridden, $50 billion oil-for-food scandal, reaching the highest echelons of Kofi Annan’s UN administration.
9. “Washington also has to mend fences with allies. There are new governments in Britain, France and Germany that did not participate in the fight over starting this war and are eager to get beyond it. But that will still require a measure of humility and a commitment to multilateral action that this administration has never shown. And, however angry they were with President Bush for creating this mess, those nations should see that they cannot walk away from the consequences.”
New governments in France and Germany are more pro-American than those of the past that tried to thwart us in Iraq. The Times surely knows of the Chirac administration’s lucrative relationships with Saddam Hussein, and of the German contracts to supply sophisticated tools and expertise that enabled the Baathist nightmare. Tony Blair will enjoy a far more principled and reputable retirement than will Jacques Chirac or Gerhard Schroeder, who did their best to destroy the Atlantic Alliance for cheap partisan advantage at home and global benefit abroad.
Nations like France and Germany won’t “walk away” from Iraq, since they were never there in the first place. They never involve themselves in such dangerous situations—just look at the rules of engagement of French and German troops in Afghanistan. Their foreign policy centers instead on commerce, suitably dressed up with fashionable elite outrage against the United States.
10. “For this effort to have any remote chance, Mr. Bush must drop his resistance to talking with both Iran and Syria. Britain, France, Russia, China and other nations with influence have a responsibility to help. Civil war in Iraq is a threat to everyone, especially if it spills across Iraq’s borders.”
China and Russia, seeing only oil and petrodollars, will take no responsibility to help. Both will welcome a U.S. retreat. Yes, “civil war” will spill over the borders, but not until the U.S. precipitously withdraws. Iran and Syria—serial assassins of democrats from Lebanon to Iraq—are hoping for realization of the Times’s scenario, and would be willing to talk with us only to facilitate our flight, with the expectation that Iraq would become wide open for their ambitions. In their view, a U.S. that fails in Iraq surely cannot thwart an Iranian bomb, the Syrian reabsorption of Lebanese democracy, attacks on Israel, or increased funding and sanctuary for global terrorism.
11. “President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have used demagoguery and fear to quell Americans’ demands for an end to this war. They say withdrawing will create bloodshed and chaos and encourage terrorists. Actually, all of that has already happened—the result of this unnecessary invasion and the incompetent management of this war.”
But as the Times itself acknowledges, what has happened in the past only previews what is in store if we precipitously withdraw. And this will prove the case not only in Iraq, but elsewhere in the Persian Gulf, the Middle East, Taiwan, and Korea. Once the U.S. demonstrates that it cannot honor its commitments, those dependent upon it must make the necessary adjustments. Ironically, while the Times urges acceptance of defeat, Sunni tribesmen at last are coming forward to fight terrorists, and regional neighbors are gradually accepting the truth that their opportunistic assistance to jihadists is only threatening their own regimes.
We promised General Petraeus a hearing in September; it would be the height of folly to preempt that agreement by giving in to our summer of panic and despair. Critics called for the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, a change in command in Iraq and at Centcom, new strategies, and more troops. But now that we have a new secretary, a new command in Iraq and at Centcom, new strategies, and more troops, suddenly we have a renewed demand for withdrawal before the agreed-upon September accounting—suggesting that the only constant in such harping was the assumption that Iraq was either hopeless or not worth the effort.
The truth is that Iraq has upped the ante in the war against terrorists. Our enemies’ worst nightmare is a constitutional government in the heart of the ancient caliphate, surrounded by consensual rule in Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Turkey; ours is a new terror heaven, but with oil, a strategic location, and the zeal born of a humiliating defeat of the United States on a theater scale. The Islamists believe we can’t win; so does the New York Times. But it falls to the American people to decide the issue.
Reply #213 on:
July 13, 2007, 08:37:16 AM »
VDH is always a good read GM.
July 13, 2007
By Charles Krauthammer
"The key to turning [Anbar] around was the shift in allegiance by tribal sheiks. But the sheiks turned only after a prolonged offensive by American and Iraqi forces, starting in November, that put al-Qaeda groups on the run."
-- The New York Times, July 8
Finally, after four terribly long years, we know what works. Or what can work. A year ago, a confidential Marine intelligence report declared Anbar province (which comprises about a third of Iraq's territory) lost to al-Qaeda. Now, in what the Times's John Burns calls an " astonishing success," the tribal sheiks have joined our side and committed large numbers of fighters that, in concert with American and Iraqi forces, have largely driven out al-Qaeda and turned its former stronghold of Ramadi into one of most secure cities in Iraq.
It began with a U.S.-led offensive that killed or wounded more than 200 enemy fighters and captured 600. Most important was the follow-up. Not a retreat back to American bases but the setting up of small posts within the population that, together with the Iraqi national and tribal forces, have brought relative stability to Anbar.
The same has started happening in many of the Sunni areas around Baghdad, including Diyala province -- just a year ago considered as lost as Anbar -- where, for example, the Sunni insurgent 1920 Revolution Brigades has turned against al-Qaeda and joined the fight on the side of U.S. and Iraqi government forces.
We don't yet know if this strategy will work in mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhoods. Nor can we be certain that this cooperation between essentially Sunni tribal forces and an essentially Shiite central government can endure. But what cannot be said -- although it is now heard daily in Washington -- is that the surge, which is shorthand for Gen. David Petraeus's new counterinsurgency strategy, has failed. The tragedy is that, just as a working strategy has been found, some Republicans in the Senate have lost heart and want to pull the plug.
It is understandable that Sens. Lugar, Voinovich, Domenici, Snowe and Warner may no longer trust President Bush's judgment when he tells them to wait until Petraeus reports in September. What is not understandable is the vote of no confidence they are passing on Petraeus. These are the same senators who sent him back to Iraq by an 81 to 0 vote to institute his new counterinsurgency strategy.
A month ago, Petraeus was asked whether we could still win in Iraq. The general, who had recently attended two memorial services for soldiers lost under his command, replied that if he thought he could not succeed he would not be risking the life of a single soldier.
Just this week, Petraeus said that the one thing he needs more than anything else is time. To cut off Petraeus's plan just as it is beginning -- the last surge troops arrived only last month -- on the assumption that we cannot succeed is to declare Petraeus either deluded or dishonorable. Deluded in that, as the best-positioned American in Baghdad, he still believes we can succeed. Or dishonorable in pretending to believe in victory and sending soldiers to die in what he really knows is an already failed strategy.
That's the logic of the wobbly Republicans' position. But rather than lay it on Petraeus, they prefer to lay it on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and point out his government's inability to meet the required political "benchmarks." As a longtime critic of the Maliki government, I agree that it has proved itself incapable of passing laws important for long-term national reconciliation.
But first comes the short term. And right now we have the chance to continue to isolate al-Qaeda and, province by province, deny it the Sunni sea in which it swims. A year ago, it appeared that the only way to win back the Sunnis and neutralize the extremists was with great national compacts about oil and power sharing. But Anbar has unexpectedly shown that even without these constitutional settlements, the insurgency can be neutralized and al-Qaeda defeated at the local and provincial levels with a new and robust counterinsurgency strategy.
The costs are heartbreakingly high -- increased American casualties as the enemy is engaged and spectacular suicide bombings designed to terrify Iraqis and demoralize Americans. But the stakes are extremely high as well.
In the long run, agreements on oil, federalism and de-Baathification are crucial for stabilizing Iraq. But their absence at this moment is not a reason to give up in despair, now that we finally have a counterinsurgency strategy in place that is showing success against the one enemy -- al-Qaeda -- that both critics and supporters of the war maintain must be fought everywhere and at all cost.
None of that surprises me. I knew Ramadi was winnable last November. I posted this on another thread at that time.
Excerpts from a long report:
Nobody pretends the Iraqi Army will ever approach the U.S. military in its willingness and ability to fight; but in fairness, how many armies do? Further, it's not as if the anti-Iraqi forces' abilities will ever approach those of the Viet Cong. It's considered remarkable when the enemy is so much as able to coordinate an attack, rather than just tossing a bunch of untrained men at an objective. The Iraqi Army units in Ramadi are capable of defending themselves and going on the attack with just a couple of American advisers. That's real progress. Unfortunately, these units are almost exclusively Shiite at the enlisted level, with Sunni officers, which is not ideal for this Sunni region. But still they have the ability to speak with and relate to Iraqis of any sectarian persuasion better than Americans ever will.
Historically, successful counterinsurgency efforts have involved pacifying areas by plopping small garrisons with interlocking communications into enemy territory and sending out patrols to gather information and engage the enemy. Perhaps the most famous example of such garrison use was that of King Edward I of England (yes, the guy who had Braveheart drawn and quartered), who used castles to consolidate his hold on a conquered but restive Wales. More recently U.S. Army Special Forces established Civilian Irregular Defense Group camps in South Vietnam, manned primarily by indigenous tribes or South Vietnamese with a core of Special Forces soldiers. Such camps are considered one of the most effective strategies of that war. Certainly they were far more useful than the "search and destroy" missions sent out from huge base camps.
The military refers to COP use as "the inkblot strategy." One dot spreads into a bigger spot. Further, the troops are practically forced to work with the locals. That means building up networks of indigenous people who know the terrain, culture, and other people better than any forces – even one from the same country but another province – ever could. This also allows for more direct contact between the leader of the military force and the local leadership. All of this creates a force multiplier. Since the Bush administration appears unlikely to increase troop strength significantly, this ability to make better use of troops without weakening the forward operating bases from which they're drawn is vital.
Another value of the Ramadi COPs over the FOBs and Camp Ramadi is that we're fighting an enemy that relies primarily on roadway bombs – whether IEDS, vehicle-borne IEDs, or suicide-vehicle borne IEDs (driven vehicles) – to inflict casualties and damage, with the potential for greatly restricting movement. But missions from COPs are inherently short-range; you're always almost there. That's less road to be on and hence fewer explosives and ambushes to worry about. Even COPs operating at half strength have no chance of being overrun both because of the inability of the enemy to fight skillfully or mass in large numbers and because of the multilayered defenses.
View from Anvil showing its excellent clear-kill zones. The short-looking tubes are HESCO baskets connected to form an impregnable wall.
An observer atop COP Anvil takes aim.
Sapp showed me the impact of the Combat Operation Post system in Ramadi (Fallujah also has some) on a map. The foreign fighters who come into this area do so along the main highway from the Syrian border to the west. It's a mini-Ho Chi Minh Trail, so to speak. From this road the terrorists used to fan out in the area where the COPs have been inserted. "In the last four months, we've kept pushing them right around here," Sapp indicated, with his finger moving in a counter-clockwise pattern. "Initially we wouldn't go anywhere in this area with anything less than a platoon and sometimes even armor," he said. "But now I allow them to enter with just squads." The only part of the fan still remaining abuts the Euphrates. "We give the terrorists a place to focus here," Sapp says of that last slice. "This gives them somewhere to go and I'd rather they go there where my men can deal with them than have them setting up IEDs thickly throughout the area they used to control."
