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Saturday, 9 September 2006
Musharrif's dangerous gambit and W.'s mess.
Topic: War on Terror

 

As we all sit down to watch "the Path to 9/11" on ABC this Sunday and ruminate about the last five years of W.'s misrule, we might want to think about how things are going today in the first war that W. started. If we'll harken back to those dark days, we'll remember that Afghanistan was the country that gave OBL and al-Qaeda a free pass to train and plan the 9/11 attacks. Unlike Iraq, Afghanistan was the place where we had the best chance of really rolling up al-Qaeda and getting after OBL. If the administration had actually put any real effort into finishing off the Taliban and rebuilding Afghanistan, perhaps we wouldn't be in the situation we find ourselves in today.   Back in 2001, the US still had enormous international support and sympathy for our invasion of Afghanistan because we had been attacked and we were defending ourselves. If we had left a stable and prosperous Afghanistan and rid the world of a then not so popular al-Qaeda, we'd still be in the position of being the leading light of freedom and stability throughout the world. And, perhaps more crucially, our military would still command the fear and respect of our enemies.

Thanks to Rummy's bungling in the initial phases of the Iraq war, the Sunnis there and now the Taliban in Afghanistan have been given time and space to figure out how to counter our tactics and prove to the world that we're vulnerable.   The Taliban have compared notes with the insurgents in Iraq and now IEDs and suicide bombings are commonplace events, where they were unheard of before this year. In Kabul yesterday a suicide bomber crashed his Toyota into a US Army humvee, 50-yards from the US embassy building, killing 14 civilians and 2 US soldiers. [AP] This was the first major attack of its kind in relatively stable Kabul since the war began five years ago. It probably isn't the last.  

At the same time this news was hitting the wires, NATO member countries were meeting in Brussels to decide on how many reinforcements to send to the south of the country, where the Taliban is running rampant. Since W. & Co. made the decisions to find more suitable targets to bomb in Iraq, a few months after invading Afghanistan, and allowed the Taliban to escape over the border into Pakistan they've regrouped and are now back, stronger than ever. This apparently is news to NATO officials who say they have been surprised by the level of combat they've faced in Helmand and Kandahar provinces.  In the past 38 days they've lost 35 troops. Brig. Ed Butler, the commander of British forces in the south says, "The fighting is extraordinarily intense. The intensity and ferocity of the fighting is far greater than in Iraq on a daily basis." As for our troops fighting in the east of the country, the NYT reported on Tuesday that, "statistically it is now nearly as dangerous to serve as an American soldier in Afghanistan as it is in Iraq."   

If NATO's original the plan was to go into these provinces in the south and finally get around to expanding the writ of Hamid Karzai's government outside the city limits of Kabul and gets reconstruction going again, I would say they've got a long way to go. Former NPR correspondent Sarah Chays, who now lives in Kandahar, was on the NEWSHOUR last night and she said the people in the area don't exactly have a great love for the Taliban, but there is a certain nostalgia for the law and order they brought to the country, which is now in total chaos. She says the insecurity in the south has finally caused most Afghanis, who were unusually patient in giving Karai's government a chance to provide security and stability, to turn toward the Taliban again out of utter desperation.  

No matter how many troops NATO or we send in there, it is becoming very clear that the insurgency isn't going to end any time soon unless the problem of Pakistan and its support for the Taliban is addressed. Perves Musharrif was in Kabul this week to reassure Karzai that he's doing all he can to go after the Taliban in his country, but I doubt anyone believes him. Just before he landed in Kabul he made a deal with al-Qaeda and the Taliban in North Waziristan that he'd leave them alone if they didn't attack his military forces. In the agreement also was included a stipulation that Musharrif wouldn't go after OBL or any number of other wanted terrorists.  

How the administration is going to reconcile Musharrif's peace deal with our sworn enemies while at the same time acting like he's our good buddy in South Asia is the real question. Musharrif and Karzai are going to be W.'s guests in Washington very soon, so it'll be interesting to see how W. & Co. spin this one. Musharrif will doubtless claim, as he did in Kabul this week, that neither he nor the ISI is "behind anything that is happening in Afghanistan," because "the coalition would become an enemy of Pakistan and start attacking Pakistan," but I think he's making the calculation that the US doesn't have the resources to go after him now.  He's probably right about that because, besides Iraq, we've now got Iran on our plate. Hell, we can't even really cut off his government financially because if his regime were to be destabilized, we'd be looking at a potential take over by some very nasty people who wouldn't hesitate to nuke India with Pakistan's arsenal of "Islamic bombs."  

