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Monday, 12 June 2006
Victory right around the corner in Iraq?
Topic: Iraq

In recognition of the tremendous victory of killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi last Wednesday, the Iraq "government" the next day announced a "victory curfew" for Friday prayers. All vehicle traffic was banned from Baghdad and Baquba, where Zarqawi was killed, to prevent the expected backlash from "al-Qaeda in Iraq," which really shows you how confident that they really have a handle on things now. Although, it's great news that Zarqawi was killed and the military was able to get hold of lots of intel that could help them roll up other al-Qaeda cells around Iraq, the fact is that al-Qaeda only represents probably about 5% of all the insurgents fighting us; they're not that big of a deal...or are they?

Some commentators like Trudy Rubin of the Inquirer have bought into the administration's myth-making by giving Zarqawi way too much credit for what's going on over there. She claimed in a column this Sunday that he was "spectacularly successful in his efforts to make Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis kill each other," as if he created the centuries of hatred between the two sides. It really didn't take much effort did it? Even more absurd was the old fossil from the Reagan administration I heard on NPR last week breathlessly recount how Zarqawi had single-handedly taken over Fallujah in 2004--- a city of 300,000 --- by sheer force of his will. That ridiculous assertion is even more amazing when you consider he wasn't even in Fallujah. (He must have had magical powers, too.)

The reality is that we probably did a favor for his bunch of crazies by making him a martyr and we also very cleverly eliminated a problem for the homegrown Iraqi insurgency. They didn't like Zarqawi and his foreign fighters any more than we did. Now, instead of having to worry about him and his lunatics in their rear they can get back to focusing on us. But then again, we're not really their biggest problem anymore, the Shiite militias who are firmly entrenched within the Iraqi government's security infrastructure are. Over the past six months they've been responsible for at least 6000 Iraqi deaths.

Besides the appearance of dozens of bodies at the Baghdad morgue on a daily basis, last week saw some pretty spectacular and brazen death-squad activity. Last Sunday gunmen set up roadblocks outside of Baghdad and seized two minibuses full of school students and killed 20 of them. On Monday, AP reported gunmen in police uniforms kidnapped 50 people in a business district of Baghdad randomly grabbing "travelers, merchants, and venders selling tea and sandwiches." (Where they were taken or whether they're still alive is unknown.)

It's interesting how the media still doesn't just come right out and say these attacks are being led by government security forces, which they clearly are. It's an Iraqi government fiction to keep insisting that these roving death-squads might be insurgents dressed up as police. Since the Interior Ministry is riddled with Badr Brigade militiamen, and Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi army has a firm grip on the transportation ministry, it doesn't take a genius to figure out how these guys happened to have police uniforms and more than a dozen vehicles ready to transport their victims. The tell-tale pictures of Moqtada on most of the police vehicles on the streets of Baghdad should be a dead give away, but I guess not.

The "government:"

It's all well and fine that after six months the Iraqi government has finally got around to forming a full cabinet, but I don't see what difference it’s going to make. The new PM and his cabinet don't actually have any power to do anything. They don't provide electricity, water or security and al-Sadr's bunch runs the heath ministry, which he uses to provide patronage not medical care, so what do they really do? Adnan Pachachi, the only sane person in the parliament, says of al-Maliki, "He talks about using an iron fist against the people, but I don't think he has sufficient power. There are so many forces competing with each other. This is not a cohesive government." (He might have added that it isn't a government at all.)

A case in point is al-Maliki's much touted visit to Basra last week where he declared a state of emergency and again vowed to use his much vaunted "iron fist" to bring an end to fighting there. Despite this threat, though, violence is continuing there as Iranian backed militias consolidate their hold on the south.

The Inquirer reported on the 28th of May that the south is:

"now dominated by Shiite Muslim warlords and militiamen who are laying the groundwork for an Islamic fundamentalist government, say senior British and Iraqi official in the area. The militias appear to be supported by Iranian intelligence or military units that are shipping weapons to the militias in Iraq and providing training for them in Iran. A week with British troops in Maysan and Basra provinces and three additional days of reporting in Basra made it clear that Iraqis here are at the mercy of Shiite militia death squads and Iranian friendly clerics who have imposed an ever-stricter code of de facto Islamic law."

