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Daily Column
Hangings Invite Recriminations; US Officials in Region
01/16/2007 02:11 AM ET
The grim spectre of the hanging of two Ba`thist regime officials dominated Iraq news today, while other reporting captures the Bush administration’s regional posturing as it attempts to garner support for its Iraq and Iran policies.

In the NYT John Burns narrates from Baghdad the macabre scene of the execution of Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, Saddam Hussein’s half-brother and former head of his secret police, and Awad Hamad al-Bandar, former head of the Iraqi revolutionary courts, as captured in a video shown to a small group of reporters by Iraqi officials. Burns also describes the arrangement that Iraqi officials had negotiated to obtain custody of the two Sunni men in order to carry out their sentences, including a technical discussion of the mechanics of proper hanging. The US had insisted that the event be managed to avoid the embarrassing public relations incidents that followed the hanging of Saddam Hussein, and only then agreed to helicopter the two men from Camp Cropper near Baghdad to the gallows in the former secret police headquarters before dawn yesterday. Unfortunately for the US and the Maliki regime, another wave of recriminations from Sunni leaders followed the execution as Barzan was decapitated in the process, sending both the US and the Iraqis into public relations damage control mode.

In the Washington Post, Joshua Partlow and Muhanned Saif Aldin also discuss the fallout of the hangings, with less morbid detail of the scene inside the gallows chamber, but registering more Iraqi and regional reactions to the executions, referring to celebrations in some Shi`a areas of Iraq, and condemnations from Sunni leaders, human rights groups, and the UN. Despite the Maliki government’s claims to the contrary, many Sunnis claim that Barzan’s decapitation was a humiliating act of revenge by the Shi`a-led regime.

The Times and the Wall Street Journal both point to US diplomatic efforts in the region in support of its new initiatives. In the Times, Michael Slackman reports from Cairo that Condoleezza Rice was silent about issues of human rights and democracy during her visit to that country, even as allegations of torture, corruption, and repression were circulating only days before her visit. This contrasts with the “scolding” that Rice had delivered the Egyptian regime during previous visits, signaling a Bush administration retreat from the rhetoric of widespread political transformation in the Middle East, and a new appreciation of stable authoritarian allies as the US seeks regional support for its Iraq policy and its confrontational stance against Iran.

In a piece focused on Israeli-Palestinian issues, Thom Shanker and Greg Myre also note that Rice had achieved at least verbal support from Egypt’s foreign minister, Ahmad Aboul Gheit for the US escalation plan during her visit. Rice will continue on to visit Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf allies.

From Brussels and Egypt, Greg Jaffe and Neil King, Jr. note in the Wall Street Journal a new Bush administration talking point and policy dilemma: Condoleezza Rice in Egypt and Robert Gates in Europe are both sounding grim warnings about Iranian ascendancy in the Middle East, should the US fail to achieve its goals in Iraq. Rice has been shuttling in the region; Gates is headed there today. The US apparently hopes to play on fears among conservative Sunni allies in the Gulf that Shi`a political expression in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, or Bahrain might be a conduit for Iranian influence in the region. However, they write that “winning broad support in the Persian Gulf region for the weak Iraqi government, or even for an overt campaign against Iran, won't be easy. The region's Sunni Arab states -- most of which either Mr. Gates or Ms. Rice are visiting this week -- are leery of the Shiite-dominated government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. They are also apprehensive about lining up too publicly alongside the U.S. in a Cold War-style, anti-Iran bloc.” Says Gates of Iran, "They are doing nothing constructive in Iraq" and "are acting in a very negative way in many respects." Iranian officials might say similar things about the US.

David S. Cloud is traveling with Gates and makes a similar observation in the New York Times.


Ivar Ekman reports for the NYT on the large Iraqi community in Sweden and Swedish asylum policy. Numbering over 80,000, Iraqis make up the second largest immigrant group in Sweden, after Finns. That figure is growing with the mass exodus of refugees from Iraq. Ekman quotes a 63-year old Iraqi woman: “For Iraq, there is no hope,” she said. “For me, my wish is that I get word that my daughter and granddaughters are alive, and that I can help them to come here, to Sweden.”