At Anvil almost all missions are on foot and off the trails. That's part of the beauty of the COP system; you can go almost anywhere you need to on foot without alerting enemy sentinels – which are probably nothing more than some guy paid a few bucks a night to keep watch. The night I was there we set off to grab some of bin Laden's buddies.
Put it all together – the Forward Observation Bases, new Combat Operation Posts, new Observation Posts, tribal cooperation, ever more Iraqi army and police, better intelligence, and public works projects. There's no "stay the course" strategy here; the course changes as necessary and it's continually changed for the better. I believe we are winning the Battle of Ramadi. And if the enemy can be beaten here, he can be beaten anywhere.
Reply #214 on:
July 13, 2007, 10:52:46 AM »
Bush links Al Qaeda in Iraq to 9/11; critics reject connection
By Michael R. Gordon and Jim Rutenberg
Published: July 13, 2007
International Herald Tribune
BAGHDAD: In rebuffing calls to bring troops home from Iraq, President George W. Bush employed a stark and ominous defense. "The same folks that are bombing innocent people in Iraq," he said, "were the ones who attacked us in America on September the 11th, and that's why what happens in Iraq matters to the security here at home."
It is an argument that Bush has been making with heavy frequency in the past few months, as the challenges to the continuation of the war have grown. On Thursday alone, he referred at least 30 times to Al Qaeda or its presence in Iraq.
But his references to Al Qaeda in Iraq, and his assertions that it is the same group that attacked the United States in 2001, have greatly oversimplified the nature of the insurgency in Iraq and its relationship with the Qaeda leadership. Bush's critics say that he has overstated the Qaeda connection in an attempt to exploit the same kinds of post-Sept. 11 emotions that helped him win support for the invasion in the first place.
Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia did not exist before the Sept. 11 attacks, and it has thrived as a magnet for recruiting and a force for violence largely because of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, which brought an American occupying force of more than 100,000 troops to the heart of the Middle East.
The American military and American intelligence agencies characterize Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia as a ruthless, foreign-led group that is responsible for a disproportionately large share of the suicide car bomb attacks that have stoked sectarian violence. General David Petraeus, the senior American commander in Iraq, said in an interview that he considered the group to be "the principal short-term threat to Iraq."
But while American intelligence agencies have pointed to links between Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia leaders and the top Qaeda leadership, the militant group is in many respects an Iraqi phenomenon. They believe the membership of the group is overwhelmingly Iraqi. Its financing is derived indigenously from kidnappings and other criminal activities. And many of its most ardent foes are close at home, namely the Shiite militias and the Iranians who are thought to support them.
"The president wants to play on Al Qaeda because he thinks Americans understand the threat Al Qaeda poses," said Bruce Riedel, a expert for the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institute, and a former CIA official. "But what I don't think he demonstrates is that fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq precludes Al Qaeda from attacking America here tomorrow. Al Qaeda, both in Iraq and globally, thrives on the American occupation."
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian who became the leader of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, came to Iraq in 2002 when Saddam Hussein was still in power, but there is no evidence that Saddam's government provided support for Zarqawi and his followers. Zarqawi did have support from senior Qaeda leaders, American intelligence agencies believe, and his organization grew in the chaos of post-Saddam Iraq.
"There has been an intimate relationship between them from the beginning," Riedel said of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and the senior Qaeda leaders.
But the precise relationship between the Qaeda of Osama bin Laden and other groups that claim inspiration or affiliation with it is opaque. It is unclear whether there is any direct operational connection between the group in Iraq and bin Laden.
While the groups share a common ideology, the Iraq-based group has enjoyed considerable autonomy. Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's top deputy, questioned Zarqawi's strategy of organizing attacks against Shiites, according to captured materials. But Zarqawi clung to his strategy of mounting sectarian attacks in an effort to foment a civil war and make the American occupation untenable.
The precise size of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia is not known. Estimates are that it might have up to 5,000 fighters and perhaps twice as many supporters. While the membership of the group is mostly Iraqi, the role that foreigners play is crucial.
Abu Ayyub al-Masri is an Egyptian militant who emerged as the successor of Zarqawi, who was killed near Baquba in an American airstrike last year. Masri's relationship to Al Qaeda is unclear.
American military officials have said that 60 to 80 foreign fighters come to Iraq each month to fight for the group, and that 80 to 90 percent of suicide attacks in Iraq have been conducted by foreign-born operatives of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.
At first, Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia received financing from the broader Qaeda organization, American intelligence agencies have concluded. Now, however, the Iraqi-based group sustains itself through kidnapping, smuggling, criminal activities and some foreign contributions.
With the Shiite militias taking a lower profile since the troop increase began, and with Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia embarking on its own sort of countersurge, a main focus of the ongoing American military operation is to deprive the group of its strongholds in the areas surrounding Baghdad - and thus curtail its ability to carry out spectacular attacks with heavy casualties.
The heated debate over Iraq has spilled over to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia as well. Bush has played up the group, talking about it as if it is on a par with the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks. War critics have often played down the significance of the group despite its gruesome record of suicide attacks and its widely suspected role in destroying a Shiite shrine in Samarra in February 2006 that set Iraq on the road to civil war.
Just last week, Zawahiri called on Muslims to travel to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia to carry out their fight against the Americans and appealed for Muslims to support the Islamic State in Iraq, an umbrella group that Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia has established to attract broader Sunni support.
The broader issue is whether Iraq is a central front in the war against Al Qaeda, as Bush maintains, or a distraction that has diverted the United States from focusing on the Al Qaeda sanctuaries in Pakistan while providing Qaeda leaders with a cause for rallying support.
Military intelligence officials said that Al Qaeda of Mesopotamia's leaders wanted to expand their attacks to other countries. They noted that Zarqawi claimed a role in a 2005 terrorist attack in Jordan. But Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University, said that if American forces were to withdraw from Iraq the vast majority of the group's members would be more focused on battling Shiite militias in the struggle for dominance in Iraq than on trying to follow the Americans home.
"Al-Masri may have more grandiose expectations, but that does not mean he could turn Al Qaeda of Iraq into a transnational terrorist entity," he said.
Reply #215 on:
July 13, 2007, 10:59:35 AM »
4. Al Qaeda also forged alliances with the National Islamic Front in
the Sudan and with the government of Iran and its associated terrorist
group Hezballah for the purpose of working together against their
perceived common enemies in the West, particularly the United States.
In addition, al Qaeda reached an understanding with the government of
Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on
particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al
Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq.
This indictment was issued in 1999, by the US Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York. Janet Reno's DOJ.
Reply #216 on:
July 17, 2007, 02:35:15 PM »
TURKEY/IRAQ: Turkey will be making a "strategic mistake" if it launches a cross-border operation against Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq, said Abdul Rahman Chaderchi, a senior Kurdistan Workers' Party official. Chaderchi also renewed calls for a cease-fire between the two sides. He said a Turkish incursion into Iraq would unite Kurds on both sides of the Iraqi-Turkish border, as well as U.S. forces, against Turkey.
NY Times: Moktada Sadr
Reply #217 on:
July 19, 2007, 09:27:24 AM »
BAGHDAD, July 18 — After months of lying low, the anti-American Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr has re-emerged with a shrewd strategy that reaches out to Iraqis on the street while distancing himself from the increasingly unpopular government.
Sunni Arab snipers shot Shiites in line at this gas station on the border of Baghdad’s Amil neighborhood. The shooting has decreased since the increase in American troops. The U.S. sent Kurds to stabilize the situation.
Mr. Sadr and his political allies have largely disengaged from government, contributing to the political paralysis noted in a White House report last week. That outsider status has enhanced Mr. Sadr’s appeal to Iraqis, who consider politics less and less relevant to their daily lives.
Mr. Sadr has been working tirelessly to build support at the grass-roots level, opening storefront offices across Baghdad and southern Iraq that dispense services that are not being provided by the government. In this he seems to be following the model established by Hezbollah, the radical Lebanese Shiite group, as well as Hamas in Gaza, with entwined social and military wings that serve as a parallel government.
He has also extended the reach of his militia, the Mahdi Army, one of the armed groups that the White House report acknowledged remain entrenched in Iraq. The militia has effectively taken over vast swaths of the capital and is fighting government troops in several southern provinces. Although the militia sometimes uses brutal tactics, including death squads, many vulnerable Shiites are grateful for the protection it affords.
At the same time, the Mahdi Army is not entirely under Mr. Sadr’s control, and he publicly denounces the most notorious killers fighting in his name. That frees him to extend an olive branch to Sunni Arabs and Christians, while championing the Shiite identity of his political base.
On May 25, in his first public Friday Prayer in months, he explicitly forbade sectarian attacks.
“It is prohibited to spill the blood of Sunnis and Iraqi Christians,” he told Shiites in a much publicized sermon. “They are our brothers, either in religion or in the homeland.”
Almost from the day American troops entered Iraq, the mercurial Mr. Sadr has confounded American and Iraqi politicians alike. He quickly rallied impoverished Shiites in peaceful displays of Shiite strength, as had his father, a prominent cleric. When the Sunni Arab insurgency gained momentum, he raised a Shiite insurgency in direct opposition to the American-backed Iraqi government that had excluded him.
His basic tenets are widely shared. Like most Iraqis, he opposes the American military presence and wants a timetable for departure — if only to attain some certainty that the Americans will leave eventually. He wants the country to stay unified and opposes the efforts of those Shiites who have had close ties to Iran to create a semiautonomous Shiite region in southern Iraq.
After his Mahdi militia was defeated in a bloody battle against American forces in Najaf in 2004, Mr. Sadr established himself as a political player, using the votes of loyal Parliament members to give Nuri Kamal al-Maliki the margin needed to win the post of prime minister.
Now that the leadership is in poor repute, Mr. Sadr has shifted once again. The six ministers in the cabinet and 30 lawmakers in Parliament allied to him have been boycotting sessions. They returned Tuesday, but it is not clear they will stay long.
The mainstream political parties in Iraq realize that Mr. Sadr is growing more influential, but appear to be flummoxed over how to deal with him. They see him as unpredictable and manipulative, but too politically and militarily important to ignore.
“He’s powerful,” said Jaber Habeeb, an independent Shiite member of Parliament and political science professor at Baghdad University. “This is a fact you have to accept, even if you don’t like it.”