One of the major issues that will be coming up in the new Iraqi parliament --- provided the whole thing doesn't collapse in the next month --- is the controversy over autonomy for the Shiites in the south and the Kurds in the north. Remember, this issue was deferred in the debate over an Iraqi constitution so that the Iraqis would have something to vote on. It's pretty obvious now that the south is already lost. The Shiites have already created their own facts on the ground; it would appear to be all over except for the shouting.
The only reason the Shiite parties even participated in the elections in December was to legitimize their position and cover their aspirations to take over the south with the patina of democracy.

While our Marines are fighting the Sunnis to a bloody standstill in Anbar, in a battle to see who will control the desert, the Shiites and the Iranians are solidifying their hold over the oil in the south which will put them in a very powerful position to call the shots down the road. Once the Shiites are able to ram autonomy for the regions through the parliament and the country is broken up into little pieces, the Iraqi "government of national unity" will be nothing but a rump consultative body. Almost 2,500 dead US troops and a trillion dollars is a pretty high price to pay for a new oil-rich Bosnia.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 4:01 PM EDT
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Thursday, 8 June 2006
Zarqawi is dead: next boggyman please...
Topic: War on Terror

Wow, they finally got him, Zarqawi is dead! Boy, I haven't been this excited since they got Uday and Qusay. We've really reached a turning point now.

I remember back on April 11 the WaPo reported that:

"The U.S. military is conducting a propaganda campaign to magnify the role of the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq...The effort has raised his profile in a way that some military intelligence officials believe may have overstated his importance and helped the Bush administration tie the war to the organization responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks."

Hmmm...but they're not overstating his importnace now, right? Gosh, to listen to watch the media today you'd think they'd actually got the guy responsible for 9/11, the reason for the whole war on terror to begin with.

Rummy says this won't end terror but,

"let there be no doubt, the fact that he is dead is a significant victory in the battle against terrorism in that country, and I would say worldwide, because he had interests outside of Iraq. He was an integral part of the war on terror."

Yes, integral. Weren't they just making fun of Zarqawi a few weeks ago because he couldn't figure out how to fire his weapon? How did this nobody suddenly become such an "integral" part of terrorism world wide?

Before the war, while Zarqawi was hiding out in Kurdish controled Iraq back in 2003 hanging out with Ansar al-Islam, a groupd of about 400 fighters who hated Saddam, he ws pretty much a nobody, but...

According to Atimes Online:

"Zarqawi stopped being a non-entity on February 5, 2003, when he was spectacularly catapulted onto the global stage - six weeks before the start of the Iraq war - by US Secretary of State Colin Powell's weapons of mass destruction speech at the United Nations. Powell used Zarqawi to link Saddam Hussein's secular Ba'athist regime to the 'Islamic terror network,' and thus partly justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq."

And he has been used like this ever since.

How much of a difference is the death of a guy who is a figment of Rummy's imagination ---who can't even figure out how to fire a gun ---going to make in Iraq at this point.

Just this week the LA TimesLA Times reported:

"Excluding the capital's nearly daily bombings, new Iraqi government documents show that more Baghdad residents died in shootings, stabbings and other violence in May than in any other month since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003."

'Excluding daily bombings,' hense not having to do with Zarqawi and his suicide bombers. The vast majority of killing going on over there is between native Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites. And most of the Sunnis dying are dying at the hands of the Interior Ministry, the guys we're backing.

And then there's Muqtada al-Sadr who has a militia estimated to number 146,000 troops. How on earth is the death of a marignal leader like Zarqawi, of one of the smallest groups of insurgents in Iraq a major victory?

This is complete bull crap, and naturally, the media is eating it up and asking for more.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:43 PM EDT
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Saturday, 3 June 2006
Talk is cheap:
Topic: Bush Administraiton

Will wonders never cease? The US is now offering to talk to Iran about its nuclear program, and even more shocking than that, Condi Rice told NPR yesterday that she could even envision sitting down with Iran's foreign minister at some point in the future. This is pretty monumental shift in US policy considering that just a few weeks ago the administration was still hinting at military options being on the table and adamantly insisting that direct talks were "impossible," and that "bad behavior" wouldn't be rewarded. That sort of unequivocal, obstinate rhetoric ---mainly the expression of the Cheney/Rumsfled cabal's influence on the policy debate within the administration --- has given way to the more pragmatic State Department position of engagement, or so it appears.

