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Iraqi Diary
Pace of Re-Settlement Processing Disregards Urgency to Save Iraqi Allies' Lives
Iraqis put their luggage on a bus leaving for Syria at the al-Salihiya bus station in Baghdad, 05 September 2007.
Ali Yussef/AFP/Getty
Iraqis put their luggage on a bus leaving for Syria at the al-Salihiya bus station in Baghdad, 05 September 2007.

An estimated 100,000 Iraqis have worked for US government agencies, contractors, or sub-contractors since the invasion, often placing themselves and their families in grave danger under accusations of "collaborating with the occupiers."

Facing the troubling fact that Iraqis who devoted themselves to assisting the Americans were being killed for that alliance, the US State Department in February pledged to re-settle 7,000 Iraqis in the United States by the end of the budget year--September 30.

Despite this promise, since October 2006, the US has admitted only 719 people--reportedly a result of slow processing by the Department of Homeland Security, which has been tasked to vet all referrals for possible security threats.

The sclerotic pace of bureaucracy was slammed in recent weeks by Ambassador Ryan Crocker in a 'sensitive' memo to Washington, which criticized the slow pace of re-settlement, charging State and DHS security reviews with causing a "major bottleneck" that could take two years to work through.

Applicants must wait eight to 10 months from the time they are referred to U.S. authorities by the U.N. refugee agency before they set foot in the United States, he said.

"Resettlement takes too long," Crocker wrote.

As a result of the flurry of criticism, DHS has created a new position, appointing Lori Scialabba as Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Homeland Security for Iraqi Refugee Affairs on Wednesday.

At the time of this writing, State is also apparently poised to appoint a former ambassador--James Foley--to a corresponding position within that department.

The State Department reported Tuesday that UNHCR has so far referred the cases of approximately 10,000 Iraqi refugees to the US. Of that number, State's "overseas processing entities" had prepared 7,500 for interview by the DHS. By the end of September, according to State, DHS will have interviewed 4,500 of the applicants.

Unfortunately, DHS processing requires much more than simply an interview. Secretary Michael Chertoff announced in May that the department was implementing "enhanced screening procedures" for all applicants, though the actual requirements have not been revealed.

Adding a new level of bureaucracy rarely makes a positive impact on the pace of any work, but the new overseers will hopefully be able to hasten the process.

The lives of thousands depend on the speed of their work.

To underscore the importance of efforts to protect those Iraqis who have risked everything of themselves to assist US efforts, Iraqslogger would like to refer readers to the latest Newsweek.

Hazim and Emel Hanna on Christmas Day 2006 in Baghdad.
The Hanna family
Hazim and Emel Hanna on Christmas Day 2006 in Baghdad.
Sam Knight details the tragic story of two US embassy workers--a husband and wife--kidnapped and killed in May.

Emel Meskoni and her husband of 40 years, Hazim Hanna, became two of the first Iraqi translators employed by the new US embassy in Baghdad in 2004. Their seniority also allowed them to be two of the first to apply for re-settlement under the new US plan.

Emel received her US visa in April, and the pair expected Hazim to be approved within months, but their time had run out by then.

Hazim was kidnapped in late May. In a futile effort to save her beloved husband, Emel attempted to negotiate and pay a ransom for his release.

Their bodies were discovered together in early July.

The Islamic State of Iraq claimed credit for killing "two of the most prominent agents and spies of the worshippers of the Cross ... a man and woman who occupy an important position at the U.S. Embassy."

Their son told Newsweek his mother had known the risks of attempting to secure her husband's release. "At a certain point she decided, 'To hell with it. I am going down the grave with him'," the son says. What mattered most, she told a friend in one of her last phone calls, was that she had gotten all three of her children out of Iraq: "No one can say I didn't do that."

It's a shame the US can't say it had done everything it could to get these two loyal American supporters out of the country before their tragic fate befell them. Had American bureaucracy moved a little faster, Hazim may have gotten his visa in time.

The tragedy of Emel and Hazim should remind those at the head of the "bottleneck" that they are not processing "cases," or "files"; they are processing human lives.

The papers they shuffle have names, faces, children, and hearts that will beat for the hopes of a better future re-settled safely inside the United States--unless the terrorists reach them first.

DC Buzz
Former Fed Chairman's One-Liner Kicks Damage Control Into High Gear
By BEN LANDO 09/18/2007 3:19 PM ET
Copies of 'The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World' by former federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan are seen in a local book store 17 September 2007 in Washington, DC.
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty
Copies of 'The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World' by former federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan are seen in a local book store 17 September 2007 in Washington, DC.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 18 (UPI) -- History and reality cap the fallout from former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan’s one-liner in his new book that the war in Iraq is “largely about oil.”

