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JDN
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« Reply #800 on: December 28, 2011, 09:32:58 AM »

Frankly, as you indirectly pointed out, if Bremer did not make the foolish decision to disband the Iraqi Army, we wouldn't be needed in Iraq to maintain the peace.  I don't see him acknowledging that he made a "serious mistake". 

Another issue as this article points out is immunity.  "Naturally the U.S. had to insist on those immunities, which have been an essential feature of all Status of Forces Agreements we have signed over the past half century—including the one with Iraq."   We needed a clear agreement signed by Parliament otherwise downstream there could be problems.

I'm not against 20,000 troops remaining.  My point, as well as American's point is that I never heard a plea for us to stay.  I never heard, We (Iraq) will do whatever it takes, but "please stay".  No appreciation.  Instead, they kick us out and hurl insults at us.  Are we to stay against their government's will?  We have gone to extraordinary lengths to help Iraq, thousands of American's have died, we have spent a trillion dollars, and we have little thanks or anything else to show for it.  I, and most Americans are glad we are gone.  As CCP so succinctly put it, "If Iraq falls apart now - screw em."

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #801 on: December 28, 2011, 09:48:03 AM »

Never heard a plea to stay?

Lets try this again:

A)

By AYAD ALLAWI, OSAMA AL-NUJAIFI and RAFE AL-ESSAWI
Published: December 27, 2011

IRAQ today stands on the brink of disaster. President Obama kept his campaign pledge to end the war here, but it has not ended the way anyone in Washington wanted. The prize, for which so many American soldiers believed they were fighting, was a functioning democratic and nonsectarian state. But Iraq is now moving in the opposite direction — toward a sectarian autocracy that carries with it the threat of devastating civil war.

Since Iraq’s 2010 election, we have witnessed the subordination of the state to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s Dawa party, the erosion of judicial independence, the intimidation of opponents and the dismantling of independent institutions intended to promote clean elections and combat corruption. All of this happened during the Arab Spring, while other countries were ousting dictators in favor of democracy. Iraq had a chance to demonstrate, for the first time in the modern Middle East, that political power could peacefully pass between political rivals following proper elections. Instead, it has become a battleground of sects, in which identity politics have crippled democratic development.

We are leaders of Iraqiya, the political coalition that won the most seats in the 2010 election and represents more than a quarter of all Iraqis. We do not think of ourselves as Sunni or Shiite, but as Iraqis, with a constituency spanning the entire country. We are now being hounded and threatened by Mr. Maliki, who is attempting to drive us out of Iraqi political life and create an authoritarian one-party state.

In the past few weeks, as the American military presence ended, another military force moved in to fill the void. Our homes and offices in Baghdad’s Green Zone were surrounded by Mr. Maliki’s security forces. He has laid siege to our party, and has done so with the blessing of a politicized judiciary and law enforcement system that have become virtual extensions of his personal office. He has accused Iraq’s vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, of terrorism; moved to fire Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq; and sought to investigate one of us, Rafe al-Essawi, for specious links to insurgents — all immediately after Mr. Maliki returned to Iraq from Washington, wrongly giving Iraqis the impression that he’d been given carte blanche by the United States to do so.

After Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. urged all parties to maintain a unity government on Dec. 16, Mr. Maliki threatened to form a government that completely excluded Iraqiya and other opposition voices. Meanwhile, Mr. Maliki is welcoming into the political process the Iranian-sponsored Shiite militia group Asaib Ahl al-Haq, whose leaders kidnapped and killed five American soldiers and murdered four British hostages in 2007.

It did not have to happen this way. The Iraqi people emerged from the bloody and painful transition after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime hoping for a brighter future. After the 2010 election, we felt there was a real opportunity to create a new Iraq that could be a model for the region. We needed the United States to protect the political process, to prevent violations of the Constitution and to help develop democratic institutions.

For the sake of stability, Iraqiya agreed to join the national unity government following a landmark power-sharing agreement reached a year ago in Erbil. However, for more than a year now Mr. Maliki has refused to implement this agreement, instead concentrating greater power in his own hands. As part of the Erbil agreement, one of us, Ayad Allawi, was designated to head a proposed policy council but declined this powerless appointment because Mr. Maliki refused to share any decision-making authority.

After the 2010 election, Mr. Maliki assumed the roles of minister of the interior, minister of defense and minister for national security. (He has since delegated the defense and national security portfolios to loyalists without parliamentary approval.) Unfortunately, the United States continued to support Mr. Maliki after he reneged on the Erbil agreement and strengthened security forces that operate without democratic oversight.

Now America is working with Iraqis to convene another national conference to resolve the crisis. We welcome this step and are ready to resolve our problems peacefully, using the Erbil agreement as a starting point. But first, Mr. Maliki’s office must stop issuing directives to military units, making unilateral military appointments and seeking to influence the judiciary; his national security adviser must give up complete control over the Iraqi intelligence and national security agencies, which are supposed to be independent institutions but have become a virtual extension of Mr. Maliki’s Dawa party; and his Dawa loyalists must give up control of the security units that oversee the Green Zone and intimidate political opponents.

The United States must make clear that a power-sharing government is the only viable option for Iraq and that American support for Mr. Maliki is conditional on his fulfilling the Erbil agreement and dissolving the unconstitutional entities through which he now rules. Likewise, American assistance to Iraq’s army, police and intelligence services must be conditioned on those institutions being representative of the nation rather than one sect or party.

For years, we have sought a strategic partnership with America to help us build the Iraq of our dreams: a nationalist, liberal, secular country, with democratic institutions and a democratic culture. But the American withdrawal may leave us with the Iraq of our nightmares: a country in which a partisan military protects a sectarian, self-serving regime rather than the people or the Constitution; the judiciary kowtows to those in power; and the nation’s wealth is captured by a corrupt elite rather than invested in the development of the nation.

We are glad that your brave soldiers have made it home for the holidays and we wish them peace and happiness. But as Iraq once again teeters on the brink, we respectfully ask America’s leaders to understand that unconditional support for Mr. Maliki is pushing Iraq down the path to civil war.

Unless America acts rapidly to help create a successful unity government, Iraq is doomed.

Ayad Allawi, leader of the Iraqiya coalition, was Iraq’s prime minister from 2004-5. Osama al-Nujaifi is the speaker of the Iraqi Parliament. Rafe al-Essawi is Iraq’s finance minister.

B0 

"It did not have to be this way. Last year, American military commanders recommended retaining a minimum of 20,000 troops after 2011 to maintain stability. Quiet diplomacy had secured the agreement of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani not to oppose a continued American presence. That gave Mr. Maliki maneuvering room with his Islamist followers.

"But this summer, extensive leaks in Washington made clear that the administration was prepared to consider a residual force of only 3,000. Such a force would be barely sufficient to provide for its own protection, let alone carry out the three necessary security tasks. This was understood in Baghdad—but how could an Iraqi leader ask for more troops than the U.S. government was offering? They could only conclude that the American government was not serious about staying on.

"The administration compounded the problem with its approach to the question of immunities for our troops if they were to stay on. Naturally the U.S. had to insist on those immunities, which have been an essential feature of all Status of Forces Agreements we have signed over the past half century—including the one with Iraq. This issue was sensitive for Iraqi politicians but the American approach made it impossible by insisting that the Iraqi Parliament, not just the government, had to approve any immunities."
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JDN
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« Reply #802 on: December 28, 2011, 10:15:29 AM »

I'm sure a few people in Iraq gave a plea for us to stay, but they are hard to hear among the roar of "get out". 

But the majority, the Iraqi government, their freely elected Prime Minister have wanted us out for a long time.  Even before Obama was elected, when asked in and interview with SPIEGEL when he thinks US troops should leave Iraq, Maliki responded "as soon as possible, as far as we are concerned."  Note Maliki was freely elected by the people of Iraq; someone we supported, a man Bush in particular supported. 

America is hated in the Middle East - I think on this forum in particular that fact is known.  Why stay where you are not wanted, but hated? 

Sorry, but I think you can find article after article confirming the Iraqi government's and the people of Iraq saying "get out" or much much worse. 

I'ld rather not "try this again", lose more American lives or spend another trillion dollars.  Instead, I am happy we got out. 
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DougMacG
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« Reply #803 on: December 28, 2011, 10:25:25 AM »

What do they call it, 2 wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner? Or is it one wolf and 2 sheep with the wolf counting the votes - same outcome.

"if Bremer did not make the foolish decision to disband the Iraqi Army, we wouldn't be needed in Iraq to maintain the peace."

There never was some easy answer for all of this.

"I'm not against 20,000 troops remaining."

Yes, that is the concept. Pull back, but maintain some presence and some readiness.  Dems used to argue for pulling our troops to the 'horizon', not complete abandonment.

"If Iraq falls apart now - screw em."

Iraq is globally strategic.  If Iraq falls apart, we are all screwed. What we fear from Iran is twice as large and more than twice as dangerous when Iran dominates Iraq.

"I never heard a plea for us to stay"

See Crafty's Allawi post!  

"For years, we have sought a strategic partnership with America to help us build the Iraq of our dreams: a nationalist, liberal, secular country, with democratic institutions and a democratic culture. But the American withdrawal may leave us with the Iraq of our nightmares: a country in which a partisan military protects a sectarian, self-serving regime rather than the people or the Constitution; the judiciary kowtows to those in power; and the nation’s wealth is captured by a corrupt elite rather than invested in the development of the nation...Unless America acts rapidly to help create a successful unity government, Iraq is doomed."

We didn't hear?  Or we didn't listen?
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ccp
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« Reply #804 on: December 28, 2011, 11:29:10 AM »

"Give me a list of nations, historically, with a moral imperative similar to the US."

Wait a second.  Are you saying morality was invented by the US?

The concept of kindness to one's neighbor and that war is evil is hardly new.

 am not clear why you are going off that this country is suddenly assigned with a global moral crusade.

As for,
 the argument that Bush senior made a mistake in not finishing the job and  not being new is of course correct.

I pointed out in previous posts how he dangerously put the US in the position of losing its independence in taking action by making precedents that we can no longer unilaterally act (whether in our best interests or not) without the aproval of "the international community" much of which was a crock anyway since it takes bribes to get many countries on board with the US anyway.
Iraq is globally strategic.  If Iraq falls apart, we are all screwed. What we fear from Iran is twice as large and more than twice as


I posted how George Will pointed this out during the first invasion.  Certainly he was not alone in seeing this as even I could see it a mile away.  Crafty points out that Bush had promises to keep with this coalition thing.

That said there may not have been a right answer as to whether we should have removed Saddam the first time as a power vacuum would have ensued, and possibly Iran moved in.  Who knows?

Doug writes,
"Iraq is globally strategic.  If Iraq falls apart, we are all screwed. What we fear from Iran is twice as large and more than twice as dangerous when Iran dominates Iraq.

The two main problems for us:

Oil and proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Our country has truly failed to deal with both.  There is no hope for either with Brockster in charge.

It is too late for a country like Pakistan.  I don't know about Iran.  Bockster is changing his tune now tht he needs wealthy Jewish donations for his re-election.  All of a sudden with an election in 12 he is showing signs of intention to either use military force in Iran or allow Isarel to do so.  OTOH perhaps this was part of the strategy in pulling out of Iraq.  To better concentrate on Iran.  Who knows.  But I wish to God my fellow Jews would stop supporting this liberal.  But 75-80% are wedded to the Democratic party.  Brockster has taken away Jews worry about Iran by putting on the tale the military card.  It is about time.  But this all has the appearance of a polticial move to help his re election. 




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ccp
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« Reply #805 on: January 04, 2012, 11:33:00 AM »

IN follow up to my post above let me place my thoughts into my own perspective:

I remember hearing and seeing the events in Somalia and thinking why can't we do something to help these people some of whom are starving.  Bush senior wanted to do a humanitarian deed and look what happened.

Then we had the stories of Saddam continuing to leak out.  The sheer terror and the cruelty was beyond description.  I thought how can we not do something.  I didn't even care about the WMD.  I thought justice was enough of a reason to try to help stop the inhumanity.

We all know the rest.

I guess my point is we cannot always help.  We cannot change people.  There comes a point where we have to just step back and say it is YOUR responsibility.

I guess every situation is somewhat unique and we can go on hand wringing forever.

I just think most Americans think we did our best in Iraq and it is time to say it is up to them to do the right thing.  IT could break up into Syunni Shia and Kurd.  It could get dominated by Iran.  Who knows?
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ccp
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« Reply #806 on: January 04, 2012, 11:39:34 AM »

OTOH look what happened in BosniaSerbia.  Dole who pushed for air attacks then actually implemented with Clinton - luckily and a very big luckily - it worked.  Without our troops having to go in there we got rid of Milosiivich with some smart weapons.

But how do we know in advance this would work.

As for Libyia I don't know what to say.  30K died.  We could easily have assasinated Khaddafi from day one.  We didn't because *we don't do that*.  So we dragged along a bunch of regular folks in a slower war for the same result.

Of course we got to know them and of course leaders arose who can hopefully fill the void with a humane society. undecided tongue
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #807 on: January 04, 2012, 11:47:19 AM »

Helping the people agaisnt the savagery of SH was but one of the reasons we went in. 

Geopolitical factors were another reason.  Amongst the variables in this regard was the benefit of sitting on Iran's western border should it be necessary to prevent them from going nuclear.  This variable remains quite pertinent, but IMHO we have made a major mistake in throwing this away.

Another reason was to drain the swamp of the political stagnation of Arab world which enabled and stimulated Islamic Fascism and for Iraq to set an example of what an Arab country could accomplish.  I count my memory as being amongst those who remember the great joy in which the elections we enabled were held.  However this too has been thrown away by a president who has clearly signalled we are getting the F out of there, regardless of the promises we have made. 

The whilrlwinds of change that we see in the region now I think would have a far more promising quality than what we see now if we were to have stood strong and clear in our commitments in the aftermath of the Surge.
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ccp
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« Reply #808 on: January 04, 2012, 12:08:48 PM »

"Amongst the variables in this regard was the benefit of sitting on Iran's western border should it be necessary to prevent them from going nuclear"

Certainly that would have given us the access better than from Carriers alone - Turkey doesn't seem to want to get involved.

To me it is *extraordinarily* curious who suddenly, suddenly, we are actually hearing some whispering about military force from the military under the Brockster.  Why now?

Indeed it seems more bizzare to hear that now that we did move most of our guys out of neighboring Iraq.

We are certainly not getting the behind the scenes information to understand this.  It certainly has the appearance of wagging the tale from a desperate guy in the WH - no?

Does anyone know what to make of this?

(Please just don't quote Farreed the Zakaria who is just a buddy of Brock doing his utmost best to make the One look like he is still the great one.)
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prentice crawford
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« Reply #809 on: January 05, 2012, 11:39:16 PM »

1 of 13 photos

http://news.yahoo.com/photos/dozens-dead-in-iraq-bomb-attacks-1325774158-slideshow/iraqi-security-forces-people-seen-smashed-glass-damaged-photo-130300744.html#


Scores killed in Iraq bombings targeting Shiites
By ADAM SCHRECK | AP – 9 hrs ago
Article: Timeline: Deadliest attacks in Iraq in last year
16 hrs ago
BAGHDAD (AP) — An apparently coordinated wave of bombings targeting Shiite Muslims killed at least 78 people in Iraq on Thursday, the second large-scale assault by militants since U.S. forces pulled out last month.
The attacks, which bore the hallmarks of Sunni insurgents, come ahead of a Shiite holy day that draws hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from across Iraq, raising fears of a deepening of sectarian bloodshed. Rifts along the country's Sunni-Shiite faultline just a few years ago pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war.
The bombings in Baghdad and outside the southern city of Nasiriyah appeared to be the deadliest in Iraq in more than a year.
Thursday's blasts occurred at a particularly unstable time for Iraq's fledgling democracy. A broad-based unity government designed to include the country's main factions is mired in a political crisis pitting politicians from the Shiite majority now in power against the Sunni minority, which reigned supreme under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.
Some Iraqis blame that political discord for the lethal strikes.
"We hold the government responsible for these attacks. They (the politicians) are bickering over their seats and these poor people are killed in these blasts," said Baghdad resident Ali Qassim not long after the first bomb went off.
The attacks began during Baghdad's morning rush hour when explosions struck the capital's largest Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City and another district that contains a Shiite shrine, killing at least 30 people, according to police.
Several hours later, a suicide attack hit pilgrims heading to the Shiite holy city of Karbala, killing 48, police said. The explosions took place near Nasiriyah, about 200 miles (320 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad.
Hospital officials confirmed the causalities. Authorities spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release figures of the dead and wounded, who numbered more than 100.
The blasts occurred in the run-up to Arbaeen, a holy day that marks the end of 40 days of mourning following the anniversary of the death of Imam Hussein, a revered Shiite figure. During this time, Shiite pilgrims — many on foot — make their way across Iraq to Karbala, south of Baghdad.