This battle between the hawks and the pragmatists inside the administration has been going on since the W. took office, but it looks like now that the pendulum has swung in favor of reason. And not a moment too soon, it would seem. For the first five years of this administration Iran policy consisted of doing nothing, leaving the diplomacy to the EU3: France, Germany and Britain, while the neocons worked on their pet project of overthrowing Saddam and making the world safe for democracy. The result of this amateurish foreign policy has been to leave us severely weakened and bleeding in Iraq while Iran is now capable of calling the shots in a number of countries in the region; to our serious detriment if it so chooses.

To me, this issue of Iran's rise as a major powerbroker in the region is much more important to us than whether the Iranians get the bomb some time down the road in five or ten years. Whether this realization has finally gotten through to the brains trust in the White House is still in question. But as Trudy Rubin, the Inquirer's foreign policy expert pointed out in a column recently that this issue of Iran's role in the region is the "main issue," for the Iranians. Iran wants the US to recognize Iran's role as a regional leader, and drop the talk about "regime change." In fact, in return for our recognition they're interested in offering us security guarantees in the region! Javad Vaedi, a deputy to Ali Larijani, noted in an interview with Rubin that "the United States has many problems in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Syria," which the Iranians could help resolve for us. It would seem they have more to offer us than we have to offer them.

Of course, this messy situation could have been could possibly avoided if we had taken up former Iranian president Mohammed Khatami's offer to do a deal with them back in 2003. They wanted to resolve the issues of their nukes, terrorism, Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but instead, W. decided to give them the finger as did his victory landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln. As former Bush administration official Flynt Leverett pointed out in a recent Newsweek article, "If we had pursued this three years ago and been able to work out a deal, the Iranians wouldn't have 164 centrifuges today."

But we didn't, they do, and they're not at all interested in giving up what they have. The Iranians have created their own facts on the ground that we're going to have to work around them. The first little spot of bother is Condi's preconditions for talks with Iran. Before we even get to sitting down to chat, the Iranians are going to have to suspend their enrichment program, which Hans Blix tells the Inquirer he finds "a little puzzling." He says, "so they're really demanding from the beginning, before they start talks, that they want the discussion to end...I doubt very much that this is useful."

You know, he might have a point. If the goal is to get Iran to stop enrichment with the offer of talks and other incentives; demanding that they stop enrichment before hand is kind of counterintuitive, isn't it? Michael Ledeen, the former Iran/contra figure, also sees a contradiction here: "She says we'll only talk to if the Iranians give up first." [Inquirer] And that's pretty much it in a nut shell. Why would the Iranians agree to all of sudden do what they've been insisting from the beginning they wouldn't do? They've stated again and again that they have the right to enrich uranium just like any other country that has signed the NPT. And it's not only a legal issue but a matter of national pride. David Gardner in the FT writes that the "US's attempted diplomatic siege has united the nation around the nuclear issue, making the right to technology and deterrence a totem like the nationalization of oil a half century ago." To put a finer point on this, Javad Vaedi says that suspension of Iran's program would mean "humiliation."

So as far as I can see, despite Condi's contention to the contrary, the ball is still in our court, we haven't really offered them anything. If this is some sort of ploy intended to show the world that Iran is spurning our "robust diplomacy," in order to get a UN resolution to impose sanctions or military action, that will fail too: Russia and China just aren't going to go along with it.

I understand that Condi has done what Colin Powell could have never done, get W. to overrule Cheney, and she's clearly working her fingers to the bone trying to get a peaceful resolution to this "crisis," but I just don't see anything coming of this. As long as the folks that brought us Iraq and Katrina have the final say in any of this, the whole project is doomed to failure. Ultimately, Condi will wind up in the same trash heap that all W.'s other cabinet members have ended up on with her reputation in tatters.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:50 PM EDT
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Friday, 26 May 2006
Bush said to "expose the pretensions of tyrants." (Maybe next year)
Topic: Bush Administraiton

Kyrgyzstan is threatening to evict the US from its last airbase in Central Asia if it doesn't pony up a lot more money for rent. President Kurmanbek Bakiyev told the US it must pay $200 million, up from 2.7 million, for the use of the Manas base. He said there would be "no room for haggling" when the pentagon opens up talks in Bishkek with the Kyrgyz next week.

