The Iraq Chronicles

I’ve been on KEXP-90.3 on Saturday mornings for over a decade, and for the last several years we’ve been running an extremely popular weekly overview of news from Iraq. Since there’s a lot more of it than I have time to run through (and links don’t work well on the radio), for a while now I’ve also been posting the weekly summaries over at Booman Tribune. It occurs to me that it might make sense to post it locally, too. And so, with your indulgence (and hopefully interest), here is the first of a weekly compilation of news you may or may not have seen or read regarding America’s most disastrous war.

Much of the last week, in D.C. and the Green Zone, was spent by various parties trying to pave the way for their spin on the congressionally mandated report on the escalation “surge” due at the end of next week.

That included George Bush making a surprise Labor Day PR visit to Anbar Province — a profile in courage somewhat undermined in that he stayed protected by a 13-mile perimeter and 10,000 troops, not venturing outside the base to see for himself the wonderful progress he has been touting. But more importantly, days previous, Bush hinted that he’s already made up his mind regardless of what Gen. Petraeus has to say, suggesting that he would send still more troops to Iraq after the 15th and announcing that he would ask Congress for yet another $50 billion “emergency” war appropriation.

Meanwhile, the impartial investigative arm of Congress, the General Accountability Office, released a report that flatly contradicted the White House, finding little progress in Iraq during the escalation surge. Specifically, the GAO looked at the 18 benchmarks set by Congress. Unlike a White house report last month that tortured logic and semantics in order to find “progress” in only eight of the 18 benchmarks, the GAO found progress in only three and declared the war effort to be failing on all the most important ones.

Other indicators that things didn’t have the rosy glow insisted upon by Bush and his apologists: a New York Times report that while deaths this summer are down from their peak in Baghdad — perhaps because ethnic cleansing has progressed so far that there are fewer people left for the death squads to kill — nationwide the rate of sectarian deaths is double what it was in 2006. (Even in Baghdad, it’s still higher than 2006, just lower than the cooler months of Spring.) And the Center for American Progress released a study declaring that American troops can be safely withdrawn from Iraq in one year, again undercutting the war hawks’ argument that without all those American soldiers and weapons the violence would get worse.

Oh, and there was also the little-noticed tidbit that Gen. Petraeus intervened to “soften” the language of the recent National Intelligence Estimate to reflect recent “progress.” (Even so, the NIE basically said Baghdad was somewhere around the seventh circle of Hell.) Plus, the U.S. leaned on five leading Shiite and Sunni exile politicians to announce a “deal” on America’s desired give-Iraqi-oil-to-American-oil-companies oil law, prisoners, and a few other concessions. But it was largely for show, and American consumption: the deal didn’t bring Sunnis back into the government, won’t get any of the agreed-upon items through Parliament, and the remaining Iraqi politicians allegedly running the country are mostly returned exiles with no constituency outside the Beltway and no relevance outside the Green Zone.

On the other side of that wall, a far more damning measure of how the escalation surge is going, namely how it’s affecting actual Iraqis, emerged last week. Over 5,000 cholera cases have now been reported in Northern Iraq, primarily among refugees living in shanty towns in areas of the country without much fighting. (The UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimated last week that 4.2 million Iraqis, one in every six, has been uprooted by the war.) Why is this important? Cholera is a disease of the extremely poor, normally seen only in areas where poverty is extreme and government services nonexistent. In this case, as in much of Iraq, there is no longer clean drinking water and, of course, no public health sector to speak of. The government has no presence, local militias and tribes can only do so much, and many of the doctors and technocrats have fled the country or been killed. That’s what the escalation surge means to the average Iraqi.

Want more? Iraqis are no longer eating fish out of the Tigris or Euphrates Rivers, in part because there are so many dead bodies in the rivers — which the fish nibble on — that Iraqis are afraid of contracting diseases associated with cannibalism.

In the south of Iraq, 52 people died last week in Karbala firefights (widely reported in the US as “riots”) between members of Moktada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army and the Maliki-aligned Badr Organization, both Shiite militias vying for control (and wider imposition of sharia law) as British soldiers complete their withdrawal from southern Iraq. After the fighting, al-Sadr ordered the Mahdi Army to stand down for six months to try to avoid widening the civil war. We’ll see how long it lasts. Prime Minister Maliki, the great American-sponsored statesman, blamed Sunni clerics from Saudi Arabia for somehow provoking the Karbala bloodshed, in an effort to deflect attention from his Badr friends. This is our voice of political reconciliation during the escalation surge.