Baghdad military spokesman Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said the aim of the attacks is "to create turmoil among the Iraqi people." He said it was too early to say who was behind the bombings.
Coordinated attacks aimed at Shiites are a tactic frequently used by Sunni insurgents.
The last U.S. combat troops left Iraq on Dec. 18, ending a nearly nine-year war. Many Iraqis worry that a resurgence of Sunni and Shiite militancy could follow the Americans' withdrawal. In 2006, a Sunni attack on a Shiite shrine triggered a wave of sectarian violence that pushed the country to the brink of civil war.
"People have real fears that the cycle of violence might be revived in this country," said Tariq Annad, a 52-year-old government employee in Sadr City, after Thursday's bombings.
Attacks on Wednesday targeted the homes of police officers and a member of a government-allied militia. Those strikes, in the cities of Baqouba and Abu Ghraib outside Baghdad, killed four people, including two children, officials said.
Two weeks earlier, militants killed at least 69 people as a wave of bombs ripped through mostly Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad. An al-Qaida front group in Iraq claimed responsibility.
Iraq's political mess is providing further ammunition for extremists.
Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government issued an arrest warrant for the country's top Sunni politician last month. The Sunni official, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, is holed up in Iraq's semiautonomous Kurdish region in the north — effectively out of reach of state security forces.
Al-Maliki's main political rival, the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc, is boycotting parliament sessions and Cabinet meetings to protest what its members say are efforts by the government to consolidate power.
Gala Riani, a Middle East analyst at IHS Global Insight, said the political storm feeds into Sunni fears they could be marginalized by the Shiite-dominated government — worries that Sunni militants are trying to exploit.
"The political crisis has set up a perfect scenario for Sunni militants to re-establish themselves," she said. "It's very sectarian in nature and gives them fuel for their fire."
While the political showdown appears far from being resolved, there are tentative signs of progress.
Al-Maliki met Thursday with the Sunni speaker of parliament, Osama al-Nujaifi, a member of al-Hashemi's Iraqiya party. In televised comments afterward, they described the talks as positive and said they will work to find a way out of the crisis.
Earlier, both men condemned Thursday's bombings.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland also denounced the "terrorist violence" in Iraq and called the attacks "desperate attempts by the same kind of folk who've been active in Iraq trying to turn back the clock."
Britain's Foreign Office minister for the Middle East and North Africa, Alistair Burt, urged Iraq's leaders to renew their efforts to break the political impasse.
Meanwhile, six Iraqiya lawmakers broke ranks with their party over the boycott by attending a parliament session. Ahmed al-Jubouri, one of the Iraqiya lawmakers who participated, said he did so to "encourage all blocs to sit together and open dialogue."
___
Associated Press writers Sameer N. Yacoub, Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Mazin Yahya in Baghdad, and David Stringer in London contributed to this report.
                             
 
                                                   P.C.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #810 on: January 24, 2012, 12:21:54 AM »

Summary

A Sunni-Shia standoff has taken shape in Iraq following the U.S. military
withdrawal. While the Sunnis are looking to such outside actors as the United States
and Turkey to intervene on their behalf, Iran continues to hold more influence in
Iraq than any other country. Ideally, Tehran would like to keep Iraq in a manageable
state of instability. Indeed, Tehran will have to perform a delicate balancing act
in resolving the Shia-Sunni standoff, helping its Shia proxies enough to retain its
influence but preventing them from becoming too powerful.

Analysis

Iraq's political, ethnic and sectarian groups saw the December 2011 U.S. military
departure as an opportunity to grab for power. Even Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri
al-Maliki tried to capitalize on the U.S. departure, as evidenced by his attempted
arrest of Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, the country's highest-ranking Sunni
official, on terrorism-related charges. Al-Hashimi evaded arrest by fleeing to
northern Iraq's Kurdish enclave, under the auspices of Iraqi President Jalal
Talabani.

The incident has created a standoff between al-Maliki's Shia-dominated government
and the country's Sunnis, represented by the al-Iraqiya bloc, and has exacerbated
tensions between the Iraqi and Kurdish governments. It has also exposed rifts
between al-Maliki and the movement led by Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, which
holds more seats in parliament than any other Shiite political group.

While the Sunnis have sought Turkish and U.S. political assistance in the matter,
Ankara and Washington have markedly less influence in Iraq than Tehran. In fact,
Iran has been trying to assuage tensions in Iraq, as shown by its appointing senior
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force commander Gen. Sardar Majidi to mediate
the Sunni-Shia standoff. The challenge for Tehran is to ensure a resolution of the
current crisis without empowering the Sunnis.

In similar past situations Iran has played one faction off the other, maintaining
its influence over Iraq's Shia community without weakening the Shia position
overall. Despite being competitors, both al-Maliki's and al-Sadr's factions realize
they need to work with one another. But the current situation is slightly different
than those of the past. Iran not only has to secure Shiite unity but also make sure
al-Maliki's moves against the Sunnis do not go too far. Iran cannot afford to
alienate the Sunnis entirely, especially with so much uncertainty in Syria. Should
the Alawite government in Damascus give way to Sunni government -- or if there is
anarchy -- Iraqi Sunnis could feel so empowered as to confront the Shia who
currently dominate Baghdad.

Unchecked instability in Iraq is not in Iran's interest, especially now that
Tehran's influence in Syria is threatened. In truth, the current situation in
Baghdad is ideal for the Iranians, considering it took nine months for Iraqis to
create a government after the March 7, 2010, parliamentary elections. However,
managed Iraqi instability is useful for Iran because it keeps Iraq within Iran's
sphere of influence -- and because it can be used as leverage against the United
States. But if such instability threatens Shia political domination, Tehran would
have to intervene to ensure that its foreign policy interests were not undermined. 

Another problem is that Tehran's interests differ from those of its various Shia
proxies. While Iran certainly has influence over Iraq's Shia community, this
influence is limited by differences within Iraq's Shia factions. In fact, the
leaders of Iraq's two main Shia factions, al-Maliki and al-Sadr, on several
occasions have tried to free themselves from Iranian influence. Al-Maliki attempted
to do so when he formed the State of Law coalition and contested the parliamentary
elections independently of the Iraqi National Alliance. As al-Maliki tightens his
control over Iraq -- he is the acting interior minister, defense minister and
national security chief -- Iran is careful not to see him become too powerful or
allow him to upset the balance Tehran has been trying to maintain.

Interestingly, Iran was instrumental in al-Maliki's winning the Iraqi premiership.
He was able to win the post because of his post-election partnership with the Iraqi
National Alliance. This partnership formed a super Shia bloc that collectively won
159 seats, allowing al-Maliki to prevent his biggest rival, al-Iraqiya leader Iyad
Allawi, from becoming prime minister. The Iranians were heavily involved in this
post-election engineering.

Al-Maliki also was aided by support from his Shia rivals, whom he could not afford
to alienate. If his Sunni opponents were to somehow persuade these opponents to
abandon their support of al-Maliki, they might be able to remove him. But al-Maliki
is betting his rivals will refrain from going that far, lest they want to undertake
the daunting task of forming a new government. This gives him much leverage. Already
he is operating outside parliamentary bounds by establishing an executive branch
with sweeping powers, which is exactly the type of scenario Iran wants to avoid.

Iran has the option of working with the Kurds, who also have close ties to Tehran.
However, if the Sunnis realize that the Iranians and their Iraqi Shia allies are on
the defensive, they will try to gain more political power. In essence, the Iranians
would have to oversee a fresh power-sharing understanding in Baghdad.

A Sunni-Shia standoff has taken shape in Iraq following the U.S. military
withdrawal. While the Sunnis are looking to such outside actors as the United States
and Turkey to intervene on their behalf, Iran continues to hold more influence in
Iraq than any other country. Ideally, Tehran would like to keep Iraq in a manageable
state of instability. Indeed, Tehran will have to perform a delicate balancing act
in resolving the Shia-Sunni standoff, helping its Shia proxies enough to retain its
influence but preventing them from becoming too powerful.

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #811 on: January 29, 2012, 06:27:17 AM »


When the last American troops came home from Iraq in December, thousands of Iraqis who had worked with the Americans were left behind. Many have already been targeted by militants, and some had taken refuge on American military bases. But once the bases were closed — or handed over to the Iraqi government — those Iraqis were forced into hiding. Unless Washington lives up to its moral obligation, many more will suffer or be killed.

The Special Immigrant Visa program was enacted by Congress in 2007 for Iraqis who helped the military, other parts of the American government and military contractors. It authorized 5,000 special visas annually — but only 3,317 were granted through 2011. Iraqis who aided American non-governmental organizations and media outlets can apply under the refugee program and are also having a hard time. But the special visa program has the worst delays.

Because of security vetting, processing has always been slow. The programs came to a near halt last year when two Iraqis living in Kentucky were charged with providing arms and money to Al Qaeda. The Obama administration then imposed additional security checks on all applicants. Approval in the Special Immigrant Visa program is now taking at least a year.

The American government never kept track of how many Iraqis it employed, so no one knows how many thousands of Iraqis are potentially eligible for admission. It is unclear exactly how many thousands of those Iraqis have visa applications pending. The administration refused to disclose a number last week.

Last July, the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project at the Urban Justice Center, a nonprofit, put the estimate at 62,000 Iraqis, including 29,000 who worked for the Americans, plus their family members. The group now says it has been told that 19,000 cases were dropped from the process, perhaps because people went into hiding, or they were just lost track of. The Philadelphia Inquirer recently used a figure of 15,000 Special Immigrant Visa applicants.

The United States has a responsibility to rigorously screen visa applicants and ensure they pose no threat to this country. The process needs to be transparent and accountable — and it needs to work expeditiously.

Today, Iraq is more stable than it was at the height of the violence, but with American troops gone, sectarianism and bloodshed are on the rise. The State Department is concerned enough about safety trends that this month it again formally warned Americans against all but essential travel to Iraq. There should be as much concern for the Iraqis who risked their lives to work with Americans — and are still living there and still at risk.

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prentice crawford
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« Reply #812 on: January 29, 2012, 12:22:01 PM »

Woof,
 Oh that war is so yesterday, out of sight and out of mind. Sure, a few million unarmed civilians will ultimately be slaughtered because Obama wanted to make his "anti war", "peace at any cost" base happy by surrendering Iraq just before an election, but it will be spread out over the next ten to twenty years, so no one will really notice, and those deaths really don't count anyway since a real war has troops on both sides. It's the same logic used by the Left during Vietnam. Bygones.
                                                                              P..C.
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« Reply #813 on: May 10, 2012, 08:50:14 AM »

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/09/colin-powell-book_n_1503592.html

Bush insisted in his own 2010 memoir, "Decision Points," that the invasion was something he came to support only reluctantly and after a long period of reflection. During his book tour, he even cast himself as “a dissenting voice” in the run-up to war. “I didn't wanna use force,” he said.

But Powell supports the increasingly well-documented conclusion that there was actually no decision-making point -- or decision-making process -- during the events between the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, which had nothing to do with those attacks.
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« Reply #814 on: May 13, 2012, 10:19:57 AM »

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/world/middleeast/us-may-scrap-costly-effort-to-train-iraqi-police.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1

"A lesson given by an American police instructor to a class of Iraqi trainees neatly encapsulated the program’s failings. There are two clues that could indicate someone is planning a suicide attack, the instructor said: a large bank withdrawal and heavy drinking."

-----     -----
You may recall me ranting about exactly this sort of stuff over the past few years.

Ironically, the USIP guy mentioned in the article, Bob Perito, is somebody I mentioned this sort of stuff to a couple of months back. He seemed to disbelieve me (or didn't seem especially interested). I guess maybe the NY Times a huntin' changed his public tune?
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« Reply #815 on: May 26, 2012, 08:47:45 AM »

http://www.michaelyon-online.com/letter-to-president-obama-in-reference-to-ali-musa-daqduq.htm
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« Reply #816 on: June 08, 2012, 12:15:30 PM »

The Newest Oil Exporter? Iraq

We heard the "no blood for oil" refrain from the Left the entire time we were in Iraq, but the fact is that oil is a national security issue. Iraq has rebuilt its oil infrastructure to a degree that they are now exporting 2.5 million barrels per day, which is driving the price down world wide. This rebound comes in handy as neighboring Iran deals with Western sanctions beginning in July.

The Iraqi government has ambitious plans to export 10 million barrels a day within the next five years. While outside experts think that's a bit of a stretch, six million barrels a day is realistic -- and that's more than double Iraq's current output. It would give the war-torn nation an opportunity for prosperity after decades of unrest under Saddam Hussein's regime, as oil is practically the only source of revenue for Iraq. Even though there's potential for the United States to increase its oil output to a point that Middle Eastern oil would be nearly unnecessary for importation, Western companies, including Exxon Mobil, aren't hesitating to invest in Iraq, and its output, as mentioned before, plays a significant role in prices.
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DougMacG
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« Reply #817 on: June 08, 2012, 06:35:31 PM »

"We heard the "no blood for oil" refrain from the Left the entire time we were in Iraq, but the fact is that oil is a national security issue."

I believe the blood for oil argument was upside down.  The short term effect was the opposite.  Saddam was producing oil.  Doing what we thought was the right thing to do for humanity and for security involved a war and a disruption.  It never was any kind of attempt to take their oil fields for our own purposes as was suggested by opponents of the war.  We don't even buy their oil at market price but we benefit as everyone else does from them returning to the supply market - and no longer threatening to take over gulf states like Kuwait and Saudi.
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« Reply #818 on: June 22, 2012, 04:09:48 PM »



http://pjmedia.com/blog/what%e2%80%99s-happening-in-iraq-after-the-u-s-withdrawal/?singlepage=true
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« Reply #819 on: June 30, 2012, 02:38:09 PM »

One of the key missions of this forum is to provide a sense of persepective over time and the ability to pull things up out of the Orwellian memory holes in which those who seek to rule us would put them out of our sight.

Michael Yon recently reminded his readers of this report from seven years ago in Iraq
================

http://www.michaelyon-online.com/the-battle-for-mosul.htm
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« Reply #820 on: July 07, 2012, 01:59:20 PM »

Here is my brief review of the book written shortly after its publication:

Brilliant, Concise and Cogent...

June 18, 2008

In this thoroughly researched and heavily footnoted book, Horowitz and Johnson set forth and explicate with exacting precision the relentless campaign the American Left and the Democratic Party have pursued to discredit George W. Bush and the War on Islamic Fascism. Unfortunately many, if not most Americans have forgotten the details of how the Democrats and the Left have undermined our country's response to Islamic radicals beginning with the Carter administration.

The authors clearly organize their thesis into 5 sections: The Path to 9-11, The Response to 9-11, Why America Went to War, The War Against the War, and Conclusion. They demonstrate with unassailable factual narrative how Presidents Carter and Clinton, in concert with an anti-war leftist establishment and willing accomplices both in the mainstream media and the Democratic Party refused to confront our enemies, leading inexorably to the 9-11 attacks.

This was itself inexcusable, but it was unfortunately only a prelude to the shocking and unprecedented betrayal of our forces in the field - first in Afghanistan, then in Iraq. The Democrats first voted to authorize military action in Iraq using the same intelligence information the President had at his disposal, and then not only rescinded their support of our military while they were actively engaged in battle, but launched a full-scale political attack on their commander-in-chief, branding him a liar and a war criminal. This despicable and treasonous behavior has fractured America's resolve, damaged our troops' morale, and weakened the President's ability to prosecute the war. Top-ranking Democratic leaders have demonstrated by their statements and actions that they fail utterly to understand the nature of this war and its implications.

Every American owes it to themselves to become familiar with this material so that they can combat the misinformation campaign being waged internally - if unwittingly by some - on behalf of our enemies. Horowitz and Johnson have produced a tour de force analysis of what is quite possibly the most serious political betrayal in American history.
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"You have enemies?  Good.  That means that you have stood up for something, sometime in your life." - Winston Churchill.
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« Reply #821 on: July 07, 2012, 02:40:11 PM »

"They demonstrate with unassailable factual narrative..."    huh huh huh
surely you joke?