The FT reports:

"Manas has become a source of tension between Kyrgyzstan and the US since the revolution. Revelations that Mr. Akayev's [the former dictator] family siphoned off part of the US jet fuel payments at the base were an embarrassment to Washington. Accusations that warplanes dumped fuel over Kyrgyzstan were denied at the base." Pretty ugly, we either cough up the cash or they'll just toss us out and get cozier with their former Russian masters.

Our bastard in Tashkent is back in our good graces:

But, not to worry: the FT also reports that Rummy and Cheney "are said by officials and analysts to favor an attempt to reach out to President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan for purely strategic reasons. [Well, we're in bed with Moammar Kadafi, so why not?] You remember him; he's the one that sent his forces in to break up a rebellion in Andijan last year and wound up killing hundreds of men, women and children.

Back then even W. couldn't ignore the slaughter going on and put pressure on Karimov to come clean on what really happened, at which point we were tossed out of the country. The FT reports, though:

"The sense that Russia and China have been quick to capitalize on the US departure, and what Mr. Rumsfeld described in frequent visits as Uzbekistan's excellent cooperation in the 'war on terror,' make it too important to ignore."

Fidel could be our next big buddy:

Unfortunately for Fidel Castro, China hasn't found any natural resources it needs in Cuba yet or we'd be calling him a statesman too: Although, if there's enough oil of the Cuban coast to make it worth their while, that might change.

His buddy Hugo Chavez is in the news again, though. On the same day that we renewed diplomatic relations with killer Kadafi and took his regime off the list of terrorist states, the State Department announced the US was cutting off arms sales to Venezuela because they aren't being cooperative enough in the war on terror.

Am I the only one who sees the absurdity of this? While we're giving the man who killed 189 Americans a ringing endorsement for giving up his insignificant arsenal of WMD, we're implying that Venezuela is some sort of serious terrorist threat to the US. What's even more ridiculous is that we're holding on to a guy, Luis Posada Carriles, who is a terrorist, that Venezuela wants extradited for blowing up a Venezuelan passenger jet that killed 70 innocent civilians. Apparently, as long as you have oil and gas or have worked for the CIA you can get away with murder.

What kind of message is this sending to the world about our commitment to freedom and human rights? Husni Mubarak can jail his political opposition; Islam Karimov can slaughter his civilians; Mommar Kadafi can keep repressing his citizens; Pervez Musharraf can get away scott-free with a military coup; Somali warlords that killed our troops can now get a US taxpayer check for fighting Islamic warlords: the Sudanese government can conduct genocide and get away with it; the Chinese can keep locking up journalists, killing political opponents and generally repressing their civilians and we'll look the other way as long as they keep letting us barrow money: the Saudis can keep repressing Christians and women and teaching their kids to hate Christians and Jews, they get to keep beheading adulterous women in the public square every after Friday prayers:

But Fidel and Hugo are just beyond the pale!!!!!

No wonder no one listens to us anymore.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:02 PM EDT
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More of the same for B-liar and Bush
Topic: War on Terror

Last night Phony B-liar and W. pedaled more of the same at their joint-press conference: 'Iraq is on the road to democracy, progress is being made, we'll stand down when they stand up, etc., nothing new there. I wish someone had had the courage to asked them to explain their little get-together at the White House in January of 2003 when a leaked British memo of the meeting said W. didn't expect to find WMD before the invasion and hatched a plan to use a U-2 spy plane painted in UN colors to provoke Saddam into an attack. Now, that would have been interesting.

Instead all we got out of the two 'war leaders' was the typical delusional rationalizations about why we're over there losing about 70 soldiers a month and will continue to lose them every month for the foreseeable future. Bush did admit that the process leading up to the formation, finally, of a "national government of unity" seemed like an eternity, but that little ray of reality was quickly quashed by his prediction that now everything would start to move along faster on the road to success.

Of course, there's still the problem of who is going to run the defense and interior ministries, which are riddled with Shiites bent on the elimination of the Sunnis. The fact is we'd still be waiting an eternity for the squabbling factions to agree on forming a government if they hadn't decided to put off that decision. Some even question whether the government is even really constitutionally legitimate without all the cabinet positions being filled. But who cares about that, as long as most of the parties and the US are willing to look the other way, it's all good.

And for all this happy talk about this government being democratically elected by 12 million Iraqis, I don't see what's going to be different about this government than any of the others (all of which were also hailed as 'milestones' and 'turning points' by Bush and Blair at the time). Al-Maliki doesn't have any more power than al-Jaafari or Alawi had in the past. He still depends almost completely on the US military for what little political power he has, to say nothing of his personal protection.