Another important front was emerging in coverage of Iraq last week: a widening scandal (finally) over corruption and where all that American money and weaponry I mentioned earlier has actually been going for four years. McClatchy newspapers reported that hundreds of thousands of dollar in U.S. rebuilding money went to insurgents (still only a fraction of the billions that went missing overall). The Army accused Lee Dynamics International of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to US officials to get $11 million in contracts. The New York Times reported that several federal agencies are investigating weapons sales, disappearances, fraud, kickbacks, and black market profiteering by US officials. And one investigation involves senior official who worked with a Gen. David Petraeus — yes, that Gen. Petraeus — when he was heading the effort to arms and train Iraqi militias and death squads army and police units in 2004-05. (Heckuva job, Davie.) Also from the Times: US weapons given to the Iraqi army are being found used by criminal gangs in Turkey. (No surprise there — we’ve flooded the black market in arms the world over by handing out AK-47s etc. like candy in Iraq.) And, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Paul Brinkley (another political appointee) was accused last week by a DoD task force of mismanaging government money in Iraq — and also engaging in public drunkenness and sexual harassment.

Big picture: The Project on Government Oversight reported last week that the top 50 Iraq contractors paid over $12 billion in fines and restitution for violating various federal laws over the last 10 years. Being scofflaws not only hasn’t disqualified them from the Iraq feeding trough, but seems to be an entrance requirement.

Finally, in the most unintentionally hilarious incident since Larry Craig got Restless Leg Syndrome, the U.S. military characterized as “regrettable” a Baghdad incident last Tuesday in which eight Iranians, including two diplomats, were released hours after being arrested. In a country awash with guns and where security details are essential for normal travel for VIPs, the eight were singled out because the Iraqi security guys they’d hired had an “unauthorized” AK-47 and two pistols in the trunk of their car. Not entirely coincidentally, President Bush was in Reno that day, telling an American Legion convention that Iranians were arming the insurgency, as part of the steadily increasing PR campaign for a military strike on Iran — which several credible reports this weekend, including this one in the Times of London, say will be massive and imminent. Attacking Iran would not only be illegal and immoral, but politically, militarily, and economically disastrous — the time to mount public opposition to this insanity is now.

Comments

  1. 1

    spews:

    Geov!!!!

    Thanks! This is a great addition to HA!!!

    I also read something worrisome. Apparently Petraeus wrote a proWar, pro Bush op-ed in the WaPost two eeks before the last election. (see Krugman’s column, todays NYT).

    This suggests that the General is less the perfect, objective soldier he has been portrayed to be. Can Congress relieve a General to say what his Baas wants him to say?

    Another issue you did not mention s the evacuation of Basra by the Brits. That leaves who in control?????

  2. 2

    Richard Pope spews:

    Isn’t Iran a strong ally and supporter of the Maliki government in Iraq? How can we attack Iran and support Maliki at the same time? If we like Maliki, isn’t Iran willing to increase its support of Maliki, if we withdraw our forces from Iraq? The Iranian president is a crazy nutcase of course, but the same can be said of our strategy with both Iran and Iraq.

    What is your take on this, SeattleJew? You certainly recognize the danger that Iran can pose. But how do we deal with it? Iran is a much more formidable adversary than the Iraqi regime that we attacked back in March 2003.

    And why should we make MORE ENEMIES? Aren’t we fighting enough of them aleady? What do we do if the Iranian air and naval defenses prove somewhat formidable, the Iraqi Shiite government turns against us, and the Iranian army sends regular troops to Iraq?

  3. 3

    michael spews:

    There’s a big lighting storm headed towards Seattle (I’m outside Tacoma watching it role north). You might want to shut down the computers for a bit.

  4. 4

    ArtFart spews:

    If a significant number of people find the subject matter of Geov’s post “boring”, we’re even more fucked up than I imagined.

    At least on this “surprise” visit, Bush wasn’t waving a rubber turkey.

  5. 5

    spews:

    # 4: Sorry, David, if you find it boring. It’s meant as a resource on a subject a lot of people care about and for which even decent reporting in this country is often scattered and incomplete. If you aren’t interested, skip it. If a lot of folks aren’t interested, I’ll desist. Goldy gave it the OK a while ago, but (for example) I didn’t want to interrupt the Darcyathon last weekend, so I waited. But HA in general, you may have noticed, is broadening its interests in both the posts and the threads. Me, I think that’s healthy and interesting – but the core of HA will always be local politics.

  6. 6

    spews:

    @2 Richard

    I am not convinced that Iran is interested in Maliki.

    IMO, we are in a hard place. Bush is simply not up to leading a strategic withdrawal or negotiating as needed with US allies. The est we can hope is that there is now a shadow white house run by Baker and Daddy Bush with enough suntelty to control this dangerous man.

    Ideally, IMO, we should:

    1. Announce a permanent commitment to stabilize the Kurds. Did you know they just opened a branch of the American University? I wish Bush had gone there instead of Anbar.

    This is so easy I do not understand why lil Bush has not done it. A small US force combined with a non aggression agredment with Turkey would do the trick. With time Turkey and iraquikurdistan migh emerge as natural allies.

    2. Quietly work with whoever we choose to stabilize the Sunni regions while letting Maliki wither on the vine. I have not read anyone who thinks he is a survivor.

    Petraeus has returned to the classical colonial strategy of adopting an indigenous party .. in this case the remnant of the Baath party in Anbar. I suspect that this is the real intent of the surge .. to give the tribal chieftains time to secure their region. Unfortunately, it is LATE and it is also unclear that the Bathists have an internal leader (a “Saddam?”).