The latest stance by the more conventional political parties is to keep him at arm’s length. The two major Shiite parties, Dawa and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, along with the two Kurdish parties, have been negotiating to form a new moderate coalition.
Mr. Sadr’s political leaders were told he was welcome to join, but the invitation came belatedly, after the other groups had all but completed their discussions. Mr. Sadr’s lieutenants announced that he had no interest in joining.
Experts in Shiite politics believe that efforts to isolate Mr. Sadr are bound to fail.
“Sadr holds the political center in Iraq,” said Joost Hiltermann, the director of the International Crisis Group’s office in Amman, Jordan. “They are nationalist, they want to hold the country together and they are the only political organization that has popular support among the Shias. If you try to exclude him from any alliance, well, it’s a nutty idea, it’s unwise.”
The mainstream parties talk about Mr. Sadr carefully. Some never mention his followers or the Mahdi militia by name, but speak elliptically of “armed groups.” Others acknowledge his position but are reserved on the challenge he poses.
Page 2 of 2)
“Moktada Sadr is one of the political leaders of this country,” Adel Abdul-Mahdi, one of Iraq’s two vice presidents, said in a recent interview. “We disagree on some things, we have differences. We have to work to solve our differences.”
Rahman al-Mussawi, 38, says he is proud that he still has Sunni Arab neighbors on his block, even though Sunni insurgents most likely killed his three younger brothers. A picture of them hangs in his living room.
The Sadrists exhibit a quiet confidence, and are pulling ever more supporters into their ranks. “The Sadr movement cannot be marginalized; it is the popular base,” said Sheik Salah al-Obaidi, the chief spokesman and a senior strategist for Mr. Sadr’s movement in Najaf. “We will not be affected by efforts to push us to one side because we are the people. We feel the people’s day-to-day sufferings.”
A number of working-class Shiites reflected that sentiment in conversations about the Mahdi militia and Mr. Sadr. Their relatives and neighbors work both for the Sadr offices and for the militia, blurring the line between social programs and paramilitary activity.
Mr. Sadr’s offices are accessible storefronts that dispense a little bit of everything: food, money, clothes, medicine and information. From just one office in Baghdad and one in Najaf in 2003, the Sadr operation has ballooned. It now has full-service offices in most provinces and nine in Baghdad, as well as several additional storefront centers. In some neighborhoods, the militiamen come around once a month to charge a nominal fee — about 5,000 Iraqi dinars, or $4 — for protection. In others, they control the fuel supply, and in some, where sectarian killings have gone on, they control the real estate market for empty houses.
The Mahdi militia is deeply involved in that sectarian killing. In a vicious campaign in the Amil neighborhood in western Baghdad, once a mixed working-class neighborhood of Shiites and Sunni Arabs, it has driven out many Sunnis and isolated others in a few enclaves.
Young men, said by residents to be part of the Mahdi militia, check every car coming into the Shiite section of the neighborhood. And many mornings, the bodies of several Sunni Arabs are dumped in a brick-strewn lot near the neighborhood’s entrance. Local Shiites routinely claim that the bodies are of foreign terrorists.
However, each community insists that it is the victim of the other. A sniper in the Sunni Arab area shoots at Shiites lined up to buy at a gasoline station that straddles the two communities. That, in turn, is used to justify retaliatory attacks on Sunni Arabs.
Among Shiites, the militia is viewed as their best form of protection from Sunni Arab insurgents. “This is the Mahdi Army standing in our streets,” said Rahman al-Mussawi, 38, a community leader who says he is proud that he still has Sunni Arab neighbors on his block, even though Sunni insurgents almost certainly killed his three younger brothers. They disappeared along a deadly stretch of road south of Baghdad where Shiites have been victims of Sunni extremists.
Mr. Mussawi gestured to the end of the block, where young Mahdi guards in T-shirts checked cars entering the neighborhood: “The Americans chase them away. If the Americans just would leave, then the neighborhood would be quiet.”
The Mahdi Army’s darker side is rarely discussed in Shiite neighborhoods. In Amil, some people fiercely reject any suggestion that the group runs death squads. Others might admit to some problems, but dismiss them as the excesses of a few bad apples.
“Of course there are some wrongdoings done by renegades in the Mahdi Army who deviated from the good and honorable line of the army,” said Mohammed Abu Ali, 55, a mechanical engineer who helps out in the Sadr office in Amil. “We do not approve these wrongdoings and we try to rid of elements in the Mahdi Army.”
Mr. Sadr began his most recent ascent after the bombing of the golden dome of the Askariya shrine in Samarra, sacred to Shiites, in February 2006. It was one of a string of assaults by Sunni Arab insurgents on Shiites that had gone on for more than two years.
Mr. Sadr’s militia began to strike back, supported by Shiites who felt it was their only protection.
Iraqi politicians say Mr. Sadr made another smart move this spring, when he pulled out of the government to protest its refusal to set a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops. Stymied by infighting, Mr. Maliki has yet to fill the posts.
Shortly after a second bombing in Samarra this June, Mr. Sadr called for a mass Shiite pilgrimage to the Sunni Arab city to honor an imam whose body lies in the ruined shrine. Government officials had to plead with him to cancel it to avoid violence. He eventually did, but not until he had made his point: he was a power to be reckoned with.
Qassim Daoud, a secular Shiite lawmaker, says Mr. Sadr has figured out the alchemy to playing the outsider, but having just enough of a place in the government to have leverage.
“He is one of those people who has two legs, one inside the political process and one outside the political process,” Mr. Daoud said. “So, he uses both to attack the process.”
Reply #218 on:
July 19, 2007, 09:42:06 AM »
Second post of the morning:
1145 GMT -- TURKEY, IRAQ -- Turkey's army shelled Kurdish targets inside northern Iraq, near the town of Zakho, on July 18, a Kurdish official said July 19. The Turkish military recently raised its troop levels at the Iraqi border and has asked the government for guidelines for an offensive against Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants in northern Iraq. The military accuses the PKK of preparing attacks against Turkish targets.
Reply #219 on:
July 19, 2007, 12:29:41 PM »
I heard General Petraeus interviewed on the radio yesterday and found it to be a worthwhile listen or read for what is happening there right now.
Audio link (34 minutes)here:
Reply #220 on:
July 21, 2007, 10:30:13 PM »
I highly recommend listening to Charlie Rose interviewing NY Time Baghdad Bureau Chief John Burns on Tues. July 17:
Sorry I can't find a transcript. Burns argues very persuasively that American military forces are an inhibitor, not a provocateur of the violence in Iraq and that there will be a cataclysmic escalation of violence if the Americans forces leave. He acknowledges there is also enormous cost and makes no judgment on the issue of withdrawal. He says: " After all, I'm a reporter." He calls the issue in congress an agonizing, agonizing decision.
Reply #221 on:
July 23, 2007, 06:10:00 PM »
Doug, I tried but couldn't get it to play for me.
Anyway, here's this:
Iraq Report: Taji Tribes Turn on Mahdi Army and al Qaeda
Operation Phantom Thunder and the Baghdad Security Plan continue to place pressure on al Qaeda in Iraq, allied Sunni insurgent groups, the Mahdi Army and the Iranian-backed Special Group. In Baghdad, junior al Qaeda in Iraq operatives are reportedly cooperating with Coalition forces and a series of car bombs hit a Shia area of the capital. In the Belts, U.S. and Iraqi forces maintain aggressive operations against al Qaeda and insurgent cells as both Sunni and Shia tribal leaders in and around Taji have banded together to fight the Mahdi Army and al Qaeda. Meanwhile, the U.S. captured two more members of the Special Group and have indicated that Iran is now smuggling Chinese made weapons into Iraq.
A Soldier from the 1st Cavalry Division clears
an al Qaeda prison camp south of Baqubah, Iraq.
The London Times reported that junior al Qaeda in Iraq foot soldiers are turning on their leaders and acting as informants in the Baghdad district of Doura. "The ground-breaking move in Doura is part of a wider trend that has started in other al-Qaeda hotspots across the country and in which Sunni insurgent groups and tribal sheiks have stood together with the coalition against the extremist movement," the Times said. The low level operatives have become disgusted with al Qaeda's tactics of brutality.
A series of four bombings over the past two days resulted in 14 killed and 37 wounded. Sunday's attack near the al-Khilani square in central Baghdad consisted of a motorcycle bomb; two were killed and 18 wounded in the strike. Three car bombs ripped through Shia neighborhood in Karradah. One bomb was aimed at a police patrol and another hit an outdoor market. Twelve were killed and 19 wounded in the attacks.
penetrated a meeting of th
U.S. forces continue the process of turning tribal leaders and Sunni insurgent groups against al Qaeda in Iraq. The latest success came in Salahadin province, where 25 Sunni and Shia tribes in and around the city of Taji banded together to fight both al Qaeda in Iraq and the Mahdi Army. Taji is just 12 miles north of Baghdad and sits along the strategic supply lines to the northern provinces.
Salahadin tribes formed the Salahadin Awakening in late May, and al Qaeda in Iraq has targeted the group in an effort to destroy disrupt its activities. Yesterday, five senior tribal leaders were killed and 12 wounded when a suicide bomber e Taji council. The Mahdi Army has attacked family members of the group as well.
Iraqi army forces are targeting al Qaeda's network in the Taji region. Iraqi troops conducted an air assault northwest of Taji on July 20. The target was "a suspected Al Qaeda in Iraq leader suspected of numerous crimes including a recent attack that destroyed a bridge on a primary Iraqi transportation route" in the Habbaniyah area in Anbar province.
"He is also allegedly responsible for facilitating foreign fighters and the planning and execution of multiple improvised explosive device attacks in Ramadi and other areas. The insurgent leader and his cell are also suspected of murdering and intimidating Iraqi citizens, conducting oil smuggling operations, and committing a string of highway robberies in an effort to fund al Qaeda activities."
U.S. soldiers also freed three Iraqis being held hostage at an insurgent safe house south of Samarra. Four insurgents were captured during the raid.
Diyala, Babil and Anbar
Operations against al Qaeda in Iraq and allied insurgent groups are ongoing in the belts of Diyala, Northern Babil and Anbar province. In the city of Miqdadiyah in Diyala, Coalition forces killed nine insurgents and captured eight during a series of raids and patrols. An insurgent safe house and several weapons caches were also found in the region.
In northern Babil province, the recently launched Operation Marne Avalanche in the Iskandariyah region has resulted in four insurgents killed and 37 captured over the course of four days. In a separate operation Iraqi soldiers arrested a member of an al Qaeda kidnapping ring on July 18.
In Anbar province, tribal leaders in the city of Zaidon have turned on al Qaeda and established local security forces.