He can talk about using "maximum force" to get the death squads, the militias and the insurgents under control but he's got nothing at hand to accomplish this. His political allies are about 70% responsible for the filling up the morgues and for all this talk about what a great guy is neither of them mentioned Muqtada al-Sadr last night. He's got a huge army under his command and his political allies in the parliament carry a lot of clout. Like it or not, he's a major power broker in this new government, how do they square that circle?

Here's a guy who the press regularly calls a "radical cleric" but who also happens to be at the center of Iraqi politics. Lest we forget, at one time he was a wanted man for murdering a rival cleric, he staged two violent rebellions which killed dozens of US soldiers, his Mahdi army is behind the killing and ethnic cleansing of thousands of Sunnis and yet not a mention of him last night. Blair said that of all the people he had talked to on his visit to Baghdad last weekend no one said they wanted to the "coalition" to leave. I guess he didn't ask al-Sadr because he does. How do you go over there and not talk to someone who has had and still has so much say in the future of the country?

There's this massive disconnect between what Bush and Blair say about what's going on over there and what is really going on over there. Al-Sadr may be a killer and a religious nut, but he's got the guns and he's got the power to make our grand plans either work or blow up in our faces.

I don't get it, it’s not like Blair is averse to meeting with killers and religious nuts when it comes to oil and gas. He went to Tripoli to meet Moammar Kadif, who blew up Pan Am 103 over Britain killing 270 people. Blair's former Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, even called Kadafi a "statesman." So why no pow-wow with Muqtada? Maybe if Muqtada had the oil ministry things would be different, then he would be a statesman too.

In the end, it looks like we're back to square one in Iraq. Again we hear from US government officials that the next six-months are going to be crucial for the future of Iraq, just like we've been hearing for the past three years. What has changed that is going to make all the predictions of something different happening this time around?

There is still the question of how al-Maliki is going to convince the various parties not to use their positions in the ministries as their own personal or ethnic fiefdoms. The FT reported this Monday that "Mr. Maliki has yet to show that he can force Iraq's independent-minded parties to follow a central government agenda, rather than use their posts to reward party supporters or, in some cases, to provide cover for their private armies.," (Like Muqtada, for instance.)

And the specter of a civil war hasn't suddenly disappeared with the sweating in of a new government. There are still tens of thousands of Iraqis displaced inside the country by ethnic and religious cleansing operations and fighting between Shiite and Sunni militias were still raging this week in the south as W. was telling al-Maliki that a free Iraq "will serve as a devastating defeat for the terrorists and al-Qaeda, and will serve as an example for others in the region who deserve to be free."

The same old tired rhetoric, the same depressing results.

Mubarak didn't get the memo:

Our good friend and ally Hosni Mubarak apparently didn't get the memo on Iraq's grand democratic example. Last week the Egyptian government put opposition politician Aman Nour away for five years for having the temerity to run against Mubarak, the police crushed protests in support of judges who were calling for reform, and for good measure Mubarak told the World Economic Forum that the US should butt out of his and other country's business.

AP reports:

"The 78-year old leader implied the United States was running a foreign policy that promoted double standards on nuclear issues, ignored international opposition to the invasion of Iraq, and was meddling in the international affairs of countries ---including his own --- by pressing for Western-style democratic reforms."

In Afghanistan:

Meanwhile, the Taliban are once again showing how desperate they are by continuing to avoid their own devastating defeat. It's been four years since liberating Afghanistan and our democratically elected puppet Hamid Karzai's writ still hardly extends to the outskirts of Kabul. He and the democratically elected parliament of warlords, if anything, are even less in control than they were about a year ago.

During the past few months the Taliban's spring/summer offensive has really ramped up. Over the last week or so at least a hundred to two hundred people have died in fighting in Helmand and Kandahar provinces. [AP] Reports coming from the military claim that most of those deaths are insurgents, but their not known for being too particular about who they consider civilians or insurgents. Admittedly, it doesn't help that the Taliban are using civilian’s houses as cover.