    3. Shia-land is the hardest nut. Pro and anti Irani Shia forces are ikely to fight on and not allow an Iranian power grab. We mignt be better if the South were to be taken over by Iran BUT thi would require a level of understanding not there now.

  7. 8

    Patrick McArdle (aka "Paddy Mac") spews:

    Geov,

    Good to see that you’re still very much alive and well. Thanks for that quick recap of news affecting many of Washington State’s best citizens, who serve in Iraq. If the Democrats have any guts, they won’t rest until every ugly detail of our failed occupation comes to light.

  8. 12

    Incredulous spews:

    Well, I might have read the whole article, but when I got to the line calling Iraq “America’s most disastrous war”, I knew the author was either a) an uneducated product of our local public school system or b) a Bush hater of such intensity that he had no room left in his brain for rational thought. Or maybe both.

    Let’s not even discuss Vietnam, where 50,000+ Americans died in a losing cause, although certainly it would be easy to make the case that Vietnam was a more disastrous war than Iraq could ever turn out to be. Let’s just turn our thoughts to the 1860s. The author probably doesn’t know it, but we fought a little war then known as the Civil War. The loss of American life on a single day at Antietam was almost the same as in the entire history of the Iraq war to date. A whole generation of young Americans was almost completely wiped out in those terrible years. The country is still today suffering the consequences. The Union was barely preserved at a horrendous price for all. Can anyone with more than a 3rd grade education compare the Civil War to Iraq and say Iraq is worse??? Do you really hate Bush that much?

    – Disgusted with the whole thing.

    PS I hope GWB rots in hell for what he is doing. But Iraq isn’t Vietnam. And it certainly isn’t anything comparable to the Civil War.

  9. 13

    spews:

    @14 Incredulous

    Good post. Frankly, I do not think Lincoln desrves the accolades he gets.

    But the issue remains the same. This is far worse than ‘nam because .. oddly, we ended up winning in ‘nam in any meanigful economic sense.

    The damage done by GWB may last a lot longer,

  10. 14

    spews:

    @15
    That’s an excellent point. The damage of Iraq actually isn’t so much in American lives, it’s in American credibility. It started us on a path to where the rest of the world will demand stronger international institutions because they no longer trust our role as the world’s policemen.

  11. 15

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @4 “Isn’t HA supposed to be about Washington State politics???”

    Five or six Fort Lewis funerals a week not enough to convince you Bush’s Iraq fiasco affects Washington state?

  12. 16

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @4 Reading HA is a voluntary activity. If this is too boring for you, try reading somewhere else.

  13. 17

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    14, 15, 16 — Guys, instead of making these stretches of logic, why not just say all wars are disastrous, and this one is no exception? That’s why we need more circumspection and reflection from our leaders than we got from Bush.

    No matter what the Civil War cost, Lincoln had no choice because the other guys fired first; on the other hand, every casualty and expenditure in Iraq was avoidable, because Bush fired first.

    The Civil War had a successful outcome — the Union was preserved and, as a bonus, slavery was abolished — whereas Iraq, like Vietnam, is a sinkhole.

    It’s disingenuous to suggest we “won” in Vietnam simply because the fact we lost turned out not to matter. If the measure of “victory” in Vietnam is the fact we now have trade relationships with that country, I can only wonder how much sooner that trade would have come if we hadn’t spent years waging war against the government we now have that relationship with.

  14. 18

    spitintheocean spews:

    So what can we expect from our Democratic congressional majority , oh say , before the new year , Geov ?

  15. 19

    spews:

    14: I tend to agree with Roger at 19 that all wars are disastrous. But the Civil War, bloody and horrific as it was, at least put an end to American slavery. No such comparable good has come from Iraq, unless you count the replacement of one thug (Saddam) with the inevitable ascendance of religious zealots as an equivalent moral victory. Plus, if you happen to believe (as I do) that Iraqi lives are every bit as valuable as American ones, the death toll in Iraq (as wirh Southeast Asia) has actually been worse, and much more heavily costly to civilians.

    20: I’m not interested in apologetics for the current Democratic leadership of Congress. They were pretty clearly put in charge by voters to do two related things – stand up to Bush and end the war – and with the honorable exceptions of Henry Waxman and a few others on the oversight front, they’ve so far done neither. And the closer we get to the 2008 election, the less likely they’ll do anything without massive public prodding — the leadership and the consultants surrounding them are too chickenshit about risking offending swing voters, which is a major reason Democrats kept losing until the stench of Bush’s job performance just got too overwhelming. If they keep it up they could still find a way to lose the White House in 08, too – you’d never know it from HA, but a lot of the Dem base is just as pissed off at the Dems as the conservative base is at the Republicans. Hence Congress clocking 17 percent approval.

  16. 20

    Daddy Love spews:

    But we sent 20,000 troops to Iraq and a few neighborhoods in Baghdad are safer!! Isn’t that progress?