Iranian-backed Special Group
The Iranian-backed, Qods Force-directed Special Group continues to remain a high priority for Coalition and Iraqi forces. On Sunday, Coalition forces captured "two suspected terrorists that may be affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) from Iran in a raid Sunday near the Iranian border East of Baghdad," Multinational Forces Iraq said. "The suspects may be associated with a network of terrorists that have been smuggling Explosively Formed Projectiles (EFPs), other weapons, personnel and money from Iran into Iraq."
On July 22, U.S. troops found a cache that contained an explosively formed penetrator and parts to make more, along with home made explosives, in the West Rashid district in Baghdad. Also, Iran is believed to be smuggling Chinese made rockets into Iraq, Admiral Mark Fox said in a recent briefing.
The daily raids against al Qaeda’s leadership and facilitator cells resulted in one al Qaeda operative killed and 26 captured over the past two days. Sunday's operations in Baghdad, Mosul, Fallujah, and Yusifiyah resulted in one al Qaeda operative killed and 14 captured. Twelve al Qaeda operatives were captured on Monday during raids in Mosul, Baghdad, Yusifiyah, and Tarmiyah.
Reply #222 on:
July 24, 2007, 06:47:54 AM »
Sunday July 15, 2007
Violence ebbing. Wealth returning. Can this be Iraq?
The clamour is growing in America and Britain for troops to be brought home. Violence grips large parts of the country. But elsewhere the green shoots of recovery are showing through the rubble
Peter Beaumont in Iraq
An Iraqi youth sells kites. Photograph: Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty
The cycle of murder and vengeance grinds quickly in Iraq. Last week, in the western city of Tal Afar, it was all over in 10 minutes.
No one saw how Jamil Salem Jamil, aged 19, arrived. If he was driven to his target, then the car stayed out of sight. A slim Sunni youth, with a thick crop of black hair above his elongated features, he walked down the alley to the house where Khosheed Abbas, a policeman, his fiancee, Mariam Azzideen, and their families, all Shias, were sitting down to a simple wedding feast.
When Jamil tried to force his way into courtyard of the house, Khosheed bundled him away, saving his fiancee and several dozen family members. But not himself. As Jamil staggered back he detonated his suicide vest, cutting down four of the family, including two young children, one of them, Bushyr, a girl aged six.
And in an Iraq still gripped by sectarian violence these things are not so easily concluded.
As Jamil and his victims died, another family in this mixed Shia-Sunni neighbourhood was also sitting down to eat. They were Sunnis this time, living 100 metres distant, the family of Jihan Salah, also 19, who was standing in her family's courtyard behind locked metal doors.
When Khosheed's father came looking for someone to shoot - came looking for a Sunni - that person was Jihan.
So Jamil's limbs, yellow and waxy, were gathered like branches and tossed into a gutter, and the bodies of the others taken to the morgue. It is one defining image of Iraq, horrible and too familiar. Yet it is not the only one.
For there are two Iraqs in evidence these days: not just the one where weddings are bombed and young women murdered in reply. The other Iraq is harder to dramatise but it is equally real. It is a place where boring, ordinary things take place. And in taking place become extraordinary in the context of conflict.
Last week it was the opening of a new $20 million government centre next to Tal Afar's ancient ruined fort. The day before Jamil detonated his explosives' belt, the sheiks and dignitaries came in and crowded through the building's corridors, muttering approvingly as they examined its new painted walls, the photocopiers, printers and computers - some of them still wrapped in plastic - sitting on the brand new desks.
Last week the debate over whether to pull out of Iraq took on an urgent new intensity as the struggle between the Democrat-led Congress and the White House of President George W Bush finally reached a head.
Driven by a presidential election cycle, six years of building animosity in US politics has finally been focused on the lightning rod that is Iraq. After four years of war, perhaps more than 650,000 Iraqi dead, it has finally come to a single question of accounting: which of the two Iraqs is winning, the Iraq of death or an Iraq that looks to peace?
It is a false dichotomy. For the two Iraqs - for now at least - are co-existent. It is a dangerous one too. For the expectation that America may be crumbling over Iraq - and may leave soon - has acted as an accelerant where the violence is worst, leading General David Petraeus, US commander in Iraq, to warn that in the worst areas the summer may see a mini-Tet offensive designed to push US politics over the brink.
In practical terms there is a gulf between the politics in Washington and the views of the generals on the ground. For while the Democrats are pushing for rapid withdrawal that would see most US troops out by April next year, the commander of the forces in the country's north, General Benjamin Mixon, has made clear that it would take 18 months to safely reduce just half of his forces. However, he believes Nineveh could be handed over by this autumn.
In his office in the northern city of Mosul, Mixon's deputy, General Frank Wiercinski, is convinced that, in his divisional area at least - if not in Baghdad - a long sought-for stabilisation is finally occurring. 'There is a line I think that separates the areas that are becoming more secure from those where there is still heavy fighting. And I think that line is moving slowly south now through Diyala.'
'In my personal opinion it is not the time to pull out. We are at the apex. The war out there that is going on is with Iraqis in the lead and I don't feel we can just say: "See you!"'
And while in Iraq it has usually been the best policy to deal with officials with a strong dose of scepticism following the years of pronouncements of victory around the corner, for now at least there appears to be corroborating evidence that in the north, the war may be drawing, ever so slowly, towards some kind of close.
In Mosul, which once hosted 21,000 US soldiers in the city, now only a single battalion, in the mid-hundreds, remains inside the city, matched by an equivalent drop in attacks. And it is not only in Mosul that security is improving. The sense that things are getting better is reflected in Nineveh Province. In two years US troop levels around Tal Afar, once the heartland of al-Qaeda, have been reduced from 6,000 to 1,200.
The general trend for acts of violence - despite some spikes - also has been steadily decreasing. Indeed, until Jamil Salem Jamil detonated his human bomb there had not been a suicide vest attack in Tal Afar since 14 January.
And there are other striking indicators. The last time that I flew across this area, two years ago, what agriculture there was was sporadic. Now it has turned golden with a vast expanse of freshly cut wheat fields that have turned the flat plains that touch the Kurdish foothills into a vast prairie, using almost every patch of viable land.
But the other Iraq lingers here strongly too. Despite two years of effort, organised destabilising violence still exists, largely displaced out of the urban centres to the villages of Nineveh's plain. From their hideouts there, insurgents have turned their attention to hitting infrastructure, attacking roads, bridges and power lines with the aim of separating its rival population groups.
But ask Iraqis or Americans what the biggest problem is in both Tal Afar and Mosul and they will mention the government of Iraq. All of which raises two critical questions: whether what has happened in Iraq's north can be sustained, and whether - with the same time available - it is applicable elsewhere.
'It would be the easiest thing,' says Lt Col Malcolm Frost, the squadron commander of 3/4th US Cavalry in Tal Afar, 'to put a stake in the ground and declare victory here in Nineveh. But there are three or four things needed for the conditions to be set for a withdrawal. And my biggest problem is to get support and linkages from the central Iraqi government. So far we have not seen a single dollar from the 2007 budget get down to this level.'
Tal Afar too has struggled to get deliveries of food, propane and gas. And Frost is cautious about extrapolating the advances made by applying 'clear, hold, build' in Tal Afar, where it was pioneered over two years, to Baghdad.
'There is an order of magnitude at work here. Tal Afar measures 3km by 3km and has a population of 200,000. I don't know the precise troop and force configuration in Baghdad and whether it can work. But the holding is the difficult part. And in Baghdad you have to hold everywhere at once.'
It is 1am in Zafraniya, a Shia stronghold in southern Baghdad. When the men of the 2/17 Field Artillery rush into the Salah household, it is quickly clear something is wrong. The tip-off says there are injured senior members of Moqtadr al-Sadr's Shia militia - the Jaish al Mahdi - hiding here. The men are anxious, shouting at the family. The address and the family name are right, but everything else seems wrong.
Crucifixes hanging on the wall and devotional prints; photographs of christenings and first communions. Later after the apologies have been delivered, one of the men speculates on the reason for the false tip. Sectarian malice, perhaps, could be a motive against a middle-class Christian family - to unsettle them and force them out.
More worrying is the feeling that it is a ruse perpetrated by the Jaish al-Mahdi itself to test the response time of the soldiers for a future ambush, of the kind that is becoming increasingly more common. If Tal Afar was bad and now improving, then Zafraniya is its mirror opposite, one of the successes of the Baghdad surge that is turning corrosively dangerous again.
For if there is renewed violence in Zafraniya, then some of it at least is paradoxically a direct consequence of the surge's earlier gains. Then - in February and March - Moqtadr al-Sadr ordered the withdrawal of the leadership of his organisation to put them out of the way of the US surge. Other leaders who remained in the Jaish al-Mahdi's second most powerful base inside Baghdad were detained, weakening the organisation until Sadr ordered the renewal of hostilities with US forces to re-establish his own power.
In the sometimes lethal power struggle that followed in the organisation, the violence has been directed increasingly at US forces by aspirant new leaders keen to demonstrate through violence their claim to authority.
It is a crucially important point. For in the glib parsing of Iraq into broad ideological themes and targets and benchmarks, something of the nature of the country's chaotic violence has been lost. How often, when you peel away the nature of each killing it is so often motivated by family and tribe and sect - by malice and greed. How it is personal.
By Friday the same question was being asked about Jamil Salem Jamil. 'Clearly he was a member of al-Qaeda,' says General Qais Kalaf of the Iraqi Army in Tal Afar. 'He had a suicide vest. But it seems he was known in neighbourhood. He chose that family. There was some personal grudge at work.'
In the end it is no consolation of the relatives of last week's dead, including the family of Jihan Salah. 'What did this have to do with us?' asked Maha Mohammed, the mother of Jihan. 'What did we do? We were only trying to eat our meal.'
So the two Iraqs continue to collide.
Reply #223 on:
July 24, 2007, 06:27:57 PM »
Woof, Who was Zarqawi before we invaded Iraq? Who was Sadr before we invaded Iraq? Bush has no substance to his argument.
Bush warns anew of terror threat By BEN FELLER, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 37 minutes ago
CHARLESTON, S.C. - President Bush, trying to justify the Iraq war, cited intelligence reports Tuesday he said showed a link between al-Qaida's operation in Iraq and the terror group that attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. Democrats dismissed Bush's argument.
"The merger between al-Qaida and its Iraqi affiliate is an alliance of killers and that is why the finest military in the world is on their trail," Bush said at Charleston Air Force Base, a launching point for cargo and military personnel headed to Iraq.