And I seem to remember Karzai chastising the US military a while back for using air strikes as a tactic against the insurgency, saying it was ineffective, but I guess, they didn't get the memo either. The US last week may have killed a dozen Afghan civilians in a series of all night airstikes in a village called Azizi. [IHT]

And the Afghan government is once again blaming Pakistan for its problems. (Play it again Sam!) Hamid Karzai says, "We have credible reports inside Pakistan, in the madrasses, the mullahs and teachers are saying to their students, 'go to Afghanistan for Jihad. Burn the schools and clinics." The Pakistanis say the charges are "baseless." Of course, they're probably not, but Pervez Musharraf is out good friend in the war on terror so we'll give him a pass.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:38 PM EDT
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Saturday, 6 May 2006
Cheney: looking for oil in all the wrong places.
Topic: Bush Administraiton

Dick Cheney is stirring up a whole bunch of dust during his present "oil tour '06." On Thursday, he accused the Russians of using their energy resources to blackmail other countries and re-impose authoritarian rule at home. Just to make sure the Russians got the message, Cheney chose to tell the Russians to 'go fuck themselves' at a conference of pro-Western former Soviet republics in Lithuania.

Nice work Trigger Finger! The reaction from the government of Russia has been muted so far, but there are rumblings of the Kremlin not being very happy about the speech, to put it mildly. Vladimir Isachenkov of the AP reports that some in Russia are likening the speech to Winston Churchill's "Iron Curtain” speech. Isachenkov writes that, "the prominent business daily Komersant said Cheney's comments marked 'the beginning of a second Cold War.'"

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the guy that we're counting on to convince the Iranians to play ball with us, explained the Russian mood like this:

"Over the past years, many forums have been created that reflect the desire of the respective states...to pool their efforts to achieve common benefits. But there are forums that create an impression...that they are convened...for the sake of uniting against someone." Where would he ever get an idea like that? Gosh, the Russians are so paranoid.

Just because Cheney then moved on to Kazakhstan to convince Nursultan Nazarbayev to build pipelines that bypass Russia and go directly to the West shouldn't give the Russians the idea that we're up to no good. So we have a few military bases in Central Asia and we're parked on their southern border with 130,000 troops and we're training troops in Georgia...what's the big deal? Surely they're not feeling slightly hemmed in by us, are they?

While Cheney had some tough words for the authoritarian tendencies of Vlad "the Impaler" Putin, it was all puppies and kittens for Nazarbayev. Before he even met with a delegation of opposition leaders ---some of whom weren't able to make it because the government wouldn't let them travel --- Cheney was saying of Nazarbayev's dictatorial rule:

"I have previously expressed my admiration for what has transpired here in Kazakhstan over the past fifteen years, both in terms of economic development as well as political development."

Indeed, Nazarbayev just got voted back into office for the third time for other six-years with 91% of the vote. (Those are Ilham Aliyev numbers.) That's quite a bit of political development...for him. But we're not really too concerned about Nazarbayev being a serial election fixer, Kazakhstan is right in between Russian and China and they're slated to be pumping 3m barrels of oil a day by 2015. We're going to just quietly urge him to give up power eventually or just turn the reins of power over to his son at some point down the road.

One of Kazakhstan's opposition leaders, Oraz Jandosov, of the Democratic Party of Kazakhstan, who was to meet with Cheney for an hour said, "We're going to try to explain deplorable situation in this country. After Cheney's speech yesterday (in Lithuania), it will be difficult for him to be unsympathetic to us." [NYT]

How sad...if this poor sucker only knew!

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:15 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 8 May 2006 6:10 PM EDT
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Friday, 5 May 2006
A PKK update.
Topic: Iraq

The other day I was warning about the "doomsday scenario" in which Turkey crosses the northern Iraqi border to deal with their PKK insurgency problem and, apparently as I was writing about his, the Iranians were dealing with their own Kurdish problem.

The FT reported on the 2nd that, "Iraqi Kurdish officials yesterday reported Iranian artillery shelling of positions held by fighters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) inside Iraq. This was a day after the Iraqi defense ministry said Iranian troops had recently attacked PKK positions inside Iraq, crossing 5km into Iraq territory near Haj Umran." Another group associated with the PKK, Pejak, has been fighting with Iranian forces for over year the FT writes.

Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, the Iranian Interior minister says northern Iraq is the "center for terrorist attacks" and that Tehran and Ankara are committed to "intelligence co-operation and increasing border guards."