    What a view! As if anyone anywhere ever thought or said that spending millions of dollars and sending thousands of troops into Baghdad to build walls between ethnic enclaves while the Shi’ites cleared the last Sunnis out of the western half of the city wouldn’t help tone down the violence in a few neighborhoods.

    Of course, we SENT the escalation troops there to enhance the security of the Iraqi people (but nationwide, violence is NOT down) and end the sectarian violence (which is even now increasing in the south) so that political reconciliation could occur across the country (which is not happening anywhere).

    Other than that, we have the “signs of success” that Ambassador Crocker just referred to as “mini-benchmarks” (because we all know how hard achieving the full-sized ones can be).

  17. 21

    SeattleJew spews:

    @16 I agree

    As awful as ‘nam was, at the end we were the undisputed leader of the free world, the USSR had begun its decline, and Mao-ism was on its way toward the current Marxo-captalism.

    I any real sense, we won.

    On contrast, the utcome of Iraq klppks dire. Bush has, ibn effect, promoted China’s role as a world power unrestrained by an opposing MORAL force, totally failed to support a liberal alternative to Hexbolla and Hamas, allowed our military to decay in a way that may take billions (we may not have) to repair, etc. etc.

    This is why I support OBama. Clinto is good too, but I am not convinced ahe has the ability to make the sort of dramatic break I think we need. Barack’s comments on diplomacy at first worried me. Bit as I have read what others think about this, I have come to see that BO is a wide man.

    For those who prefer HRC over BO, consider these questins:

    1. Which one is more likely to attend Fidel’s funeral?
    2. Who is more likely to be a moral leader in emerging areas of the world we need as allies? Imagine one or the other attempting to intervene in the chaos of Nigeria?
    3. Someone HAS to tell the bill Cosby truth to the American underclass … of any color. That truth has to include a call to discipline and a call to opportunity. Who has a better chance of inspiring the underclass AND demanding hard choices?

    I di not mean this as a campaign piece. All elections are choices and if HRC is our candidate I will be thrilled. She is not only better than any of the Repricans, she is truly a first class leader. But, given the choice .. I am for OB.

    To finish with humor, they say is good.

    (SJ News, April 1, 4567)
    The Galactic Parliament today has awarded the first Glactic Award of Valor, named for President Obama of early Earth history. The ward went to a young Jedi knight, Garen Kenobee for his selfless herosim in the war against the Startrek Kingons.

    Henceforth Citizen Kenobee will wear the honorific title of OB.

    All should honor OB-1 Kenobee.

  18. 22

    ArtFart spews:

    Well, how about something like…

    America’s most embarrassing war?
    America’s most ridiculous war?
    America’s most unjustifiable war?
    America’s most unconscionable war?
    America’s most immoral war?
    America’s most costly war (at least in terms of dollars spent for benefits gained)?

    …or just plain
    America’s most wrong war?

  19. 23

    YellowPup spews:

    Geov: This is a great post. Thanks.

    the time to mount public opposition to this insanity is now.

    Seems to me that Bush and his administration are basically dead-enders at this point, with less incentive than ever to listen to the public, much less to logic and good sense, which has never been their style. Anyone have any suggestions about how best to contribute to stopping the insanity?

    It seems unlikely this time that the UN or Congress would be offered a change to stamp the decision before the bombs start to fall.

  20. 24

    Daddy Love spews:

    A year ago, we had 27K Iraqis in custody. Right now we have incacerated abo0ut 60K. If violence doesn’t go down, will that refute attempts to imprison our way to a low crime rate in the US?

    In addition, why isn’t John Lott living over in Iraq right now? More guns, less crime, don’t you know?

  21. 25

    My Left Foot spews:

    Um, where is Goldy? Not one post from him in nearly two days. If there is foul play, Stefan needs to be questioned and sentenced. (No trial, he is a law and order Rethuglican and he would understand).

  22. 26

    Daddy Love spews:

    From the WaPo:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/.....id=topnews

    If there is one indisputable truth regarding the current offensive, it is this: When large numbers of U.S. troops are funneled into areas, security improves. But the numbers only partly describe the reality on the ground. Visits to key U.S. bases and neighborhoods in and around Baghdad show that recent improvements are sometimes tenuous, temporary, even illusory.

    “Tenuous, temporary, even illusory.” Sounds like the roster of Dave Reichert’s accomplishments in office.

  23. 27

    ArtFart spews:

    26 This sounds like “Paris boulevard intersection syndrome”. I’ve had several friends who visited Paris relate a rush-hour phenomenon where an major intersection becomes hopelessly jammed up. You then hear a French police van approaching from the distance, its siren going “Dee-doo-dee-doo-dee-doo…”. After it arrives, a group of flics gets out and proceed, with sqealing of whistles and waving of white-gloved hands, to clear the jam.

    Then the cops jump back into the van, go “Dee-doo-dee-doo”ing off to the next choke point, and three minutes later the intersection is clogged up just like before.