Walter Pincus writes up the debate over the plan to use two Kurdish pesh merga brigades in operations in Baghdad. Although seen as some of the best fighters in the country, the loyalty of Kurdish forces to the aims of the central state is not assured. Moreover, open hostilities between Kurdish and Mahdi Army militiamen in Kirkuk may carry over into the capital if pesh merga are deployed in pro-Sadr areas of Baghdad. Questions also have emerged about the willingness of Kurds to bear arms against fellow Sunnis in alliance with the United States.

Linton Weeks reports in the Post on a group of activists within the ranks of the armed services that is organizing appeals to Congress to end the war in Iraq.

Op-ed contributors David Rivkin and Lee A. Casey argue the constitutional implications of a congressional confrontation with President Bush over the escalation.

In his column, Richard Cohen just now appears to realize that the Iraqis care about their country more than any outside force does, just as the Vietnamese did before them.


The CSM’s Iraq coverage focuses on domestic implications of the Iraq war. Ron Scherer gets top billing today with a story on mounting concerns in Congress and among analysts about the fiscal consequences of the Bush administration's "borrow now, pay later" approach to financing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While the cost is still only one percent of GDP, tax cuts and heavy borrowing beg the question of how the bill will ultimately be paid off. White House accounting practices have made it difficult to pin down with precision the current cash outlay (estimated to be nearing the cost of the Vietnam or Korean Wars), and future costs of supporting injured veterans and replacing exhausted equipment loom large.

No big scoop, but Linda Feldmann catches the Monitor up on the role that Iraq is taking in the 2008 campaign, describing the triangulation between Democratic frontrunners Clinton, Edwards, and Obama on the one hand, and potential fissures between GOP hopefuls McCain, Giuiliani, Romney, Brownback, and Hegel, on the other.

Suggesting a cycle of endless escalation, the CSM runs a clever editorial cartoon today featuring a yellow ribbon-cum-Mobius-band with the self-repeating message: "Support the Troops . . . with Ever More Troops." Worth a quick click.


Rick Jervis writes about a press conference inside the Green Zone in which General Casey, outgoing commander of US forces discussed troop surge: "As with any plan, there are no guarantees of success, and it's not going to happen overnight. But with sustained political support, and the concentrated efforts on all sides, I believe that this plan can work."

Susan Page writes up a USAT/Gallup poll taken over the weekend that showed little change in American public opinion after Bush's recent address. The public’s support for Bush’s policies in Iraq remains low. Over sixty percent of those polled would support a nonbinding congressional resolution opposing the escalation, whereas those polled were divided relatively evenly over whether Congress should deny the president funding.

In opinion, DeWayne Wickham suggests that the Iraq invasion might have parallels to earlier episodes of US economic imperialism in Panama and Hawaii. Citing reports in the British press that the Bush administration has been heavily involved in writing Iraq’s new hydrocarbon regulations to the advantage of Western oil corporations, he wonders if economic interests, rather than the selfless promotion of democracy, may explain the US interest in Iraq.

Daily Column
2006 Casualty Figures Released; Refugee Crisis Grows
01/17/2007 02:06 AM ET

According to a newly released United Nations estimate, 34,452 Iraqi civilians fell to violence in 2006. Sabrina Tavernise writes in the NY Times from Baghdad that the staggering figure is “the first comprehensive annual count” since the beginning of the invasion. While the Iraqi government disputed the methods, the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq’s Human Rights Office says it used only official sources. As a result, the figure, while nearly three times higher than earlier official estimates, does not include the unregistered dead. Moreover, the numbers do not include all of December’s victims. The report also describes mass graves, morgues overflowing with bodies, and dumping grounds for victims on the edge of dangerous Baghdad neighborhoods. Tavernise notes, “The Iraqis most tormented by the violence are those least able to protect themselves against it: the poor.”

Three bomb blasts killed 70 people yesterday at Mustansiriya University, a largely Shi`a university in northeast Baghdad, Damien Cave of the NYT reports from Baghdad. The attack comes one day after the grizzly hanging of two Sunni Ba`thist ex-officials. Throughout Baghdad yesterday, 108 in total were killed and at least 25 more were found dead.

