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IAEA Report November 8th Raising Jitters

The International Atomic Energy Agency will report on new evidence that Iran is building a nuclear bomb, several news outlets report.   In addition, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and the UK’s Guardian report new information regarding a possible US or Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear sites.  It appears President Netanyahu is coming closer to getting his cabinet to agree on a strike and the British military is increasing its preparation for support of any US strike.

Rumors of an imminent attack surface every six months or so, but Israel began a full court press diplomatic offensive a in September,  sending each of its foreign envoys instructions for explaining Israel’s latest thinking to their host governments.  Iran has warned the West of havoc should Iran be attacked.  At the same time, the Tehran hierarchy seems split over domestic issues and vulnerable.

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After 10 Years, Afghan Security Guards Untrained

Right now, private contractors provide security to billions of dollars in Afghan aid projects.  President Karsai plans to replace them with Afghan troops in March.  The problem?  Only 1/3 of 165 criteria to judge the training of the forces can be met.  Karsai is standing firm to his committment.  NATO has little choice but to bail him out once again.  Together with the US state department, it expects to field up to 170 advisor/trainers with an added cost of $40 million dollars to maintain the guard training program that the Interior Ministry has defunded and strangled in incompetency.

Forty million dollars is not a lot of money in context of the billions already deployed and wasted by the US in Afghanistan to prop up its weak, venal President.  But the fiasco of the guard training program, managed by the Afghan Interior Department, is one more example, along with renewed militant attacks and assassinations of high-profile Afghan politicians, of the continued deterioration of the Karsai government.

It seems evident that the security situation in Afghanistan is little improved on what it was three years ago or will be three years into the future.  Nothing the US does between now and 2014, when the last of US troops are scheduled to leave, is going to make much difference.  Buying off the population with special projects hasn’t worked and the Afghan military’s ability to provide leadership and stability after the US leaves is dicey.

A political settlement to end this part of the tragic Afghan history would provide just enough cover for the US to leave in 2014 and buy a year or two more before the country collapses into warlord fiefdoms once again.





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Clinton-Obama Military Build-Up


1.  Obama amps up use of drone warfare

(Source: New America Foundation)

2.  Redefining military strategy -  use of special ops, drones for quick-strike regional wars and/or fighting terrorism:  Libya, Somalia, Yeman, Sudan.  This began under Bush but given new flesh under Obama.

3.   Leaving Iraq paves way for new footprint (‘security architecture’) in Persian Gulf, including sending more U.S. naval ships through the Gulf as show of force to Iran, maybe US troops in Kuwait for quick deployment to Iraq or Iran.  From there, can expand footprint into Central Asia,  an underdeveloped oil-rich region.

4.   Maintaining position in E. Asia by excluding military supporting this area from US defense department budget cuts, more naval exercises.



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Obama’s New ‘Security Architecture’ Finishes Bush’s War

If you ever thought that Barack Obama would change the post-Cold War/War on Terror assumptions and find a new direction for US global security policy, the last nail has been hit into the coffin of hope.

The Obama administration plans to bolster the American military presence in the Persian Gulf after it withdraws the remaining troops from Iraq this year, according to officials and diplomats. That repositioning could include new combat forces in Kuwait able to respond to a collapse of security in Iraq or a military confrontation with Iran.

It is clear that the US ‘footprint’ in the Persian Gulf and Middle East will continue to expand with both the goal and justification of encircling Iran.   Although overthrowing Saddam Hussein removed the ‘natural enemy’ of Iran, thus enhancing the latter’s influence in the region, it was also a war to clear the path of an aggressive US national security strategy.   The US needed both an excuse and a place to establish a strong military presence in the region and was counting on a weak Iraq to provide both.

In addition, last year the Administration agreed to sell Saudi Arabia $60 billion in weapons and began building a tailored down ‘missile defense system’ against Iran. It will send more naval ships through international waters in the area and strengthen the Gulf Cooperation Council, composed of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other assorted emirships and kingdoms (do we still need to add ‘undemocratic’).

Nuclear issue only part of Iran story?