  24. 28

    Broadway Joe spews:

    SJ @ 6:

    As far as Kurdistan goes, I’ve been saying that for quite some time. And now may be the best time to do so, with a new government in Turkey hinting that playing nice with the Kurds (as long as the PKK is dealt with) is doable. As for the rest of Iraq, let the Saudi-financed Sunni and Iranian-backed Shi’ites fight it out, and let them get drawn into the morass. Some have speculated that such a conflict may be the thing needed to finally force moderate Muslims to stand up say ‘those who are fighting, they don’t represent me’ and take back their faith from the extremists, and eventually allow Islam to evolve into a faith more compatible (in the eyes of others) with the modern world.

  25. 29

    spews:

    Hi Geov-

    I’m a mostly regularly listener to KEXP’s Saturday morning news hours.

    I think Mike McCormick is great. I see him at many progressive and liberal functions, taping the events.

    Your weekly run down of events and updates is always a great summary. I like that, as a long term commentator, you add historical perspective and analysis.

    Cheers, Jason Osgood

    PS- Eat The State is great. Why hasn’t Goldy added a permalink on HA’s front page?

  26. 30

    SeattleJew spews:

    @28 Bway Joe

    Sure, but we need to get there form here and it is not atl all obvious that the only influences in Central Iraq are Saudi or in southern Iraq, Iranian.

    The worst outcome of Iraq would be if it were to become a surrogate battlefield like pre-WWII Spain for the various interested parties.

    Focusing on the Sunni, possible parties include Syria, Saudi Arabia, the Afghani/Pakistani Taliban, as well as the usual Russian, Chinese and Merican meddlers. I do not think tiny Saudi Arabia is rich enough to make up for the fact that they have a small over-rich population.

    Focussing in the Shia, there is a lot of evidence that the Arabs of Iraq DO NOT WANT to be ruled by the Farsi. There are also important doctrinal differences between mainstream Shia and the Imanate of Iraq. So the same issue arises in the South. Domination by Iran might not be bad outcome, iut might be worth our while to support this. OTOH, a proxy war between Iran and the Arabs is all too possible.

    IMO, the only safe way out is to build the sort of alliances that Bush f’d up in the first place so all the folks at the dinner can safely get their piece of the turkey rather than throwing food at each other and scaring the kids.

  27. 32

    ArtFart spews:

    30 Your last line is interesting, but realistically, the best thing we can possibly hope for is a return to the hairpins-and-baling-wire diplomacy of the Kissinger era. That’s assuming the Bushistas don’t blow the shit out of everything to cover their tracks, or just because they want to watch a pretty bonfire.

  28. 33

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @22 Well, that’s a toughie, but I can think of a justifiable war that we won: Clinton’s Kosovo intervention.

  29. 34

    Broadway Joe spews:

    30:

    Sure there are other players in this drama, mainly the Syrians and Jordanians, but this is already a proxy fight between two extremist factions with designs on global domination, the Wahhabi Saudis (Wahhabi is a branch of Sunni Islam) and Shi’ite revolutionaries of Iran, with our soldiers (including my two stepsons) caught in the middle. Take a good look at Islamic terrorist groups all over the world, and you’ll see the fingerprints of either group all over them. Saudi money (and not all Osama’s, either) is fueling terror groups from Chechnya to the Phillipines, much to the consternation of the Saudi ruling family, while Iran is mostly responsible for Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and the other terror groups aiming themselves at Israel.

    Draining the resources of the Saudi and Iranian backers is the best (albeit cruelest) way to limit terrorism, making them too busy fighting each other. Letting them have their equivalent of a Thirty Years War or Hundred Years War will force the evolution of Islam into something more compatible with the 21st century instead of the 15th.

    All we need to do is protect the Kurds.

  30. 35

    spews:

    @34 Bway Joe

    I think you oversimplify …

    e.g.

    The Muslim Bortherhood is anything but Saudi, indeed they are dedicated to overthrowing the Sauds.

    Jordan is not rea;;y a player under the Hashemites, BUT they have come close before to falling, a mess in Iraq could move over the border very easily.

    Syria is also separate story, They are a secular state, opposed to all islamo fascist systems unless they system is working in their favor.

    THEN do not forget the meddlers … Khazakastan IS a fascist state with southern traditions, Russia has a long stated interest ijn a southern extension. China??? India…………………………..

    Just remember the number of big wars that have begun as staged conflicts on small set!

  31. 36

    Broadway Joe spews:

    Perhaps oversimplifying isn’t such a bad idea. But let’s analyze, anyway!

    In the local neighborhood, the Muslim Brotherhood is the OG of Islamist groups, and at the very core of Islamofascist theology. Yes, it’s real. But the MB is more a politcal and theological force than a physical one, and not really enamored with either of the real culprits here, those being Iran and Saudi Arabia. Jordan is nominally on our side, and Syria is in deep shit due to its constant meddling in Lebanon, so none of them are much of a factor. As for Kazakhstan, Russia and India, let’s go down that list:

    Kazakhstan: So what if they’re a fascist state with ‘southern traditions’? They got their collective panties in a bunch over Borat. As Col. Klink would say…..