Musharrif is in a tough position, between the rock of the US and the hard place of his radical Islamic domestic enemies. He's probably thinking he'd rather risk the wrath of the US than tangle with al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Especially in light of these supposed democratic election he's going to be holding next year. He'll need the support of the only moderately radical elements of the electorate to get re-elected. Since he's done away with the likes of Narwaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto and their moderate democratic parties, all he's got left is the whacko parties.  Yes, this is quite a mess W. has gotten us into. In another five years we could have the Taliban in full control of their own statelet in the south of Afghanistan; a radical Islamic government in Pakistan with their hands on a bunch of nukes -- which they would give to al-Qaeda to bomb us; a full scale regional war in the Middle East pitting Turkey against the Kurds in the north of Iraq, the Iranians and the Syrians against us and Israel in Iraq and Lebanon; and just for good measure, the Russians and the Chinese swooping in to get their hands on all the oil when there's no one left standing.


Posted by bushmeister0 at 4:42 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 10 September 2006 7:29 PM EDT
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Thursday, 7 September 2006
Pakistan makes deal to not go after OBL, among other things...
Topic: War on Terror

 The NYT reports that the government of Pakistan has signed a peace deal with tribal leaders of North Waziristan. Apparently, representatives of the local Taliban council agreed to "halt attacks and infiltration into Afghanistan," according to the Times story. (Yeah right, as if anyone is buying that.)  

The Times reports: 

"The deal is widely viewed as a face-saving retreat for the Pakistani Army, which has taken a heavy battering at the hands of the mountain tribesmen and militants, who are allied with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. But the government may have in effect ceded the militants a sanctuary in the area..."  An AP story says: "The agreement which one official said offers 'implicit amnesty' to foreign and local militants highlights the Pakistani military's inability to crush a violent pro-Taliban insurgency on its own soil."    

As if they'd really want to anyway: ever since 9/11 -- when Pervez Musharrif became our good buddy instead of the international pariah he had been-- the central government of Pakistan has made a good show of trying to do something about the massive problem they have in the Warziristans. Unfortunately, there are elements within the military and the secret ISI that have been doing business with the Taliban and al-Qaeda for decades. They can't really go after them at this point; they're joined at the hip. It's just a practical matter; they have to keep their home-grown fanatics focused on Kashmir and Afghanistan. Otherwise these lunatics might turn on them. (I'm assuming, of course, that the lunatics within the Pakistani military haven't got the upper hand yet.)

 

Maybe they have. Asia Times  Online reports that beyond the shock of the truce, "a more significant development is an underhand deal between pro-al-Qaeda elements and Pakistan in which key al-Qaeda figures will either not be arrested or those already in custody will be set free. This has the potential to sour Islamabad's relations with Washington beyond the point of no return...it has now been agreed between militants and Islamabad that Pakistan will not arrest two high-profile men on the "most wanted" list that includes Osama bin Laden, his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri and Taliban leader Mullah Omar." 

Well, isn't that special?  You could perhaps understand why Mussharrif wants to get al-Qaeda off his back, when you consider the problems he's having in Baluchitan and with the Baluchistan Liberation Army  (Which Pakistan claims is supported by, you quessed it: India) . All Waziristan offers is lots of rocks and headaches, Baluchistan on the other hand provides  lots of oikl and gas.   There has been a nascent insurgency going on there for quite a while and it's really coming to a head right now. The killing by Pakistani forces of the revered leader Nawab Akbar Bugti two weeks ago has really roiled the whole already bad situation in Baluchistan and there have been violent protests in the capital city Quetta, which also happens to be the main staging area for the Taliban insurgency in southern Afghanistan. The government claims it's got everything under control, but when you're claiming that you've made 600 arrests in what is supposedly a civil disturbance; inquiring minds start to wonder what's really going on. Police actions don't usually require the use of Apache helicopters.  

W. is making a lot of noise about his successes against al-Qaeda this week and saying things like we're fighting Hitler and Stalin all over again (although 'Uncle Joe" was our best friend for about 3 years during WWII) but he's not saying anything about Musharrif making peace deals with the "Islamo-fascists" who have killed 106 US troops so far this year. Very odd.  

On the heels of this back-down to his domestic terrorists, Musharrif has again pulled another one of his patented showy attempts to placate his US backers. A few months ago Musharrif staged an attack on a terrorist base at Danda Saidgai, which wound up blowing up in his face just as W. arrived.  This time around he's really upping the ante by making his way to Kabul to make nice with the beleaguered Afghan president Hamid Karzai -- who he hates. The two of them are declaring a common front against the terrorists, the same terrorists Musharrif just made a deal with.  

The cynicism of the Pakistanis is truly astounding. Surely, the Bush administration isn't falling for this crap, right? Oh, you betcha'. This administration is so over their heads in South Asia, it's scary. Far be it for me to try and figure out the Byzantine intricacies of the Pakistan/India dispute, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out a nuclear Pakistan under a very shaky military dictatorship is probably a bigger problem at the moment than a loud mouth Iranian president with no nukes.   


Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:33 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 7 September 2006 1:35 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 6 September 2006
W.'s not talking about this war anymore.
Topic: Iraq

In his big speech at the American Legion convention in Salt Lake City on Thursday, W. said those who say Iraq is headed toward civil war are just dead wrong. "Our commanders and diplomats on the ground in Iraq believe that it's not the case. They report that only a small number of Iraqis are engaged in sectarian violence, while the overwhelming majority wants peace and a normal life."  

I wonder which commanders and diplomats he's talking to, because his own Ambassador in Baghdad sent a secret memo back to Washington last month outlining the dire situation his embassy staff are facing simply trying to get to work everyday and the pentagon just yesterday gave a pretty bleak assessment of the situation to Congress reporting that: "Death squads and terrorists are locked in mutually reinforcing cycles of sectarian strife...Conditions that could lead to a civil war exist in Iraq." The report also says that militias are more entrenched then ever in Baghdad neighborhoods and are seen by most Iraqis as the only providers of security and protection they have.

It is amazing that W. and Co. have launched this new "say the course" PR campaign in the midst of some of the worse violence Iraq has ever seen (and that's saying something). If Karl Rove thinks highlighting the "successes" of the new security crackdown in Baghdad is going to win votes in November, he'd better go back to the drawing board. In the past week, over 400 Iraqis have died along with 15 US troops. After five weeks of “Operation Together Forward" things have gone from very bad to horrifically awful.

The deployment of some 12,000 US and Iraqi security forces to Baghdad has apparently only exacerbated the violence inside the city.  As we've seen in other crackdowns, notably in Fallujah II, the insurgents have simply redeployed to other neighborhoods in Baghdad and cities around Iraq while the US forces go from house to house in areas devoid of insurgents. Fighting in the south and in the north, especially in Kirkuk, has rammed up. On Wednesday, an all out 12-hour battle between Shiite militias and Iraqi Army units in Diwaniya, 80-miles south of Baghdad, led to the deaths of  80 militia fighters and 20 Iraqi soldiers. During the battle about a dozen Iraqi soldiers were taken into the town square and executed by their militia captors when they ran out of ammunition. [Looks like the idea of us just sitting back and providing logistical support needs to be tweaked a bit] [AP]

In some whacko corners of the punditry the fact that Iraqi forces were able to hang with the militias for so long was seen a promising sign. To most sane people watching this catastrophe unfold it should have been seen as a sign that the old paradigm of the war in Iraq, the typical hit and run small insurgent unit engagements, is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. We're now seeing supposedly rag-tag groups of militia gunmen engaging division sized Iraqi army units in set piece battles. For their part, the Sunni insurgents are also showing the ability to fight in large organized formations against US Marines in Ramadi.  Even the run-of-the-mill insurgent car bombings and mortar attacks are becoming even more spectacular.

On Thursday, Sunni insurgents set off bombs they'd planted in apartments; they had previously rented, and leveled an entire block in a Shiite neighborhood in eastern Baghdad. Edward Wong reported in the NYT that "the attack appeared to be a well-organized strike on areas controlled by the Mahdi Army. . .Police officials counted seven explosions from a combination of car bombs and rocket or mortar fire." The attacks killed 43 and wounded over 200.   

Starting a war within the war: 

Naturally, these attacks will only inspire more Shiite revenge attacks on Sunni neighborhoods in the south and west and no matter how many troops we pump into the fight we're not going to be able to stop it. But don't tell that to the brains trusters in the Iraqi Defense Ministry. As if things weren't bad enough already, they're preparing to go after the Mahdi Army on its own turf. The AP reported today that Defense Ministry spokesman, Muhammad al-Askari, says "no neighborhood is off-limits. There's not a single neighborhood that's a red line for us. Any area that has terrorist activity, we will enter -- there will be no stop sign."

The American commander of the 101st Airborne says the only thing these militias understand is "a big stick," so that's what they're going to get. I'd say if we're going to go after Muqtada al-Sadr again we'd better bring a stick the size of a California Redwood, because we're talking about starting another war within the war. It's been recognized for quite a while now that the Mahdi Army is an even bigger danger to Iraq than the insurgency is. The question is what to do about it. Al-Sadr himself has supposedly been leaning toward "moderation" because his political Party, the Sadr Trend, has 30 seats in the parliament. He has a lot of political clout within the Iraqi government, because he was instrumental in getting Nouri al-Maliki into the PM job. But is al-Sadr in any position to deal? Newsweek reported last month that there's a new wrinkle to the Sadr story: 

"The Mahdi Army's leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, seems to be losing his grip on the thousands of armed men who once followed his every word. 'There are forces that are controlled by Moqtada, but there are commanders that are not controlled by him.; there are death squads that are not controlled by him,' U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilizad told NEWSWEEK. The situation is so volatile that, according to the U.S. officials, Sadr now fears for his own safety and position." 