It’s still a little difficult to see what we're doing about this PKK problem in the north of the county. We've got by far the biggest military force in Iraq but we're pretty much doing nothing about a situation that is continuing to escalate. The fact that the Iranians have actually gone over the border should be quite an eye opener for whoever is running Iraq policy in the administration. (Who is running Iraqi policy anyway?)

Another thing they should be concerned about is the extremely low esteem that the U.S. is currently held in Turkey. They used to be our best friends in the world, but after the whole pre-Iraq invasion arm-twisting and insulting that went on trying to get them to let us use their territory, relations between us have deteriorated quite a bit.

Along with all the "thousands of tactical errors" we've made probably one of the most important strategic mistakes we've made is alienating the Turks. This will come back to haunt us down the road. And it doesn't help that Iran supplies a significant amount of natural gas to Turkey. A reminder of this was a few months back when Iran turned off the spigot, just to focus Turkey's attention on making sure the do the right thing as far as the Iranians are concerned.

Stay tuned and keep your eyes on Turkey.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:05 PM EDT
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Iraq and Rummy:
Topic: Iraq
OK, so things aren't going as well as we might have expected in Iraq after this latest 'turning point' in Iraqi politics. The new PM, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, promises he'll have his government up and running before the 30-day deadline, but I don't know...where have we all heard that before? While the various factions continue to squabble over the democratic spoils, the violence keeps getting worse.

We lost another 2 soldiers yesterday bringing the number of U.S deaths to 2,409: 43 more corpses were found in the streets of Baghdad, that's on top of the 50 or so the day before and the 34 before that: The police in Ramadi said U.S. aircraft bombed two houses killing 13 Iraqis and wounding four: and a suicide bomber blew himself up on Palestine Street in Baghdad killing 10 and wounding 50. [AP]

In another sign of progress and not of an impending civil war: the Red Crescent reported this week that more than 100,000 Iraqis has been displaced since the Feb 22 Shia shrine bombing in Samarra. The FT reports that the RC claims:

"11,391 families totaling 20,240 men, 27,765 women and 55,199 children had fled their homes by April 26. It said the number was increasing and might soon total 180,000 people." These refugees that have been moving have "fled from mixed Sunni-Shia areas, with both Shia militias and Sunni insurgents telling members of the other group to leave or be killed." [BBC]

It appears that Iraq's demographics are being realigned for a future splitting up of the country into solid ethnic enclaves. That can't be good, right? But let’s not talk about the Shia militias being the most dangerous threat to peace in Iraq: Let’s talk about Abu al-Zarqawi. He's the real danger, isn't he?

U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch showed out-takes of the latest Zarqawi video where he's shown to be decked out in New Balance tennis shoes and fumbling with his machine gun. Good stuff! Too bad they can't actually capture him, instead of his video making equipment. Not that it would make a difference anyway. And besides, he's such a good bogeyman they may not want to capture him. It’s hard to figure out that message the pentagon is trying to send here.

On the one hand, Zarqawi is the biggest threat to the U.S. since OBL, but on the other he's making videos out of "desperation," according to Gen. Lynch, and he can't even fire a gun. And how much of a threat can "al-Qaeda in Iraq" be if, as Gen Lynch claims, they have killed or captured 161 "al-Qaeda leaders?" According to AP, these military successes are "seriously undercutting the group's capabilities."

I don't mean to be a kill-joy here, but they can't all be "leaders," can they? We've been hearing a lot about Zaqawi's #2's being captured or killed for a pretty long time now and the suicide bombings and car bombings just keep coming. Remember before Zarqawi was the main problem; it was Udey and Qusey who were behind the violence, which was defiantly not an insurgency ----but rather a small group of "rejectionists" and "dead-enders." After they got killed it was Saddam who running the show and after he got caught, Zarqawi suddenly became the big man in Iraq. I swear this Zarqawi is almost super human, if unable to fire a machine gun.

They've really got Zarqawi on the brain at the pentagon as well. Just yesterday Rummy was trying to convince an audience in Atlanta that he didn't lie about Iraq's WMD and the first thing he came up with was Zarqawi. [Inquirer] An ex-CIA analyst, Ray McGovern, had challenged Rummy in a question and answer session ---which Rummy is usually so good at --- asking him:

"Why did you lie to get us into a war that caused these kinds of casualties and was not necessary?"

Rummy motioned off the security guards who were about to escort McGovern out ---negative guest ions not allowed! --- and said:

"I did not. I said I knew where suspect sites were."