    DIS-missed!

    Russia has its own Islamist insurgency (financed and trained by Wahhabi Saudis, no less) to deal with, and while Putin (Europe’s Dubya) has been tweaking the noses of the West by cozying up to Iran, their ‘southern interests’ died in Afghanistan a generation ago.

    India has recently begun to entertain the notion of being the ‘superpower of the Indian Ocean’, so much so that they are in the process of augmenting their naval forces with a group of nuclear submarines. Whether or not they’re building them themselves or purchasing them abroad I have no idea. But with their attentions focused on Pakistan and China in Kashmir and the Himalayas, not to mention their own terrorist problems, I can’t really see them as being much of a player in the current situation, or in the eventual, no, inevitable Sunni – Shi’a war.

    My position stands unchanged. Simply put, schmooze the Turks, protect the Kurds, and get out of everyone else’s way. We need not be involved in any ‘staged conflict’.

  32. 37

    spews:

    @35
    The Muslim Bortherhood is anything but Saudi, indeed they are dedicated to overthrowing the Sauds.

    Actually, I think they’re dedicated to overthrowing Mubarak, but they may be a broader movement now.

    I think Broadway Joe’s take is pretty sound actually.

  33. 38

    Broadway Joe spews:

    37:

    Thank you, Lee. You are correct in that statement about the MB, although Mubarak had only just been born when the Brotherhood was first formed in Egypt in 1928. Ironically, Egypt’s colonial rulers, the British, aided in the formation of MB, as a way to keep Egyptian nationalism and anti-colonialism under control. But MB remains to this day as Egypt’s strongest political opposition, and has spread pretty much throughout the Islamic world. There’s even been a chapter here in the US, albeit a very tame one, since the early Sixties.

  34. 39

    spews:

    @37

    Broadway is correct in one issue .. the iranoians, but he overestimates their aggressiveness and their control over non Farsis. Most of the current fighting in the south is between pro and anti Iranian Shia.

    The Saudi role is a lot owrse then he suggests. There is a split between the Royals and the Wahabi .. remember ths was an alliance of convenience. If the Wahabi actullay came ot power in their own right, things would be exactly as you say. But, SA itself is very unstable. The Royal system is breaking down and is not lkley to last a lot longer because SA simply lacks the cash to pay the huge numbger of Royals.

    As a result for now Saudi money is all over hell …Muslim Bortherhood, Hamas, even Syria. I agree that it is a threat but to make mattersworse t is multile threats and..ultimately the target is not Iraq nut SA itself,

    The MB is alot more potent then you suggest. No it is not wealthy and does not now control a country. However, it wants to and has huge support in the Northern African states. The MB would LOVE to overthrow the Hashemites and a base in Iraq would make that possible.

    Syria is not in as much trouble as you suggest. They got their faces smeared by the world for trying to recover Lebanaon and the success of Hezbollah was not in Syrian interests. But, they have a desperate secular regime that is in mnay ways like Saddams. Regimes of that kind, in some ways like the bushistas, maintain power by perpetual war. They also have established rfecords and expertise in fifteh column war in Lebanaon. Finally, they are opposed to both the Iranians and the Wahabis. Syria will not stand by as a neutra; while its border turns into Bosnia.

    I agree on the FSU, but they are nto innocuous, especially because the Kurdish issue is there too. t is essential to any kind of peace that we stabilize Kurdistan to keeo Turkey and the Northern neighbors out of the melange.

    The good news is that with a modicum of support it appears that the Baathists are capable of dominating the Sunni regions. How that will play ut remians to be seen.

    India and China are, IMO, hidden cards in the deck, They ahve as much interest or more than we do in avoiding a mess in the Gulf but have been kept out of the matter by the US. I suspect they woulr play a constgructive role and thinl the decision by the US on whether to support ilitar5y diversity in the IO will be obne of the most important ones for Hillray to make when Obama apoints her as his rep.

  35. 40

    SeattleJew spews:

    OOPs … sorry, even for me the typoes are horrid:

    Broadway is correct in one issue .. the Iranians are a player, but he overestimates their aggressiveness and their control over non Farsis. Most of the current fighting in the south is between pro and anti Iranian Shia. Iran’s leader know they can not directly rule Arab shiities so the most they hope for is an ally,

    The Saudi role is a lot more complex than he suggests. There is a split between the Royals and the Wahabi .. remember ths was an alliance of convenience. If the Wahabi actually came to power in their own right, things would be exactly as you say. But, SA itself is very unstable. The Royal system is breaking down and is not likely to last a lot longer because SA simply lacks the cash to pay the huge number of Royals.

    Also, while Wahabeism is a branch of Sunni, it is anything but popular. The Muslim Brotherhood, as one example, is very anti Wahabe.

    As a result for now Saudi money is all over hell …Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, even Syria. I agree that it is a threat but to make matters worse it is multiple threats and..ultimately the target is not Iraq nut SA itself. The Wahabes themselves would like full control of SA … can yuo spell Taliban in big letters?