In fact, many of these disparate factions of the Mahdi Army are getting their marching orders from Iran. So whereas it might have been possible to come to some sort of accommodation with al-Sadr after the elections in January, it now appear as if even he's no longer a viable player. It seems in this situation, as well, that Iran is holding all the cards. If the US and Iraqi forces really go after the Mahdi Army, they'll have to not only fight them in Baghdad but also in Najaf and in Basra, where Sadr is vying for control with the Badr Organization (also controlled by Iran). In this new scenario, our troops will be fighting the Sunnis in Anbar and western Baghdad at the same time they're re-fighting the Mahdi Army, a force that now numbers about 140,000; about three times the number when we fought them to a draw back in 2004.  

I don't know, call me crazy, but something tells me our 140,000 troops fighting along side 200,000 very shaky Iraqi units that are prone to desert at the drop of a hat if they don't like their deployment orders, or just unexpectedly decide to run away, doesn't look like a very promising strategy for victory. If we're about to get involved in taking on both sides in this civil war, we should seriously consider reinstituting the draft. Calling up 26,000 Marine reservists isn't going to do the trick.  

The "decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century?"  

 W. says pulling our troops out of  Iraq now would be "absolutely disastrous. . .We would be handing Iraq over to our worst enemies -- Saddam's former henchmen, armed groups with ties to Iran, and al-Qaeda terrorists from all over the world, who would suddenly have a base of operations far more valuable than Afghanistan under the Taliban."  It looks like al-Qaeda already has a perfectly fine base of operations in Pakistan's autonomous tribal areas --but regardless, if he really thinks this war in Iraq is "the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century,"  then he'd better get serious about waging it.

If we're going to take on all comers in Iraq; launch preemptive strikes on Iran's nuclear infrastructure; successfully defeat the resurgent Taliban in southern Afghanistan; help Israel deal with their Hezbollah and Hamas problems; and have enough assets left over to deal with the ever present possibility of a North Korean freak-out or a Chinese attack on Taiwan, we're going to need a much bigger military. If the war in Lebanon showed us nothing else (as if Vietnam wasn't enough of a lesson), it showed us that strategic air strikes are useless when waging asymmetrical warfare.   

In the summer of 1940 FDR was able to squeak through Congress the Selective Service Act while we were still at peace because he could see what was coming with the German take over of Europe. He very responsibly analyzed the coming threat and rushed to prepare this nation for a major conflict. In 2003, this administration launched an invasion of a country that was absolutely no threat to this country and neglected to adequately prepare for any contingencies contrary to the rosy predictions of deluded chicken hawks. The consequences of these actions have placed our military in an untenable position. Our national security hangs in the balance and this administration continues to dither.  

PR campaigns aren't going to provide the tens of thousands of more troops we need to conduct the war in Iraq. It is beyond irresponsible to keep sending the same units to Iraq again and again; for two, three or  four tours and still expect to have any kind of viable fighting force left in the end.

 

But never mind about all that; they found another al-Qaeda number two man. You know what happened when they killed #1 guy, so prepare for much worse to come.

 Better change the subject. Talk about all the successes of the war on terror . . .

Posted by bushmeister0 at 7:31 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 6 September 2006 7:34 PM EDT
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Monday, 28 August 2006
Pakistan in big trouble:

Pakistan Link reported on Sunday that: 

"Nawab Akbar Bugti, leader of the Bugti tribe, president of the Jamhoori Watan Party and the driving force behind the anti-government rebellion in Balochistan, was killed in a massive military operation in the Bhambore Hills, an area between the cities of Kohlu and Dera Bugti."

AP reports today: 

"Mobs burned shops, banks and buses yesterday in a second day of rioting over the killing of a top tribal chief by Pakistani troops, raising fears that a decades-old conflict in the country's volatile southwest could widen. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told Pakistani television that Nawab Akbar Bugti's death Saturday was 'the darkest chapter in Pakistan's history.'" ( You remember Narwas Sharif right? He's the one Clinton let Pervy ouverthrow.) Police arrested 450 people for rioting, but the violence spread from Baluchistan province into neighboring Sindh province. Political analysts feared the killing of Bugti, 79, a champion of greater rights for ethnic Baluch tribespeople, could influence more young Pakistanis to take up extremism."