The mere 20 words in the 500-plus page memoir elicited much media hype and a prompt defense from the Bush administration. Greenspan used the media circuit to qualify -- though not contradict -- what he originally wrote.

“I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: The Iraq war is largely about oil,” Greenspan wrote toward the end of “The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World,” released Monday. Iraq has the world's third-largest proven reserves and an unexplored potential to rival Saudi Arabia.

“He is wrong. Oil was not and is not a motivation for our actions in Iraq,” the U.S. State Department’s coordinator for Iraq, David Satterfield, said after a speech at the Center for Strategic & International Studies the same day.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino expressed the president’s “respect” for Greenspan.

"He was excellent at his job,” she said, adding Greenspan “acknowledged that oil was not the president’s motive for our engagement in Iraq.”

In an interview published in the Washington Post Monday, Greenspan said, “I’m not saying that that’s the administration’s motive,” rather ousting Saddam Hussein “was essential.”

Saddam posed a threat to the United States not with weapons of mass destruction -- as was first claimed -- but “Saddam was seeking to get a choke hold on the Straits of Hormuz, where about 18 million barrels a day flow from the Middle East to the industrial world,” Greenspan said Monday on NBC’s "Today."

“I’m not saying that they believed it was about oil. I’m saying it is about oil and that I believe it was necessary to get Saddam out of there,” he said.

In other words, he’s not saying the Iraq war was launched because of Iraq’s oil, but Iraq’s oil was a reason -- along with now discredited allegations Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and links to al-Qaida -- to launch the Iraq war.

“When we went into Iraq, I said it’s all about getting rid of Saddam Hussein,” said Robert Ebel, senior adviser in the Energy Program at CSIS. “Once we got rid of Saddam Hussein, then the day after it would be about oil.”

“That was my impression at that time,” said Ebel, who covered oil issues for the CIA and Interior Department and, in 2002 and 2003, worked with former Iraqi oil officials in the U.S. State Department’s “Future of Iraq” project. “We would go in and expand the production and use that to bring prices down.”

“I know the same allegation was made about the Gulf War in 1991, and I just don’t believe it’s true,” U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

“I think that it’s really about stability in the Gulf. It’s about rogue regimes trying to develop weapons of mass destruction. It’s about aggressive dictators,” he said.

“If we had wanted to ensure the stability of oil supplies, we would have left Saddam Hussein in place,” said Danielle Pletka, vice president of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. She said Saddam “posed a potential threat” to U.S. energy supply, “but those were not the reasons articulated in going to war.”

“Our foreign policy is multidimensional,” she said. “Energy security is an important part of our national security,” along with terrorism and other key issues.

History, however, shows oil is often a factor in foreign policy. In May 2003 Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, attending an Asia security summit in Singapore, was asked why the United States isn’t invading North Korea, which has an affirmed nuclear weapons program.

“The primarily difference -- to put it a little too simply -- between North Korea and Iraq is that we had virtually no economic options with Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil,” Wolfowitz said.

The 20 words that set off the firestorm were contained in Greenspan’s chapter, "The Long-Term Energy Squeeze." He explains the growth in oil demand is outpacing growth in supply and most of the reserves are in “politically volatile regions.”

“What do governments whose economies and citizens have become heavily dependent on imports of oil do when the flow becomes unreliable?” he asks. “The intense attention of the developed world to Middle Eastern political affairs has always been critically tied to oil security.”

He points to Iran’s nationalization of oil and Egypt taking control of the Suez Canal in the 1950s, and the response from U.S., Britain and other Western governments.

“And whatever their publicized angst over Saddam Hussein’s 'weapons of mass destruction,' American and British authorities were also concerned about violence in an area that harbors a resource indispensable for the functioning of the world economy,” he wrote.

“You have to go back to the Carter doctrine,” said Michael Makovsky, a former special assistant in the Office of Secretary of Defense on Iraqi energy policy from 2002 to 2006 and author of the new book “Churchill's Promised Land: Zionism and Statecraft.”

“It was Jimmy Carter that made interference -- he was referring to the Russians and Afghanistan -- warned of instability and interference of the Persian Gulf and flow of oil there,” Makovsky said.

(He added he “saw no evidence” the war was about oil and was “not aware” that Saddam was trying to control the Straits of Hormuz.)

“U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf are vital to the national security. These interests include access to oil and the security and stability of key friendly states in the region,” wrote President George H.W. Bush in Aug. 20, 1990, National Security Directive 45, titled "U.S. Policy in Response to the Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait."

Saddam claimed Kuwait's oil policy depressed prices and was encroaching on Iraq’s Rumaila oil field.

“The United States will defend its vital interests in the area, through the use of U.S. military force if necessary and appropriate, against any power with interests inimical to our own,” the elder Bush wrote at the time.