"...fractured America's resolve, damaged our troops' morale, and weakened the President's ability to prosecute the war."   

Thank the Lord; otherwise even more Americans would have been killed for naught.  You seem to forget, it's the American People who overwhelmingly wanted this/these worthless and pointless war(s) to end.  Thousands upon thousands have needlessly died, our daily life profoundly changed for the worse, it has drained our economy, billions upon billions, probably trillions of dollars has been spent all for what?  As I, and I think most Americans agree, these prolonged wars in the Middle East have been a terrible terrible mistake.

Further, opposing the wars or our President's policies is neither "despicable or treasonous", but rather our patriotic duty if we disagree with policy; this freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Constitution.

Odd, I note while Obama is our Commander in Chief, Republicans have no problem criticizing him.   
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« Reply #822 on: July 09, 2012, 12:08:27 PM »

Iraq says al Qaeda members crossing into Syria

By Sylvia Westall

BAGHDAD | Thu Jul 5, 2012 2:09pm BST

(Reuters) - Iraq has "solid information" that al Qaeda militants are crossing from Iraq into Syria to carry out attacks and has sent reinforcements to the border, the foreign minister said on Thursday.  (More at link)

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/07/05/uk-syria-crisis-iraq-qaeda-idUKBRE8640DK20120705
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« Reply #823 on: July 09, 2012, 01:19:08 PM »

"Further, opposing the wars or our President's policies is neither "despicable or treasonous", but rather our patriotic duty if we disagree with policy; this freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Constitution. Odd, I note while Obama is our Commander in Chief, Republicans have no problem criticizing him."

JDN:

This is really, really tedious.  Please do not waste our time with such specious nonsense.  This is NOT what I said.  I clearly delineated loyal dissent and disloyal acts.  As examples of the latter, I specified Pravda on the Hudson and Pravda on the Beach revealing secret military programs. 
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« Reply #824 on: July 09, 2012, 01:31:02 PM »

"Further, opposing the wars or our President's policies is neither "despicable or treasonous", but rather our patriotic duty if we disagree with policy; this freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Constitution. Odd, I note while Obama is our Commander in Chief, Republicans have no problem criticizing him."

JDN:

This is really, really tedious.  Please do not waste our time with such specious nonsense.  This is NOT what I said.  I clearly delineated loyal dissent and disloyal acts.  As examples of the latter, I specified Pravda on the Hudson and Pravda on the Beach revealing secret military programs. 

Tedious perhaps, I disagree, but here nor there, I was not referring to anything you said.  I was quoting from Objectivist1's, "Brilliant, Concise, Cogent"  huh   review of Horowitz and Johnson's book posted immediately prior to my response.
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« Reply #825 on: July 26, 2012, 06:49:31 AM »

It doesn't seem to be gathering much attention, but I'm noticing what seems to me a lot of reports of bombing and killing Iraq.

Is AQ reactivating in the vacuum left by Baraq's bug out?

I'm seeing suggestions that AQ and its ilk are behind much of the fight against Assad in Syria too.
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DougMacG
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« Reply #826 on: July 26, 2012, 02:40:53 PM »

Iraqi Ironies

Victor Davis Hanson

Jul 26, 2012


Amid all the stories about the ongoing violence in Syria, the most disturbing is the possibility that Syrian President Bashar Assad could either deploy the arsenal of chemical and biological weapons that his government claims it has, or provide it to terrorists.

There are suggestions that at least some of Assad's supposed stockpile may have come from Saddam Hussein's frantic, 11th-hour efforts in 2002 to hide his own weapons of mass destruction arsenals in nearby Syria. Various retired Iraqi military officers have alleged as much. Although the story was met with general neglect or scorn from the U.S. media, the present director of national intelligence, James Clapper, long ago asserted his belief in such a weapons transfer.

The Bush administration fixated on WMD in justifying the invasion of Iraq while largely ignoring more than 20 other writs to remove Saddam, as authorized by Congress in October 2002. That obsession would come back to haunt George W. Bush when stockpiles of deployable WMD failed to turn up in postwar Iraq. By 2006, "Bush lied; thousands died" was the serial charge of the antiwar left. But before long, such depots may finally turn up in Syria.

Another staple story of the last decade was the inept management of the Iraq reconstruction. Many Americans understandably questioned how civilian and military leaders allowed a brilliant three-week victory over Saddam to degenerate into a disastrous five-year insurgency before the surge finally salvaged Iraq. That fighting and reconstruction anywhere in the Middle East are difficult under any circumstances was forgotten. The press preferred instead to charge that the singular incompetence or malfeasance of Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld led to the unnecessary costs in American blood and treasure.

But perhaps that scenario needs an update as well. Journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran's new book, "Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan," is a blistering critique of the Obama administration's three-year conduct of the Afghanistan war and its decision to surge troops, chronicling stupid decisions, petty infighting, arrogance and naiveté. In an earlier book on Iraq, Chandrasekaran had alleged that America's Iraq dilemmas were the result of a similarly bungling Bush administration.

So was the know-it-all reporter right then about Iraq, or is he right now about Afghanistan, or neither, or both? And will the media revise their earlier criticism and concede that America's problems in conducting difficult wars in the Middle East are inherent in the vast differences between cultures -- fault lines that likewise have baffled even Barack Hussein Obama, the acclaimed internationalist and Nobel laureate who was supposed to be singularly sensitive to customs in that part of the world?

In 2008, we were told that predator drone attacks, renditions, preventative detentions, military tribunals, the Guantanamo detention center and the surging of troops into difficult wars were all emblematic of Bush's disdain for the Constitution and his overall ineptness as a commander in chief. In 2012, these same continuing protocols are no such thing, but instead valuable antiterrorism tools, and seen as such by President Obama.

For all the biases and incompetence of Nouri al-Maliki's elected government in Iraq, the Middle East's worst dictatorship now seems to have become the region's most stable constitutional government. Given Iraq's elections, the country was relatively untouched by the mass "Arab Spring" uprisings. And despite sometimes deadly Sunni-Shiite terrorist violence and the resurgence of al Qaeda, Iraq's economy, compared with some of the other nations in the Middle East, is stable and expanding.

The overthrow of Saddam was also supposed to be a blunder in terms of grand strategy, empowering our enemies Iran and Syria. True, Saddam's ouster and the subsequent violence may have done that in the short term. But how about long-term, nine years later?

The Assad dynasty seems about to go the way of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, Tunisia's Zine El Abidine Bin Ali and Libya's Muammar Gadhafi. Syria's grand ally, Iran -- which barely put down popular demonstrations in 2009 -- has never been more isolated and beleaguered as it deals with sanctions, international ostracism and growing unpopularity at home.

Who knows whether Saddam's fall, trial and execution, coupled with the creation of an Iraqi constitutional government, triggered a slow chain reaction against similar Arab tyrannies.

The moral of the story is that history cannot be written as it unfolds. In the case of Iraq, we still don't know the full story of Saddam's WMD, the grand strategic effects of the Iraq war, the ripples from the creation of the Iraq republic, or the relative degree of incompetence of any American administration at war in the Middle East -- and we won't for many years to come.

http://townhall.com/columnists/victordavishanson/2012/07/26/iraqi_ironies
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« Reply #827 on: August 01, 2012, 04:04:18 PM »



The Sunni Terror Threat Beyond Iraq
For now the jihadists seem content to kill Shiites. Don't assume that will continue
By ROBIN SIMCOX

Imagine that an al Qaeda franchise emerged in a war-scarred nation with a fragile government. Imagine that this franchise launched sophisticated, coordinated attacks every four to six weeks, killing dozens—sometimes even hundreds—dwarfing the operational capacity of al Qaeda franchises in both Yemen and Somalia. Imagine it had between 800 to 1,000 individuals in its network, ranging from fighters to financiers to media operators.

This franchise would be labeled a "new front" in the War on Terror; a potentially catastrophic new threat to Western lives. Governments around the world would never dream of ignoring it.

Such a group exists today. It is called the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), and it was created in October 2006 out of the remnants of al Qaeda in Iraq. Last week the group's leader threatened Americans with attacks on U.S. soil, saying "our war with you has just begun." Hours later, the group killed more than 100 people in 40 coordinated bomb attacks in Iraq. Yet no government in the West seems in the least bit concerned. This attitude could come back to haunt us.

There are a variety of reasons for this relaxed attitude toward the ISI.

One lies in the ISI's parochialism. I recently analyzed two years of their press releases. The ISI is utterly obsessed with Iran and the "Safavid" threat (a reference to the Shiite Persian empire that ISI believes Iran is attempting to recreate). This is supported by my analysis of their intended targets of attack over the past year. Majority-Shiite areas were bombed in 86% of all major ISI attacks. When it came to ISI operations that solely targeted civilians, six out of seven attacks were aimed at Shiite-majority regions.

However, the ISI's parochialism by itself is not enough to justify ignoring it. After all, an entire wing of Somalia's al Shabaab leadership wants to focus on local, rather than global, jihad. Yet the U.S. has engaged significantly in that region on a whole range of fronts—politically, financially and militarily.

Strategic reasons also play a role. Having suffered major military defeats against Sunni tribes and the U.S. military in late 2006 and 2007, the ISI came to be regarded as a busted flush—defeated militarily and without legitimacy domestically.

In January 2011, al Qaeda's American spokesman Adam Gadahn confirmed that relations between the core and the ISI were "cut off for a number of years." A week before his death, bin Laden bemoaned the "scarcity" of correspondence with the ISI. Therefore, the ISI's fortunes are not necessarily connected to that of al Qaeda central.

That leaves the ISI's location as an explanation for the West's relative indifference. There is a great sense of Iraq fatigue in the West. The U.S. has only just managed to pull itself out the country. The last thing it wants to do is begin to think about threats from that country following the U.S. home.

Yet even this does not fully explain why the U.S. government seems so unconcerned. Despite the carnage the ISI had caused, the noises coming out of Washington last week were bordering on the delusional. U.S. officials said that the ISI remains "isolated," with its attacks not "having the desired effect." A White House spokesman said that Iraq's authorities can "handle their own security."

That is one way to look at it. Another would be that a country powerless to stop the monthly slaughter of its own citizens is not one that is "handling" its own security very effectively.

The U.S. government does not want the ISI to be a problem, because it knows—unlike in the cases of al Qaeda's affiliates in East Africa and Yemen—that there is precious little it can do about it. There is zero chance of the fallback play—armed Predator and Reaper drones—being used against militants in Iraq. Not only would it be an admission of complete strategic failure, it would fatally undermine the quasi-democracy that America helped bring about. Baghdad would fiercely object to the breach of its sovereignty. Despite eight years of blood and treasure expended, American political capital in Baghdad is disturbingly low.

President Obama oversaw an unexpectedly hasty withdrawal from Iraq, and subsequently the U.S. ceased being a significant political player. Intelligence-sharing between the countries has decreased, and there is only so much threat the U.S. military can pose to the ISI while operating out of a base in Kuwait. As a result, the U.S. can only stand idly by as the ISI murders by the hundred, attempts to reignite sectarian warfare, and explicitly threatens the American homeland.

It is tempting to believe that the U.S. and its allies can dismiss this. After all, sectarian violence in Iraq no longer threatens Western lives. We have been tempted into such delusions before. The last country with an al Qaeda presence that we ignored was called Afghanistan, and nearly 3,000 people died on 9/11 because of it. We may have lost interest in the Iraqi jihad. That does not mean it has lost interest in us.

Mr. Simcox is a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society.

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prentice crawford
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« Reply #828 on: August 19, 2012, 06:42:46 AM »

Woof,

http://news.yahoo.com/iraqis-helping-iran-skirt-sanctions-ny-times-004556825.html                  

....WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iraq has been helping Iran skirt economic sanctions imposed because of its nuclear program, using a network of financial institutions and oil-smuggling operations that are providing Tehran with a crucial flow of dollars, the New York Times said on Saturday.

In some case, Iraqi government officials are turning a blind eye to trade with Iran, while other officials in Baghdad are directly profiting from the activities -- with several of them having close ties to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, the Times said.

U.S. President Barack Obama acknowledged the problem last month when he barred a small Iraqi bank, the Elaf Islamic Bank, from any dealings with the American banking system, the newspaper said.

At the time, the president said that the bank had "facilitated transactions worth millions of dollars on behalf of Iranian banks that are subject to sanctions for their links to Iran's illicit proliferation activities."

And yet Iraqi banking experts told the Times that Elaf Islamic Bank was still participating in the Iraq Central Bank's daily auction at which commercial banks can sell Iraqi dinars and buy dollars. Through these auctions, Iran is able to bolster its reserve of dollars that are used to pay for much-needed imports.

The Times, citing sources in the Obama administration, current and former American and Iraqi officials and banking and oil experts, said Washington has privately complained to Iraqi officials about financial and logistical ties between Baghdad and Tehran.

In one recent instance, when Obama learned that the Iraqi government was aiding the Iranians by allowing them to use Iraqi airspace to ferry supplies to Syria, he called Maliki to complain, and Iranian planes then flew another route, the Times said.

Iranian organizations apparently have gained control over at least four Iraqi commercial banks through Iraqi intermediaries, which would gives Iran direct access to the international financial system, from which they are barred by the economic sanctions, the Times said.

The problem with illegal Iraq-Iran trade has become well-enough known in Baghdad that it has roiled Iraqi politics, the newspaper said.

"We want to question the central bank and the banks that are involved," Ali al-Sachri, a member of Parliament, told the Times. He said he was concerned that the huge dollar transfers threatened the economic stability of Iraq by depleting the country's foreign reserves.

Iran's ability to trade and the incoming flow of dollars is crucial to the country because the economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations and individual countries are squeezing its economy, the paper said.

(Writing by Philip Barbara; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)



P.C.
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ccp
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« Reply #829 on: August 19, 2012, 01:58:07 PM »

W's embracing of the neocons' concept of spreading democracy around the world is so far a decided failure for America's interests.

This is the thanks we get.

Reminds me of the thanks Jews get for being so worried about the underdogs.

Iraq was in retrospect a mistake.  Afghanistan, I don't know how long we keep this up.

The only good thing is perhaps the right can use this against the Dems 2016 pres candidate - hillary clinton.

Of course there are already trial balloons suggesting it ain't her Sec of State failures as much as Bamster's policies.   She is just doing his bidding and of course she has "privately" had great bouts of disagreements but she has just been the good soldier.

Oh she has had so many disgreements with the chosen "ONE".  If only she was in charge and not subject to carrying out his policies.

The Middle East would be a peaceful lake without a ripple......

So goes the spin from the Clintonites who are just drooling to get her in position for '16.  There is no way she won't run.
« Last Edit: August 19, 2012, 02:01:24 PM by ccp » Logged
Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #830 on: August 20, 2012, 06:04:30 AM »

Some deep questions are presented here; I apologize for not having the time and focus at this moment for writing an extended post with my thoughts at the moment, but I disagree with the notion that Iraq was a mistake.  IMHO Bush-Rumbo led the war poorly, many Dems and progressives and the Pravdas were disloyal in the nature of their opposition which had the effect of making the war much more difficult to wage successfully, and Baraq has thrown away what we did accomplish.  Furthermore one must ask what would be there now had we not gone in.  Reflect upon this.
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« Reply #831 on: August 25, 2012, 09:45:14 AM »

http://pjmedia.com/blog/increasing-iraq-violence-u-s-withdrawal-to-blame/?singlepage=true
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« Reply #832 on: September 05, 2012, 12:39:46 PM »

Pravda on the Hudson reports that Iran is using Iraqi air space to supply Syria  tongue
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« Reply #833 on: December 06, 2012, 07:41:28 AM »



http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/06/opinion/forgotten-in-iraq.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20121206
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« Reply #834 on: December 06, 2012, 07:45:57 AM »


This is exactly the sort of thing that enrages me.
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« Reply #835 on: December 26, 2012, 10:57:24 AM »

The Kurdish Alliance at Risk
August 16, 2012 | 1101 GMT

Summary
Stratfor


The alliance at the base of Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government is straining amid mounting regional tensions. Though the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan still benefit from maintaining their alliance, the underlying rifts between the two parties will widen as a broader competition intensifies between Turkey and Iran.
 