I will have more to say about this very big development either tomorrow or Wedenesday. Read what I wrote about Boluchistan back in Feb:

 feb 9

index.blog?from=20060209

 feb 17

index.blog?from=20060217


Posted by bushmeister0 at 6:59 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 22 August 2006
Blogger's note:
I'm still around and kicking but I'm posting these days at Non Sum Dignus. As soon as I get some time I'll be back here, but until then go to NSD!

Posted by bushmeister0 at 4:40 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 18 July 2006
W. dithers while Lebanon burns.
Topic: Israel

The WaPo reports:

"News agencies quoted the military and police as saying that more than 210 people had been killed since [Israeli] attacks began Wednesday. The Health Ministry put the number at 182 dead and 525 wounded, almost all of them civilians, but said that count included only those identified by hospital officials."

No doubt, there are probably many more killed, but their bodies are probably still buried in the rubble of their homes. Israel's assualt on Lebanon, which they say might continue for weeks, is causing tens of thousands of people to flee, many on roads Israel keeps bombing. They drop leaflets warning residents to leave areas they contend are Hezbollah "strong-holds," and then they bomb the only exits.  

This is a complete disaster, it really is, and what I'm wondering is why the United States isn't rapidly moving in to sort out some kind of cease-fire to stop the totaly disproportunate number of Lebanese casualties? Judging by what Condi Rice said on This Week last Sunday, she and W. are in no hurry to prevent Israel from having time to level much of Lebanon's infrastrucutre.

She told George Stephenopolis that: 

"I'm certainly willing to play whatever role I'm needed to play. We have to go at the root cause. . . It's fine to have a cessation of violence. We want to have a cessation of violence. We're worried about the escalating casualties on all sides. But unless we go to the fundamentals here, we're going to continue to have these spikes of violence in the Middle East as we have had for the past 30 years."

Translation: we want a cessation of violence, but only on our terms. Until Hezbollah does exactly what Israel tells it to do; stops firing rockets, turns over the captive soldiers, and completly disarms, the United States is perfectly satisfied with sitting back and letting Israel bomb Lebanon into the stone-age. We'll leave the diplomacy up to the UN and the EU.  

And then W. can get back to munching his lunch, order a Diet-Coke and blame everything on Koffi Annan. According to W., the solution is all so simple. Instead of Annan wasting his time talking about an international force to separate the two sides and stop the killing as soon as possible, W. says: "What they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit, and it's over." [Inquirer]

It's as easy as that!  People are going to look back on this and ask 'what the hell were they thinking?' How could this government, which has the most influence over one of the sides in this conflict not do more to stop some much death and destruction? It is just unconscienable!

I guess, Brent Scowcroft was partly right about W. being  "mesmerized" by Ariel Sharon. But it's not Sharon in particular who ahs him "wrapped around his finger," but rather the nation of Israel and what it represents to his end-time fantasies. What other explaination is there?


Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:28 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 18 July 2006 3:29 PM EDT
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Monday, 17 July 2006
W.'s dithering and possible blow-back in Iraq.
Topic: Israel

 

While the rest of the world condemns Israel's over-the-top response to Hezbollah's kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers four days ago, the US stands alone is full support of Israel's aggression. W. says, "Israel has a right to defend herself" and he reminds everyone that "there are terrorists who will blow up innocent people in order to achieve tactical objectives." No one denies that Israel has the right to defend itself, or that Hezbollah blows up innocent people, but the difference in this situation is that Hezbollah attacked an Israeli military target and the objective was to force Israel into a trade; their two soldiers for the release of thousands of Palestinian and a small number of Lebanese prisoners in Israeli custody. This is the point that W. and the US press and media are missing here. There is no existential threat to Israel involved in this case. Hezbollah isn't anywhere close to being able to destroy the state of Israel with a few thousand Katyusha rockets.

Bombing Beirut's airport, bombing roads and bridges, destroying power plants and blockading the country's ports, trying to turn "back the clock twenty years," is a total overreaction to the original provocation. Israel has brutally attacked a sovereign country and it is imposing collective punishment on millions of Lebanese civilians to go after a militia that controls only a small portion of the southern Lebanon. The rest of the world is right to condemn Israel for its wildly disproportionate response to what amounts to a border skirmish.  Instead of contracting our diplomacy out to Jordan, Egypt and the EU (all of whom have no influence on the parties involved), W. ought to get on the phone with Ehud Olmert himself and read him the riot act. I think we might have just a little bit of leverage with Israel; after all, we give them $3 billion a year and supply all their weapons. The threat to cut any of that aide off would certainly focus they're attention on ceasing and desisting pretty quickly. Has W. seen to the price of a barrel of oil lately? Has he noticed financial markets all over the world plunging the past four days on the fears of a larger regional war breaking out? And are we prepared to deal with the blow-back in Iraq for our blind allegiance to Israel?  