Saddam remained in power but was largely handcuffed as U.N. sanctions officially restricted his oil sector development. But Saddam was starting to ink deals with many foreign companies -- Russian, French, Chinese and South Korean -- not Western firms, and the call to oust him grew and, after taking office, the Bush administration's planning began.

Documents released by court order in 2002 from Vice President Dick Cheney's secret Energy Task Force included maps and charts of Iraq's oil infrastructure and projects as well as a list of "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts."

A pre-war oil and energy working group of the U.S. State Department's Future of Iraq project, which CSIS’ Ebel was part of, was formed.

The U.S. Agency for International Development signed a contract with McLean, Va.-based BearingPoint to provide support and assistance in “broad economic reform,” including of the oil sector. BearingPoint no longer has anyone focusing on oil in Iraq; now the U.S. government directly is helping shepherd a controversial oil law through the political process, both behind the scenes and as part of the “benchmarks.”

Greenspan’s one-liner was further vindication to the global anti-war movement that considered oil a prime motive.

“This is Washington’s dirty little secret that Chairman Greenspan has chosen to expose and I hope that his words carry the weight that the 50 million people have been saying ‘this is a war for oil’ for 5 years have not been able to penetrate,” said Antonia Juhasz, fellow at Oil Change International and author of “The Bush Agenda: Invading the World One Economy at a Time.”

“There has always been an argument made and an argument believed that it is dangerous for all sorts of reasons to have had and allow Saddam Hussein to continue to sit on all that oil,” Juhasz said. “Not saying it was a war so ExxonMobil could have access to Iraq’s oil ... but more that we need the oil to be under control to be under a realm of influence.”

“Clearly he’s trying to backpedal,” Juhasz said of Greenspan’s qualifiers to the media. “But he wrote exactly what he meant to say.”

Ben Lando is UPI energy editor ( This article was re-printed by permission. © Copyright United Press International. All Rights Reserved.

Anti-War Groups Confuse Idiocy for Act of Protest in Saturday's Arrests
Adam Kokesh of the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) becomes the first to step across the police barricades in an organized show of protest against the war.
Brendan Smialowski/Getty
Adam Kokesh of the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) becomes the first to step across the police barricades in an organized show of protest against the war.

The 192 arrests at Saturday's anti-war demonstration in Washington were part of a deliberate operation of what organizers refer to as "civil disobedience"--a plan that had to be altered late in the day after Capitol Hill police did not seem likely to begin a mass sweep in response to the groups' original actions, IraqSlogger has learned.

Further, the anti-war groups consider the tactic a success and say it will likely be employed at future demonstrations.

The Iraq Veterans Against the War and their supporters take up position to die on the steps leading up to the Capital building, September 15, 2007.
Christina Davidson/IraqSlogger
The Iraq Veterans Against the War and their supporters take up position to "die" on the steps leading up to the Capital building, September 15, 2007.

The ANSWER Coalition took the lead in organizing the event, as it has done for most of the major demonstrations that have occupied the mall about twice yearly since the 2003 invasion. Arrests are not uncommon at anti-war marches, though rarely number more than a dozen or so.

Arrests always generate media coverage, however, which led the planner's of Saturday's march to consider facilitating the situation.

The initial idea, suggested by members of the Iraq Veterans Against the War, was to stage a "die-in" on the steps of the Capital building.

Protesters have been taken into custody at previous demonstrations for sitting down and blocking walkways, so it was thought that police would move in with the flexi-cuffs once the group lay down to "die."

Adam Kokesh of IVAW and Medea Benjamin of CodePink watch as those preparing to cross the police barricades line up.
Christina Davidson/IraqSlogger
Adam Kokesh of IVAW and Medea Benjamin of CodePink watch as those preparing to cross the police barricades line up.
Organizers did not expect Capital Police to view the mass repose with only mild interest.

After it became clear police had no intention of moving into the crowd to begin cuffing a mass of people who appeared to be napping peacefully, protest organizers decided to adopt a more aggressive approach.

The groups had declared the theme of the week's planned anti-war activities to be: "Protesting is not enough," to underscore their plan to take more "direct action."

It was getting to be late in the afternoon, around 4:00, and organizers knew time was getting short if they wanted to do something to make a bold statement.

"We had to put ourselves in an arrestable situation," one organizer told Iraqslogger.

Adam Kokesh of Iraq Vets Against the War briefs his colleagues on the revised arrest plan as members of the ANSWER coalition look on.
Christina Davidson/IraqSlogger
Adam Kokesh of Iraq Vets Against the War briefs his colleagues on the revised arrest plan as members of the ANSWER coalition look on.
ANSWER organizers conferred with IVAW and Code Pink leaders, but it was reportedly the Iraq Veterans who first suggested stepping across the police barricades to invite arrest.