Citing security details he declassified for his speech, Bush described al-Qaida's burgeoning operation in Iraq as a direct threat to the United States. Bush accused critics in Congress of misleading the American public by suggesting otherwise.
"That's like watching a man walk into a bank with a mask and a gun and saying, 'He's probably just there to cash a check,'" Bush told troops at Charleston Air Force Base.
Bush is up against highly skeptical audiences with 18 months left in office. The public has largely lost faith in the war, Congress is weighing ways to end it, and international partners have fading memories of the 2001 attacks against the U.S. Six years later, terrorist leader Osama bin Laden remains at large.
"The president's claim that the war in Iraq is protecting us from al-Qaida is as misguided and dangerous as the conclusions that drove us to Iraq in the first place," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "The fact is that our continued flawed strategy in Iraq is emboldening and unifying al-Qaida, both in that country and elsewhere."
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said Bush "is trying to scare the American people into believing that al-Qaida is the rationale for continuing the war in Iraq." But Kerry said Bush presented no new evidence to back that up, and added: "The president is picking the wrong rationale for this war. Al-Qaida is not the principal killer of American forces in Iraq."
In broad strokes, Bush linked the Iraq war to an event that Americans remember deeply — the Sept. 11 attacks, not the sectarian strife among Iraqis, which has caused some to question U.S. military involvement.
Al-Qaida, led by Osama bin Laden, orchestrated the terrorist strikes on the United States by turning hijacked airplanes into killing machines. Now a fresh intelligence estimate warns that the United States is in a heightened threat environment, mainly from al-Qaida. The terror group is seizing upon its affiliate, al-Qaida in Iraq, to recruit members and organize attacks, the report found.
"I've presented intelligence that clearly establishes this connection," Bush said after spelling out details of foreign ties and leadership of al-Qaida in Iraq.
Al-Qaida had no active cells in Iraq when the U.S. invaded in March 2003, and its operation there is much larger now than before the war, U.S. intelligence officers say. The war itself has turned into a valuable recruiting tool for al-Qaida, senior intelligence officials concede. Bush denied that the war triggered al-Qaida's operations in Iraq.
Bush cited intelligence that:
_Al-Qaida in Iraq was founded not by an Iraqi but by Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who had deep relations with al-Qaida leaders. The president said Zarqawi, who was killed by U.S. forces last year, set up operations with terrorist associates in Iraq long before U.S.-led forces arrived, and that in the violence and instability following Saddam Hussein's fall, was able to expand the "size, scope and lethality" of his operation. Zarqawi formally joined al-Qaida in 2004 and pledged allegiance to bin Laden, he said.
_The merger gave al-Qaida senior leadership "a foothold in Iraq to extend its geographic presence and to plot external operations and to tout the centrality of the jihad in Iraq to solicit direct monetary support elsewhere."
Reply #224 on:
July 24, 2007, 06:46:05 PM »
CD: "Doug, I tried but couldn't get it to play for me." (Charlie Rose interview of NY Time Baghdad Bureau Chief)
Here's how I got there: go to:
click on July 17, and click on the photo and the interview started. I think it uses adobe flash 9.
Reply #225 on:
July 24, 2007, 08:21:52 PM »
July 18, 2007
Who is the enemy?
Who exactly the United States is fighting in Iraq and why it matters.
By Jason Stahl
everal interesting reports came out this week regarding the nature of exactly who the United States is currently fighting in Iraq. We learned first that CIA director Michael Hayden classified the "main sources of violence in this order: the insurgency, sectarian strife, criminality, general anarchy and, lastly, al-Qaida." In the first of these two groups, the Mahdi Army (a homegrown Shiite Muslim group, which is seeking to end the U.S. occupation and cleanse Iraq of rival Sunni Muslims) is, according to another report, "Enemy No. 1" and the primary source of "brazen attacks" against U.S. troops.
As for foreign fighters, they are active in Iraq, but make up a small portion of what is largely a homegrown insurgency. According to a recent Los Angeles Times report, only "an estimated 60 to 80 foreign fighters cross into Iraq each month." Not an insignificant number, but still small compared to the overall size of those committing violence. The same report also details that "about 45 percent of all foreign militants targeting U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians and security forces are from Saudi Arabia; 15 percent are from Syria and Lebanon; and 10 percent are from North Africa" and that "nearly half of the 135 foreigners in U.S. detention facilities in Iraq are Saudis." Fully 50 percent of these Saudis come to Iraq to commit suicide bombings.
Why do I present such a lengthy recitation of these facts? Many would argue that the makeup of the violence in Iraq does not matter - all that matters is that violence is occurring. I would argue, however, that the makeup of the violence does matter in the context of two debates now occurring: whether the U.S. should withdraw from Iraq and whether the "War on Terror" should be widened to a third front in Iran.
Those who want the United States to stay in Iraq indefinitely and those who want to widen the war into Iran (usually the same people) clearly understand this, which is why they constantly are trying to obscure the nature of the violence in Iraq. Foremost among this crew of charlatans is President George W. Bush who (along with members of his administration) runs around telling the American public that the United States is primarily fighting al-Qaida, or, as Bush put it in a recent press conference, "the same folks that are bombing innocent people in Iraq were the ones who attacked us in America on September the 11th." This is an absurd statement for multiple reasons: It ignores the true nature of the violence (as I just described), it implies that Iraq attacked the U.S. on 9-11 (it didn't) and it implies that al-Qaida was in Iraq before the U.S. invasion (it wasn't). Nevertheless, it is used by war supporters to try and trump up support for staying in Iraq permanently.
But even more disturbing is those who are misleading about the nature of the foreign fighters in Iraq in order to widen the war into Iran (apparently one quagmire isn't enough). Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) is the leader of this group who is doing all they can to squeeze one final war out of the Bush crew by implying massive Iranian involvement in Iraq - evidence be damned. Recently Lieberman said, "I think we have to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq."
Simply put, in order to stop a widening of the war and in order to extract ourselves from Iraq, we must insist that Lieberman, Bush and all their allies stop misleading about the nature of the violence in Iraq. Such misleading got us into this mess and we can't let it dig us deeper into it.
Negotiations with Iran
Reply #226 on:
July 25, 2007, 11:01:30 AM »
Geopolitical Diary: Progress on Iraq
In a meeting preceded by the diplomatic equivalent of a handful of cayenne pepper to the eye, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker met for seven hours on Tuesday with his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, and an Iraqi delegation in Baghdad's Green Zone. This is the second round of direct public U.S.-Iranian talks over Iraq following a May 27 meeting, which also was held in the Iraqi capital.
Crocker astutely laid the groundwork for good relations ahead of the meeting, accusing the Iranians of increasing their backing of Shiite militia death squads, while the Iranian Foreign Ministry issued similarly warm statements lambasting the United States for using "psychological warfare."
Remember when Stratfor said that both sides ultimately want to bury the hatchet in order to prevent an Iraqi nightmare, but that they cannot do so until they have prepped their respective publics for regular contact with "the enemy"? Obviously, we are not there yet.
Luckily, the cayenne cloud was largely a smokescreen for what appears to be some real progress in the "full and frank" negotiations. While the talks theoretically were limited to Iraq, they quickly expanded to include other "bilateral issues" -- code for Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran hopes to use as a trump card for extracting concessions from Washington in Iraq.
Meanwhile, Iran separately -- and simultaneously -- agreed to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to send nuclear inspectors by the end of July to Iran's heavy-water reactor site in Arak. This kind of reactor is valued primarily for its ability to quickly produce large amounts of plutonium, an element that is critical to the production of mushroom clouds. It is no coincidence that Iran is putting up a cooperative front on the nuclear issue just as the Iraq talks move forward.
More important, Iran and the United States now appear to have made enough progress to begin implementing agreements from the May meeting. After the second round of talks, Crocker said the U.S., Iraqi and Iranian governments plan to create a security committee to discuss containing violence in Iraq, addressing everything from "support for violent militias" to al Qaeda to border security.
Translation: The two countries will create a purge committee; the United States will kill any Iraqi Sunnis who do not cooperate, while the Iranians do the same to rebellious Iraqi Shia.
Now that the expectations have been set, the coming days will give us an idea of who will sit on this committee and when it will begin operations. But there is still one large task at hand. After all, though Washington clearly has more cards to play with the Sunnis, and the Iranians pull substantial weight among the Shia, this does not mean compliance will come easily. We use the words "purge" and "kill" for good reason; there are many in (and beyond) Iraq who are terrified of any U.S.-Iranian detente.
Directly after Tuesday's meeting in Baghdad, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari telephoned his Syrian counterpart, Walid al-Moualem, to brief him on the talks and set up a working meeting with Iraq's regional neighbors to coordinate security. At the very least, this development suggests that Damascus is interested in helping out (for its own reasons, of course) -- and having that particular loose end tied up means the Iraq security plan might actually have better than a snowball's chance in hell of working.
Reply #227 on:
July 25, 2007, 11:22:31 AM »
Woof, I thought that, we don't negotiate with terrorists.
Reply #228 on:
July 25, 2007, 11:51:39 AM »
These are governments.
Reply #229 on:
July 25, 2007, 11:58:39 AM »
Regarding the MN Daily piece "Who is the enemy" from my alma mater, the student newspaper at the U. of MN, that assessment doesn't match what Gen. Petraeus said last week. I see from Bob Woodward's column that the Michael Hayden report was from Nov. 2006, probably the lowest point in the war. Petraeus this year makes a very different analysis.
Seems to me the question of 'who is the enemy' is different from the question of where is violence coming from. That distinction is lost in the piece. If we are fighting against Sunnis, Shia (and Kurds?) then all is obviously lost. The other theory is that the public for the most part and most leaders of Sunni, Shia and Kurd groups as well as the central government are with us wanting security, stability, peace and political settlement. If that is true then an insurgency can be defeated, but only with a determined fight over a long period of time.
ps. I see war opponents quick to quote CIA information when negative but aren't previous CIA errors also the centerpiece of what has gone wrong so far?
Reply #230 on:
July 25, 2007, 12:17:52 PM »
Woof, Since the WMD thingy is no longer a viable reason for our "regime change" in Iraq. I have often heard said that Iraq/Sadaam Hussien was a state sponsor of terror. How much more can this claim be made to IRAN.
Besides that how much cooperation has Iran given regrading their nuke program?
This sounds an aweful lot like What Sadaam did.........
OH yea can you say " :wink:Wipe Israel off the map" other than that yea I guess we could also make the claim we are negotiating with "governments" Or are they sending troops...insurgents or foriegn fighters and weapons into Iraq?
.........Nope just a friendly gov. we should be negotiating with concering Iraq.
Doug..... Can you tell me who is heading up your so called insurgency? Thats all I was looking for when I came upon the article.