Analysis
 
The Kurdistan Democratic Party, led by Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, led by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, currently are renegotiating a 2005 power-sharing agreement. Signed following the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein, the agreement was essential in uniting Iraq's three Kurdish provinces under a single Kurdish administration. Prior to the agreement, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan administered the southeastern province of Sulaimaniyah while the Kurdistan Democratic Party administered the northwestern provinces of Arbil and Dahuk; party members kept to their respective domains.
 
Details surrounding the negotiations are unclear, but the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan apparently wants to revisit the 2005 agreement, which gave the two parties equal shares of power in the regional government. Provincial elections in 2009 upset the balance of power by strengthening the Goran party, a secular offshoot of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, as well as Islamist parties such as the Islamic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Islamic Group.
 
Over the past six months, Arbil residents have reported that many government institutions initially based in Sulaimaniyah have been relocated to Arbil as the Barzani clan has expanded its control at the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan's expense. Questions surrounding the health and succession of Talabani have also eroded the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan's power. Unsurprisingly, the Kurdistan Democratic Party wants to retain its advantage while the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan tries to shore up its position.
 
The Goran party's anti-corruption platform carries a lot of weight among Kurds who are disenchanted with corruption in the two leading parties. The Goran party's approval has increased, particularly within the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan's sphere of influence. Many Goran members are former Patriotic Union of Kurdistan officials. In fact, Goran party leader Nawshirwan Mustafa served as a Peshmerga commander and then as the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan's secretary-general from 1976-2006 before founding the Goran party in 2009. For many Kurdish youths and for disaffected members of the two leading parties, the Goran offers a fresher alternative.
 
The rise of the Goran party exposed the liability of a joint political ticket between the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan: Both parties are seen as stale and corrupt. While each party is trying to distance itself from the other, both parties are independently reaching out to the Goran party to try to form an alliance. The parties view such a potential cooperation as a way to improve their political image and ultimately undercut their long-time rival. With Kurdish politics in such flux, neither party cares to test the voters' will in fresh elections. In June, provincial elections were delayed for the fourth time -- this time indefinitely.
 
The External Factor
 
Internal fractures are endemic to Kurdish tribal politics. A mountainous territory has long given the Kurds refuge from surrounding enemies, but it also has cemented divisions in power and tradition between the more conservative, Kurmanji-speaking peoples of the northwest, where the Kurdistan Democratic Party has its power base, and the more left-leaning, secular Sorani-speaking peoples of the southwest, which is controlled by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.
 






.
 The natural divisions within the Kurdish landscape have allowed regional powers such as Turkey, Iran and Syria to prevent their substantial Kurdish populations from establishing a unified state that could threaten these states' own territorial integrity. Each of these states has used Kurdish divisions, as well as mutual concerns over the Kurds' aspirations for statehood, to keep Kurds divided.
 
Particularly detrimental to the Kurds is when more powerful neighbors exploit these fissures and play Kurdish factions off one another in the broader regional competition. This happened during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), when the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, backed respectively by Iran and Iraq, turned to their regional adversaries for help in fighting against their Kurdish rivals. A tenuous truce reached by the two parties in 1986 fell apart in 1994 -- just two years after the original formation of the Kurdistan Regional Government -- when a full-scale civil war broke out between them. In the conflict, the Kurdistan Democratic Party accused the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan of receiving support from Iran and Syria. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan meanwhile accused their rival of receiving support first from Iran, and then from Turkey.
 
After the United States imposed a no-fly zone in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1992, Iran and Syria worried that Washington would help foster an independent Kurdish state in order to encourage independence movements. Tehran and Damascus encouraged the Kurdistan Workers' Party -- which, known by its Kurdish acronym PKK, is Turkey's largest and most active Kurdish militant group and has bases in northern Iraq -- to attack the Kurdistan Democratic Party in hopes of derailing U.S. attempts at establishing a truce between the two leading parties. Meanwhile, Turkey grew alarmed at the prospect of a security vacuum in northern Iraq that could further empower the PKK.
 
The fall of Saddam Hussein marked the next turning point for Iraqi Kurds. The Kurds again united, under the aegis of the Kurdistan Regional Government, in an attempt to capitalize on the fall of their biggest and most proximate foe. Energy reserves were used to lay the economic foundation for the Kurdistan Regional Government. The alliance between the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan has endured for nearly a decade, but the strategic pact is again straining under the regional balance of power.
 
Regional Power Struggle
 
Home to the world's largest Kurdish population, Turkey has long struggled to develop a policy to manage its Kurdish constituency and to neutralize Kurdish militant groups like the PKK. In recent years, Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party has prioritized political and economic engagement with the Kurds over military crackdowns. The party believed that a strategic partnership with Iraq's Kurdish leadership was essential to undercutting the PKK at home (the PKK has a crucial support base in Iraq's Qandil Mountains).
 
Economic leverage was important to developing this strategic partnership. Turkey is the Kurdistan Regional Government's main export corridor. As tensions grew between Arbil and Baghdad over the development of northern oil reserves and the allocation of oil revenues, Ankara offered to guarantee Iraqi Kurdistan's economic security in exchange for Arbil's cooperation in limiting PKK activities and in curtailing Kurdish ambitions for an independent state. The Justice and Development Party focused on the Barzani clan as it made these arrangements.
 






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 Turkey has a strategic interest in increasing its energy imports from northern Iraq, but empowering the Kurdistan Regional Government economically at the expense of Baghdad's authority is risky for Ankara. Turkey will continue to foster competition in Iraqi Kurdistan, but Ankara also needs its Kurdish partner to have real authority and the ability to keep its end of the bargain. With the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan's support base already eroding, the Barzani clan was the natural choice. Barzani's nationalist rhetoric on Kurdish statehood distressed Turkey a decade ago, but he is now Turkey's favored Kurdish politician. However, Turkey's close dealings with Barzani -- and the economic benefits that accompany this partnership -- have also isolated the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and exacerbated the divide between the two leading parties in Iraqi Kurdistan.
 
Turkey is not the only regional power taking a special interest in the Kurds right now. The conflict in Syria has exposed an underlying tension between Turkey and Iran. Indeed, Turkey has decided to support a Sunni rebel insurgency specifically to curb Iranian power in the Levant and to extend Turkish influence deeper into its periphery through like-minded Sunni governments.
 
Hoping to push Turkey to back off this strategy and to respect the Iranian sphere of influence, Tehran and Damascus are trying to pit the Kurds against Ankara. Turkey is on alert for Iranian- and Syrian-backed PKK attacks. In fact, Ankara recently carried out a major military offensive in the mostly Kurdish southeast. The operation appeared to be a pre-emptive strike against the militant group. A rise in Kurdish militant activity in Turkey's Hatay province has fed Turkish suspicions that Iran and Syria are aiding the PKK and its sympathizers in Syria.
 
Turkey is also highly concerned about the power vacuum developing in Syria's Kurdish northeast. Already stretched thin battling rebel forces throughout the country, the Syrian military has deliberately pulled back from Syria's Kurdish-populated northern border region with Turkey. The Syrian regime's strategy is to create a situation that will inhibit Turkish support for the Syrian rebellion. Turkey has been wary of intervening militarily in Syrian territory to contain the flow of refugees, but Ankara now faces an increasingly lawless situation in its Kurdish borderland. This environment could fuel Syrian Kurdish aspirations for autonomy, since the Kurds are unencumbered by a consolidated Arab regime in Damascus. More important for Ankara, however, is that it could allow the PKK to expand into Syria and foster militant factions to threaten Turkey.
 
Situated on the steppes of the Jazirah plateau, Syria's Kurdish northeast does not offer the same resources or mountainous refuge as Iraqi Kurdistan. This makes the Syrian Kurdish situation more manageable so long as Turkey can count on the support of the Barzani clan. As several editorials in the Turkish media point out, Turkey's growing reliance on Barzani has limits, but it is one of the few decent tools Ankara has to shape the Kurdish landscape in its favor.
 
The Syrian Kurdish landscape is already breaking apart under regional pressures. On one side, Syria and Iran are backing the PKK-linked Democratic Union Party and are trying to veer the Syrian Kurdish movement toward militancy. On the other side, Turkey and the Barzani clan are supporting the Kurdish National Council and are relying on this faction to remove PKK sympathizers from Syria. This match-up has in turn applied PKK pressure on the Kurdistan Democratic Party. The PKK already showed in the 1994 Iraqi Kurdish civil war that it will work to undermine the unity between Iraqi Kurdistan's two leading parties, especially when one faction has a working relationship with its prime adversary, Turkey.
 
Meanwhile, Iran can be expected to court the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan to try to undermine the relationship that Ankara has developed through Barzani. Iran has also been trying to establish a close working relationship with the up-and-coming Goran movement to expand its options in the Kurdish political scene.
 
With the Syrian regime waning, Iran on the defensive and Turkey on the regional ascent, the Kurdistan Regional Government will be pulled in multiple directions as its regional neighbors compete. Regional pressures are intensifying as a power imbalance within the Kurdistan Regional Government threatens to undermine the Iraqi Kurdish alliance. A little less than a decade ago, many things were going right for Iraqi Kurdistan: Saddam Hussein had fallen, foreign oil companies were moving in to develop northern energy assets and the United States had committed a large military presence in the area -- a move many Kurds interpreted as a security guarantee against hostile neighbors. At that time, there was ample reason for the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan to put aside their differences and band together to seize the historic opportunity to consolidate Iraqi Kurdish autonomy.
 
Currently, Turkey holds the key to Iraqi Kurdistan's energy independence. Meanwhile, U.S. military forces have withdrawn from Iraq, regional competition is growing between Iran and Turkey and the United States is developing a strategic partnership with Turkey to manage the region -- a partnership that largely eliminates any incentive for Washington to support the Kurds against Ankara's interests. In these tougher times, the cohesion of the Kurdistan Regional Government will be tested.
.

Read more: The Kurdish Alliance at Risk | Stratfor
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« Reply #836 on: January 22, 2013, 10:54:08 AM »

Summary


Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's heavy-handed attempts to consolidate power have finally triggered a backlash from the country's Sunni minority, putting the ruling Shiite community on the defensive. The government's use of anti-terrorism laws to marginalize its opponents sparked an uprising in Sunni areas that has been ongoing for weeks. Occurring alongside a Sunni armed rebellion in Iraq's western neighbor, Syria, the unrest is destabilizing the regime in Baghdad.
 
In addition to unsettling Iraq's Sunnis, al-Maliki's moves have disrupted Iran's strategy for managing Iraq -- a strategy that depends on balancing various Shiite factions. And with the Sunni revival in Syria encouraging a Sunni resurgence in Iraq, Tehran has no good options to deal with the rising threat and is struggling to prevent the gains it made in Iraq over the last decade slip away.
 


Analysis
 
Given that the new Iraqi state was built under his watch, al-Maliki has been able to assume a great deal of power over the years. The country has had two elections since the approval of its new constitution in 2005, both of which produced Shiite majorities that resulted in coalition governments led by al-Maliki. In essence, since its emergence, the new system has not experienced a transfer of power. That fact, along with the already delicate communal balance, renders the Iraqi state fairly fragile.
 






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 For most of his time in power, al-Maliki has pursued two political objectives. First, he has worked to ensure that the Sunnis, who historically ruled the modern Iraqi nation-state, are never again able to dominate the Iraqi political system. Second, he has tried to keep his State of Law coalition at the top of the country's current ethnic and sectarian power-sharing arrangement.
 
From al-Maliki's perspective, the first objective cannot be accomplished without the second. As a result, he has tried to undermine opponents in parliament and has assumed powers well beyond constitutional limits, for instance, taking control of the security and energy sectors.
 
Al-Maliki's attempts to solidify his power have upset his fellow Shia, especially his main political rival, the al-Sadrite movement. However, the Shia have restrained their rivalries to ensure that the Sunnis cannot threaten their newfound power. Freed from the challenges of rival Shiite factions, al-Maliki has focused on keeping the Sunnis weak.
 
The Sunnis and al-Maliki's Dwindling Support
 
Initially, al-Maliki worked against the Sunnis by exploiting divisions and by drawing significant Sunni factions into the State of Law coalition. However, the last elections in March 2010 demonstrated the shortcomings of that strategy. In those elections, the State of Law came in second, winning two seats fewer than former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's non-sectarian al-Iraqiya List -- in large part because most Sunnis backed Allawi's party. Had he not agreed to merge the State of Law with the Iraqi National Alliance, another Shiite group, al-Maliki would not have secured a second term.
 
After nine months of negotiations to form his second administration, al-Maliki knew the Sunnis were still powerful, primarily because they had aligned with al-Iraqiya, the non-sectarian nationalist group with considerable nationwide appeal -- a challenge for al-Maliki's sectarian agenda. Though he did not fulfill his promises made to al-Iraqiya in exchange for joining his government, al-Maliki largely avoided confrontation until after the departure of U.S. troops at the end of 2011. The day after the U.S. military withdrawal, al-Maliki accused the country's highest-ranking Sunni official, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, of orchestrating several large-scale terrorist attacks in the country and ordered the arrest of many members of al-Hashemi's security detail. Al-Hashemi sought refuge in the autonomous Kurdistan region before going into exile, where he has remained (spending most of his time in Turkey) because the Iraqi judiciary sentenced him to death in absentia. 
 
Due to divisions within al-Iraqiya and al-Hashemi's lack of broad Sunni support, the incident did not elicit a strong reaction from either al-Iraqiya or the Sunni community. However, al-Hashemi's being given sanctuary by the Kurds exacerbated Shiite-Kurdish tensions. (The row between the Shia and Kurds has steadily increased in the months since, with the two sides now battling for security control of the disputed, energy-rich Kirkuk region.) As a result, al-Maliki is simultaneously fighting the Sunnis and the Kurds, making his Iraqi Shiite allies and his Iranian supporters uncomfortable with his rule.
 
Stuck with al-Maliki
 
In early 2012, the largest Shiite political movement in parliament, the al-Sadrite movement, threatened to side with the Kurds and Sunnis, who were discussing initiating a vote of no confidence against the prime minister. Of course, the leader of the al-Sadrite movement, Muqtada al-Sadr, is motivated by his desire to eventually replace al-Maliki's faction as the leaders of the Shia. Nevertheless, in the interest of the Shiite community, he did not follow through with his threat. Though al-Maliki is a liability, Iran and the Iraqi Shia realize that replacing him without disturbing the Shiite-dominated political order would be difficult.
 
Similarly, the Kurds have issues with al-Maliki. Like the Shia, the Kurds have territorial disputes with the Sunnis, but al-Maliki's push for a strong central state encroaches upon their desire for increased autonomy. Still, they do not want to counter al-Maliki badly enough to risk strengthening the Sunnis.
 
Al-Maliki is aware of the Shia's and Kurds' reservations about challenging him, but he overestimated his advantage when he went after his own finance minister, Rafi al-Issawi. On Dec. 19, al-Maliki began arresting members of al-Issawi's security detail on terrorism charges. Unlike al-Hashemi, al-Issawi hails from a prominent tribe based in Fallujah -- the center of the Sunni insurgency from 2003 to 2007 -- and so al-Maliki's targeting of him triggered widespread protests from the Sunni community.
 
Syria's Role and Early Elections
 
Another factor in the Sunni reaction is the Sunni uprising in neighboring Syria. Iran's regional opponents (Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and others) have been hoping that once Syrian President Bashar al Assad loses control of Damascus, the Sunnis' increased clout would spill over into Iraq, rolling back Iranian influence there. In fact, there is already evidence that there is some level of cross-border coordination between Sunnis in the two countries -- due in large part to al-Maliki's controversial policies.
 
The protests in Iraq are the most significant Sunni uprising in five years and have knocked al-Maliki off balance. In response, the prime minister offered to release 700 female Sunni detainees who have been incarcerated for years. Seeing the government reeling has emboldened the Sunnis, who are now calling for early elections -- an option that is also being considered by the Shia as a way out of the crisis, especially considering that elections are due in a little more than a year. However, elections are unlikely to defuse the crisis because the opponents of the Shia and Iran want to erase Iranian influence in Iraq. In general, Iraqi elections tend to aggravate the country's deep ethnic and sectarian divisions because they produce highly fractured legislatures and, given the sectarian war brewing in Syria, the next election will probably have an even more polarized outcome.
 