Michael Slackman suggests in the Times that the series of hangings in Iraq has exacerbated sectarian tensions in the Arab world. The humiliation of Ba`thist Sunnis at the hands of the Shi`a-led Maliki government has, according to Slackman, even eroded Sunni support for the Lebanese group Hezbollah, which had earned regional respect during its confrontation with Israel last year. Marwan Kabalan, a Syrian political scientist offers a different interpretation, suggesting that regional geopolitics is also at play: “Sunni states are using this sectarian card to undercut Iran’s influence because they feel that Iran was able to penetrate the Arab world after the fall of Iraq.” On that note, the Times and the Post both have correspondents traveling with Secretary Rice as she visits US-allied Sunni Arab regimes in the region, seeking support for the Bush escalation in Iraq.

Thom Shanker of the NYT notes that the Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal announced support for the the Bush Administration's Iraq plan. After securing Egyptian endorsement in Cairo, Rice flew to Riyadh, meeting with King Abdullah before a joint press conference with Prince Saud. The carefully worded Saudi statement was “lukewarm at best,” reflecting the Sunni regime’s reservations about the Shi`a-led Maliki government. After her visit to Saudi Arabia, Rice then traveled to Kuwait, where she met with the foreign ministers of eight US-allied Sunni Arab regimes: Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan. The eight issued a statement described as a coded warning to Iran not to interfere in Iraqi affairs. The statement did not mention the US escalation plan in Iraq, nor did it mention the Maliki government directly, but did call for disarming of militias and ending sectarian violence. Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post is also traveling with Secretary Rice, and reports that by contrast, Kuwaiti FM Mohammed al-Sabah openly endorsed the Bush plan in a later statement, and acknowledged that Iran was indeed the target of the group’s statement.

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on the worsening Iraqi refugee crisis, writes Ann Scott Tyson of The Washington Post. An estimated 1.7 million Iraqis are displaced, in the country and outside its borders. The US, however, has granted asylum to only 466 Iraqis since the 2003 invasion. The violence of 2006 resulted in massive movements of displaced individuals. For example, roughly 700,000 have fled to Jordan and 600,000 to Syria. Many are “left with minimal resources and are living on the margins,” according to a State Department official. Members of the committee were especially concerned about the fate of those Iraqis who fled the country because they feared retribution for working for the US, and called for enhanced efforts to alleviate the crisis. Rachel L. Swarns of the Times writes that there are 20,000 available slots for refugees this year, but it is uncertain whether financing would be provided for those slots to make them available to Iraqis.

President Bush told PBS’s Jim Lehrer that his pre-escalation Iraq strategy was headed for “slow failure.” Michael Abramowitz of the Post suggests that this may be “the president's frankest admission that the previous strategy was not working.” Bush accused the Maliki government of “fumbling” the execution of Saddam Hussein and two Ba`thist officials, saying that the government “had some maturation to do.” Bush also said the US and the Iraqi regime shared the blame for the failure to stop Iraq’s spiral of violence after the bombing of the Askariya shrine in Samarra last year. Jim Rutenberg of the Times also writes up the PBS interview, noting that the president’s recent criticisms point to continued tensions between the Bush and Maliki administrations.

Gail Russell Chaddock reports for the Monitor that members of Congress are sounding out one another’s positions on the White House’s escalation plan in preparation for next week’s anticipated vote on a nonbinding resolution opposing the “surge.” It is as yet unknown the degree of Republican support the bill will attract, but Chaddock suggests that several GOP lawmakers may be preparing to break with the White House. The results of this vote may indicate how much Republican support the new majority can count on in future confrontations with the White House over Syria, Iran, and the funding of the war. Jonathan Weisman of the Post writes that a bipartisan group of senators will introduce the nonbinding resolution opposing the escalation as early as today, although the vote will not occur until after Bush’s State of the Union address next Tuesday. He reports that anti-war activists have called the proposal a “meaningless, toothless, vote.” Democrats in both houses are still debating the substance and efficacy of more binding legislation. Carl Hulse and Jim Rutenberg file a similar piece for the Times, noting that some Republicans on the Hill were consulting with the White House to devise an alternative bill that would “appeal to Republicans frustrated with events in Iraq but keep them from supporting the most critical resolution.”