    The MB is a lot more potent then you suggest BUT is firmly opposed to both the Royals and the Wahabes. . No MB is not wealthy and does not control a country. However, it wants to and has huge support in the northern African states. The MB would LOVE to overthrow the Hashemites and a base in Iraq would make that possible. Egypt hangs on a string, my bet is that a free elction would bring the MB into power.

    Syria is not in as much trouble as you suggest. They got their public relations face smeared by the world for trying to regain Lebanaon. The success of Hezbollah was not in Syrian interests. But, they have a desperate secular regime that is in many ways like Saddams. Regimes of that kind maintain power by perpetual war.

    If we simply poof Syria will certainly be in Iraq, likely as a fifth column as has been their long history in Lebanon. . Finally, Syria is opposed to both the Iranians and the Wahabis. Syria will not stand by as a neutral while its border turns into Bosnia and, in the worst case, Syria might see this as an oporunity to have its own access to oil.

    The other issues we seem to agree on. Although I think you are wrong to underestimate the possible role of the FSU, these are all grwoing econmies, some have oil, and they too have reaosn to support brethren in Iraq. India and China are, IMO, hidden cards in the deck, They have as much interest or more than we do in avoiding a mess in the Gulf but have been kept out of the matter by the US. I suspect they would play a constructive role and think the decision by the US on whether to support ilitar5y diversity in the IO will be bne of the most important ones for Hillary to make when Obama apoints her as his rep.

    Bottom line, the US can get out but it would be idiotic to do soi w/o getting the best deal we can. If we can get Syria and SA to work together, between them they could stabilize Sunnistan. I just do not see lil Bush having the skill to get there. I suspect the best we can hope for in the South is an Arab centric regime that distrusts Iran. Getting to that point may be impossible unless Iran is willing to pull in its dogs.

    There are some chips still on the table we can use:

    a. Iran wants to be prosperous. A Korean approach might work. Peace and good will in return for denuking and an alliance with Arab Shhiisatan. The biggest problem may be Saudi.
    b. China wants peace there, if we support them in re Taiwan and the S. China Sea, I suspect they would support an Indianization of the Indian Ocean. We REALLY need a long term China policy!
    c. Turkey wants to be r3cognized as a big boy, a part of the Euro-American condominium BUT a MUSLIM part. This could work. They have played a great role in Israel and represent the closest thing ther eis to a democratic alternative to Shiiism and the MB. Pulling off a an Iraqui-Kurd::Turkish understanding is in everyones interest and a friendly Kurd::Turkey alliance in the north would be formidable force for stability in the entire region.
    d.Israel .. this is really a long shot but there is a slender chance that Hamas has opened the door to the creation of a Jordanian::Palestinian league that could bring peace. I think this is job #1 on Condi’s p[late now I just have trouble imagining lil Bush doing a Clinton on Abbas and Olmert. The interesting thing about all this is the Saudis. The Royals know their days are numbered and may see Israel of all places as a critical ally. The Saudi certainly do not want a home grown MB or Hamas! Wi Saudi finances the money is there to do some good.

  36. 42

    Broadway Joe spews:

    40:

    1. I never suggested that MB was in control of any country, only that they are the main political opposition in Egypt.

    2. I have previously posted about the very fragile state of the House of Saud. Ruling over both the State and State Religion (albeit only as a titular head), the House has been trying unsuccessfully to stop the flow of money and men into Iraq, only to find that the money is coming from some of Saudi Arabia’s wealthiest families, some connected to, and even related to, the House of Saud. Therefore the investigation is largely stalled by the House itself.

    3. I have also previously posted about the aggressive posturing by Iran and Pres. Ahmadinejad. While the Iranian government has publicly done little other than offer lip service to the Shi’ite militias, their fingerprints (not to mention the financial trail) ARE all over them. Ahmadinejad has used his foreign-policy nose-thumbing to distract his citizens from the decaying economy and even-tighter moral repression at home. Therefore, Iran itself can be dealt with diplomatically, and probably with another President, as Ahmadinejad is not likely to be re-elected next year. However, their help will be necessary in securing a Kurdish state, as Iraq’s Kurdish area borders Iran, and traditional Kurdish territorial claims include parts of north-western Iran, as well as parts of south-eastern Turkey.

    4. China and India only come into play becasue they need oil as desperately as only the two most populous nations on Earth would. A diplomatic solution partitioning Iraq into Shi’a, Sunni, and Kurdish states, while really only delaying the inevitable Sunni – Shi’a war, would buy time (perhaps 20 years at best) for further research and development into alternative energy sources, which could potentially minimize any effect on global oil prices when that war comes. This would most certainly keep China and India from meddling in the region.

    5. A meaningful Israeli-Palestinian peace, and the creation and recognition of a Palestinian state would bring tremendous relief to the entire region, and would really be the key log to unraveling the entire mess. From there, resolving the other conflicts would become far easier. You are correct that the current administration would be the worst choice to handle this task, so it should be left to the upcoming Democratic administration to FINALLY start a meaningful process leading to peace in the Middle East.