(At that point Rummy's pants burst into flames.)

McGovern answered that ridiculous statement by saying, "You said you knew where they were ---Tikrit, Baghdad, northeast, south, west of there. Those were your words....we're talking about lies and your allegation there was bulletproof evidence of ties between al-Qaeda and Iraq."

[Note: Rummy on March 30, 2003: "We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south, and north somewhat."]

Rummy: "Zarqawi was in Baghdad during the pre-war period. That is a fact."

McGovern: "Zarqawi? He was in the north of Iraq in a place where Saddam had no rule"

Rummy: "He was also in Baghdad.

McGovern: "Yes, when he needed to go to the hospital. Come on, these people aren't idiots. They know the story."

Rummy went on to say that the soldiers actually did believe that Saddam had chemical weapons; why else would they wear protective suits? "Because they liked the style?" he asked.

McGovern: "That is what is called a non sequitur. It doesn't matter what the troops believe; it matters what you believe."


Oh no, Rummy isn't taking credit for anything these days; it was Colin Powell, he knew. "Colin Powell didn't lie," he said. "I'm not in the intelligence business. [Clearly] They gave the world their honest opinion. It appears that there were not weapons of mass destruction there." It appears? Is there still some question about this?

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:02 PM EDT
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W. down on the Kowtow ranch:
Topic: Bush Administraiton

Not so with China, though. After the fiasco that was Hu Jintao's visit to Washington DC, the U.S. is once again saying 'we're very sorry.' Taiwan's president Chen Shui-bian had thought that he could stop over in the U.S. for a little schmoozing with his neocon buddies on his way to South America for an official visit, but the U.S. denied his request. Instead, he was given the option of either stopping in Alaska or Hawaii for a quick refueling stop. The NYT reports that the U.S. is "eager to avoid antagonizing China," especially after the whole yelling-Falun-Gong-lady incident.

The official reason we're treating Chen this way is because the administration is mad at him for "abolishing" the National Reunification Council, which apparently, was long moribund: but the move was nevertheless one that greatly torked off the Chinese. At the time the U.S. State Dept. issued a rebuke to Chen to show they were onboard with their Chinese masters.

Plus, we need them in the Security Council to help us out with Iran....oh yeah, and North Korea and Sudan.

Besides all the money we owe them, it seems like every week there's another thing we need them to do for us. Another year of this sort of thing and they can just march right into Taipei and we won't lift a finger. Hell, we might even let them use some of our planes to land their troops; they basically paid for them anyway!

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:55 PM EDT
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Cheney goes ballistic on Russia:
Topic: Bush Administraiton
This administration has a funny way of running its diplomacy. While the president and secretary of state are trying to get the U.N. Security Council to go along with issuing a Chapter IV resolution that would call for Iran to immediately cease its uranium enrichment program --- under pain of sanctions or worse --- Dick Cheney is in Lithuania firing broadsides at Vladimir Putin. I thought we sort of needed the Russians to go along with our plans for Iran (call me crazy!). Telling them that they're using their energy resources as "tools of intimidation or blackmail" against their neighbors isn't the way I would have gone about wooing them on to our side. [AP]

Of course, they are using their oil and gas for blackmail and Vladimir Putin does fancy himself a modern day Czar, but going into his backyard and telling him that isn't going to exactly get him to change his behavior. Once again we have this weird situation where the president is doing one thing and the other president is doing another thing. After all, it's W. that has to go to Petersburg in two months for the G-8 summit, not Cheney. And the Russians were already saying 'nix' to the sanctions plan, to even discussing Iran in the Security Council, so what do you think they're going to do now?

If the initial reaction by Mikhail Gorbachev, not a Putin guy, is any indication things are about to get more chilly between us. Gorby said, "Cheney's speech looks like a provocation and interference in Russia's internal affairs in terms of its content, form and place." Hmmm...does he really think so?

What I always wonder about is: does Cheney ever run any of this stuff by anyone in the president's office before he goes out and blurts it out? I'm not surprised that the administration's tone is getting more negative when it comes to Russia; I've been writing for months that W. & CO. appear to have gotten over the idea of the Russians being of any use in the Iran standoff, but actually coming out and lecturing Vlad in front of a bunch of leaders of Russia's former satellites really going that extra mile to be offensive.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:53 PM EDT
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