Sunnis boycotted the first election in 2005 and were divided during the 2010 vote. They are likely to be more unified the next time, which means that cobbling together a coalition government will be even more difficult. Moreover, the Kurds would want to use this sectarian division to demand greater concessions on issues related to their autonomous status.
 
The Sunnis will be unlikely to accept their current share of political power, increasing the risk of violence. There is a strange alignment of interests between Syrian Sunni forces, transnational jihadists and Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, all of whom have their reasons for wanting to weaken Iranian influence in Iraq. Simply put, the risk of sectarian violence in Iraq is at its highest since the end of the Sunni insurgency around late 2007.
 
Iran Seeks a Political Solution
 
Iran is well aware of the stakes. While Tehran tries to maintain influence in post-al Assad Syria, it wants to make sure it does not lose ground in Iraq. The Iranians need to protect the Shiite-dominated order, which is currently more threatened by the problems created by al-Maliki than by the Sunni protests.
 
Al-Maliki's power grab has not just galvanized the Sunnis, it has also upended Iran's traditional strategy for managing Iraq, which consists of supporting rival Shiite forces. Al-Maliki's moves to institutionalize an independent power base has made it difficult for Iran to control him. When the Iraqi government's tensions with the Kurds and the Sunnis were under control, this was not a problem. But with the events in Syria, and with regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Turkey working to loosen Iran's grip in Iraq, Iran can no longer ignore al-Maliki's unilateralism. At the same time, al-Maliki is not easily replaceable.
 
Ideally, Iran wants to find a replacement for al-Maliki who can create a new power-sharing mechanism in the country that satisfies the Sunnis without empowering them. In theory, one of al-Maliki's associates in his party, Hizb al-Dawah -- such as his subordinate, Ali al-Adeeb -- could replace al-Maliki in the same way that he replaced his predecessor, former interim Prime Minister and veteran Hizb al-Dawah leader Ibrahim al-Jaafari. But unlike al-Jaafari, who governed for barely a year, al-Maliki has deeply entrenched himself in the republic.
 
Replacing al-Maliki would also require a new power-sharing agreement among the Shia that could lead to infighting and weaken the community's position in the country. Therefore, Iran has no choice but to get the various Shiite factions to rally behind al-Maliki. For now at least, Iran is concerned with resolving the Iraqi crisis politically and preventing the situation from descending into violence.
 
A political resolution would require a coherent and unified Shiite political bloc as well as concessions to the Sunnis that do not undermine the Shia's dominance. While not impossible, both of these tasks will be difficult for Iran to achieve. Major concessions, such as changing the terrorism laws and giving Sunnis more say in policymaking, would weaken the Shia, while limited concessions risk emboldening the minority community.
 
Although it cannot be discounted, the chances that Iran can manage the situation politically are slim. This means that Iraq could experience a fresh bout of sectarian conflict. Regardless of how the situation unfolds, Iran's position in Iraq is likely to weaken.


Read more: Iran Losing Influence in Iraq | Stratfor
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« Reply #837 on: January 31, 2013, 05:41:50 PM »



http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2013/01/al_qaeda_in_iraq_vid.php
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« Reply #838 on: February 08, 2013, 02:13:51 PM »



Summary
 

The government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is hoping to quell a resurgence of unrest among the country's Sunni minority by increasing the salaries of Sunni militiamen. In the short term, al-Maliki will likely be able to prevent the agitation from growing into a full-blow insurgency. However, in the long term, concessions made now will embolden the Sunnis to press the Shia-dominated central government for a more equitable share of political power.
 


Analysis
 
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Hussain al-Shahristani announced Feb. 4 that Baghdad is increasing the salaries of the Sunni militiamen who were inducted into state security organs in 2008, when Sunni nationalist militants ended their insurgency and agreed to join the post-Baathist political system. The move comes after the federal government decided to release thousands of Sunnis who have been imprisoned for years. This prisoner release came in response to the protests that broke out in December after the al-Maliki government arrested the bodyguards of the country's fourth-highest ranking Sunni official, Finance Minister Rafi al-Issawi, on terrorism charges.
 
Since the arrests, al-Maliki has found himself trapped between the Sunnis, the Kurds and his Shiite allies. The backlash from the Sunnis came at a time when Baghdad's feud with the Kurds, who are seeking greater autonomy, had escalated into a standoff. Al-Maliki's resistance against both minority communities has angered his own Shiite allies and their patrons in Iran, who both see al-Maliki's personal and partisan agenda as undermining their interests.
 
There has been a great deal of pressure on al-Maliki from Tehran and the other Iraqi Shiite factions, especially the movement of Muqtada al-Sadr, to defuse the situation with the Sunnis and return the ethnic and religious tensions to within tolerable limits. This is especially important considering the Sunni uprising in neighboring Syria.
 
Complicating matters for al-Maliki, the Iraqi parliament on Jan. 26 -- with the help of a significant number of Shiite lawmakers -- passed a law that limits the prime minister to two terms, which means al-Maliki, who is in his second term, cannot remain prime minister after next year's parliamentary elections. While al-Maliki is challenging that law in the courts, he knows he has to regain the confidence of his Shiite allies, something that is possible only if he can demonstrate that he has brought the minority situation under control. To do that, he must ensure that Sunni political unrest and low-level violence does not turn into a full-blown insurgency. It is to his advantage that the Sunnis do not want to create a situation that would benefit al Qaeda and the transnational jihadists.
 
Part of al-Maliki's strategy is increasing the salaries of the Sunni militiamen, but that decision is also designed to exploit divisions within the Sunni community. The beneficiaries of the salary increase will be those who are already part of the security network and have been working with the al-Maliki administration. It is quite possible that in the coming weeks and months Baghdad could reach out to others in the Sunni community with similar incentives.
 
Al-Maliki can gain some short-term respite from these initiatives, but ultimately these concessions will embolden the Sunnis, who will not settle for occasional small benefits. Ultimately, it will be very hard for the Shia to continue to dominate Iraqi politics, particularly when Sunnis in neighboring Syria achieve a degree of empowerment.


Read more: Iraq's Shia Try to Quiet Sunni Unrest | Stratfor
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« Reply #839 on: March 12, 2013, 07:25:40 PM »

Summary
 


AZHER SHALLAL/AFP/Getty Images
 
Iraqi Sunni protesters hold a picture of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki with slogans reading "Liar...sectarian, thief collaborator" on Jan. 4
 


While the political infighting and violence that have afflicted Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 are by no means over, the Shia-dominated government has been able to channel them for its own purposes. Baghdad has accomplished this largely by pitting Iraq's two smaller ethno-sectarian groups -- the Sunnis and the Kurds -- against each other.
 
This tactic was seen most recently when last week Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's party, with the help of some Sunni lawmakers, pushed a new budget through parliament that allocated far less money to the Kurds -- who in previous years had been the Shiite government's main ally -- than they had requested. The government's flexibility in making alliances of convenience demonstrates that it feels relatively secure in its position and is prepared to deal with rising Sunni unrest in Iraq and elsewhere in the region, especially neighboring Syria.
 


Analysis
 
After nearly two months of wrangling, the Iraqi parliament approved a $118.6 billion budget in a March 7 session boycotted by Kurdish lawmakers. The Kurdish members of parliament refused to attend the session as a means of protesting the budget's allocation of only $650 million of the $3.5 billion requested for the Kurdistan Regional Government's debts to foreign oil companies operating within its borders.
 
The unprecedented manner in which Shia lawmakers and a handful of their Sunni counterparts unilaterally approved the budget is an indication that the government believes there is little risk in approving the budget without the Kurds' support, for several reasons. First, the government believes the Kurds are not likely to resort to armed insurrection or secession over a budget dispute. Second, the Kurds' only potential partner against the Shia-dominated central government is the Sunnis, who if anything have an even more strained relationship with the Kurds than the Shia do. Consequently, the Sunnis are unlikely to join with the Kurds to form a unified opposition any time soon.
 
The help from some of the Sunni lawmakers in approving the budget also highlights another important part of al-Maliki's strategy: keeping the Sunnis divided among themselves. Al-Maliki won the support of several Sunni lawmakers by offering pay increases to Awakening Council militias in the areas the lawmakers represent and by pledging to distribute 25 percent of the country's budget surpluses among the people, a pledge that is particularly helpful for the Sunnis, who mainly reside in areas that lack oil reserves.
 
Iraq's Shia, who make up about 60 percent of the country's population, are not in agreement on numerous policies, especially on how to deal with the Sunnis and Kurds. However, the various factions that make up al-Maliki's coalition have supported the prime minister as long as he has been able to show that he is preventing an alliance from developing between the Kurds and Sunnis, as well as keeping the Sunnis divided among themselves. The budget deal did both.
 
The Evolving Shiite Strategy
 
As the post-Saddam government was forming in Iraq in 2003 and for several years thereafter, the Shia aligned with the Kurds to ensure that the Sunnis, who had previously dominated the country, were effectively cut out of the political process. However, the Sunnis and Shia both had an interest in preventing the Kurds from expanding beyond the borders of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government in the north. Despite this mutual concern, the immediate priority for the Shia was forcing the Sunnis to accept their new status as a political minority.
 
After the Sunnis were brought into the system from 2007 to 2008, the dispute between Baghdad and Arbil over the central government's insistence that energy development in Iraqi Kurdistan be done under Baghdad's supervision and control became more prominent. To push back against Kurdish demands, the al-Maliki administration aligned with the Sunnis, who were even less enthusiastic about Kurdish autonomy and who had a territorial dispute with the Kurds in northern Iraq, especially surrounding the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.
 





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Since 2009, however, this balancing act has become more complicated. Both the Kurds and the Sunnis have become more assertive in challenging the Shia-dominated government. Indeed, after the 2010 elections in which the Sunni-backed secular al-Iraqiya List won the most seats, the Sunnis sought and failed to form a coalition with the Kurds and even the al-Sadrite Shiite faction against al-Maliki and his Shiite allies. The withdrawal of the remaining U.S. forces from Iraq in late 2011 exacerbated these divisions, and over the past year al-Maliki has taken a more aggressive approach against the Sunnis, as evidenced by the terrorism cases brought against Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi and more recently against the bodyguards and associates of former Finance Minister Rafi al-Issawi, one of the country's most senior Sunni officials. Tensions with the Kurds have also increased, particularly regarding security responsibility in the disputed areas around Kirkuk.
 
The simultaneous escalation by the Kurds and the Sunnis in 2012 made al-Maliki's Shiite allies and their Iranian patrons nervous, especially with large-scale demonstrations occurring in Sunni areas to protest al-Maliki's decision to implicate al-Issawi for terrorism-related activities. With the pressure rising, al-Maliki tried to defuse tension with the Kurds through talks that led to both sides pulling back their forces and agreeing on local police patrols in the disputed part of Kirkuk. At the same time, he offered concessions to the Sunnis -- mainly in the form of releasing some Sunni prisoners and offering certain groups financial incentives -- which likely is the reason that significant portions of the Sunni community are not participating in the protests against al-Maliki.
 
Meager Options for the Kurds
 
Sensing that the prime minister was on the defensive, the Sunnis and the Kurds tried to press their advantage. The Sunnis have mainly attempted to keep the pressure on through demonstrations, while the Kurds have sought to use the 2013 budget to get Baghdad to pay the $3.5 billion Arbil owes international oil companies that have been operating in the Kurdistan region over the past three years.
 
From al-Maliki's point of view, there is no way that the central government would underwrite the Kurdistan Regional Government's efforts to develop energy resources independent from Baghdad. Al-Maliki used Arbil's demands to make the case that the Kurds are trying to take revenues away from the national budget for their region while also playing to Sunni concerns about Kurdish autonomy. At the same time, al-Maliki was able to convince his Shiite allies that if they pushed the budget through parliament despite the Kurdish boycott, the Kurds would not be able to retaliate in any serious way. On that point, al-Maliki's confidence stems from the fact that the Kurds are landlocked and surrounded by Turkey, Iran, the Shia-led central government and Sunnis elsewhere in Iraq, and thus face serious constraints on exporting energy independent of Baghdad.
 
Turkey is the one country that could act as an energy transit state for Kurdistan if it chose to do so. However, doing so would require building costly new infrastructure to connect northern Iraq to Turkey, not to mention protecting that infrastructure from the militants who are active in the border region. Additionally, helping Iraqi Kurds gain greater autonomy -- even if Ankara's aims were limited to an energy partnership -- would risk empowering Turkey's own Kurdish rebels while also provoking Iraq and Iran. Given that a Kurdish enclave of some type will likely emerge in Syria when the ruling Alawite regime falls, Turkey is even more apprehensive about assisting the Iraqi Kurds.
 
The Sunni uprising occurring in Syria poses a threat to the Shia-led government in Baghdad because a spillover of Syrian militants into Iraq could rekindle large-scale sectarian violence. But the Shia are not alone in facing this threat; the Kurds too would stand to lose out, perhaps even more than the central government considering the Kurds' lack of allies and the already-fraught Sunni-Kurdish relations in Iraq. Consequently, the Kurds may have no choice but to accept the current limits of their autonomy. For Iraq's Sunnis, as long as certain factions can be persuaded to join with the Shia against the Kurds to form alliances of convenience, they will also be incapable of acting against the Shia-dominated government. The result may not be efficient or satisfying for all the participants, but it may be what the future of governance in Iraq looks like, and for the Shiite majority, it may be an acceptable outcome.


Read more: Iraq Ten Years After the U.S. Invasion | Stratfor
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« Reply #840 on: March 26, 2013, 08:16:56 AM »

http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/343870/why-did-we-invade-iraq-victor-davis-hanson

On the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, the back-and-forth recriminations continue, but in all the “not me” defenses, we have forgotten, over the ensuing decade, the climate of 2003 and why we invaded in the first place. The war was predicated on six suppositions.

1. 9/11 and the 1991 Gulf War. The Bush administration made the argument that in the post-9/11 climate there should be a belated reckoning with Saddam Hussein. He had continued to sponsor terrorism, had over the years invaded or attacked four of his neighbors, and had killed tens of thousands of his own people. He was surely more a threat to the region and to his own people than either Bashar Assad or Moammar Qaddafi was eight years later.

In this context, the end of the 1991 Gulf War loomed large: Its denouement had led not to the removal of a defeated Saddam, but to mass slaughter of Kurds and Shiites. Twelve years of no-fly zones had seen periods of conflict, and the enforcement of those zones no longer enjoyed much, if any, international support — suggesting that Saddam would soon be able to reclaim his regional stature. Many of the architects or key players in the 1991 war were once again in power in Washington, and many of them had in the ensuing decade become remorseful about the ending of the prior conflict. The sense of the need to correct a mistake became all the more potent after 9/11. Most Americans have now forgotten that by 2003, most of the books published on the 1991 war were critical, faulting the unnecessary overkill deployment; the inclusion of too many allies, which hampered U.S. choices; the shakedown of allies to help defray the cost; the realist and inhumane ending to the conflict; the ongoing persecution of Shiites, Marsh Arabs, and Kurds; and the continuation of Saddam Hussein in power.

Since there was no direct connection between Osama bin Laden and Saddam, take away the security apprehensions following 9/11, and George Bush probably would not have taken the risk of invading Iraq. By the same token, had the 1991 Gulf War ended differently, or had the U.N. and the NATO allies continued to participate fully in the no-fly zones and the containment of Iraq, there likewise would not have been a 2003 invasion. The Iraq War was predicated, rightly or wrongly, on the notion that the past war with Saddam had failed and containment would fail, and that after 9/11 it was the proper time to end a sponsor of global terrorism that should have been ended in 1991 — a decision that, incidentally, would save Kurdistan and allow it to turn into one of the most successful and pro-American regions in the Middle East.

2. Afghanistan. A second reason was the rapid victory in the war in Afghanistan immediately following 9/11. Scholars and pundits had warned of disaster on the eve of the October 2001 invasion. Even if it was successful in destroying the rule of the Taliban, any chance of postwar stability was declared impossible, given the “graveyard of empires” reputation of that part of the world. But the unforeseen eight-week war that with ease removed the Taliban, and the nonviolent manner in which the pro-Western Hamid Karzai later assumed power, misled the administration and the country into thinking Iraq would be a far less challenging prospect — especially given Iraq’s humiliating defeat in 1991, which had contrasted sharply with the Soviet failure in Afghanistan.

After all, in contrast to Afghanistan, Iraq had accessible ports, good weather, flat terrain, a far more literate populace, and oil — facts that in the ensuing decade, ironically, would help to explain why David Petraeus finally achieved success there in a manner not true of his later efforts in Afghanistan.