It woould be nice to know WHO we are fighting in Iraq......care to name a name?
Reply #231 on:
July 25, 2007, 01:11:16 PM »
Tom, For me, the 'WMD thingy' and ties to terrorism argument still holds. Also to me, success in Iraq now is closely related to success in Iran later. And so is failure.
"Doug..... Can you tell me who is heading up your so called insurgency? Thats all I was looking for when I came upon the article. It would be nice to know WHO we are fighting in Iraq......care to name a name?"
I should disclose I am a civilian sitting in a secure, Midwest living room. The closest I've come to seeing a real battle lately was the Nidal-Federer match. Hope I didn't pretend to know more than I do. I know that author and the MN Daily are among the furthest left in the nation, criticizing Michael Moore for his conservatism. Their view of a good outcome and lasting peace isn't likely to be similar to mine, though facts can be stubborn. Their headline says they address your question. My point is that they don't. From what I gather our enemy is now primarily groups like al Qaida in Iraq which are not necessarily top-down organizations with easy to identify leaders and headquarters. I have no way of knowing if former Ba'athists creating havoc play a bigger or smaller role than the foreign fighters. I have seen names of former insurgent Sunni leaders as they come to the table and I have names of enemy leaders like Zarqawi at their death, but I certainly don't know the names you are looking for, insurgency commanders. I'm not sure what you are getting at by asking. I think one reason the US didn't make a headline battle out of the hunt for OBL is that the battles would not end with the ousting of one man.
Reply #232 on:
July 25, 2007, 02:15:42 PM »
Woof Doug, If you want to hold on to the WMD thingy I also got a hand full of air for you...with about as much substance. Proof is in the pudding,so they say....as for the ties to terrorism.......don't suppose you could name any for instances could you? I mean actual for instances...not just accusational or theory ones.
Anyway for the record I voted for Bush twice and also was a supporter on the removal of Sadaam Hussein from power and the installation of a free and demcratic government in Iraq.......you know the one that was going to be a model for all the mideast? Seems that has gotten quite skewed over the last several years.
The thing that got me going here on Iraq was GM putting out that popular catch phrase "the global war on terror" and Jihad as if it somehow applied to Iraq.
The onely Jihad in Iraq is the one we started, or at the very least drew into Iraq by our presence there.
We may have removed Sadaam Husien from power , but we also raised up people like Zarqawi and Sadr.
Our installation of a free and democratic Iraq has dwindled to instilling enough peace with whoever maybe in control to get our troops out of Iraq and save enough face to not make our military look like a loser.
Thats pretty much why were resolved to negotiate with our old buddies in Iran wouldn't you say? and by so doing we may very well be giving over Iraq to someone who will be a puppet to Iran, like our good friend Sadr.
So in the end what has happend? WE have gained nothing in Iraq but f'd up a country and killed, maimed and wounded a lot of people, and the leadership may very well be worse than it was under Sadaam Husien. Certainly no friends of ours.
Back to the post at hand.....Are you saying that the CIA Is wrong with their view on the whos who and players in Iraq.....or did the MN Daily merly lie about the story?
The reason why I'am looking for who the fighters are in Iraq is because it all ties back in my opinon to the struggle for power in Iraq and its leadership.......I simply refuse to beleive that all these so called jihadis merly came on their own, unorganized and do their damage and thats it.
I feel there is a heiarchy of power and if you can interupt that leadership the mindless soldiers will flouder around and be of no effect.
I also beleive that we know who they are but are unwilling to go after them, thus making this global war on terror and the war in Iraq a huge mess/joke that is acomplishing nothing more than killing people and costing the U.S. a lot of money.
One of those players is obviously Sadr yet we allow him to do his thing and hes been doing it for quite some time....why?
If you rememeber back a couple of years we had him cornered and supposidly wounded.
We allowed him to live and escape and invited him into the political arena....this has continued to come back to bite us in the ass and yet we continually allow him to do this......How can one say the are serious about the Iraq war and the global war on terror when these kind of things are going on right in front of our very eyes.
You may poo-poo the hunt for Bin Laden but I must assert his capture/death would be encouragement to the American people and a detriment to those who may follow in his footsteps........by not capturing and killing him just the opposite is occuring IMHO.
Sorry to ramble......... TG
By the way.....we know where the real terrorists are but refuse to go after them......that being Pakistan
Last Edit: July 25, 2007, 02:41:32 PM by tom guthrie
Reply #233 on:
July 25, 2007, 02:52:05 PM »
Since Saddam's support of terror has been forgotten by some people....
Reply #234 on:
July 25, 2007, 03:09:12 PM »
Woof GM, IMHO kinda weak when compaired to the rest of the mideast and North Africa.........Why pick Iraq?
Now according to Crafty's Stratfor were negotiating with Iran over Iraq?
Reply #235 on:
July 25, 2007, 03:16:33 PM »
Of course we're negotiating with Iran on Iraq!!! --AND their nuke/death wish as well. The two are quite interwoven and there are many other areas of mutual interest.
In fact there are many ways in which a "grand compromise" could serve the purposes of both sides.
Reply #236 on:
July 25, 2007, 03:29:38 PM »
Saddam was a bad guy that needed to be taken out. The Clinton administration feared he'd give WMD to al qaeda and other groups but could only do token cruise missile strikes occasionally. If you'll look at Iraq and Afghanistan, what nation is bracketed between them? A free and fuctional Iraq might shift the tide in the middle east. That certainly was the hope anyway.
Reply #237 on:
July 25, 2007, 03:46:14 PM »
If you read my posts you will see that I supported the removal of Sadamm from power. I served in the USN from 1979-1986. I also have grown up with a bad taste for SH so I bought the hype like most. I understand he was a bad guy....trust me I understand.
Since the intial invasion of Iraq there has just been one cluster "F" after another we tried to play the politcal nice guy and fight a war at the same time.
Now we are reduced to negotiating with our enemy over the very country we invaded.....are you telling me this will be a victory?
I do like the fact that you said a free and functional Iraq WAS the hope anyway.....
So we are now admitting thats a slim possibility. What becomes of Iran and their Nuke program........I bet the farm the go nuke with out interuption......
Crafty says there are many other areas of mutual intrest.......I haven't see any of yet that would benifit the U.S. or make Iraq any better off than it was before we removed SH......
Please tell me how negotiating with Iran over Iraq is good for us and Iraq........
I'am all ears.
I'am not by the way trying to be an ASS.....just hoping that eventually we start smelling the Roses....
I also thiink we need to fix Iraq since we broke it......though I don't know how thats done.
Reply #238 on:
July 25, 2007, 03:55:18 PM »
I think any negotiation with Iran should be terms of surrender on their part. The current administration is making a grave error in not hammering the mullahs now. We'll live to regret not acting sooner.
Reply #239 on:
July 25, 2007, 04:09:52 PM »
Woof GM, What I see about to happen or in the works, or merly a figment of my imagination esp with regard to Iran negotiating over Iraq is eventaully Sadr will take power in Iraq.
Would you agree that at this time he is the most powerful, influential man in Iraq?
Myself I see no reason to negoiate with Iran. I merly feel their word is worthless and at the end of the day we get stabbed in the back.
Reply #240 on:
July 25, 2007, 05:16:40 PM »
I suspect the trade will be that they trade up getting nukes in return for some accomodation on Iraq that puts them at rest that they will not be have to war again with Iraq.
This is not an irrational concern. Remember that we backed SH against them in a war where Iran lost something like 900,000 people IIRC. Wasn't it , , , hmmmm, , , lets see if I remember now , , ,Donald Rumsfeld who was foto op'ed with SH in the mid 80s? Didn't we give advanced intel to him to ensure that he wouldn't lose?
As for areas on mutual interest, remember that Iran was very helpful in our overthrow of the Taliban. They gave us overflight, (the right to pick up downed pilots too IIRC) and other things. It was fresh after that that Bush called them part of the "Axis of Evil"-- no doubt a bit of a WTF moment for them-- but the point is this: they helped us against Sunni Al Aqaeda when we went after AQ/the Taliban.
From a geopolitical POV is it a terrible thing if they get influence over southern Iraq? For regional balance of power reasons, does this not serve our purpose against AQ? Would not the House of Saud be reminded whose protection they need , , , again? In exchange for hardening against AQ in SA-- this hardening aleady under way of its own accord because AQ undermines the House of Saud?
What about the Arab League being in Israel today? What is THAT about? Very interesting! Why would this happen after the division of "Palestine" into Gaza and the West Bank? What is going on with Turkey and the Kurds? If Turkey does an incursion, where does that leave us-- and Iran?
IF IF IF in return we get them to not go nukes (not their Word, but IN FACT) then , , ,Did you notice that today the Russians said that they were discontinuing work on Iran's nuke program for arrears in payments? Didn't we hear this before? Hmmmm-- maybe that is a diplomatic cover for Iran, who is now offering renewed inspection access, to dance with the US towards a deal?
This also suggests that the Russians are going to want something too-- perhaps less support from us for the Ukraine? Backing off on Star Wars against Iran positioned in East Europe? Watch for hints of this.
Look, I'm not advocating this, I am trying to assess. Iran is led by religious fascists who are a serious danger who cannot be permitted to go nuke! What are our options?!?
These whackos are also fcuking the Iranian economy something fierce. Iran cannot even keep its people in gasoline! If we can get the Euros mind right to where we can genuinely bring eco pressure to bear, then collapse from within might be in play. My readings tell us that the majority of real people in Iran like the US/the west.
The weakest link in President Bush's hand is that we the American people have persuaded the enemy that our will is used up.
Yes, yes, Bush/Rumbo have made huge mistakes and did bring to bear all that should have been brought for such a primally important play. This has created a situation where for American political reasons as well as the failure to upgrade the military for what the President has been, is, and will be asking for it to do that our military threat to Iran is doubted.
This I suspect is why the recent leaked balloon from American military figures about continuing The Surge further.
The Adventure continues!
Reply #241 on:
July 25, 2007, 06:55:24 PM »
Woof Guro Crafty, I was wondering how long, or what I would have to do to provoke a honest response.
You are alright with Iran getting nukes? Seems not that long ago you were against this? As for me, I don't think there is any stopping it.
It is fine that they will help us against sunni AQ.....But the reason I keep brinigng up Sadr is because I know he has close Iranian ties....and if they go for the whole of Iraq?
As for the American resolve, I guess I fit into that category, simply because in Iraq specificly other than an election of "limpness" the American people can see no real improvement there....and in fact what they have to look at is an escalation of troops, that are already very battle weary.
One would think, that after what 5 years? There would be something better to offer the American people by way of hope other than escalation in troops.