Adam Kokesh, the unofficial leader of IVAW, briefed his group on the new plan, and the vets began to assemble themselves in a single-file line to prepare for an orderly breach of police barricades.

When everyone looked ready to go, Kokesh stood and walked down the stone wall separating the police from the sea of protesters.

A member of Iraq veterans against the war walks the wall towards his arrest at the anti-war protest on Capital Hill September 15, 2007.
Christina Davidson/IraqSlogger
A member of Iraq veterans against the war walks the wall towards his arrest at the anti-war protest on Capital Hill September 15, 2007.
The crowd erupted in deafening applause as Kokesh raised his arms and turned to face down the police (see above), maintaining his balance on the wall for only a few seconds before he was in police custody.

Kokesh's dramatic flourish energized the crowd, which cheered on as one Iraq vet after another mounted the wall and slowly ambled their way into police custody.

Medea Benjamin of CodePink and other ladies dressed in a shock of fuschia helped boost the vets onto the wall to maintain a quick pace, keeping the police busy with new detainees.

A dozen or more Iraq vets were followed by a handful of Vietnam ones, but then a stream of supporters followed their lead as more anti-war protesters walked the wall to jump the police barricades and be arrested "in solidarity" with the vets.

A member of Iraq veterans against the war walks the wall towards his arrest at the anti-war protest on Capital Hill September 15, 2007.
Christina Davidson/IraqSlogger
A member of Iraq veterans against the war walks the wall towards his arrest at the anti-war protest on Capital Hill September 15, 2007.

Some agitators in the crowd weren't content with the orderliness of the demonstration, and pushed to knock down the barricades, though police managed to maintain the perimeter.

By the end of the day, Capitol police had arrested almost 200 protesters, charging them with crossing a police barrier--a misdemeanor--and fining them each $100.

Overall, the protesters' act of "civil disobedience" generated almost $20,000 in revenue for the police. For the anti-war groups, it achieved a point almost as muddled as their thinking.

ANSWER describes the planned die-in as "one of the largest acts of civil disobedience in recent years," and says that protesters "were arrested when they tried to deliver their anti-war message to Congress and were stopped by the police."

Medea Benjamin of Code Pink shouts to keep the line of those volunteering for arrest flowing toward the front line.
Christina Davidson/IraqSlogger
Medea Benjamin of Code Pink shouts to keep the line of those volunteering for arrest flowing toward the front line.
One would expect peace activists to possess expertise on the substance and meaning of civil disobedience--historically an important and often potentially dangerous act of defiance against the ruling powers of a state--but getting arrested to "make a point" does not equal "civil disobedience."

Henry David Thoreau wrote in his 1849 treatise on the subject, "If... the machine of government... is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law."

But Thoreau did not advocate the breaking of any law--only the ones perceived to be the basis for injustice. He would refuse to pay the poll tax, for example, but would willingly pay other taxes he viewed as valid.

Thoreau's philosophical writings heavily influenced the non-violent resistance movements of the 20th century, and were regularly cited by Martin Luther King, Jr. as playing a role in his thinking.

A member of Iraq veterans against the war walks the wall towards his arrest at the anti-war protest on Capital Hill September 15, 2007.
Christina Davidson/IraqSlogger
A member of Iraq veterans against the war walks the wall towards his arrest at the anti-war protest on Capital Hill September 15, 2007.
Highlights of civil disobedience in King's era include Rosa Parks' arrest for sitting down in the front of a Montgomery, Alabama public bus, or the brave men and women who defied "whites only" regulations at lunch counters in the South.

While King insisted unjust laws should be defied, he also strongly urged his followers to maintain their respect for the rule of law in general.

King wanted to protect the social fabric from the chaos that could result from irresponsible actions getting out of control, and his own movement from being torn apart by a lack of discipline.

The only way Saturday's arrest-a-palooza could be considered an act of civil disobedience would be if the barriers preventing the crowds from approaching the Capitol building had been an unjust intrusion on the rights of the people.

A member of Iraq veterans against the war walks the wall towards his arrest at the anti-war protest on Capital Hill September 15, 2007.
Christina Davidson/IraqSlogger
A member of Iraq veterans against the war walks the wall towards his arrest at the anti-war protest on Capital Hill September 15, 2007.

But there was absolutely nothing unjust about protecting the building from the thousands of people gathered, just as there is nothing unjust with Congress requiring observers to keep quiet during public hearings--another favored act of "civil disobedience" by anti-war groups.

The organizers of Saturday's march considered the "civil disobedience" to have been such a success that they're already talking about how to get arrested at the next demonstration--tentatively planned for sometime in the Spring.