Since the U.S. had seemingly succeeded in two months where the Soviets had abjectly failed in a decade, and given that we already had once trounced Saddam, it seemed likely that Iraq would follow the success of Afghanistan. History is replete with examples of such misreadings of the past: The French in 1940 believed that they could hold off the Germans as they had for four years in the First World War; the Germans believed the Russians would be as weak at home in 1941 as they had seemed sluggish abroad in Poland and Finland in 1939–40. Had Afghanistan proved as difficult at the very beginning of the war as it did at the end, the U.S. probably would not have invaded Iraq.

3. Everyone on board. A third reason was the overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress, in the media, and among the public — for reasons well beyond WMD. In October 2002, both houses of Congress passed 23 writs justifying the removal of Saddam, an update of Bill Clinton’s 1998 Iraq Liberation Act. Senators Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Harry Reid were among those who not only enthusiastically called for Saddam’s removal, but also warned of intelligence estimates of Saddam’s WMD arsenals. Pundits on both sides, from Thomas Friedman to George Will, likewise supported the invasion, which on the eve of the war enjoyed over 70 percent approval from the American people. Bush, in that regard, had achieved what Clinton had not on the eve of the Serbian War — he had obtained a joint resolution of support from Congress before attacking, and had taken nearly a year in concerted (though failed) attempts to win U.N. approval for Saddam’s removal. Had Bush not gone to Congress, had he made no attempt to go to the U.N., had he had no public support, or had he been opposed by the liberal press, he probably would not have invaded Iraq.

4. WMD. A fourth reason was the specter of WMD. While the Bush administration might easily have cited the persuasive writs of the bipartisan resolutions — genocide against the Kurds, Shiites, and Marsh Arabs; bounties for suicide bombers; sanctuary for terrorists; attempts to kill a former U.S. president; violations of U.N. sanctions and resolutions; etc. — it instead fixated on supposedly unimpeachable intelligence about WMD, a “slam dunk,” according to CIA director George Tenet, a judgment with which most Middle Eastern governments and European intelligence agencies agreed. This concentration on WMD would prove a critical political mistake. Note in passing that the eventual public furor over missing WMD stockpiles (although there is solid evidence that Saddam was perilously close to WMD deployment) did not fully develop with the initial knowledge of that intelligence failure, but only with the mounting violence after a seemingly brilliant victory over Saddam.

The missing vast stockpiles of WMD then became the source of the convenient slogan “Bush lied, thousands died.” Yet had the reconstruction gone well, we would surely not have heard something like “Bush lied — and so there was no need, after all, to depose Saddam and foster consensual government in Iraq.”

The Bush administration apparently believed that, without the worry over WMD, the other writs would not generate enough public urgency for preemption, and thus it would not have invaded Iraq. Note that when Barack Obama talks of “red lines” and “game changers” in Syria that might justify U.S. preemptive action, he is not referring to 70,000 dead, the horrific human-rights record of Bashar Assad, Syria’s past effort to become nuclear, or even the plight of millions of Syrian refugees, but the supposition that Syria is planning to use chemical or biological weapons — a crime Saddam had often committed against his own people, and one that inflames public opinion in the West. As a footnote, we will probably not know the full story of WMD in the region until the Assad regime is gone from Syria — although we are starting to hear the same worries about such Syrian weapons from the Obama administration as we did of Iraqi weapons during the Bush presidency.

5. Nation-building. A fifth reason was the notion of reformulating Iraq, so that instead of being the problem in the region it would become a solution. Since the 1991 war had not ended well, because of a failure to finish off the regime and stay on, and since the aid to the insurgents against the Soviets in Afghanistan had been followed by U.S. neglect and in time the rise of the Taliban, so, in reaction, this time the U.S. was determined to stay. We forget now the liberal consensus that the rise of the Taliban and the survival of Saddam were supposed reflections of past U.S. callousness — something not to be repeated in Iraq.

Finally, America would do the right thing and create a consensual government that might ensure not only the end of Saddam’s atrocities, but also, by its very constitutional existence, pressure on the Gulf monarchies to liberalize and cease their support for terrorism of the sort that had killed 3,000 Americans. While there may well have been neo-cons who believed that the Iraqi democracy would be followed by a true Arab Spring of U.S.-fostered democracy sweeping the Middle East — something akin to the original good blowback of Pakistan’s detaining Dr. Khan, Qaddafi’s surrendering his WMD arsenal, and Syria’s leaving Lebanon, before all this dissipated with Fallujah — most of the Bush administration policymakers believed that democracy was not their first choice, but their last choice, for postwar reconstruction, given that everything else had been tried after past conflicts and just as often failed.

Administration officials were not hoping for Carmel, but for something akin to post-Milosevic Serbia or post-Noriega Panama, as opposed to Somalia or post-Soviet Afghanistan. Note well: Had George Bush simply announced in advance that he would be leaving Iraq as soon as he deposed Saddam, or that he planned to install a less violent relative of Saddam’s to keep order as we departed, Congress probably would not have authorized an invasion of Iraq in the first place. The Iraq War was sold partly on the liberal idealism of at last doing the right thing — after not having done so previously against Saddam or following the Soviets in Afghanistan.

6. Oil! Sixth and last was the issue of oil. Had Iraq been Rwanda, the Bush administration would not have invaded. The key here, however, is to remember the war was not a matter of “blood for oil,” given that the Bush administration had no intention of taking Iraqi oil — a fact proven by the transparent and non-U.S. postwar development of the Iraqi oil and gas fields.

Instead, oil was an issue because Iraq’s oil revenues meant that Saddam would always have the resources to foment trouble in the region, would always be difficult to remove through internal opposition, and would always use petrodollar influence to undermine U.N. resolutions, seek to spike world oil prices, or distort Western solidarity, as the French collusion with Saddam attested. Imagine North Korea with Iraq’s gas and oil reserves: The problem it poses for its neighbors would be greatly amplified and far more likely addressed. Had Iraq simply been a resource-poor Yemen or Jordan, or landlocked without key access to the Persian Gulf, the U.S. probably would not have invaded.

TEN YEARS LATER

The invasion of Iraq was a perfect storm predicated on all these suppositions — the absence of any one of which might well have postponed or precluded the invasion.
That we have forgotten or ignored most of these causes stems not just from the subsequent terrible cost of the war. Instead, our amnesia is self-induced, and derives from the fact that 70 percent of the American people and most of the liberal media commentators supported the invasion, came to reverse that support, and remain hurt or furious at someone other than themselves for their own change of heart — one predicated not on the original conditions of going to war, but on the later unexpected costs in blood and treasure that might have been avoided.

Given that less than a third of the American people initially opposed the war, the subsequent acrimony centered on whether it was better for the nation to give up and depart after 2004, or to stay and stabilize the country. Ultimately the president decided that the only thing worse than fighting a bad war was losing one.

— NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. His The Savior Generals will appear in the spring from Bloomsbury Books.
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« Reply #841 on: April 09, 2013, 08:40:57 AM »



Summary
 


AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images
 
A picture of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on a CD in Baghdad on April 7
 


The debate surrounding the Iraqi Cabinet's proposed changes to debaathification laws reflects the growing sectarian pressures on the Shiite-led government in Baghdad. Announced April 8, the proposed change is only the latest in several moves meant to pacify an increasingly restive Sunni population. Baghdad has been negotiating with the country's Sunni minority since December 2012, when large demonstrations in western Anbar province began. So far, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has proved capable of meeting some of the Sunnis' demands, but pressure against him remains.
 


Analysis
 
The proposal would curtail some of the provisions of the Justice and Accountability Commission, more commonly known as Iraq's debaathification law, which was originally drafted to exclude elements of the Saddam Hussein regime from post-U.S. invasion politics. Under the new law, government and bureaucratic positions long occupied by Iraq's Sunni minorities were available for the country's Shiite majority. The law also denied lower-level but experienced government workers the opportunity to help rebuild Iraq.
 
Individuals not blacklisted under the current version would be eligible to re-enter political life. Local-level Baath Party branch chiefs would no longer be banned from political and governmental positions, and pension payments would be instituted for Hussein's personal paramilitary force, the Fedayeen Saddam.
 
Political Engagement
 
The Sunni-led civil war against Syrian President Bashar al Assad has spread into Iraq. The spillover has forced al-Maliki to respond to his country's own discontented Sunni population, which so far has staged largely peaceful protests. He has made several concessions to the Sunnis in an attempt to keep their demonstrations peaceful and help prevent more moderate Sunni opposition from joining jihadist fighters against the Iraqi state.
 
Some of those concessions include the release of hundreds of female prisoners, raising the salaries of Sunni Arab militia councils loyal to Baghdad and promising to redistribute budgetary surpluses to the Iraqi population. Elections in Anbar and Nineveh provinces, once delayed indefinitely, are now being delayed for only about a month. Although large-scale demonstrations have been scaling down, the political pressures of Sunni demands remain.
 
Notably, Sunnis are not Iraq's only social demographic unhappy with post-Saddam Iraq. Since the beginning of the year, Iraq's Kurdish and Shiite political centers have also tried to increase their pressure on the government to extract concessions. Iraq's northern-based Kurdistan Regional Government sought to increase budgetary allowances for foreign companies operating Kurdish oil fields and to secure federal funds to pay the pensions of peshmerga fighters. In this instance, al-Maliki was able to partner with Iraq's Sunnis to limit Kurdish ambitions. However, the move resulted in Iraqi Kurdish members of parliament largely boycotting parliament in recent weeks.
 
This draft law is the latest in a series of attempted reforms since 2006 to the Justice and Accountability Commission meant to placate Sunnis. The proposed amendments to the debaathification law are also facing strong opposition from al-Maliki's own Shiite political base, especially from those associated with his Shiite rival Muqtada al-Sadr's al-Ahrar bloc. Many of those in his camp continue to view the law as a safeguard against rising Sunni power that risks the gains made by both Shia and Kurds since the collapse of Saddam's pro-Sunni Arab state.
 
The strong Shiite opposition -- and likely the Kurdish opposition -- to the Cabinet's proposed changes to the law means the proposal probably will not pass in its current form. And even though it represents a check on the rising demands of Iraq's Sunnis, the debate also underscores the growing divisiveness of Iraq's sectarian political sensibilities, especially in the wake of the Syrian conflict. Even though the reforms are unlikely to pass -- and even if they pass, they are unlikely to halt Sunni demands entirely -- the process still reflects a desire by many Sunni Arabs to engage al-Maliki's government politically rather than violently.


Read more: In Iraq, Another Step Toward Reconciliation? | Stratfor
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« Reply #842 on: April 10, 2013, 12:57:16 PM »

By the way, we won the Iraq War
 
9:39 AM 04/09/2013


Jim Treacher

 
I know, right? Here I thought it was the biggest mistake ever, by the most evil president ever. At least that’s what I’ve been told again and again by our moral, ethical, and intellectual betters on the left. But apparently Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki disagrees.
 
Here he is, writing in the Washington Post yesterday:
 

Today, on the 10th anniversary of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the debate about whether it was worth it to topple the regime and the direction of the U.S.-Iraqi relationship is influenced by a pessimistic view that the United States has lost Iraq. Not true. Despite all the problems of the past decade, the overwhelming majority of Iraqis agree that we’re better off today than under Hussein’s brutal dictatorship.
 
Iraqis will remain grateful for the U.S. role and for the losses sustained by military and civilian personnel that contributed in ending Hussein’s rule. These losses pale by comparison, of course, to those sustained by the Iraqi people. Our government emerges from this experience determined to ensure that these sacrifices contribute to a future of freedom and prosperity for our country…
 
The United States has not “lost” Iraq. Instead, in Iraq, the United States has found a partner for our shared strategic concerns and our common efforts on energy, economics and the promotion of peace and democracy.

 

Well, that’s weird. That whole thing was George Bush’s idea, wasn’t it? And yet this guy is claiming it was the right thing to do? How can that be right?
 
Isn’t it odd how everybody stopped keeping a death toll of Americans killed overseas after January 20, 2009? But then, as the great lady once said: What difference does it make?
 
It’s not like the President of the United States is a Republican.
 
(Hat tip: Ed Morrissey)
 
P.S. In related news: 700 Special Ops vets call on Congress to establish special select committee on Benghazi. Just let it go. Obama Is Awesome.


Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2013/04/09/by-the-way-we-won-the-iraq-war/
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« Reply #843 on: April 11, 2013, 08:04:12 AM »

The U.S. Struggles for Influence in Iraq
April 10, 2013 | 1643 GMT

Summary
 

A publicized effort by Iraqi officials to intercept Iranian planes bound for Damascus appears to be an act by Baghdad and Tehran to ease U.S. pressure on the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The United States has a strategic interest in maintaining a foothold in Baghdad to manage the region and is leaning on Turkey to aid in this effort. However, Iraq's alleged plane interceptions actually reveal a much tighter relationship between Baghdad and Tehran as the Syrian conflict continues to widen ethnic and sectarian fissures in the region.
 


Analysis
 
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast on April 10 criticized the Iraqi government for its recent inspection of an Iranian plane carrying humanitarian materials to Syria, calling Baghdad's actions "a violation of international law." The United States has been pressing Baghdad to stop allowing Iranian aircraft to pass through Iraqi airspace en route to Syria. After the Iraqi government pledged to do more random searches to intercept weapons heading for Syria by land and air, Iraqi officials claimed that they forced two Iranian cargo planes to land this week at Baghdad International Airport. The Iranian cargo plane intercepted April 8 was allegedly carrying humanitarian supplies. Iraqi officials did not elaborate on the contents of the plane intercepted April 9.
 
Convenient Interceptions
 
Since the U.S. withdrawal that left Iraq in control of its airspace, Iraq still lacks the air force capability to scramble jets and force the landing of an aircraft. Instead, the Iranian airliners that were purportedly forced to land did so willingly. Though Iran is now expressing outrage at the supposed interceptions, the Iraqi government was likely closely coordinating with Iranian authorities. Conveniently, the interceptions that Baghdad has publicized so far reveal only humanitarian supplies destined for Syria. However, it is an open secret that Iran has been funneling weapons and fighters in civilian aircraft primarily through Iraq to reinforce the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad.
 






.
 

The al-Maliki government is not simply doing its Iranian allies a favor in allowing Iraqi territory to be used for this purpose. The Shiite government in Baghdad can already see increased movement by Sunni fighters between Syria and Iraq's Sunni-concentrated western provinces and is carefully manipulating the Sunni political situation in Iraq to prevent the return of a Sunni nationalist insurgency that could threaten the Shia's hold on Baghdad. The more the Syrian conflict intensifies, the more reason Baghdad has to align itself more closely with its sectarian allies in Iran and Syria to keep the Sunni rebellion contained.
 
But al-Maliki must also manage perceptions in the region. The Iraqi government does not want to give the United States, Turkey or other regional governments a reason to reinforce al-Maliki's own political adversaries in an attempt to weaken Iran's link in Baghdad. Al-Maliki also understands that the United States has a strategic interest in maintaining a foothold in Baghdad to balance against Iran, and he can exploit that interest to try to secure economic and military aid from Washington. But even the assets the United States currently has in Iraq and increased aid from Washington cannot compete effectively with Iran's extensive political, intelligence, security, religious and business relationships in Iraq.
 
Turkey's Role
 
The United States' attempt to keep a working relationship with Baghdad can also be seen in the growing tension between the U.S. and Turkish governments over the latter's attempts to unilaterally engage with the Kurdistan Regional Government in defiance of Baghdad. Though Turkey sees the need to continue dealing with Baghdad, it is trying to fashion a strategy to develop a reliable source of energy in northern Iraq and use that economic leverage to secure cooperation from Iraqi Kurdish officials in neutering a Kurdish insurgency.
 
Though the United States is interested in seeing Turkey play a bigger role in Iraq to counter Iran, Washington sees the danger in the Turkish policy of alienating Baghdad and fragmenting Iraq. Washington has thus been encouraging Ankara to temper its interactions with the Kurdistan Regional Government and to re-engage with Baghdad, particularly in the energy sphere. The United States is also trying to push Baghdad into striking a compromise with Ankara, as was seen April 5 when al-Maliki -- a day before U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Turkey -- issued a statement expressing his desire for a rapprochement with Turkey. The Turkish diplomatic rumor mill suggests that al-Maliki's gesture was made with a nudge from the United States and that Ankara's relationship with Baghdad was a major theme during Kerry's visit to Turkey. This remains a sore issue between Turkey and the United States, but it will likely be discussed further when Kerry returns to Turkey in two weeks and when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan heads to Washington on May 16.
 
