Tag Archives | Iraq

Iraq on Slippery Slope

The Maliki government as well as other factions in Iraqi politics lost little time invoking their special kind of sovereignty just two days after President Obama declared the Iraqi War over for Americans.  Well, at least formally.  No troops doesn’t mean no Americans.  The US Embassy will have 16,000 people attached to it, including military advisers and private contractors hired to replace American military trainers.

Yesterday the aftershocks of American military intervention began. One third of elected Iraqi parliamentarians, those affiliated with the Sunni-Secular Iraqiya Party, walked out as PM Maliki moved to arrest the Sunni Vice-President.  No on has the pulse of the Middle East better than Juan Cole:

Only a couple days after US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta declared the Iraq War over and turned the last US base in Iraq over to the Iraqi military, Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has struck against a Sunni Arab vice President, Tariq al-Hashimi. Iraqi police have issued an arrest warrant for Hashimi, a member of the now Sunni-dominated Iraqiya Party. The Ministry of the Interior, which al-Maliki controls, confirmed the warrant.

Three members of the VP’s security detail had been under investigation in recent days, charged with engineering a car bombing inside Iraq’s Green Zone on November 28, allegedly in hopes of assassinating al-Maliki. The car bomb had been constructed inside the Green Zone (a protected area in downtown Baghdad encircling government offices and embassies) which admittedly does point to a member of the political elite. It is alleged to have gone off prematurely. Apparently Hashimi is now being fingered as the mastermind of the car bombing.

So much for leaving Iraq a stable, democratic model.

The back-story is that Sunnis have been denied autonomy and representation at the hands of a Shia-led government.  Sectarian violence since 2003 has cut both ways, Sunni and Shia.  The US responded with alarm:

The American ambassador, James F. Jeffrey, has raced to ease the political crisis. On Thursday and Friday, American officials contacted senior Iraqi political figures to try to establish the facts concerning the detentions, urge restraint and exhort the parties to support the vision of a pluralistic and democratic Iraq.

Republicans love the theory of the ‘slippery slope’ and have used against Obama policy proposals.  For example, Obamacare builds a ‘slippery slope’ bound to result in ‘death panels’ and rationed health care.

Actually, the metaphor is most applicable to Iraq.  Bush war planners were warned by many Iraqis and Iraq experts in the West that a US invasion of Iraq could lead to violent sectarian fighting, the complete rupture in civil society and chaos.  And that’s what’s happened.

Colin Powell infamously said, ‘If we break it, we own it’.  We don’t own it anymore.  The Iraqis are left to clean up the mess themselves.

 

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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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Iraq, Afghan Constitutions Based on Islam & Sharia Law

Next time you hear a blowhard complain that a country such as Libya, whose rebels the US supports, dare to proclaim their state an Islamic Republic or their constitution based on Sharia Law and Islamic values, remind them that George Bush, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld supported constitutions in Iraq and Afghanistan that did the same thing in  2004 and 2005.

Juan Cole translates:

Afghanistan, 2004

Article One Ch. 1. Art. 1: Afghanistan is an Islamic Republic, independent, unitary and indivisible state.Article Two Ch. 1, Art. 2: The religion of the state of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is the sacred religion of Islam.

Followers of other religions are free to exercise their faith and perform their religious rites within the limits of the provisions of law.

Article Three
Ch. 1, Art. 3

In Afghanistan, no law can be contrary to the beliefs and laws [ahkam] of the sacred religion of Islam.

Iraq, 2005

Article 2:
First: Islam is the official religion of the State and is the primary basis for legislation:

A. No legislation may be enacted that contradicts the established laws of Islam

B. No law may be enacted that contradicts the principles of democracy.

C. No law may be enacted that contradicts the rights and basic freedoms stipulated in this Constitution.

Second: This Constitution guarantees the Islamic identity of the majority of the
Iraqi people and guarantees the full religious rights to freedom of religious belief
and practice of all individuals such as Christians, Yazidis, and Mandean Sabeans.

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Apres US Le Deluge!