  37. 43

    spews:

    BJ

    I think we are on the same road now.

    I also am skeptical we can create a long term solution in Iraq but the choices are more than binary.

    On the Israel issue, I have the unusual POV that this is a very solvable problem IF the Saudis and Europeans will support a solution. The two biggest problems are Palestinian irredentism and the impossibility of a Palestine rump state surviving in the meagre environment of the west bank. INHO the OLD Arab idea of a greeater Jordan is attracitve.

  38. 44

    MissouriSoldier spews:

    My goodness most of you are so uninformed. Yes, it sucks here in Iraq, I agree with that.

    I would really like to know how many of you “posters” have actually been to Iraq, and if you have been here, did you ever leave the IZ or the Victory Complex? I have read over your comments, and I can say most of you have no idea what you are talking about! I keep up with what the press writes, which is where most of you obviously get your information. I suppose if I formed my opinions based only on what the press writes, I’d hate the President too.

    Let me tell you a little bit about the press over here. A few days ago, I was waiting for a blackhawk to take me and my fellow soldiers from the IZ to Victory. There were a couple of guys from the press that were trying to get on the same bird. Just before we loaded up, the two guys from the press were told they couldn’t ride because soldiers have priority, and the aircraft was full. The two guys from the press got all boisterous and loud demanding that they be put on that aircraft. One of them went behind the flight administrators desk and started poking this young E-4 on the chest and yelling at him. About that time, several of us soldiers moved towards the “out of control” member of the noble press, and he realized he was about to be manhandled. Without a word being said, the “oh so noble” journalist whizzed out from behind the desk and ran out the door. Those two guys didn’t get on that aircraft.

    What I’m trying to say here is that we are doing what we can over here. We collectively are working very hard every day to make this hell hole a better place, and I have high hopes for this country some day. The problems are many of you in the United States who work your day to day jobs, who go home and turn on CNN or Fox news and see the devestation of the day, then turn on your computers and go to the blog sites and spew your opinions on something you know very little about. To complicate things for us, we have to deal with people like journalists who get in our way and report only on what makes the United States look bad. These journalists are nothing more than social engineers (for the most part) who have their own personal and political agenda. I certainly don’t get to read much about the things that are going right, such as irrigation projects and farms that are springing up; Iraqi companies getting started that are providing jobs and attempting to start an economy. Yes, it still sucks here, and there are bad guys who want to kill us. There is no disputing that. I’ll touch on the “bad guys” next.

    Let me tell you the difference between us and the bad guys. I live through rocket and mortar attacks daily. The bad guys provide what we affectionately call “IDF’s.” For those of you who have never been to Iraq, just google “IDF” to find out what it is. Anyhow, the bad guys do this daily. What they do, is set up their mortars and rocket slides in a densely populated area in the Red Zone, and fire at coalition forces and hope to kill or injure as many of us as possible. Can we do anything about this? Yes, we have the capability to conduct counter-battery operations. Again, if you don’t know what that is, Google it. We choose not to conduct counter-battery operations because we don’t want to kill all the innocent people that live in the houses or just happen to be in the area the IDF’s came from. Instead, we just hope the bad guys don’t aim their IDF weapons very accurately. We certainly have the capabilities to cause massive death and destruction, but we “restrain” ourselves from that. So for all of you that say we soldiers are a bunch of baby killers, you are ill-informed and have no idea what you are talking about.

    As for the time we have been here? I won’t go into the reasons we are here, for the simple fact is I live in the present and I deal with what is happening today, and I try to take actions that will make tomorrow a little better. I see that many of you back home are impatient about how long it takes to set up the Iraqi security forces. Having been a soldier myself for over a decade, I know how long it takes to train and develop effective leaders in a military. While we can train a combat soldier to be proficient in basic tasks in about three to four years, it takes about 6 years to train a solid NCO. (Again, Google NCO if you don’t know what one is.) It takes about 6 years to train a young officer to be a good, solid Company Commander. It takes about 13 to 15 years to train an officer to be a solid Battalion Commander. Come on, people…. It’s only been about 4 years. Basically, we are trying to stand up an entire Army, and in the last four years all you can expect to have is an army of basic soldiers. We are still working on training and mentoring the Leadership, and that takes time.

    I know that Americans are “we want results right now” type people, and we lose perspective on how long it takes to build something. If anyone knows anything about how long it took to build the “mixing bowl” in Alexandria, VA, you would see that that project started before 911, and was finally close to being finished this year. My only advice would be for all of you back home to be patient, and let us do our jobs over here. The reasons we are here should continue to be debated, but the bottom line is that we are here now, and we have a job to do. Please don’t confuse the two issues. Of course, I do encourage those of you who want to be able to speak of Iraq with some degree of reliability to visit your local armed forces recruiter and volunteer to serve here. Nothing will be more enlightening on a given topic than to witness the event first hand. Good day to you all.