Washington has no easy or direct way to influence Iraq in the current geopolitical environment. Though it shares with Turkey a common aim to use Iraq as an arena to balance against Iran, Turkey will put its own interests first -- including curbing Kurdish militancy and pursuing alternative energy resources -- when developing its strategy for Iraq. Turkey is not interested in alienating itself from Baghdad -- after all, it still needs Baghdad to keep a check on the Kurdistan Regional Government -- but it is finding it difficult to maintain a good relationship with Baghdad when it is also pursuing a strategy to develop closer energy ties with the Kurdish government in Arbil and when the regional environment is pushing Iran and Turkey into more competition. Turkey will try to balance its current Iraq strategy by maintaining its own relationship with Iran by, for example, continuing to help Iran circumvent sanctions (much to the United States' discontent). The United States is trying to rectify this disconnect through its increased interactions with Ankara, but Turkey will probably require much more U.S. involvement in the region before it feels compelled to change its strategy, and the United States is unlikely to have the appetite for that at a time when it is trying to recalibrate its position in other parts of the world.
 
Meanwhile, al-Maliki will continue to engage with Ankara and Washington to try to discourage either from reinforcing its support for Iraq's Sunni and Kurdish factions. Ultimately, this does not amount to much of a balancing act by al-Maliki. As the plane interceptions reveal, Baghdad's interactions with Washington are unlikely to be carried out without coordination with Tehran. That is a reality that Turkey has already acknowledged but one that Washington will struggle to adapt to.
.

Read more: The U.S. Struggles for Influence in Iraq | Stratfor
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« Reply #844 on: May 06, 2013, 03:59:20 PM »





Summary

MARWAN IBRAHIM/AFP/Getty Images

Iraqi protesters in Hawijah on March 1

Deadly clashes that broke out early April 23 between Sunni demonstrators and security forces in northern Iraq illustrate the challenges facing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as his Shia-dominated government tries to manage Sunni dissent through a combination of force and appeasement. The clashes appear to have been orchestrated by Sunni militant groups, which have been trying to remilitarize the Sunni political and tribal landscape in Iraq. Baghdad's struggle to contain the gradual rise of Sunni militancy will only get more difficult with time.

Analysis

Militants, presumably Sunnis, attacked a checkpoint run by security forces and soldiers near the northern Iraqi town of Hawija, Kirkuk province, on April 19. The Iraqi Defense Ministry said the militants seized weapons from the checkpoint before disappearing into a crowd of Sunni demonstrators that had already assembled in tents as part of a sit-in in Hawija to protest the al-Maliki government's alleged unfair treatment of Sunnis.

Iraqi security forces reportedly warned the protesters to disband before storming the protest area early April 23 to arrest the suspected militants. As Iraqi forces tried to make arrests, they reportedly came under fire from somewhere within the crowd. Reports on casualties vary widely depending on the source, but the Iraqi Defense Ministry has claimed that 20 militants were killed, along with an army officer and two soldiers. Security forces detained 75 people and reportedly seized an assortment of weapons from the protest camp, including machine guns, hand grenades, knives and swords.
A Deliberate Provocation

Several aspects of this incident suggest that the clashes were the work of a Sunni militant faction intent on spurring already disaffected Sunnis to take action against the al-Maliki government. Jihadists have repeatedly attacked Sunni and Shiite targets over the past several months. Some of these maneuvers are meant to intimidate Sunnis and keep them out of the political process -- for example, attacks against poll stations and Sunni politicians. Others, such as attacks on sensitive Shiite religious sites, are meant to encourage the Shia-dominated security apparatus to crack down harder on Sunnis.

These attacks have occurred against a tense political backdrop, as Sunni protests since December 2012 have spread from western Iraq in Anbar and Ninawa provinces to other areas with large Sunni populations in Salah ad Din, Diyala and Baghdad. Sunni militant groups, including local al Qaeda node Islamic State of Iraq, the 1920 Revolution Brigades and the Naqshbandi Army, which includes many former Sunni Baathist officers among its ranks, have publicly endorsed the Sunni protests. These groups hope that the spread and intensification of Sunni dissent against the Shiite government in Baghdad will revive the Sunni insurgency. The Naqshbandi Army is the most active group in the Kirkuk area and has the support of many local tribes. Indirectly aiding their cause, a growing Sunni rebellion in Syria against the Iran-backed Alawite regime has increased the traffic of militants and weapons in the Sunni borderland linking western Iraq and eastern Syria.
Iraq

In the summer of 2012 a new group emerged, modeling itself after the Free Syrian Army and calling itself the Free Iraqi Army. The group reportedly includes former Iraqi Baathist officers and members of the Awakening Council, which previously aligned with the United States against jihadists in Iraq. Though the group still appears to have limited capabilities and geographic reach, the Free Iraqi Army has carried out small-scale attacks on security forces in Mosul and Anbar provinces -- attacks on what the group refers to as "Safavid" checkpoints, a reference to the Persian Empire that reveals the group's perception that Baghdad is run by Iranian foreign agents. The Free Iraqi Army has spoken publicly of its coordination with jihadist groups in Iraq, but it has carefully distinguished itself as an organization fighting on behalf of Iraqi Sunnis who have been sidelined by the Shiite government in Baghdad. Should this group expand its presence on the battlefield in the coming months and draw more members of Iraq's Awakening Council, it will be a clear sign that al-Maliki's efforts to appease segments of Iraq's Sunni landscape are faltering.
The Limits of Appeasement

Fearing the effects of potential collaboration between disaffected former Baathists and jihadists active in the country, al-Maliki has tried to defuse the escalation of Sunni unrest through security crackdowns, direct payments and offers of political appeasement. Most recently, al-Maliki proposed to amend the highly controversial de-Baathification law that aims to bar Saddam Hussein-era officials from serving in the government. The Iraqi Cabinet's proposed amendments would place a time limit on the de-Baathification process, allowing the Justice and Accountability Commission that runs the process to blacklist former Baathists only until the end of 2013. This would theoretically help mitigate future political discrimination against Iraqi Sunnis, particularly during the process of vetting election candidates, but the proposal already faces stiff resistance from Shiites and Kurds in parliament and may end up being an empty gesture.

The Hawija clashes carry special significance. The town is a prime target for jihadists -- a destitute town home to some 40,000 people, the overwhelming majority of them Sunnis who were well cared for during the Saddam era and lost their livelihoods when he fell. Hawija sits on the ethnic and sectarian crossroads of Iraq, just below the Kurdish autonomous region and on the path to Mosul to the north, Kirkuk to the northeast and Salah ad Din to the southwest. Since 2003, Hawija has served as an important haven for Sunni insurgents. The town's proximity to the Kurdistan Regional Government's boundaries may also be of value to the fighters. Kurdish leadership is locked in an escalating dispute with Baghdad over energy rights and Kurdish autonomy that could also turn violent and further undermine the ability of Iraqi security forces to maintain control.
The Challenge for Shiite Leadership

Deep divisions within the Sunni camp have thus far allowed the al-Maliki government to manage the various political and militant manifestations of Sunni opposition to the government while also addressing opposition from the Kurds and from rivals in his own Shiite camp. But the deaths of civilian protesters -- regardless of government claims that only al Qaeda militants and Baath party members were killed -- will reinvigorate Sunni protests against the government, and these protests now are likelier to turn violent.

Already, protesters and Sunni tribal sheikhs from Mosul in Ninawa province and from Fallujah in Anbar province have announced their solidarity with Sunnis in Hawija and have declared their intent to take up arms and drive the Iraqi army out of these areas. Sunni protesters in Salah ad Din province have also threatened to form an army for self-defense. In what may be a similar provocation to the one that instigated the clashes in Hawija, suspected Sunni gunmen reportedly attacked a police checkpoint on the same day in Tikrit, the capital of Salah ad Din province. Kirkuk's governor has meanwhile demanded the withdrawal of the Iraqi army from the province following the Hawija clashes, and curfews have been announced in Mosul, Fallujah and the Muqdadidiya district of Diyala province. With the suspicion that the Hawija clashes could be part of a broader campaign to instigate clashes that result in Sunni civilian deaths, Iraqi security forces are attempting to clamp down in areas with a heavy Sunni population in order to pre-empt attacks and demonstrations.

Neighboring powers such as Saudi Arabia may also have an interest in quietly encouraging these protests in order to further weaken Iran's foothold in Baghdad. While his government has no alternative to security crackdowns as violence escalates, al-Maliki can try to pay off select tribes and attempt to force through his amendments to the de-Baathification law as a form of political appeasement. However, if al-Maliki's political concessions are perceived as insufficient, the coming security crackdowns designed to stamp out Sunni unrest may well end up enflaming it, which is exactly what jihadists hope.

Read more: Provoking Sunni Militancy in Iraq | Stratfor
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« Reply #845 on: June 01, 2013, 09:08:19 AM »

A Looming Showdown Over Iraqi Kurdish Oil Exports
Analysis
MAY 30, 2013 | 1300 Print  - Text Size +
Stratfor
Summary
Another showdown is building between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the government of Iraq, only this time Turkey has entered the fight. Ankara and Arbil's coordinated efforts to export northern Iraqi oil against the wishes of Baghdad are gaining momentum, but Turkey will have to provide credible security guarantees for these energy projects if it wants to avoid another stalemate on its borders.

Analysis
Turkey has a dilemma. Its competition with Iran in Syria has already been exposed -- Turkey is backing the Sunni rebels, who are struggling to sustain their momentum against the Iranian-backed Alawite regime. Turkey also cannot effectively pursue its interests in Iraq, where the Shiite-dominated government is tightly aligned with the Shia in Tehran. Turkey's decision to reach beyond its borders and re-enter the ethnic and sectarian competition in the region has cost it its effective working partners in Iraq, Syria and Iran. Even issues of common interest, such as containing the Kurds' ambitions for autonomy, have become part of the regional struggle, with the Iranian and Syrian regimes seeking to exploit Kurdish militancy to keep Turkey occupied at home.

Turkey has come up with an ambitious plan to try to free itself of these constraints. The ruling Justice and Development Party does not share the deep-seated fears that its Kemalist-minded predecessors had with regard to pursuing Turkey's interests abroad. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his team believe it is Turkey's rightful and historical place to assume the role of regional power, despite the challenges of such a policy. Recognizing the inherent limits of dealing with Iraq, Syria and Iran, Erdogan is trying to carve out a more independent foreign policy for Turkey, relying on previously unlikely allies, such as the Kurds, to achieve its goals.

Opportunities in Kurdish Oil

In northern Iraq, Turkey sees an embattled Kurdish Regional Government with the resource potential to help meet its growing demand for energy. Turkey, a country of 73 million with an economy ranked 17th in the world by gross domestic product, consumed around 40 billion cubic meters of natural gas and 700,000 barrels per day of oil in 2012, and consumption is steadily rising in line with the country's economic growth. Iraqi Kurdistan has 4 billion barrels of proven oil reserves -- a figure expected to rise if the investment climate permits further exploration -- and current production would give Iraqi Kurdistan the potential to deliver around 215,000 barrels per day of crude to Turkey. That is, if the Kurdistan Regional Government can find a way out of its row with Baghdad.

The Iraqi Kurdish government has resigned itself to the fact that there is no enduring solution to its dispute with Baghdad over energy rights. So long as Baghdad meters and pumps Kurdish crude and controls the budget and all Iraqi oil revenues, Arbil's attempts to attract and follow through in paying foreign firms to develop its fields will meet endless obstacles. The Kurds, caught between Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran, cannot avoid working with their regional adversarie, so at this point, they find it far more compelling to work with an interested Turkey than with a hostile Baghdad.

The Turkish vision is to establish a bond with the Iraqi Kurds built on economic dependence, in which the flow of Kurdish energy exports will rely on Ankara's -- not Baghdad's -- good will. In theory, such a relationship would also grant Turkey the political leverage to prevent Kurdish militants in Turkey from using northern Iraq as a haven -- a critical component to Turkey's ongoing and delicate peace process with the Kurdistan Workers' Party.

A Risky Endeavor

This is a vision that requires a great deal of cunning, not to mention a sober understanding of the intent and capabilities of Turkey's opponents in Iraq, Syria and Iran. Turkey and the Kurdistan Regional Government have been carefully avoiding a major confrontation with Baghdad while creating confusion over their projects in northern Iraq.

This endeavor began in mid-2012 when Iraqi Kurdish authorities in dispute with Baghdad began trucking small volumes of oil to Turkey in exchange for refined goods, such as gasoline, for local consumption. Things escalated in early 2013 when crude oil trucked from Iraqi Kurdistan to Turkey was sold on the global market without Baghdad's consent. Presently, between 30,000 and 40,000 barrels per day of crude is being trucked by Turkish drivers from northern Iraq to Turkey, including oil produced at the Taq Taq field. Meanwhile, the Baghdad-controlled Kirkuk-Ceyhan oil pipeline has been operating at roughly one-fifth of its official capacity of 1.6 million barrels per day due to frequent bombings, poor maintenance and lower output overall.

The trucked crude irritates Baghdad, but the high cost of transport across mountainous terrain naturally limits the profitability and volume of the operation. If the Kurdistan Regional Government wants a reliable export link to the outside world, it needs pipelines -- preferably ones that run exclusively through territory administered and protected by Iraqi Kurds.

The next phase in Kurdish-Turkish ambitions begins at Taq Taq oil field, where production is managed through a joint venture between Anglo-Turkish consortium Genel Energy and China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. Iraqi Kurdish firm KAR Group has built an oil pipeline from the Taq Taq oil field to the Khurmala Dome complex, which connects to the Baghdad-controlled Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline network. Several sources claim the Taq Taq-Khurmala pipeline is operational, but crude from Taq Taq continues to be trucked -- the more expensive of the two transport options -- raising questions about the actual condition of the pipeline.


From Khurmala, the crude can take a circuitous route through the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline, with Baghdad's consent and at the risk of more pipeline sabotage attacks. The alternative is for the crude to travel along a new pipeline route being built by KAR Group that heads northwest through Kurdish-administered territory. There has been a deliberate amount of ambiguity surrounding this particular pipeline project. The project began as a seemingly uncontroversial natural gas pipeline that would travel from Khurmala to feed the Sumel power plant in Dohuk province. The trouble with that story was that the pipeline was built with a capacity of at least 11 million cubic meters per day, at least four times the capacity of the power plant it was to feed. Soon enough, reports started trickling out that the mysterious natural gas pipeline was being transformed into an oil pipeline, with oil pumps taking the place of gas compressors along the line. Trenches that have been dug for the pipeline leading up to the power plant have now been rerouted to the northwest, running parallel to the main road from Dahuk to Zakho, only a few kilometers from the Turkish border. So far, this pipeline has been laid but not welded.

The question now is what will be the final connection of this pipeline before it enters Turkish territory. Turkish officials are affirming that the pipeline will ultimately run through Fishkhabor, the Baghdad-controlled pumping and metering station that receives crude for the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline and from a 100,000-barrel-per-day oil pipeline from Tawke field owned and operated by Norway's DNO. This would mean that Baghdad would theoretically have the power from its federally administered oil facilities to shut off the flow of oil through this line at will, seemingly undermining the original aim of the Turkish-Kurdish plans.

More audacious Kurdish officials are claiming that the pipeline will actually avoid Fishkhabor altogether and that another pipeline extension will be built directly into Turkish territory. This would be unacceptable for Baghdad, however. In spite of Kurdistan Regional Government maps that display such plans, the Turkish government has cautiously distanced itself from such claims publicly, reaffirming instead that Baghdad cooperate and that crude will flow through Fishkhabor unheeded. In fact, Turkey has said it will ensure the uninterrupted flow of crude through this route by directly managing Kurdish energy revenues -- or even Iraq's entire energy revenues -- through an escrow account to prevent either side from withholding product or payment.

Not surprisingly, Baghdad has balked at the idea of Turkey managing Iraqi energy revenues. From Baghdad's point of view, this is a fundamental sovereign right, certainly not to be trusted to a larger and more powerful ethnic and sectarian adversary to the north. This is where Turkey's strategic vision and dilemma once again collide.