The US is actively challenging Iran on its nuclear program.  But this is only half the story.  The real goal is to halt China and Russia from expanding their influence and economic partnerships in the region.

This is the stuff World Wars are made of.







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$1.4 Trillion = Cost of Wars Since 9/11= Budget Cuts/10 Years

The Christian Science Monitor includes a stunning quote from Douglass Elmendorf, head of the Congressional Budget Office:

In his testimony Wednesday, Elmendorf pointed out that discretionary funding for 2011 includes $712 billion in defense spending and $566 billion for nondefense items, including education, energy, environment, and veterans’ benefits.

One point of discussion has been the military’s operation and maintenance budget (part of discretionary spending), which includes the wars winding down in Iraq and Afghanistan. The extent to which reducing those wars can be included as part of deficit reduction over the next decade is a matter of some dispute. Coincidentally, the amount of budget authority for US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan since the terrorist attacks of 2001 has totaled $1.2 trillion – the same amount that lawmakers are now trying to cut over the next 10 years. (emphasis added)

It might not be so coincidental.  The Bush Administration never put the costs of the two wars in any of its budgets.  Obama thought they should be included, and it is those wars that have made the deficit balloon to the extent it has over the last 10 years.

Who cares about who touched whose shoulder in GOP debates?  Or who stumbled with answers this time?  What makes 89% of the American public not trust that the government will do the right thing are scams like the one Bush pulled off by not accounting for the cost of the Afghan and Iraq wars.  This has been known for some time.  Maybe it will now get the attention it deserves.

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Occupy Congress: House GOP Negotiates with Self

The outright rejection by House GOP members of a Democratic plan designed to get as close to a Republican proposal as possible, including a spending cut/revenue ratio of 6:1 means that the House GOP has no intention of negotiating with anyone but themselves.

By refusing to consider any tax/revenue increases in any budget reduction package, the GOP is setting the public up for mandatory and brutal across-the-board cuts in discretionary spending including $712 billion in defense spending and $566 billion in non-defense spending such as education, veterans health benefits, energy, the environment, and a number of social programs serving the poor and middle class.

Who are these people representing?

I know not me.  In the latest NYT/CBS poll, 7 of 10 people think the House GOP budget proposals benefit the rich. Two-thirds believe the rich should be taxed more; the same number believe corporations should not be given tax breaks.

Congress included more cuts in defense spending if automatic cuts are triggered purposefully, figuring cuts that size in the military would act as incentive for the 12 Congress members in the Super Committee to negotiate a plan to present to the full House and Senate.

But the real zinger is the quote I’m including in my next post….


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Apres US Le Deluge!


Wow.  You’d think it was the Obama Administration that invaded Iraq the way opponents of US troop withdrawal tell it.  Republicans and some foreign policy pundits are wringing their hands over the withdrawal schedule negotiated by George Bush in 2008.  Incredibly, instead of cheering a decision made by an independent Iraqi government not to give immunity to US troops if some stayed behind,  conservatives are once again dragging out their bankrupt ‘slippery slope’ argument to cover their butts.   Saying President Obama had ‘failed’ to renegotiate the Status of Forces Agreement in which President Bush pledged that every US troop would be withdrawn by December 31, 2011, Republicans are setting President Obama up to blame for anything bad that happens in Iraq after US troops withdraw and into the future.  Mitt Romney goes so far as to say that US troop withdrawal threatens all the ‘gains we’ve made’ since 2003.  Lindsey Graham said the announcement of troop withdrawal is a victory for Iran!

Bad things could happen. But those same bad things would be possible whether the US withdraws now or in five years.  Maybe, on the other hand, good things will happen as Iraqis are free of the tension and humiliation of occupation and regain their shared heritage.   Or perhaps the withdrawal will prevent bad things from happening. After all, the Sadrists pledged to call up their militia again to fight any US troops left behind after this December.

Paternalism is thick in the conservative argument.  The people who got us into this war thought it would go a certain way, sort of a ‘cakewalk’ was the expression.  It didn’t.  And now they want the American people to trust them again?