IraqSlogger would like to suggest that since volunteering for arrest is more symbolic than real civil disobedience, perhaps the next event should keep the arrests symbolic as well.

Twenty-thousand dollars buys the Capitol Police many more zip-ties and barricades, but an organization like the Iraqi Red Crescent could use the money to buy food, potable water, and critical medicines for those suffering as a result of the war.

Breaking a law that has little or no relevance to the cause of injustice is not "civil disobedience." When it costs thousands of dollars that could be better spent feeding the real victims of that injustice, it is, however, stupid.

Anti-war protesters arrested for crossing the barricades at Saturday's protest line-up and wait to be taken upstairs for processing.
Christina Davidson/IraqSlogger
Anti-war protesters arrested for crossing the barricades at Saturday's protest line-up and wait to be taken upstairs for processing.

read them here
Six Council on Foreign Relations Experts Look at Way Forward in Iraq
09/14/2007 2:24 PM ET
Peter Beinart: Decision Should Be President's, Not Petraeus's

This is what happens when presidential leadership breaks down. David Petraeus is, by all accounts, a gifted soldier and an honorable man. But it is not his job to decide how much longer America should keep troops in Iraq. That decision, at its core, is political. It requires balancing the occupation’s costs—financial, institutional, diplomatic, and human—against the potential costs of withdrawal. And thus, it requires views on the broad scope of American foreign policy. For instance, how much damage is America suffering in Asia because our top policymakers are so preoccupied with the Middle East? What would a withdrawal mean for America’s relationships with Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Turkey? George W. Bush is paid to have opinions on those topics; David Petraeus is not. But since most Americans no longer trust President Bush on the subject of Iraq, he and his advisors have made it seem as if the president is following Petraeus’s lead when constitutionally, it’s the other way around.

There’s an irony here and a lesson. The irony is that in 2002, when many in the military were perceived to be skeptical of invading Iraq, Bush supporters stressed that it wasn’t their decision to make. The president was reported to be reading Eliot Cohen’s book, Supreme Command, which argues for keeping wartime decision making in the hands of civilian leaders. Now, having spent months trumpeting the “Petraeus Report,” with the implication that he sets Iraq policy, the Bush administration is sending exactly the opposite message, with worrying consequences. It is terribly unfortunate that is essentially calling Petraeus a Republican hack, but it’s the logical result of the position the Bush administration has put him in.

The lesson is about the importance of presidential credibility in times of war. The easiest way to maintain that credibility, of course, is for wars to go well. But when a president launches one, he can never be sure. That’s why it’s wise to bring prominent members of the opposition into government, preferably before the first shot is fired. Doing so requires ceding some control, but it means that if things go sour, political competitors—and the voters who back them—are more likely to see it as the country’s problem, and not just one president’s and one party’s. That’s what Woodrow Wilson didn’t understand between 1917 and 1919, and what Franklin Roosevelt—who appointed Republican Secretaries of the Navy and War in 1940—did. Sadly, it’s a lesson President Bush never learned. Perhaps if he had, he would be able to speak effectively today to Americans of both parties about the terrible dilemmas we face in Iraq. Instead, he is asking David Petraeus, who already has one of the toughest jobs on the planet, to do his as well.

Max Boot: The Surge is Working

In the lead-up to the testimony today by General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, some antiwar campaigners seemed to have a nervous breakdown., a prominent leftist lobbying group, took out a full-page advertisement, at a cost of around $100,000, in the New York Times headlined: “General Petraeus or General Betray Us?” Their accusation is that Petraeus is “cooking the books for the White House” and what follows are ill-informed efforts to poke holes in the mountain of evidence showing that the situation inIraq has improved since the surge started earlier this year.

Such desperate attempts to besmirch one of the most admired soldiers in the entire American armed forces, a man who has spent much of the past four years on the frontlines in Iraq, are likely to backfire, especially when juxtaposed against the image that Americans who tuned in to the hearings could see for themselves. Petraeus was, as usual, calm, reasonable, and unemotional. His testimony carefully laid out the progress that had been made, while conceding the substantial problems that still exist. He was backed up by the equally respected Ambassador Crocker. For all the political histrionics attending their testimony, their view—that the American people should continue to support the military mission in Iraq—is likely to prevail. That is good news because the alternative—a victory for Iran and al-Qaeda—would be nothing short of catastrophic.