I think the American people have the right to grumble.......I understand patience and the idea these things take time, and I also think the American people understand this as well.....but they as do I need some positives along the way.......Oh yea the Iraqi gov. took the month off
If one were to look at Afghanastan (be glad most people don't) theres not a very bright picture there either......
One thing that most likely will be a detriment to our mideast efforts will undoubtably be the next presidential elections. In other words, I feel time is running out.
Reply #242 on:
July 25, 2007, 07:07:54 PM »
"You are alright with Iran getting nukes?"
NO!!! PLEASE READ MY POST AGAIN!!!
As best as I can tell, the first plan to stop Iranian nukes is via true economic pressure. THIS HAS NOT BEEN TRIED YET due in part to Euro weenyhood, but maybe they are starting to come round. Best military option I can see is via naval based action. As best as I can tell, Bush has been pre-positioning for this. We may need to give the Russians something they want in East Europe to get them to stop sabotaging things via their enablement of Iranian nukes, providing AA misslies and the like. Fundamental is that Iran sees that we are not going to be run out of Iraq without a deal. If we continue are growing alliance of convenience with Sunni Iraq, and they see Sunni countries planning to go nuke to counter Iranian nukes, then maybe, just maybe some sort of deal can be made.
Reply #243 on:
July 27, 2007, 05:54:33 PM »
"Doug, If you want to hold on to the WMD thingy I also got a hand full of air for you...with about as much substance."
Didn't appreciate the ridicule. My reasons follow; you are welcome to discount each piece as you see fit. IMO the 'Bush lied' crowd is over-hyping their hand more than Bush, Blair, Powell, Cheney did.
Nuclear: Israel struck the Osirak facility in 1981 and the Americans finished it off in 1991. Best information I know of concludes that Saddam was working on nuclear capabilities. Even Joe Wilson's original report said he was trying to buy yellow cake in Niger.
He gassed his own people, right? Evidence: witnesses and mass graves. The Downing Street memos said the Brits feared he would use WMD Bio and/or Chem against the liberators. To not find stockpiles after giving a year to hide, move, transfer or destroy doesn't prove anything to me. I think the 'lies' (exaggerations) about WMD capabilities came from Saddam's inner circle. A bad move for him in hindsight. I'll tack on further WMD info at the end of the post.
"Proof is in the pudding,so they say....as for the ties to terrorism.......don't suppose you could name any for instances could you? I mean actual for instances...not just accusational or theory ones."
Sorry I don't know where your distinction between actual and accusatory lies. I'm only telling you why I believe what I do, not trying to change your mind or 'prove' you wrong. 1) Saddam's regime provided major financial support for suicide bombers; I didn't know that was still in dispute. 2) Saddam's Iraq was tied to the first WTC bombing in 1993. 3) Actively shooting at US planes doing their lawful UN enforcement routes. 4) Gassed his own people. Terror, right? 5) Terror inside Iraq such as the story of Dujaille. Have you read the story that led to his death sentence and just hanging. Certainly it was all about using terror to hold on to power. How else did he win 99.9$ of the vote? 5) Attempted Assassination of President Bush by Iraqi Agents, April 14, 1993. I don't b elieve you have to be the target's son for a sitting President to take that act personally. 6) Ties to al Qaida. Iraq Study group concluded: NO COLLABORATIVE, OPERATIONAL RELATIONSHIP. I find that more parsed than Clinton pondering the meaning of what is is. They didn't say no relationship. They didn't say no meetings. The didn't say no harboring or training camps. And they didn't say no common enemy as a motive. Remember the action in Iraq was not to avenge 9/11, it was to preempt future attacks.
A bizarre story always stuck in my mind that no one else seems to care about. I'm happy to post here if it wasn't covered back then. Saddam's state newspaper named the targets than bin Laden would hit 2 MONTHS before 9/11. It was subtle and in the floweriest of terms and had no real meaning without hindsight, then became prescient. On July 21, 2001 [less than two months prior to 911] the Iraqi state-controlled newspaper "Al-Nasiriya" predicted that bin Laden would attack the U.S. "with the seriousness of the Bedouin of the desert about the way he will try to bomb the Pentagon after he destroys the White House." The same state-approved column also insisted that bin Laden "will strike America on the arm that is already hurting," and that the U.S. "will curse the memory of Frank Sinatra every time he hears his songs" - an apparent reference to the Sinatra classic, "New York, New York." This was entered into the Congressional Record on Sept.12 2002 by Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-SC).
WMD programs and capabilities continued:
* Acquired nuclear material for small civilian nuclear program during the Atoms for Peace program in the mid-1950s.
* Nuclear weapons program began in mid 1970s as a response to a perceived Israeli nuclear weapons program.
* 1976, a $300 million deal completed between the French and the Iraqis for two nuclear reactors: a 40MW(th) reactor that the French dubbed "Osirak," and an 800kW(th) reactor called Isis. The Iraqis called the reactors Tammuz-1 and Tammuz-2.
* Osirak (Tammuz-1) was destroyed by an Israeli aerial bombing campaign in June, 1981.
* In 1990, Iraq launched a crash program to divert reactor fuel under IAEA safeguards to produce nuclear weapons.
* Iraq considered two delivery options for nuclear weapons: either using unmodified al-Hussein ballistic missile with 300km range, or producing Al-Hussein derivative with 650km range.
* Until 1991, Iraq had a nuclear weapon development program that involved 10,000 personnel, and had a multi-year budget totaling approximately $10 billion.
* After the Gulf War of 1991, the Iraqi nuclear weapons program progressively decayed due to Coalition bombing and UNSCOM disarmament efforts.
* April 1991, UNSC Resolution 687 adopted enabling the IAEA to carry out immediate on-site inspection of Iraq's nuclear capabilities and carry out a plan for the destruction, removal or rendering harmless of prohibited items.
* August 1991, UNSC Resolution 707 adopted demanding Iraq "halt all nuclear activities of any kind, except for use of isotopes for medical, agricultural, or industrial purposes."
* Saddam retained intellectual capital (scientists) for the possibility for restarting a nuclear program post 1991.
* November 15th, 1991, the first removal of highly enriched uranium from Iraq. An IAEA cargo flight carrying 42 fresh fuel elements from the IRT-5000 5 megawatt light water research reactor at Al Tuwaitha, and 6.6 kilograms of uranium-235 left Baghdad for Moscow.
* Iraq Survey Group's (ISG) inquiry found Iraq concealed elements of its nuclear program from inspectors after 1991, including the hiding of documents, technology, and attempting to maintain the brain trust of scientists who had earlier worked on the nuclear program; this conclusion echoes the statements made by Hussein Kamel upon his defection in 1995.
* In 2004 Jafar Dhia Jafar, former head of Iraq's nuclear agency, announces all weapons programs had been destroyed after 1991, at which point they had been 2-3 years away from producing a nuclear weapon (2006-2007).
* Signed the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention in 1972. The Convention prohibited development, production and stockpiling of biological weapons.
* The Iraqi Ministry of Defense published a manual in 1987 entitled Principles of Using Chemical and Biological Agents in Warfare, including a section on military use of biological agents with instruction for small attacks and sabotage operations before a general offensive begins.
* The timing of the publications suggests the use of such tactics in the Iran-Iraq war.
* Iraq authorized use of BW against Israel, Saudi Arabia and US forces prior to the 1991 Gulf war, should the need arise.
* Post 1991, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 687, authorizing UNSCOM and the IAEA to implement on-site inspections of the facilities in Iraq believed to be related to WMD production.
* Resolution 687 required Iraq to declare and destroy all holdings of biological weapons.
* Upon commencement of the inspections, Iraq declared despite a biological weapons research and design program for defense purposes, no offensive biological weapons (BW) program existed.
* Ratified the BTWC on 4/18/91, as required by the Gulf War cease-fire agreement.
* 1995, Saddam's son-in-law and advisor General Hussein Kamel defected and admitted to destroying all weapons programs, including biological, though research and design elements were preserved.
* Iraq acknowledged open-air testing of biological agents between March 1988 and January 1991 including Bacillus anthracis, Bacillus subtilis, botulinum toxin, aflatoxin, and ricin at facilities such as al-Muhammadiyat, Khan Bani Saad, Jurf al-Sakr Firing Range, and the Abu Obeydi Airfield.
* Conducted research on BW dissemination using unmanned aerial vehicles.
* Established Chemical Corps in the mid-1960s, foundation of the future CW program. The Corps were tasked with the nuclear, biological and chemical protection of Iraqi troops and civilians.
* Mid 1970s, the Corps developed a laboratory-scale facility which later synthesized chemical warfare agents and evaluated their properties.
* Repeatedly used CW against Iraqi Kurds in 1988 and against Iran in 1983-1988 during the Iran-Iraq war.
* Due to CW success in the Iran-Iraq war, Saddam viewed this type of warfare as efficient and necessary in defensive and offensive strategy.
* Saddam considered his chemical weapons program to be a deterrent to Coalition forces moving toward Baghdad in 1991.
* ISG found all CW holdings had been destroyed in 1991 after the Gulf War as a result of Saddam's desire to have sanctions lifted.
* Throughout the 1990s, Iraq maintained a trust of scientists that had worked on the previous CW program.
* Chemical programs were reinstituted in the mid-1990s due to a brief period of economic recovery.
* An extensive CW arsenal–including 38,537 munitions, 690 tons of CW agents, and over 3,000 tons of CW precursor chemicals–was destroyed by UNSCOM prior to the inspectors' withdrawal in 1998.
Reply #244 on:
July 28, 2007, 10:33:42 AM »
General Pleads for Time to Secure Iraq
Associated Press | July 20, 2007
BAGHDAD - If the U.S. troop buildup in Iraq is reversed before the summer of 2008, the military will risk giving up the security gains it has achieved at a cost of hundreds of American lives over the past six months, the commander of U.S. forces south of Baghdad said Friday.
Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, mentioned none of the proposals in Congress for beginning to withdraw U.S. troops as soon as this fall. But he made clear in an interview that in his area of responsibility south of Baghdad, it will take many more months to consolidate recent gains.
"It's going to take through (this) summer, into the fall, to defeat the extremists in my battle space, and it's going to take me into next spring and summer to generate this sustained security presence," he said, referring to an Iraqi capability to hold gains made by U.S. forces.
Lynch said he had projected in March, when he arrived as part of the troop buildup, that it would take him about 15 months to accomplish his mission, which would be summer 2008.
He expressed concern at the growing pressure in Washington to decide by September whether the troop buildup is working and to plan for an early start to withdrawing all combat troops.