Because it's not long in coming: The NYT reports today that our old friend in Iraq, Muqtada al-Sadr (who's political bloc in the "unity" government has 30 seats) says that Iraqis will not "sit back with hands folded" while Israel attacks Lebanon. The Times reports:  "In a written statement, Mr. Sadr also said that he considered the United States culpable in the conflict unfolding in Lebanon, since America was the largest foreign ally of Israel." Al-Sadr writes, "Eyes are shedding tears, and the heart feels pain and sadness for our people in Lebanon due to the bombing, terror and clear aggression that the Zionist enemy conducts and that is shielded by a number of countries, including the United States."  

The specter of Iran making our lives a living hell in Iraq is quickly raising its ugly head. The timing of Hezbollah's operation on the Israel's border just coincidentally coincides with the G-8 meeting in Russia and the US effort to convince the international community to take Iran to the UN Security Counsel. If Iran starts throwing their weight around in Iraq, we're in big trouble. Our 129,000 troops over there are already incapable of dealing with the Sunni insurgency, what happens if the Shiites turn on us?  And beyond that, what happens if Israel decides to turn on Syria next? Whereas, before it looked like we had Iran hemmed in from the east and west, they now have us at a disadvantage. Not only can they strike at us in Iraq but they can also get us in Afghanistan, while their buddies in Syria will be more than happy to open up their borders for the flow of arms and fighters into Iraq to really start flowing.  Now, we're the ones who are surrounded.  

This is a pretty precarious position to be in, W. & co. really needs to put their thinking caps on and stop screwing around. We need to fundamentally change our thinking on Iran and start dealing with the reality that they're the regional power. We should drop the idea of going to the Security Counsel, because Russia and China are never going to vote for sanctions or military action anyway; loose the preconditions to direct talks; and we should push for negotiations on all matters pertaining to the region, not just the nuclear program. It is an unfortunate truth that our blundering in Iraq has left us no choice but to deal with Tehran.  

We're still the only super power in the world, so we don’t have to worry about losing face and the benefits of talks with the Iranians outweigh the drawbacks. They could help resolve a whole host of problems plaguing the Middle East or they can make them a lot worse. The question is: does this administration have the intelligence and imagination to do this the right way or are they going to keep making the same mistakes? Don't answer that!    

Read more on this at NSD.


Posted by bushmeister0 at 4:06 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 17 July 2006 4:08 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 12 July 2006
Israel declares another war:
Topic: Israel

 

Israel is in the news again: Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse and just as Israel was escalating its "incursion" into central Gaza, killing 23 Palestinians in the process... AFP: "TYRE, Lebanon - Israel bombarded Lebanon after two soldiers were snatched by Hezbollah guerrillas in bloody day of cross-border violence that left 11 people dead, opening up a dangerous new front in the Middle East conflict. Israeli forces pounded targets from the land, sea and air and sent troops into Lebanon after the Hezbollah raid on an army patrol on the volatile border which Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert branded an "act of war." Eight Israeli soldiers were killed, along with a Hezbollah fighter and two Lebanese civilians in the deadliest day on the border since Israel ended its 22-year occupation of southern Lebanon six years ago."

Here we go again: Once again Israel is making the same mistakes it always makes, shooting wildly, spreading its bombs all over the place, not caring where their bombs fall. After two weeks of making life for Palestinians in Gaza a living hell, they're no closer to getting their missing soldier back. Whereas before their incursion, Hamas was on the ropes, actually coming around to signing an agreement to implicitly recognize Israel under pressure from Abu Mazen, now because of this misguided, boneheaded, knee-jerk reaction, Hamas is back in the saddle. Once again, Abu Mazen, the only person Israel has any chance of having a rational conversation with has been marginalized.

The brilliant plan to go after the elected Hamas faction in Gaza, when the real perpetrators of the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit were in Syria, has got them no where. Bombing civilian infrastructure has gained them international condemnation and still Shalit is no closer to coming home. Now, they're making the same error by going after the government of Lebanon. The Israelis know as well as anybody that the Lebanese government is much too weak to take on Hezbollah. The Israeli demand that Hezbollah be disarmed sounds good on paper, but in actually it would lead to another Lebanese civil war.

There are all kinds of people in Lebanon that don't like Hezbollah and its Shiite brand of Islam. The Sunnis and Christians in that country resent very much Hezbollah's politics, their militia and their power. And now I'm sure the vast majority of Lebanese are not too thrilled to be in the firing line of Israel's air force and artillery thanks to Hezbollah's unilateral attack on Israel. Israel could use that discontent with a minimum of military pressure to negotiate the release of their two soldiers, possibly with the help of the US and also the French, who have a lot of influence in Lebanon and Syria. If we weren't on such bad terms with Iran, we might be able to convince them to lean on Iran, but that's out the window, of course.