I’d love to see Romney go after Obama face-to-face on withdrawal from Iraq in one the pre-election debates.  Running on keeping troops in Iraq is not a winning strategy.

UPDATE:  From L.A. Times

In Iraq, however, many associate the U.S. presence with instability, violence and suspect motives in a conflict that is believed to have cost at least 100,000 Iraqi lives. These critics view U.S. troops as a lightning rod for militia attacks.

A representative of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki‘s Shiite-led ruling coalition said Iraqis were “thankful” for the role of the U.S. and other nations in ousting Hussein, but another official added that the Americans “put the country on the brink of civil war.”

“They were part of the reason behind the ethnic and sectarian tension,” said Saad Muttalbi.

The Shiites have long been cool to U.S. troops in Iraq. But leading politicians from Sunni and Kurdish blocs who once welcomed the American presence now also agree that the U.S. must leave.

The largely Sunni Iraqiya bloc headed by Iyad Allawi has gone on record against extending the stay of U.S. troops beyond the end of the year.Even lawmakers from Iraqi Kurdistan, where U.S. forces were warmly received in 2003, no longer seem enthusiastic about American boots on the ground.

“An American presence is not a condition to solve our problems,” said Mahmoud Othman, a member of the Kurdish coalition. “They’ve been here for years, and there are still problems in Iraq.”



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McCain Says: Let’s Jam US Troops Down Iraq’s Throat

In an interview with Christine Amanpour on ABC this morning, John McCain claimed that the Obama Administration didn’t really try to convince Iraq to keep a wresidual force (3,000 – 20,000) of American troops in Iraq past the legal deadline for withdrawal agreed to by the Bush Administration, December 31, 2011.  Upon questioning how he could make such a claim, McCain said “I was there.”  McCain then explained that  over six months before, when he spoke to different representatives of the Iraqi government, they seemed agreeable to discussing amending the SOFA and retaining some American troops.

Let’s look at the facts:

It has been broadly reported that some in the Iraqi government wanted to keep US troops past the deadline for withdrawal.  Others did not.

It has been broadly reported that the Administration entered talks on the subject months ag, with Maliki and the US Administration trying to work out some type of accommodation.

It has been broadly reported that the Iraqi government would not give American troops immunity past December 31, 2011, because it would violate their nation’s sovereignty and that the US could not accept leaving troops beyond the agreed-upon withdrawal date without this immunity

It has been widely reported that the Bush Administration invaded Iraq to ‘liberate it’ with the goal of leaving it a sovereign, independent nation and that Mr. McCain approved of and supported that invasion from the beginning.

The Iraqi government has spoken as a sovereign, independent nation.  Yet, instead of celebrating that fact, Mr. McCain believes the Obama Administration should impose US paternalism and dictate the number of troops and conditions of operations to the Iraqis.

Mr. McCain is not a very smart politician.  He knows that the US Embassy will have hundreds of contracted former soldiers defending it and its consulates in Iraq.  He knows the State Department will hire independent contractors to fill in for American soldiers to train the Iraqi military.  He knows the American people have no more stomach for the cost in lives and money of a continued war in Iraq.

A smart politician would have tried to take credit for the Bush strategy and insisted it worked.  Instead McCain’s attacks on Obama for implementing the Bush SOFA and fulfilling a campaign pledge to bring the troops home seems shallow and outdated.

McCain ignores the internal politics in Iraq itself.  He ignores the nationalist sentiment of Iraqis that has grown stronger the longer US troops have remained on the ground.  Most Iraqis consider the US presence in Iraq an occupation and believe that sectarian divisions will moderate when the occupation ends.  McCain ignores the Sadr movement, which vowed to challenge any remaining US troops militarily, that hold a sizable bloc of votes in the Iraqi Parliament.

By denouncing Obama for the Iraqi withdrawal, McCain displays his tin ear to the war fatigue of the American public and demands that the government focus on domestic concerns, not foreign policy adventures.

McCain is a figure of the past.  He no longer represents the base of the Republican Party.  But the American media is lazy and intellectually unable to keep up with foreign policy developments.  It’s easier to go with the false perceptions of the same old same old .






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