In other coverage:


The NYT’s staff editorial, entitled “The Missing Partner in Iraq,” begins: “The one crucial assumption behind everything President Bush proposed on Iraq last week was that Washington would have the wholehearted support of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.” Citing protection of sectarian militias, the gruesome decapitation of Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, and the appointment of the anti-occupation Lt. Gen. Aboud Qanbar to lead the Baghdad security operations, Times editors go on to question this support. They write that “specific and enforceable policy benchmarks and timelines” might ensure that Bush’s agenda prevail over Maliki’s.


Colum Lynch writes that the former chief of the UN-sponsored oil-for-food program in Iraq, Cypriot Benon V. Sevan, was indicted yesterday in a Manhattan federal court for bribery, wire fraud, and conspiracy. Sevan’s lawyer called the charges a baseless distraction from current events in Iraq. Sevan is in Cyprus, and it is unclear if he will be extradited to face charges.

In his column, David Ignatius argues that the Bush administration is making bad gambles in the Middle East.

Melvin Laird contributes an op-ed warning the Democrats against cutting off funding for the Iraq war.


Controversy surrounds Egypt’s decision to continue broadcasting Iraqi “Insurgent TV” channel al-Zawraa on Nilesat, a government-controlled satellite provider, reports Sarah Gauch from Cairo. The US has pressured Egypt to pull the plug on al-Zarwaa, which features footage of attacks by Iraq’s Sunni insurgency on US forces and Shi`a militias and rails against the Shi`a-led Maliki government. The Egyptian regime has exercised censorship in the past, and views Sunni Islamist militancy at home as a threat to its own stability. So is the decision to maintain the uplink an attempt to distance itself from the US, a signal of wariness of Iran’s growing regional influence, or a “straightforward business deal?”

In his column for the Monitor, John Hughes draws on the NYT’s reporting of the Saddam Hussein trial to argue that Saddam possessed an unusual degree of cruelty. While he says the US occupation of the country was “poorly managed,” Iraqis should be reminded to be grateful that the US rid them of Saddam’s brutality, perhaps by means of a museum in Baghdad, “so that the evil and brutality of Saddam Hussein should not be lost in the mists of history.” No comment from Hughes on brutality and cruelty in post-Saddam Iraq.


No Iraq Coverage


Barbara Slavin files a less-detailed summary of the day’s Iraq events from Kuwait City.

Daily Column
Maliki Government Defends Record; Senate Bills Attack Bush
01/18/2007 02:17 AM ET

Iraqi officials struck back yesterday after several days of bad-mouthing by US officials. Times and Post reporters both participated in a press corps meeting with Maliki yesterday, and relayed his remarks. Political posturing also continued on Capitol Hill, as legislators began introducing bills opposing Bush’s plan to escalate the war.

From Baghdad, the NYT's Damien Cave describes the Maliki government’s public relations effort to counter recent criticism. Prime Minister Maliki stated yesterday to foreign journalists that Iraq “is not witnessing a war of ethnic or sectarian cleansing,” and suggested that President Bush had been rattled by “media pressure” when he had remarked that Iraq had “fumbled” recent executions of ex-Baathist officials. Maliki also claimed that the upcoming security operations in the capital would be led by Iraqis. According to Cave, other Iraqi officials are striving to show progress: Sadrist lawmaker Falah Shanshel was quoted saying that his bloc would end its boycott of the parliament, Kurdish military leader Anwar Dolani stated that his brigade had left the North for operations in the capital. In addition, Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih, who heads Iraq’s Oil Committee has said that a final draft of anticipated hydrocarbon legislation could hit parliament next week. Ahmad Chalabi held a press conference to announce the progress of his “de-Baathification” committee.

Filing from Baghdad, Joshua Partlow describes similar spin efforts in the Post. After several days of bad-mouthing by US officials, Prime Minister Maliki defended his administration's actions and policies. He also said that his government’s need for US troops would “dramatically go down” in a matter of three to six months if the US would accelerate its training and equipping of Iraqi forces. Partlow writes that in this statement, Maliki “went further than he has before in establishing a time frame for drawing down the US presence.”