If Israel isn't careful, if they start bombing Lebanese infrastructure and buzzing Beirut, this could really spin out of control. It this were then to spread into Syria, there's no telling where things could wind up.


Posted by bushmeister0 at 7:38 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 15 July 2006 7:03 PM EDT
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Closer to the gates of hell...
Topic: Iraq

That last post I wrote on Saturday, before the Shiites went on a rampage pulling Sunnis out of cars in the al-Jihad neighborhood of Baghdad and making the streets flow with blood. On Monday, PM Nuri al-Maliki called for Iraqis to "unite as brothers" but his words seem to be falling on deaf ears and he hasn't said much since. The killing goes on and what's most worrying -- well there's a whole lot most worrying -- is that right after the Shiites started rounding up Sunnis on Sunday, supposedly in retaliation for a bombing at a Shiite mosque, the Sunnis came right back with bombing another Shiite mosque. Where as before these types of tit-for-tat attacks came over a period of days, now they're coming in real-time, sort of like a real war.

Typically, as all hell was breaking loose on Sunday, Muqtada al-Sadr called for calm; which means it was his Mahdi Army doing the killing. Whenever, he comes out and calls for calm you know it's him, just like after the Feb 22 mosque bombing in Samarra. While he was sounding all reasonable, his militiamen were roaming around Sunni neighborhoods in official police vehicles, shooting up Sunni mosques and gunning down anyone who moved.

In this most recent violence, the police just stood by and watched, as usual, and US forces were no where to be seen; they only moved in hours later to survey the smoldering ruins and the burning bodies. I don't think US commanders are quite ready to confront the Madhi Army, which is what they'd have to do if they want to get a handle of this situation. I'm assuming, of course, that at this point we really have the fire power to deal with Sadr's fighters. Since we tangled with them back in 2004, where we fought them to a standstill, they've bulked up quite a bit.

Their numbers are now estimated to be at about 140,000 fighters and they've got some heavy duty firepower of their own, thanks to us. While we've been busy declaring this the "year of the police" they've been busy infiltrating the interior ministries, helping themselves all the weapons and fancy new uniforms we've been providing, and on top of that, al-Sadr's party in the parliament controls the Heath and Transportation ministries. If you were wondering where all these fake police check points and phony arrests are coming from, look no further than the Madhi army. They have access to all the police cars they want.

TheWaPo reported today that a reporter in the al-Jihad neighborhood was with a man who called 130, the police emergency number to report the Shiites arriving to kill everyone:

"The Mahdi Army has attacked Amiriyah," he told the Interior Ministry dispatcher. 'The Mahdi Army are not terrorists like you,' said the dispatcher at the ministry, which is controlled by a Shiite party and operates closely with militias. 'They are people doing their duty. And how could you know that they are the Mahdi Army? Is it written on their foreheads?' He hung up the phone." [Geez, and I thought being put on hold when I called 911 in DC was a problem!]

Meanwhile, Rummy has made another "surprise" visit to Iraq, just in time to watch his most famous blunder blow in his face. In the past three days deaths from sectarian fighting has reached over 100 in Iraq. Yesterday, two suicide bombers blew themselves up right in front of a three busy entrances of the Green Zone and then a third bomb went off a little later accounting for 15 deaths all tolled.

The Mujahadeen Shura Council claimed responsibility for the first two and the Islamic Army for the third, in retaliation they say for the rape and killing of an Iraqi family by US soldiers in Mahmudiya, according to the NYT. On Monday, the WaPo reported that the Mujahadeen Shura Council also claimed responsibility for the killing, torture and mutilation of three US troops as punishment for the same killings. Something tells me we haven't heard the last of the exploits of Pfc. Steven Green and his band of merry marauders.

I hear in the press that the Iraqis don't seem to be getting too worked up about the attack by Green and Co.. I suppose that might be a good thing, but when you consider the average Iraqi already suspects that our troops are doing this sort of thing all the time, it isn't exactly a good sign that they're not more upset. Although, the Iraqi civilians on the street might be too preoccupied with avoiding getting, kidnapped, blown up or shot to really be caring about yet another American atrocity these days, the Iraqi government is certainly taking note.

Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, the Iraqi National Security Advisor, told Newsweek that Coalition Provisional Authority Order 17 would have to be renegotiated with the US forces. This is one of the poison pills L. Paul Bremer stuck the Iraqis with as he got out of Dodge that makes US troops immune from prosecution by Iraqi courts for crimes they commit in country. "There is no way we accept CPA Order 17 anymore," Rubaie said. "We cannot go on having these unfortunate incidents repeated, and we have to work on stopping them from happening again."