Charles Kupchan: Bush Administration Just Buying Time

Despite the decline of violence in Baghdad and Sunni cooperation in fighting al-Qaeda in Anbar Province, claims that the surge is achieving its broader objectives simply lack credibility. The issue at hand is not whether U.S. forces and their partners in Iraq have achieved discrete tactical successes; they no doubt have. The central issue is whether the surge shows signs of providing sufficient security in Baghdad and elsewhere to promote political stability, sectarian reconciliation, and functioning state institutions. The answer is unequivocally, “no.” There is no unity government and no indication that one is soon to form. If anything, the sectarian divide is growing and soft partition is becoming a reality. Even if some of Baghdad’s neighborhoods may today be safer than in the past, the city is still wracked by continuous violence. Simply put, the surge has failed to illuminate a light at the end of the tunnel.

Hints by administration officials that a modest drawdown could begin late this year and early next undercut the White House’s repeated insistence that the U.S. presence will shrink only when conditions warrant it. Indeed, if the surge were enjoying the successes claimed, the administration should be making the case for sustaining it, not ending it. Looking toward the balance of the Bush presidency, the administration appears to be preparing to “stay the course” while making a modest drawdown to silence its critics. If this week’s events are any indication, the administration is simply buying time—in the United States more than in Iraq—and intends to hand to the next president the primary challenge of figuring out how and when to get the bulk of U.S. forces out of a fragmenting Iraq.

Vali Nasr: Next Phase Could Spark Broader Regional Tensions

Even if the administration’s claim of rapidly improving security conditions is taken at face value, there is no evidence that the Iraqis are impressed with what they have seen so far. The surge has not stopped the tide of ethnic cleansing of Baghdad neighborhoods that has turned that city into a Shia stronghold. Nor has it thwarted the spate of spectacular attacks on Shia targets.

American commanders in Iraq concluded that if they defeat al-Qaeda, Shias will stop supporting the Mahdi Army. Shias however see al-Qaeda as only the worst of their Sunni opponents but not the whole problem—they view America’s Sunni allies with equal fear as they do al-Qaeda. They do not see developments in al-Anbar as positive and are not likely to warm up to Sunni tribes.

Both America’s Shia and Sunni allies are sectarian forces with mutually exclusive claims to power and, buoyed with U.S. arms and patronage, will prefer being masters in their own territories to sharing power at the center. The stronger they become, the more intransigent they will be. Already Shias are unwilling to meet the benchmarks the Congress has put before the Iraqi government, and Sunnis will not lay down their arms even if the Shias were willing. Strengthened with U.S. arms, Shias will continue to seek domination and Sunnis restoration as those goals become more unrealizable. What these forces will instead settle for is what the Kurds have: an autonomous region with its own powerful American-backed militia.

The forces that the United States is arming today may serve America’s short-term security goals but will also undermine its long-term political ones. This is a consequence of the surge having no political framework. In the next six months, the U.S. alliance with Sunnis, along with Shia alienation, will heighten tensions with Iran. The Iraq war will increasingly become an arena for the U.S.-Iran confrontation, which will intensify as the United States pushes its security plan into the south. Without a regional engagement—especially with Iran—the next phase of the surge will become more difficult and could spark broader regional tensions.

Steven Cook: Iraqi Factions Don't Share Vision for Future

The underlying assumption driving the surge was that security would provide enough “political space” for Iraqi factions to negotiate a series of compromises. Yet there was a fundamental flaw with this hypothesis: None of the major factions in Iraq—Sunni, Shia, or Kurd—have common interests or a shared vision for the future of Iraq. Even in an environment where security has improved, the Iraqis are deadlocked and will likely remain that way.

There has been much discussion of the “Sunni awakening” in Anbar, but let’s be clear about what is actually happening and what risks are involved. The United States is providing the Sunni tribes the tools to destroy al-Qaeda of Mesopotamia (a good thing). The unstated goal of this policy is to provide the Sunnis enough arms to create a balance of threat between Sunni and Shia militias in the hope that these groups will deter each other. Yet, Washington is more likely enabling an intensification of the civil war as the Sunnis are convinced that they should be ruling Iraq and the Shia do not want to give up the gains they have made since the fall of Saddam. Once the surge ebbs, expect the Sunni and Shia to do what they have been doing since at least early 2006—fighting over who will dominate Iraq.

Stephen Biddle: May Be Time for Bottom-Up Approach

Monday’s testimony yielded a mixed picture in at least two important respects. First, while some things have gone well, others have not, yielding an ambiguous prognosis. Second, and perhaps more important, the original logic by which U.S. strategy would bring stability to Iraq has expanded to embrace two different models—and these models’ military requirements pose important, but largely unrealized, tensions.