Sabrina Tavernise reports from Baghdad that the Maliki government claims it has arrested 420 members of the Mahdi Army militia since October, including a number of senior leaders. She writes that on the streets of its neighborhood strongholds, the Mahdi Army’s presence has diminished in recent weeks. Checkpoints have disappeared, and fighters have hidden their weapons, in preparation for an anticipated American military onslaught. Tavernise reports that it is unclear whether the reduced visibility of the Mahdi Army is a result of the threat of arrest, or if it is a reflection of a strategy to wait out the US assault. Another puzzle: Why hasn’t the Mahdi Army struck back over the arrests? One theory suggests that Muqtada al-Sadr may even be “using the government and the American military to purge his own ranks of undesirables,” giving up disloyal or criminal elements and protecting more reliable activists. (Joshua Partlow, in the Post report mentioned above, notes that a Sadr spokesman denied yesterday that the arrests had even occurred.) US commanders are reportedly debating the merits of a full-scale invasion of Baghdad neighborhoods to drive out militiamen where support for Sadrists runs strong, and it is unclear what the Mahdi Army strategy would be to respond to such an attack. Meanwhile, residents of such areas express fear of the violence and destruction of an American assault. “There’s no security if the Americans come in,” said a 43-year-old man, “They create confusion. When they come they make a lot of trouble and maybe fighting.”

Jonathan Weisman reports in the Post on yesterday’s war-related legislative maneuvers on Capitol Hill. Competing measures were introduced in the Senate today, most prominently the nonbinding resolution opposing Bush’s escalation plan in Iraq, co-sponsored by Republican Senator Hagel and Democrats Biden and Levin. GOP Senator Snowe later added herself to the list of co-sponsors. Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Dodd has introduced a bill that would require troop numbers in Iraq be capped at their current levels. As anticipated in earlier reporting, Senator Kennedy has proposed similar legislation. A Republican bill is due soon in the Senate. In the House, a GOP-sponsored bill would limit Congress’s ability to pull the funding plug on the war.

Hillary Clinton has returned from Iraq and will propose legislation to require congressional approval before the president raises troop commitments above January 1 levels, according to Times writer Patrick Healy. The senator did not endorse cutting off funding to President Bush for escalating the Iraq war, but will include in her legislation the threat to deny the Iraqi government funding for security and military needs if it does not implement US goals.

Dan Balz of the Post writes that Clinton’s remarks continued “her steady evolution from one of the war's staunchest supporters to one of the administration's most prominent critics.” Balz also noted that Clinton’s remarks may have undercut the media play of Barack Obama’s declaration of his intention to seek the Democratic presidential nomination for 2008.

Kathy Kiely writes a roundup of legislative action for the USAT, writing that Senator Obama announced he would introduce a bill calling for a phased withdrawal from Iraq.

Carl Hulse reports the Capitol Hill developments for the NY Times, noting reports that Senator Lieberman is the only non-Republican so far to pledge support for upcoming Republican bills in favor of Bush’s Iraq escalation plan.

Post writer Dana Milbank, in his analysis entitled “Congressional Procession of Iraq Proposals Likely to Lead Nowhere,” suggests that the measures to be debated in Congress will have little effect on the President’s ability to wage war in Iraq, and are better interpreted as electoral posturing. He writes, “For all the bills introduced yesterday, none is likely to force President Bush to change course in Iraq. Proposals such as Biden's are "nonbinding" and others don't have enough votes to pass.”

In other reporting:


James Glanz travels to a disused ceramics plant in Ramadi and other idle factories in Iraq to file for the Times. The rapid collapse of state-owned factories that provided Iraqis with many industrial-sector jobs resulted from American occupation authorities simply closing the doors, or denying them access to supplies and markets. Some American policymakers and Iraqi leaders are now considering efforts to get them producing manufactured goods--and employing Iraqis--again. Many Iraqi factories, he reports, have survived with their equipment intact.


Nora Boustany runs down some regional reaction to the recent hangings in Iraq.

Arianne Aryanpur reports on the burial of Army Spec. Eric T. Caldwell, who died in Iraq on January 7, at Arlington National Cemetary.