Under Lynch's command are two of the five Army brigades that President Bush ordered to the Baghdad area in January as part of a revised counterinsurgency strategy. As part of that "surge" of forces, Lynch's command was created in order to put added focus on stopping the flow of weaponry and insurgents into the capital from contentious areas to the south.
The three other brigades are in Baghdad and a volatile province northeast of the capital with the purpose of securing the civilian population in hopes that reduced levels of sectarian violence will give Sunni and Shiite leaders an opportunity to create a government of true national unity and to pass legislation designed to promote reconciliation.
Lynch said that Iraqi security forces are not close to being ready to take over for the American troops. So if the extra troops that were brought in this year are to be sent home in coming months, the insurgents - both Sunni and Shiite extremist groups - will regain control, he said.
"To me, it would be wrong to take ground from the enemy at a cost - I've lost 80 soldiers under my command - 56 of those since the fourth of April - it would be wrong to have fought and won that terrain, only to turn around and give it back," he said in an interview with two reporters who traveled with him by helicopter to visit troops south and west of Baghdad.
He said there is a substantial risk that al-Qaida in Iraq, a mostly Iraqi Sunni extremist group, will try to launch a mass-casualty attack on one of the 29 small U.S. patrol bases south of Baghdad in hopes of influencing the political debate in Washington on ending the war.
Lynch visited one of those outposts Friday, near the village of Jurfassakhar along the Euphrates River. He was told by the officer in charge, Lt. Col. Robert Balcavage, that the camp was in "the deepest bad-guy country around," with threats from multiple insurgent groups.
Near Jurfassakhar, just west of the larger town of Iskandariyah, al-Qaida elements have recently been fighting another Sunni extremist group but could be preparing to resume attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces.
"And that's why we've got to continue offensive operations," he said. "I worry about this talk about reducing or terminating the surge," using the military's term of deploying the five extra combat brigades to the Baghdad area, as well as extra Marines to Anbar province west of the capital.
"We've got him on the run," Lynch said, referring to the insurgents. "Some people say we've got him on the ropes. I don't believe that. But I believe we've got him on the run."
Lynch said he thinks too much focus is being placed on the military part of the solution to Iraq's problems and too little on the need to promote progress toward a functional central government.
Lynch said he thinks too much focus in being placed on the military part of the solution to Iraq's problems and too little on the need to promote progress toward a functional central government.
"We can continue to secure the population here and secure terrain, but until you get a government (that) is of the people, for the people and by the people, and you have an economy where people actually have employment, this place is going to continue to struggle," he said.
Lynch also said the Iraqi government needs to put about seven more Iraqi army battalions and about five more Iraqi police battalions in his area in order to provide the security now provided by U.S. forces.
In a reference to the sectarian tensions that have stalled progress toward stability in Iraq, the general said he has submitted to the Shiite-dominated national government a list of about 3,000 names of Sunnis who have volunteered to join the government security forces south of Baghdad. None of the 3,000 has been approved for addition to the government payroll.
"If they (the central government) just say `No, we ain't gonna do it,' then we've got a problem because (then) we've got nothing but locals who want to secure their area," he said, adding later that this would amount to a "Band-aid" fix rather than a lasting solution.
Ultimately, Lynch said, success or failure will be determined by the Iraqis themselves, and the outcome will not come quickly.
"This is Iraq. Everything takes time," he said.
Reply #245 on:
July 28, 2007, 03:29:48 PM »
Doug Mac, Iam not trying to ridicule you. Its just THERE WERE NO WEAPONS OF MASS DESCTRUCTION when we invaded Iraq.
Simple as that. There fore the excuse for going into Iraq due to the fact theres was no WMD just dosen't fly.....my refrence to a hand full of air is prety much the same as the substance or lack of it....when it comes to the WMD "THINGY"
If you read my posts you'll see where I have stated several times my support for the Iraq war and I voted for Bush twice....Ia'm no Bush lied person...........Iam one who at least can admit we F'D that one WAY UP.
Its nice you know the past histroy of Iraq and Sadaam Husien.......notice I said PAST history......not applicable to this situation
Anyway............with reagrd to the "global war on terror" I think NOW that we could have been, and could be doing a lot better.
I'am at least willing to take responsiblity for my mistake.....I voted.
Reply #246 on:
July 28, 2007, 06:07:19 PM »
Quoting Tom:"THERE WERE NO WEAPONS OF MASS DESCTRUCTION when we invaded Iraq.
Simple as that. There fore the excuse for going into Iraq due to the fact theres was no WMD just dosen't fly..."
All the best intelligence in the world said there was and the burden of proof was on him . There is no do-over. All the best intelligence still says he maintained everything necessary to re-constitute his 'past' programs. Are you now saying his shell game compliance was sufficient or that his previous surrender agreement was not binding?
"Ia'm no Bush lied person" - ok, but you wrote recently: "my opinon a personal vendetta by Bush", that's a pretty fine distinction IMO.
"If you read my posts you'll see where I have stated several times my support for the Iraq war and I voted for Bush twice...Iam one who at least can admit we F'D that one WAY UP."
That you have changed your view doesn't mean for certain that you are correct now.
Reply #247 on:
July 28, 2007, 07:53:11 PM »
Doug Mac, The onley thing I'am saying is he had no WMD, and that was the big selling point on the war.
I still believe Bush had a specific hard on for Sadaam Husien, because of his dad(Bush's)and all the bad blood there. Thats just a personal opinon.
I think we could have picked other ,better places to go after terrorists, rather than Iraq.Do you agree or not?
I in fact now beleive there are more terrorists in Iraq now than there was before we invaded it.......and I don't beleive that they were all terrorists before we invaded Iraq. In other words I beleive weve created some.
Here is why I think I'am right, The original object was to take out Sadaam and est.a free and democratic Gov. that would be a model for the mideast. I was hopeful for this.
Now my hope is that we don't bail out and leave the country in someones hands who ends up being worse than Sadaam or that Iran ends up with a puppet as leader of Iraq like Sadr.
I see no real progress being made in the war......in fact weve escalated troop involvement. Cite progress in the last 5 years if you dispute this.....I mean something with substance.
All that needs to happen for Iraq to crumble is for time to pass.....Remember we have an election comming up and most likely the American people will vote in someone who will pull out the troops....which will be a shame....because we broke Iraq, its our responsbility to fix it.....but I certainly don't know how that happens....Do you?
Which brings me to my final point.....even if we get reletive peace in Iraq, I feel it onley holds as long as we hold it there...and thats a big If....and how long are you willing to send our kids over there to die for a country that really dosen't want to change.
Afghanastan is the same way....if we ever leave it...the Taliban is right back in there
Strictly , this post is just my opinon.
If you disagree......tell me in your opinon how we fix Iraq so that we can get out.
Reply #248 on:
July 28, 2007, 10:46:39 PM »
The WMD thing has been hashed and rehashed endlessly. I think Doug does a very good job but would like to add one point to the mix. I am currently reading "Cobra ll" (its in the truck, so I don't have authors' names in front of me, but one is a general) I am about 3/5 of the way through it. It is an outstanding history of how we got into the Iraq War and how we waged it. The heavy emphasis is on the military side of things. Concerning WMD, the book helped me understand just how much SH was trying to play it both ways viz WMD-- "proving"/claiming he didn't have them while at the same time leaving enough doubt to cause his mortal enemies the Iranians to hesitate.
In other words, SH gave good reason to Bush and everyone else to doubt the veracity of his assertion that he had coughed up the WMD.
Tom, I encourage you to read the various relevant threads on this forum closely for many of them will flesh out the ignorant, distorted, often dishonest and sometimes disloyal campaign waged by President Bush's opposition via the media. If you read MSM only, you will be persuaded that the sky is falling. It may be, and it may not-- but what certainly seriously undercuts our efforts is when Gen. Petraeus's surge is declared "Defeat" by the Senate Majority Leader Harry Byrd, House Leader Nancy Pelosi and the rest of their ilk even before the troops for the surge are in place. Despicable! If you were an Iraqi would this not give you pause before betting your life on the Americans having what it takes to see the job through?!?
Democracy in Iraq, apart from its merits on its own, I believe also was intended to be part of the struggle with the Iranian Islamic fascist leadership and I offer for your consideration that you remember that this struggle continues. Do you want these people to have nukes?!?
As for fixing Iraq, things are not a lost cause-- e.g. have you read any of the Michael Yon posts cited in the Milblog thread?
From my place so very low on the food chain, it looks to me like we are positioning ourselves to balance the Sunni world against the Shia world-- see d.g. this morning report that Bush wants to sell $20 billion in arms to SA-- and note that this follows the Arab League's visit to Israel (!!!) just a few days ago.
SecDef Rumbo made many mistakes which were affirmed by President Bush, who added some of his own-- but I think if you go back to the history of WW2 you will see many terrible mistakes made there too-- e.g. did you know that the legendary Gen Douglas MacArthur let the the US airforce in the Philippines get caught on the ground nearly 24 hours after Pearl Harbor? But what matters now is that we not panic or caught off our national nose to spite President Bush's face.
Reply #249 on:
July 29, 2007, 11:14:48 AM »
Woof, I understand Sadaams smoke and mirrors for the WMD and his reason for it. I understand also that this issue has been beat to death and by no means am I trying to go over this again.
I'am onley asserting that in a physical real life sense, that there were in reality no wmd's, there fore we can no longer use it as excuse for going to war with Sadaam Husien.
Correctly we must now say.....We THOUGHT he had WMD so we invaded and took him out.........Which when you read it for what it REALLY is kinda sucks.
I suppose we could also say that Sadaam Husien fooled us into believing he had WMD and we invaded and took him out.....but then that makes us look even more stupid.....either way IMHO theres no REAL way of saying it to justify the means.
There again lets stop trying to justify our actions for something, that in actuality did not exsist.
As for the rest, I agree depending on what news article you care to read you'll get that opinion slanted in that direction, though it does go both ways.
I try as much as possible to take the middle of the road
I also try to take things at face value and not put too much into speculation or hypothetical or IF situations.
I really don't think America has the reslove to continue seeing our kids killed for the next20 years, and because we elect a new president every four years. I think this war is on borrowed time.
I also think that the global war on terror as we know it is on borrowed time. Simply because I think there are lots of people politicians alike who don't think there is such a thing.....and that they will elect a president who thinks in like manner.
I partially blame Bush for this, because of how he and company mis-managed the war in Iraq, and the hunt for bin laden, or lack of it.
I think that bringing people to justice like Bin Laden and ALzawari are important to keeping the American people focused on the task at hand, plus showing some real success.
The average Joe dosen't want to read statistics, theory or anything else......they just want cold hard real facts, esp the kind you can see or touch.
Just my opinon.......... TG
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