The surge’s original logic was that by providing population security through an expanded U.S. combat presence in Baghdad, the surge would create a political space within which Iraqi leaders at the national level could reach a grand reconciliation deal. Baghdad is now more secure than it was, but the deal has not materialized. This “top-down” model, however, has been joined by an unplanned, unanticipated, “bottom-up” model stemming from the surprise realignment of Sunni tribes in Anbar Province. This realignment is reversible and could prove temporary. It might also prove impossible to replicate in enough of the rest of the country to matter. Arming tribesmen (if necessary) could fuel Iraq’s violence if the policy fails. Even if successful, the resulting ceasefires would produce a patchwork quilt of uneasy local balances of power among factions with the ability to resume fighting if they choose. This network of uneasy truces could easily collapse into renewed warfare if not policed by outside forces—i.e., us—for a generation. These risks and costs are real. But in exchange, the new bottom-up Anbar Model offers at least some chance of stability in Iraq—and a better chance than the nearly moribund top-down model of years past.

To realize the bottom-up model’s potential, however, will probably require different military means than those designed for top-down reconciliation. The latter focuses on direct population security in Baghdad via sustained presence by U.S. combat brigades; this is needed to create the political space for a deal in the capital. Direct population security on this scale, however, ties down an enormous fraction of U.S. combat strength. To replicate the bottom-up model beyond Anbar will probably require an increasingly forceful application of leverage by the United States to induce now-unwilling parties to accept comparable local ceasefire deals. It will be hard to provide the needed leverage when our most important source—the U.S. military—is mostly tied down providing population security in places that are not immediately central to the negotiation of additional ceasefires. The new bottom-up model and the older top-down one thus pose tensions for U.S. military strategy; while it would be desirable in principle to pursue them both in parallel, in practice we may be forced to choose. And if so, it may be time to choose in favor of the bottom-up approach.

From Reprinted with permission. For more analysis on foreign policy and international relations, go to

Baghdad Buzz
Critical of War, Mother Wants Investigation
By ROBERT Y. PELTON 09/12/2007 6:33 PM ET
Sgt. Yance T. Gray, 26, of Ismay, Montana and gt. Omar Mora, 28 of Texas City, Texas were killed on Monday when their military truck drove off an elevated flyway in western Baghdad killing. The 30 foot fall also killed six other soldiers and two detainess. Eleven more soldiers were wounded along with another Iraqi detainee.

The mother of Omar Mora, Mrs Olga Capetillo has demanded an investigation into her son's death but there is nothing to indicate anything other than yet another unfortunate event of war.

The two recently helped pen an August 19th op-ed in the New York Times that was critical of the Pentagon's view of the war effort. The op-ed was entitled "The War as We Saw It" and delivers a soldiers view of the war from the ground. It was the work of seven members of the 82nd Airborne who were at the end of a 15-month deployment.

Their words were blunt and refreshing, taking the position that they wanted to present a different view than much of the news reports they were reading and flying directly in the face of the Commander In Chief's rosy predictions. "To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched." They give their view of what is counterproductive and the gritty conditions they operate in

"In short, we operate in a bewildering context of determined enemies and questionable allies, one where the balance of forces on the ground remains entirely unclear."

Despite their pragmatic and perhaps cynical view of Iraq Buddhika Jayamaha, Army specialist. Army sargeants Wesley D. Smith, Roebuck, Omar Mora, Edward Sandmeier is a sergeant and Staff Sargents Yance T. Gray and Jeremy A. Murphy signed off with with the commitment that we expect from professional soldiers

"We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through."

A must re-read.


Muddled Strategic Logic Has Retired Colonel Wary of Proposed Way Forward
Nations and their leaders tend to learn by experience, which means they often discover the right way forward only when it is too late. America, alas, is no exception to this rule.

Unable to directly challenge U.S. military dominance, Islamist terror groups exploited America’s open borders and poor internal security to evade the U.S. military and strike directly at the American people on Sept. 11, 2001.

But the Islamist threat that revealed did not suggest the need to garrison Iraq or the Persian Gulf with U.S. and allied ground forces any more than Muslim terrorist attacks on British citizens in the years since 2001 would justify a British military occupation of Pakistan.

Worse, the Bush administration allowed ideology and wishful thinking to define military objectives in Iraq -- and the military went along.

Whenever political ideology trumps military strategy, the resulting military action defies strategic logic because its aim is to fulfill an ideological purpose, not a valid military mission.

In 2000 Condoleezza Rice told Foreign Affairs, "American values are universal."

That four-word sentence summarizes the problem. American values are not universal. They are Western, primarily English-speaking values rooted in English common law, including respect for private property and minority rights. These values are not exportable at gunpoint as demonstrated repeatedly in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Faced with opposition in Iraq, they did not understand the generals’ solution to the chaos and hostility was to apply more and more force, branding any Iraqi who actively opposed the foreign military occupation of their homeland as an “al-Qaida terrorist.”