Karl F. Inderfurth contributes an op-ed suggesting that US interests would be advanced by the implementation of the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations . . . in Afghanistan.


Rick Jervis interviews outgoing US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.


No new Iraq reporting posted before IS deadline.

Daily Column
Papers Focus on Ambush of US Woman, War Preparations
01/19/2007 02:09 AM ET

The killing of an American woman in Iraq dominated coverage in the two major East Coast dailies, along with articles probing the uncertainty of the results of the Bush escalation, and continuing tensions between the Bush and Maliki administrations, even as they prepare for a joint offensive in the Iraqi capital.

Damien Cave rounds up yesterday’s violence in Iraq, leading with the ambush of a convoy that killed Andrea Parhamovich, an American civilian worker, and her three bodyguards yesterday. Ten Iraqi civilians were killed in the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Dora. Cave provides details of the scene of both attacks, and interviews individuals who knew the dead. Noteworthy in the article: While Cave writes that US officials will look to both incidents as justification for the Bush escalation plan, the residents of Dora that he interviewed fear for their neighborhood in a US assault, worried that US lockdown will prevent Iraqis from attending their jobs. Details also are emerging of an incident of US operations in Dora on Dec. 25 in which American soldiers raided a 76-year old man’s home and fatally shot him.

Christopher Maag surveys the life of Andrea Parhamovich for the Times, noting her impressive accomplishments, and writing that she had opposed the US invasion of Iraq “from the start.”

The Post’s Ernesto Londoño and Joshua Partlow write up a summary of the days events in Iraq, also leading with the ambush on Parhamovich’s convoy. No big scoops, but they advance the story by noting that unverified claims had emerged that the group Islamic State in Iraq had conducted the attack. In their roundup they also note that the Sadrist movement now acknowledged that the Iraq government had arrested over 400 Mahdi Army members as claimed, but that these arrests did not take place in the last few days. (The Times ran a more thorough piece on these arrests yesterday, but did not include a Sadrist response.) Having devoted the first half of the article to the killing of one American, Londoño and Partlow close with one sentence noting the deaths of fifteen Iraqis.

Michael R. Gordon files a Times military analysis from Washington. While the US onslaught upon certain Baghdad neighborhoods is sure to be massive, the number of US troops committed does not add up to the numbers provided in the Pentagon’s recently released counterinsurgency guidelines. Even with the addition of Iraqi forces, the numbers don’t add up, and furthermore, the level of military readiness and political willingness of Iraqi forces to fight on the side of the American occupation is unknown. Gordon writes that US military planners are gambling that other alleged battlefield advantages will make up the difference. The Pentagon does not expect fighting to spill over into all areas of Baghdad, for example. Gordon’s piece is must-read material, if only for the insight into the gamble that even US military planners know they are making. While the Pentagon’s new manual is itself only a play book, and not a guaranteed recipe for crushing armed popular resistance, the assumption that the resistance in Baghdad will be subdued with a lower commitment of troops than Pentagon guidelines require highlights the unpredictability of the end result of the Bush escalation plan.

Also on the theme of the unpredictability of the upcoming offensive, Walter Pincus and Ann Scott Tyson of the Post record speculation among Washington’s military and intelligence officials that the anticipated confrontation pitting the US and Iraqi forces against the Mahdi Army may not occur. While some have portrayed the Bush escalation plan as an apocalyptic showdown for the future of Iraq, others expect the Mahdi Army fighters to lay low and resurface later when conditions are more favorable. This may be leading some US military brass to attempt to ratchet down public expectations: "I for one am personally very concerned that expectations have been raised so high that people are going to look for some kind of immediate results in the next 30 to 60 days and are not going to see it," says Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, spokesman for the U.S military command in Iraq.