UPDATE BELOW

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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Anbar Province: Ghosts of 2004

Twenty-two Shia pilgrims were ambushed and killed in Anbar province Monday night.  Al Queda of Mesopotamia is suspected.

Anbar is notorious for the 2004 fight between the US military and militants in Falluja.  It is also the province that gave birth to the anti-Al Queda movement, the Awakening Councils, composed of local Sunnis.

This time the Sunnis raged against Prime Minister Malaki’s Shiite-dominated government, saying it has done little to route militants in the area, and has refused to send military personnel drawn from the area back to keep peace.  Ten attacks/month is now the average in Anbar.

This is serious stuff.  While the Sunnis of Anbar rightfully aimed their criticism at the Baghdad government’s studied indifference, the tensions are building and could lead to another round of sectarian fighting.  If reports are true, it seems the Malaki government has no interest in being the government of all Iraqis, Shiite, Sunni, and Kurds alike.  Some are saying the US should keep 10-25,000 US troops in Iraq past the agreed=upon withdrawal date, December 31st, as opposed to a call by President Obama for a residual force of 3,000.  Advocates of more troops believe the Iraqis are not yet able to maintain security and sectarian peace.

If not now, when?  Sectarian forces will take advantage of any US withdrawal now or in 15 years.  This war was cynical and naive, but the sectarian violence that followed the invasion is never going to be resolved as long as foreign troops are on the ground.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Response to Bill Keller’s Apology

Bill Keller, immediate former executive editor of the New York Times, issued a well-publicized apology for supporting the invasion of Iraq.  Other ‘liberal hawks’ like Tom Friedman and Andrew Sullivan, wrote theirs  years ago, but Mr. Keller held back from openly political issues while Editor.  My response: (click highlights)

“First of all, the key question with Iraq was one of goal and strategy. Organization and preparation – or not – flow from that. On its face, the strategy to bring democracy to another country by invasion, with no one in said country organized and prepared to be handed state power, is preposterous and denies everything we learned from Vietnam.  The cavalier attitudes of the Pentagon chiefs, the absence of non-military plans, the intelligence questions – everything – flowed naturally from this bankrupt strategic vision.

Mr. Keller et al based their support for the war on Saddam’s obvious brutality, someone’s personal relations with the Kurds, the MWD, what they thought were legitimate moral and humane concerns.  But if they deeply considered the possibility of sectarian violence, if they truly thought the entire war preparation was shallow, haphazard and ignorant of the society, they should have opposed the war on those grounds alone.  Then worked backwards from there to see the inevitability of their lethal lack of preparation from everything Bush et al were propagandizing at the time.  That would have been the moral thing to do.

Instead, individuals in the Club talked in terms of supporting the war 55-45 or what have you, as if that conscious-massaging spread would mean anything to Iraqis caught in the downpour of American weapons.  Intellectualism can’t take the place of moral clarity.

Bush tried to do the same thing by separating the bad intelligence from his disastrous political leadership and blame everything on the CIA.   He got away with it in one of the most incredible displays of cowardice by any president living or dead.

On the intelligence.  Let’s get real.  Why did no other country except Britain believe the intelligence was hard enough to go to war.  Bush and Powell insisted all UN members had seen the same intelligence.  But only two of the major powers went to war.  Why?  Is it so hard to seek out German and Russian intelligence and ask them what they saw that we didn’t?  The UN and intelligenceconsensus’ was, in any case, that Saddam ‘had not accounted’ for all his MWD. But that didn’t mean he still had any, much less capable, MWD systems.  Maybe that’s why France, Germany, Russia, China, etc., said ‘no thanks’ when pressed by Bush.

Intervention and non-intervention are sticky questions these days.  Obama got everyone talking about the worth of counter-insurgency vs. counter-terrorism in Afghanistan, but as soon as MR. COIN, General Petraeus, took over, he implemented McCrystal’s counter-terrorism more fiercely that McCrystal had!  COIN has been left to die a natural death.  The debate was really whether to stay or not, but it got clouded by the semantic clouds both politicians and military people use.  Obama didn’t want to go up against Petraeus at the time, although he cleverly deep-sixed him at the CIA first chance he got.”

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