Turkey's Constraints

Turkey simply does not have the diplomatic wherewithal to convince Iraq, the United States or the major foreign firms eyeing these projects that having Ankara manage energy revenues and infrastructural investments in northern Iraq will fundamentally resolve Baghdad's energy dispute with Arbil. The further Turkey goes in these energy endeavors with the Kurds, the more resistance it will encounter from Baghdad -- and by extension, from Iran.

The Kurds understand this and thus are counting on Ankara to go further and bypass Baghdad altogether to pump crude to Turkey. The Kurdistan Regional Government is even escalating the pressure by passing legislation that essentially issues an ultimatum to Baghdad to produce an estimate within 90 days and pay the amount it owes to Iraqi Kurdistan from the federal budget. If Baghdad does not respond within 30 days, the legislation authorizes the Kurdistan Regional Government to begin unilateral operations to export its oil. The Iraqi Kurds are not expecting a favorable response from Baghdad but are trying to at least get paperwork in order to claim that they have the legal right to pursue their projects with Turkish backing. But a decision to bypass Baghdad-controlled infrastructure and receive payment for oil independent of the central government is one fraught with danger, and it is unlikely that Turkey is ready for that level of confrontation.

Before heading to Washington for talks with U.S. President Barack Obama, Erdogan made it a point to announce that ExxonMobil had struck a deal with Turkish state-owned subsidiary TPIC to develop oil and natural gas in Iraqi Kurdistan for export to Turkey. Unnamed Turkish officials also told Iraq Oil Report that both Chevron and ExxonMobil have shown interest in constructing and financing these plans. The Iraqi central government has so far relied on threats to blacklist foreign firms that unilaterally sign energy exploration and production deals with the Kurdistan Regional Government from energy development in the south. Erdogan was undoubtedly trying to create the impression that Turkey and the Iraqi Kurdish government had the backing of U.S. super-majors to force Baghdad to accede to its plans in the interest of maintaining foreign investor interest in southern energy production.

However, both ExxonMobil (which has a stake in Iraq's West Qurna-1 operations in the south) and Chevron have remained silent on the matter. The firms are likely watching with interest the Kurdistan Regional Government's energy plans with Turkey but are unlikely to make any firm moves until they can be assured that Turkey will be able to physically secure these projects against an irate Baghdad and Tehran. Turkey still has a couple thousand troops in northern Iraq, but it does not necessarily want to find itself in a situation where it is fighting alongside Kurdish Peshmerga forces against Iranian-backed Iraqi federal forces, creating an ideal conflict zone for jihadists to also exploit.

Moreover, Turkey is still trying to manage a very shaky and slow-moving peace process with the Kurdistan Workers' Party at home and cannot afford a security crisis in northern Iraq that could derail that effort. The multi-step peace process depends heavily on the cooperation of the Iraqi Kurdish government, specifically Kurdistan Democratic Party leader Massoud Barzani. After decades of a fairly predictable duopoly between Barzani's party and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the incapacitation of Talabani and rise of third parties raises questions about whether Turkey will be able to maintain strong enough alliances in this increasingly competitive Kurdish political landscape to pursue its energy goals.

Erdogan may well be bluffing at this point. Though the chase of profit versus strategic interest does not always allow U.S. energy giants and the U.S. government to work in sync, Washington has made clear that it is not interested in seeing Turkey provoke a Kurdish fight with Baghdad when the United States has no appetite to intervene and when the Syrian civil war is already causing enough problems. This is why the United States has instead urged Turkey to pursue pipeline projects that connect Iraqi southern production to northern export lines as a holistic approach to dealing with Iraq. But U.S. attempts to treat Iraq as a cohesive entity may be as unrealistic as Turkey's expectations of winning Baghdad over. There are no easy next steps, and no player, especially Turkey, has the option of decisive action to grant Iraqi Kurdistan an independent and reliable export route to sell its crude against Baghdad's consent.



Read more: A Looming Showdown Over Iraqi Kurdish Oil Exports | Stratfor
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« Reply #846 on: June 15, 2013, 04:29:24 AM »

Up from the memory hole:

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/25546334/ns/world_news-mideast_n_africa/t/secret-us-mission-hauls-uranium-iraq/#.UbwquPkvWb4

Separately, I have just finished T. Rick's history of the Iraq War through 2006 called "Fiasco".  Definitely worth the reading but no time right now to write a review.
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« Reply #847 on: June 15, 2013, 03:07:45 PM »

A Thriving American Legacy in Iraq
The Kurds are prospering like never before, even as the pretense of 'one Iraq' fades.
By FOUAD AJAMI
Kurdistan Region, Iraq

The weather has cooperated and the commencement ceremony, held outdoors, proceeds as planned—jubilant students, speakers straining for humor and advice, the awarding of diplomas. The campus, a modern structure of tan stone sitting handsomely atop a hill, framed by nearby mountains, could be anywhere in the American Southwest. But this isn't America, it is the American University of Iraq-Sulaimani, in Iraqi Kurdistan's second-largest city.

Nearly all of Kurdistan's elite are on hand—former peshmerga military commanders, technocrats, businessmen, and two of the region's most influential younger politicians, Barham Salih, former prime minister of the regional government, and Nechirvan Barzani, the current occupant of that position.

The American University of Iraq-Sulaimani had been, as late as 2006, an impossible idea held by Mr. Salih, a devoted and driven modernizer with a doctorate of his own from the United Kingdom. Its first students attended classes in portable cabins. Today, in late May, a beautiful campus surrounds us, and degrees are being conferred in information technology, international studies and business administration.

The pride is palpable. Success and tranquillity have not been the lot of the Kurds, but now they are making, and safeguarding, their history.

The Kurds are not waiting on Baghdad. In May alone, 1,045 people were killed in Iraq, 2,377 wounded, and there were more than 560 episodes of violence. Several years back, a stranger venturing into Kurdistan was treated to tales of hurt and grief, the cruelty meted out by Saddam Hussein's Baath regime. The memory lives on, but there is in the air a sense of vindication—and practicality. On the ruins of that old, cruel world the Kurds are busy building a decent public order.

Geographically, Baghdad is just 200 miles southwest, but it could be worlds away. Stran Abdullah, at 44 one of Kurdistan's most informed and talented journalists, tells me hasn't been to Baghdad in more than five years. For him, he says, it is now an alien city. Still, his Arabic is fluid and rich—a contrast to so many young Kurds who have lost touch with that language. He didn't quibble when I dubbed him Kurdistan's last Iraqi.


.Everywhere, the pretense of "one Iraq" grows weaker by the day. Yet it is still observed if only because a hard partition is destined to be a bloody affair. The line where Kurdistan ends and the rest of Iraq begins runs through an explosive mix of ethnic claims and economic ambitions.

Kirkuk alone should suffice to sober up those who rush into the breach—it is a city as rich in oil as it is in political troubles. One doesn't have to be terribly imaginative to foresee catastrophe in that tinderbox: ethnic cleansing, a Kurdish victory in Kirkuk matched by the eviction of Kurds from the Sunni Arab side of the dividing line.

A people schooled in tragedy are not eager to call it up again. There is an economic boom in Kurdistan, and those here who have known privation for so long now savor their newfound prosperity. The traffic jams bear witness to that. There are more than a million cars on Kurdistan's roads, in a place with fewer than five million people. The consumer goods of the world are here and plentiful.
The region's capital, Erbil, is a surprise after the stark mountains: a boomtown with swanky hotels, shopping malls and construction cranes everywhere. It has the feel of Houston and shades of Dubai. Entrepreneurship seems to be the people's creed. The region produces 200,000 barrels of oil a day, expected to reach a million a day by 2015, and there is an estimated 45 billion barrels in the ground. No wonder the optimism.


.
.The fantasy of Iraqi Kurdistan serving as a magnet for the Kurds of neighboring Syria, Iran and perhaps southeast Turkey, in a bid for Greater Kurdistan, has no takers here. A substantial refugee population from Syrian Kurdistan has made its way here. But the advice given the Syrian Kurds has been stick to your land, create facts on the ground, be wary of the Assad dictatorship and of the rebellion alike. This is a small landlocked regional government and it knows better than to trifle with the two giants that overhang it—Iran and Turkey.

Turkish companies are the largest foreign presence here, and a recent deal struck between the regional government, a Turkish state-run oil firm and Exxon Mobil XOM -0.82%to develop projects in the region confirms that Turkey is now Kurdistan's preferred outlet to the world. Ankara's historic distrust of the Kurds is rapidly receding, and Iraqi Kurdistan has played no small part in the recent truce between the Turkish government and the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

The Kurds remain the most pro-American population in this swath of broad Middle Eastern geography. Yet Washington spurns the Kurds as it courts a strongman in Baghdad who has cast his lot with the Iranian theocracy and the Syrian dictatorship.

In December 2011, as President Obama boasted of his strategic retreat in the region and of U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, he held up Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as "the elected leader of a sovereign, self-reliant and democratic Iraq." Never mind that Mr. Maliki was hard at work intimidating the opposition, consolidating power and warning the Kurds that all oil proceeds must run through Baghdad.

A member of the Kurdish political class lamented to me: "This world we have was bequeathed us by the United States, by the protection that Anglo-American air power gave us after the disastrous events of the first Gulf War of 1990-91. And now the troubles we have holding our own against Baghdad are the product of American policies as well."

What American influence remained after military withdrawal was the U.S. pressure brought to bear on the Kurds—and on the Turks—against the oil deals pursued by Turkey in Kurdistan. But these oil and gas fields had their own power. The Kurds, the Turks and the big oil companies defied the protestations of the White House. The supreme irony: At a time when Iraqis of all stripes were breaking with the idea of a dominion from Baghdad, the U.S. was arguing that Kurdistan ought not to run afoul of Baghdad's dictates on oil exploration.

The friends we spurn, the antagonists and strongmen we court: This is a recurrent theme in American diplomacy. Of late, America's wars in Iraq have lacked for vindication. But look north to the Kurds for a redemption. Before the Obama retreat, a long-suffering people were sheltered by American power, and made the best of their chance.

Mr. Ajami is a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution and the author most recently of "The Syrian Rebellion" (Hoover Press, 2012).

a
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« Reply #848 on: July 02, 2013, 06:35:34 PM »

Opening a New Era in U.S.-Iraq Relations
We Iraqis, grateful for America's sacrifice, now seek an economic partner.

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    LUKMAN FAILY

Last week, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to lift international trade and financial sanctions on Iraq that have been in effect since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in the 1990s. Iraq's exit from Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter—and the substantial progress it has made with Kuwait—is a major accomplishment, and one of several recent developments we Iraqis are celebrating.

Though most Americans probably believe that Iraqis are fed up with the U.S., the truth is that Iraqis appreciate what the U.S. has done and are looking for more U.S. involvement—not more sacrifice of blood and treasure, but more diplomatic, political, trade, investment and economic partnership.

The next clear step is for the U.S. and Iraq to fully implement the Strategic Framework Agreement, signed prior to the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. forces, which defines the overall political, economic, cultural and security ties between our two countries. Americans should see this agreement not as a ticket out of Iraq, but as the foundation for a long-term partnership with the people and government of Iraq.

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Associated Press

A man exchanges money at a street money changer in Karbala, near Baghdad, in June.

At a time of profound change in the Middle East, the implementation of the agreement has so far been slow and uneven. While security coordination through military sales and financing programs continues, an expedited delivery of promised sales, better intelligence sharing, and stepped-up assistance in counterterrorism and training is essential for Iraq's fight against terrorism—a clear national security interest of the U.S. Implementing this agreement should not be linked to regional issues, such as the conflict in Syria.

As we look forward to full implementation of the Strategic Framework Agreement, the legacy of the past 10 years is something to build on. After decades of dictatorship, three disastrous wars, international isolation, economic sanctions, the displacement of more than a million Iraqis and the deaths of tens of thousands more, Iraq has begun to build a multiethnic, multiparty democracy with respect for the rule of law.

It hasn't been easy. But Iraqis are making progress towards creating a democratic system. All the political parties have accepted elections as a method of power-sharing and peaceful change. Terrible as it is, the current violence in Iraq is primarily caused by terrorism, not civil war. As the recent provincial elections affirmed, Iraqis are developing a culture of democracy—something that many of our neighbors do not yet have.

With Iraq taking its place as a partner, not a protectorate, Americans can help by providing political, diplomatic and security assistance, in addition to technical know-how and investment capital.

On the political front, the U.S. can serve as an honest broker among Iraqi factions that are learning to work with each other. Americans are seen as mature partners who have proven their commitment to Iraq, and their involvement is not perceived as a threat to our sovereignty or national interest.

On the diplomatic front, Iraq has rejoined the international community by exiting Chapter VII, and it has done important work with the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and the Arab League. Looking ahead, Iraq and the U.S. can cooperate to resolve broader regional challenges.

Now that Iraq is moving toward a market economy friendly to foreign investment, Americans can provide what our nation needs: expertise on energy technologies, engineering, design, construction and financial services. Iraq offers tremendous investment opportunities for developing and servicing telecommunications, health care, education, water treatment, and bridges and highways, to name a few.

Meanwhile, oil production has increased by 50% since 2005, and our economy is expected to grow by at least 9.4% annually through 2016. Iraq expects to increase oil production to 4.5 million barrels per day by the end of 2014 and nine million barrels a day by 2020—a 157% increase from our current production levels. With the goal of diversifying our economy beyond energy, Iraq plans to invest these oil revenues in education and critical development projects, including restoring electrical power and rebuilding our transportation system.

Moreover, Iraq is in the process of purchasing over $10 billion worth of military equipment, paid for with our own revenues, and we are eager to buy this hardware from the U.S. Iraq's recent purchase of 30 Boeing BA -1.71% planes for our national carrier testifies to our potential as a market for U.S. goods and services.

Iraqis will be forever grateful to Americans for sacrificing alongside us to overthrow Saddam's brutal tyranny. We now look forward to working together to build a strong and prosperous democracy in Iraq and to cement a strategic partnership between our nations.

Mr. Faily is the newly appointed ambassador of Iraq to the United States.
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« Reply #849 on: July 16, 2013, 09:58:04 AM »

"On June 27, 2013, Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) announced the final results of the provincial elections held in the two predominantly Sunni Arab provinces of Anbar and Ninawa. Voter turnout in Anbar reached 49.5%, but was significantly lower in Ninawa at 37.5%. The polls in Anbar and Ninawa were pushed from April (when the rest of Iraq's provinces had their elections) to late June. The Kurdistan Regional Government (Dohuk, Erbil and Sulaymania) is expected to have theirs in September 2013. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki invoked 'security concerns' to justify his decision to delay elections in both provinces -- namely increasing insurgent attacks and assassinations of candidates and members of the armed forces. However, his decision was in fact primarily motivated by months of unprecedented anti-government protests carried out by politically marginalized and disenfranchised Sunni Arab populations. These protests first broke out in December 2012 following the unexpected arrest of several guards of former Finance Minister Rafi al-Issawi -- an Anbar native linked to Iyad Allawi's Iraqiyya bloc who has since resigned from government. The unrest then spread across other Sunni Arab provinces including Ninawa, Salahaddin, Diyala, Baghdad, and Tamim. 

These provincial election results illustrate the enduring resentment and sociopolitical alienation of Sunni Arab populations over a decade after the fall of Saddam Hussein, and a clear weakening of the political process in the country. Compared to the 2009 elections, fewer Sunni Arab voters went to the ballot box, while political parties scattered among a variety of alliances. Once again, these elections demonstrated the difficulty for Sunni Arabs to organize themselves and define an effective action plan in their lasting confrontation with the Shia dominated central government. This has not only benefited al-Maliki's State of Law coalition and its partners, but also the Kurdish parties in their regions.

Just as Sunni Arabs were marginalized under the U.S. occupation for their collective association with the former regime, most Sunni Arabs still have not been reintegrated into new institutions and face what they perceive to be discriminatory policies aimed at 'de-Sunnifying' Iraq.  In particular, they maintain that without the abolition of 'de-Ba'athification,' as well as certain laws and anti-terrorism provisions, political normalization will be impossible. Previously downplayed by the U.S. coalition, these demands have been met with disdain by the Shia-led government. In fact, instead of engaging in a dialogue, al-Maliki has persistently refused to involve the opposition -- notably Sunni Arabs -- in public debates and decision- making. In response, criticisms of this apparently authoritarian drift have mounted steadily in the last months."

-- Joshua Haber
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