Neck and neck in their coverage thus far, the Times puts one past the Post with James Glanz’s report from Baghdad that Iraq is reviewing its diplomatic protocols with Iran. Iranian officials visiting Iraq will be required to submit detailed itineraries, coordinate their visits with the Iraqi government, and pledge not to support armed groups within the country. Glanz does not specify exactly the reason that the Iraqi government has enacted this review, but reading between the lines we might speculate that after a series of US raids allegedly targeting Iranian officials operating in Iraq, the Iraqi government is attempting to manage the US-Iran confrontation in Iraq in a way that still props up the image of Iraqi sovereignty. Glanz quotes Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari, who seems more aware of the sensitive nature of the changes in protocol with Iran than the Americans pressuring for the change: “On the one hand we understand the U.S. position,” he says. “On the other hand, I understand my geographic position as well." "After the raids, Zebari said, the Iranians “come to us and we are incapable of responding.”

In other coverage:


Columnist Charles Krauthammer, a cheerleader for the war since the beginning, looks at its result and does not like what he sees. His solution? Threaten the Maliki regime with US withdrawal from Baghdad if it does not implement the US agenda in Iraq. Krauthammer argues that this way, Maliki’s government, fearful of facing chaos in the capital without US backing, would toe the US line and clamp down on such forces as the Mahdi Army. Yet Maliki may know something that Krauthammer does not: The Iraqi central authority that the American occupation authorities helped design may be so weak that Maliki’s implementation of US demands of confrontation with Iraqi militias will actually bring about the chaos that Krauthammer would wield as a threat.


Daniel Schorr’s column, entitled “The Kurds as Charlie Brown” mentions earlier false promises offered to the Kurds of Iraq. In 1973 and 1990 the US encouraged Iraqi Kurds to rebel against Saddam Hussein’s regime. Both times the US abandoned the Kurds to be massacred. Schorr writes, “it is with a certain chutzpah that the current Bush administration presumes to tell the presumably autonomous Kurds what relations they may entertain with other countries of the region, including America's enemy No. 1, Iran.” Noting that the recent American raids in Kurdish country capturing Iranian officials violates Kurdish autonomy, he closes, “The Kurds appear to be finding themselves in an arena of contest between the US and Iran for dominance in the Middle East. And once again, the Kurds are being stiffed by their American friends.”

President Bush and his war in Iraq are plumbing new depths of unpopularity. But where are the mass demonstrations? Brad Knickerbocker of the Monitor compares the antiwar movement today with that of a generation ago, noting that, four years into the war in Iraq, antiwar activism has yet to achieve Vietnam-era levels. He suggests that the lack of a draft, the smaller number of US deaths compared to Vietnam, and the distance of many Americans from the real costs of the war has led to a smaller antiwar movement, but looks ahead to a possible increase in activity with the implementation of the Bush escalation plan.


No new Iraq reporting before IS deadline.


No new Iraq reporting before IS deadline.

Daily Column
Sadrist Bloc Demands Timetable for US Withdrawal
01/22/2007 02:04 AM ET

The remarkable attack at Karbala is the lead story in both big East Coast dailes, while the Washington Post carries some important details about the Sadrist Bloc's end of its boycott of parliament.

Damien Cave files from Baghdad for the NYT to advance the story of the deadly weekend in Iraq in which 27 US soldiers were killed. Most interesting are the new details he reports regarding Saturday's fighting in Karbala, gathered presumably with the help of an unnamed "Iraqi employee of The New York Times in Karbala." The attack, which left five GIs dead, may have been so effective because attacking fighters impersonated US soldiers, complete with "uniforms, American flak jackets, guns and a convoy of at least seven GMC sport utility vehicles, which are usually used by American officials in Iraq." This allowed the attackers to pass through checkpoints and launch their attack on offices where the targeted US and Iraqi officials were located. Repelled by US forces, the attackers then fled toward Babil Province to the north, where four of the vehicles were later recovered. This was the first time that US forces had been impersonated in such a manner. Cave notes the anxiety among military officials that the convincing disguises could pose dangers for US and Iraqi soldiers in the upcoming assault on Baghdad's neighborhoods. Cave also runs down the rest of the day's violence, reporting that at least seven Iraqi civilians were killed in a bomb attack, a UK soldier died near Basra, three Iranians were detained in Mosul, and in Kirkuk Province an attack on oilfield guards ignited one oil well.