This rigidity of mind paralyzed American generalship, not simply because it obstructed adaptation in tactics and organization, but because it meant they were measuring the wrong kind of success.

In the end, American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines killed many who didn't deserve to die, inadvertently jailed or failed to protect many of those we were supposed to be helping, and -- above all -- failed to meet the unrealistic expectations of impoverished Muslim Arabs who expected occupying U.S. forces to make them rich and comfortable like Americans on TV in a matter of months.

The huge failure of leadership that represents should make everyone wary of the recent testimony from Gen. David Petraeus.

Petraeus, like his peers, is a product of an Army in which confronting contentious issues has always been risky. It is no accident that President Roosevelt was forced to promote a one-star general named George Marshall to four stars on the eve of World War II. Normally, when anything new or different from the status quo is proposed inside the Army, officers learn to avoid taking a definitive stand. Until the four-stars in charge reach a consensus, signing up is risky.

This culture diverts valuable time and resources into endless studies or planning activities while the generals wait to see if current operations or initiatives, though failing, still manage to produce something positive. Moreover, officers who want to be generals learn to modify the truth when important information is passed upward. Even when there is no progress in a critical area, ambitious officers are quick to modify the truth, saying, “We are making slow, but effective progress.”

After 1991 this ingrained, dysfunctional culture worsened with each passing year. The Army generals insisted on reliving the defeat of Iraq’s large, but ineffective army in years of sterile, Cold War simulations designed to reward the commitment of masses of men and firepower in what the generals lovingly called “overwhelming force.”

Though lip service was paid to change, substantive proposals for new directions in ground force modernization, organization, tactics and thinking about warfare were rejected and their proponents in uniform marginalized.

“After all,” a succession of Army four-star generals told everyone, “We won Desert Storm!”

The generals who brought us the Iraq debacle -- Abizaid, Casey, Sanchez and Petraeus -- flourished in the professionally and intellectually oppressive climate of the 1990s where the only deliverable of importance was conformity with whatever the four-stars wanted.

Now, knocked off balance by the dead-ended campaign to secularize and democratize Muslim Arab Iraq, the Bush administration leaves behind an American military leadership mired in confusion about its future strategic purpose together with armed services that remain expensive tributes to the past.

Thanks to a president who behaved as though he possessed unlimited military and political power and the unconditional support of a job- and pork-hungry Congress, instead of meeting our security needs the senior military leaders of the U.S. Armed Forces successfully resisted pressure to shift their thinking and organizations away from the war mobilization paradigms of the Cold War.

The time for new thinking is at hand. The strategic choice for American political and military leaders is whether we will continue to use American military power in attempts to transform other peoples’ societies and cultures into reflections of our own, or whether we will employ our military power to maintain our highly successful market-oriented English-speaking republic, a republic that respects the cultures and traditions of people different from ourselves and trades freely with other nations but vigorously protects its global security interests, its commerce and its citizens.

Given the combined impact of our experience in Iraq and the constraining influence of runaway deficit spending on future defense budgets, the next president, regardless of party affiliation, will have to set aside the blinding influence of uncompromising ideology, the secular variant of religion, and seek a new mix of American military leadership, means and strategy.

Douglas Macgregor is a former Army colonel and a decorated Gulf War combat veteran, now writing for the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information in Washington. He has authored three books on modern warfare and military reform, including “Transformation Under Fire: Revolutionizing the Way America Fights.” This piece was originally printed by UPI.

read it here
Liberal Columnist: Republicans Setting Up Democrats for Fall in Iraq
09/02/2007 3:49 PM ET
A two key graphs from her Web-only commentary:
Forget September. April is the real deadline. That’s when the U.S. military can no longer sustain the surge, and the debate will then be over whether to return to pre-surge levels or begin a staged withdrawal. You can guess where Bush will be; he’ll want to keep 130,000 troops (down from the current 160,000) in Iraq until he leaves office. The strategy of the war’s architects is clear: keep enough troops in Iraq to provide a surface illusion of progress, and then when the Democrats (ideally, Hillary) win the presidency in ’08 and pull out of Iraq, Bush and the Republicans can claim they were on the verge of a great victory against Islamofascism when the weak-willed opposition party betrayed the troops and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. It worked with Vietnam, crippling Democrats on national security for decades because it was a Democratic Congress that pulled funding from the South Vietnamese government.

This scenario was suggested to me by Ernest Evans, a professor of political science at the Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kans. Several hundred of his former students are currently serving in Iraq. In a recent e-mail outlining his views, he wrote, “I do not believe a single serious student of unconventional war believes that the surge will help the U.S. win in Iraq. The purpose of the surge is not to provide ‘space’ for Iraq’s politicians but rather to provide ‘cover’ for DC’s politicians.”

Here's her full column.


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