The Iraqis are of the mind that the US doesn't exactly go out of their way to punish soldiers and that CPA Order 17 makes some troops feel that they can get away with anything. One Iraqi official referred to past trials of soldiers involved in the Abu Ghraib scandal as "theater." So, all in all, I'd say, Rummy probably had a very interesting time talking with his Iraqi "partners."

Posted by bushmeister0 at 7:33 PM EDT
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Iraq at the gates of hell?
Topic: Iraq

For all of you wondering where I've been this past month or so, just go over to Non Sum Dignus to catch up. I'm going to try real hard to get back to doing the foreign policy stuff here and the domestic politics over to NSD again. My new job doesn't leave me a lot of time to do both blogs and on top of that I've started a new blog at democraticunderground.com that is taking even more attention away from this page.

In any case, there is a whole lot of stuff going on in the world these days, and W. & co. have a full plate of disasters to try and juggle. Here's where we see whether they can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Iraq seems to have been knocked right off the front page as news of North Korea's missile launches have been dominating the news cycle since the 4th of July. Have no fear, though, if you haven't been paying attention things are still as bloody and aweful as ever over there. On the 5th the NYT reported that the central morgue in Baghdad has recieved 1,595 bodies over the past month, a 16% rise from May.

Remember, this comes a month after the US killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Whatever disruption his death may have caused al-Qaeda it appears they've pretty much worked it out. Even US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad had to admit that "in terms of violence, it [Zarqawi's death] has not had any impact at this point. As you know, the level of violence is still quite high."

Not to say that all these deaths are attributable to al-Qaeda, most of them appear to be the result of Iraq's raging sectarian civil war (remember that?). Sabrina Tavernese writes in the Times that, "Baghdad, home to one-forth of Iraq's population, has slowly decended into a low-grade civil war in some neighborhoods, with Sunni and Shiite militias carrying out systematic sectarian killings that clear whole city blocks." In fact, last month as the Iraqi government was launching its "crack down"in Baghdad, two militias fought a running battle in the heart of the city on Haifa Street right under the noses of US and Iraqi forces. There's an all out battle for control of Baghdad and we're not invited. This is between the various Shiite factions and the Sunnis.

And in realilty; though the administration would like to have a Pentagon approved al-Qaeda boggyman to focus everyone's attention on for the propaganda department's flashy war on terror's most wanted sound-bites; al-Qaeda is no match in the massacre business for the tens of thousands of Shiite militiamen who kill Sunnis like no body's business. This administration has been insisting from the begining that we had to invade Iraq as a response to 9/11, but the fact is that the groups most responsible for the choas in Iraq are the Shiites, our allies.

While W. & co. are trying to convince us that if we don't fight them over there we'll have to fight them here, the Iraqi government is more concerned with settling old scores. Our partners in the war on terror think Saddam's daughters (he's clean out of sons) are a bigger threat to Iraq than al-Qaeda is. On their "most wanted list" the top spots are reserved for former Baathists (Sunnis), while al-Qaeda's new "leader," Hamza al-Muhajer (if he even really exists), only comes in at #30 out of 41. The Shiite government and their militias are the real problem, but we can't fit losing hundreds more US troops to deal with them into the war on terror narrative.

The great irony here is that we're fighting the wrong people. When we do leave Iraq, we're going to wind up making the same insurgents who are killing about one Marine a day in Anbar province our newest, best buddies. Except for the small group of Takfiris, who are mainly foreigners, the Iraqi Sunnis are basically secular in outlook, and most importantly, they hate the Iranians.

This "democratic" government we've created in Iraq takes its religious lead from Tehran and the vacuum left behind by our departure is going to be filled by Iran. In that case we'll need to hire the Sunni insurgents to make sure Iraq remains unstable and creates the same albatross around their necks as it has been around ours.

The truth is that Baghdad is totally griped by anarchy: The violence is even moving into sections of the city that up until now have been relativly safe like the Mansour district, where all the big shots live. (Ahmad Chilabi has had two of his cars blown up, so you know things are getting bad.) The insurgency is moving ever closer to the Green Zone and it appears they'll have it completly surrounded sooner rather than later.

And Iraqi citizens who work in the Green Zone report that they're finding it more and more dangerous to keep working there, a secret State Department memo says. Taken all together, one can't but come to the conclusion that what has been up until now a country teetering on the brink of total collapse, held together only by the sheer will and might of the US military, has reached its tipping point and is rapidly approachng the point of no return. Unless we're willing to send in about 100,000 more troops, which we are not, the whole thing is going to hell.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 7:20 PM EDT
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