Ernesto Londoño of the Post also leads his front-pager with the the Karbala attack, providing some detail that does not appear in the Times: At the opening of the twenty-minute attack the gunmen detonated sound bombs to create panic, and then stormed into a room where US and Iraqi officials were gathered to discuss security for the upcoming Shi`i holy day of `Ashura. He continues to report that the Pentagon had announced that the first 3,200 of 21,500 additional troops headed for Iraq had reached Baghdad. He reports that at least sixteen Iraqis were killed by a bomb attack on a Baghdad and by four planted explosive devices. Londoño's report also provides detail unavailable in the Times about the return of the Sadrist bloc to the parliament. Falah Hasan Shenshel, a Sadrist member of parliament, announced that a parliamentary committee and the body's speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, had agreed to several of the Sadrist's demands in order to bring the bloc back into parliamentary participation. Londoño quotes Shenshel, saying that the agreement includes "establishing a timetable for the buildup of Iraqi troops and the withdrawal of U.S. troops, and a condition that the presence of foreign troops would not be extended without a vote by the assembly, Shenshel said. U.S. troops should retreat from Iraqi cities and return to their bases by the end of August, he said." The Post does not print an analysis of the breaking story of the agreement, but it is noteworthy that the smooth functioning of the current Iraqi parliament is now predicated on the Sadrist demand of scheduling a formal US withdrawal in the coming months.

Peter Grier's article in the Monitor sums up much of what information is available on the coming US offensive in Baghdad and adds a couple of new details: "Surge" is a misnomer, as new US forces will arrive incrementally. Baghdad will be divided into nine military districts; in each will be deployed a contingent of Iraqi forces with an "embedded" US battalion. Analysts have expressed skepticism over the statements of Baghdad and Washington that Iraqi forces will take on the heaviest fighting duties. In areas that have been cleared of resistance, "joint security sites" or "miniforts," will be established, perhaps even in single buildings, in which US and Iraqi forces responsible for the neighborhood will be based. Grier also expects that, if the military's new counterinsurgency guidelines are to be believed, intelligence and propaganda operations will be central to the operations, though Grier does note that the Pentagon has already decided to depart from the new guidelines in deciding that the number of troops on the battlefield will be less than that perscribed in the handbook.

In other coverage:


"Mr. Gates, it turns out, is a hawk," writes David Cloud in his brief profile in the Times of Secretary of Defense and former CIA director Robert Gates. "But a hawk may not be all he is." Cloud writes that Gates is more in favor of negotiating with adversaries of the US than his predecessor Donald Rumsfeld, but prefers negotiations backed by the "leverage" of the threat of force. Hence Gates' support for an escalation of US forces in Iraq: He has said that he they are a source of leverage over the Maliki government in that the US presence could be scaled down if the Iraqi government is not cooperative in implementing US aims. However, as Cloud notes, "Perhaps the biggest test of Mr. Gates’ influence will be whether the United States follows through on this threat if Mr. Maliki does not comply with those promises."


The Post also runs a page A1 article by Anthony Shadid on the disappointment of the few Arab public figures who supported the US invasion of Iraq. Most interesting in the piece is the unanimity with which the individuals whom Shadid profiles place their blame for the failure of the neoconservative program for transforming the Middle East on poor execution by US administrators, rather than on any problem endemic to agenda itself. Shadid unfortunately does not call the reader's attention to the contradictions inherent in the "Arab neocon" endorsement of the goal of spreading democracy through military force, nor to the Faustian bargain inherent in the decision to publicly embrace the expansion of US hegemony in the Middle East, nor to the warm welcome extended by Western neoconservative organizations to Arab intellectuals who advocated in favor of the Bush administration's policies.


Mark Moyar contributes an op-ed about revisionist scholarship on the history of the Vietnam War, closing with the admonition: "So, has Iraq become another Vietnam? For all the apparent similarities – and differences – it is much too early to tell. For all the books on the Iraq war, many critical facts are not yet known. As with Vietnam, it may take 40 years or more to uncover them. Most important, we do not yet know how Iraq will end."


USA Today's David Jackson interviews President Bush, who warms up some talking points for Tuesday's State of the Union address. No bombshells here; Bush insists that his Iraq plan will succeed, states his support for the Maliki government, and refuses to speculate on a withdrawal date for US forces.


No Iraq reporting today.

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