December 31, 2006

Cordesman, Heisbourg, Etc.

CORDESMAN, in Q&A over at CSIS (PDF):

I think one great problem is can we, at this point, really strengthen the Iraqi army? I mean, Tom Ricks of the Post says that out of 121 army battalions there are 10 effective. I would put it at 20 to 30. It certainly isn’t anything like the reports of the units in the lead that are in the press. There was a time where a combination of the best army units and the U.S. could control Baghdad and limit the Mahdi army. I don’t know if that’s still possible. It will not be possible with the police. The fact is the police are going to take at least three to four years to build, and Baghdad is as much of a problem as the countryside. It is a very uncertain issue now. We are – because we deny there is a civil conflict, we have failed to come to grips with it, General Chiarelli pointed out quite, I thought, well. Part of the problem too is you’ve got to solve the economic dimensions. There have to be jobs. There have to be alternatives to civil violence. You have to find ways of limiting this problem of ethnic and sectarian cleansing. Let me put it in terms I think every American can understand. Suppose you had to abandon your house tomorrow without selling it, and most of the things in it. Suppose you worked near where you live and by being forced away from your home, you had to give up your business or your job, and you then had to find a relative or a friend or someplace to go with no capital and no savings. That’s what’s happening in large parts of Baghdad and Iraq. And if we turn this over to the government without adequate constraints and controls, what we are doing is licensing the Shi’ites to try to dominate Baghdad. That will not be peaceful. It will lead to a much more intense civil conflict. And we need to be honest and face these issues.

The Battle for Baghdad will, in large part, ultimately be about whether the U.S. can stave off attempts to Shi'a-ize the entire city, one suspects. In this, the U.S. will have to hope against hope that the impulses of men like those who executed Saddam over the weekend can be moderated, via better security, jobs programs, reconstruction, and the emergence of a more 'moderate' Shi'a politics. Is this even possible, surge or no surge? I don't pretend to know, but let's at least agree that Cordesman is likely correct that allowing the Shi'a to overtake all of Baghdad will only lead to an intensification of the large-scale sectarian violence underway. For anyone in the Administration entertaining the absurd 80% solution, this should be food for thought, one would think.

NB: The link is actually mostly about Afghanistan, and it makes for troubling reading. Cordesman appears particularly disdainful of what he calls "stand-aside forces" in Afghanistan, of which more at the link. The deeper question is whether NATO core member states view 'out of area' peacemaking missions as vital to their national interests. I suspect many of them don't, which explains some of the lackadaisical (at best) efforts underway in theater. For example, see this bit where Cordesman lets loose, in this instance, about the German (non)-role:

Q: Just to understand, why do you classify what the Germans are doing in the north as standing aside? It’s –

MR. CORDESMAN: Because they are not actively involved. What are they

Q: They are keeping security in the north.

MR. CORDESMAN: They’re sitting there in bases. Keeping security is roughly the same as having a bunch of high school kids as theater ushers waiting in the lobby because there isn’t any problem when people are watching the movie. That’s not doing something. They failed dismally in dealing with their responsibility for the police
training. They aren’t providing significant levels of aid relative to the requirement, and the issue is the requirement, not the amount of money. You can always make the money seem impressive if you don’t bother with the requirement. So unless the German government can demonstrate that it’s actually doing something useful rather than committing troops to doing nothing, it would be, shall we say, somewhat ingenuous to go on with the arguments. And it is not exactly as if Germany, Spain and France are not hearing criticism from allies other than the United States.

Q: I have a follow up to that. Daniel Scheschkewitz, Deutsche Welle, Germany’s
international broadcaster. Mr. Cordesman, would you say the lack of sufficient police training is due to a lack of competence among the German troops, a lack of will, or just –

MR. CORDESMAN: Well, first, they’re not doing it anymore. Second, it wasn’t done by the German troops. Third, what they did was they trained people to be German policemen, and the problem is that they did it at a very limited scale with formal training facilities. They didn’t get involved in the problems of governance or what is happening
in the field. This is not Germany. You need paramilitary forces. You need to worry about what happens after people leave the training period. I went through pay, facilities, and equipment. So essentially what you had is a program which was never tailored to the country and where you wasted three years. But it wasn’t the German military that did it.

When I see this type of stuff now and again, I'm reminded of Francois Heisbourg's cautionary notes in the FT back in November:

In itself, this reduction of Nato’s place in the overall scheme of strategic affairs should not be a big concern for those who live and work beyond the confines of the Nato bureaucracy. After all, Nato is immensely and uniquely useful in fostering interoperability between the military forces of its members, which is key to forming effective coalitions of forces. In a world in which the mission determines the coalition, this ability is more important than ever. Similarly, Nato remains key in ensuring that the partner states of eastern Europe press on with reform of their security sectors.

Unfortunately, Nato is not sticking to its core competencies. In a quest to carve a greater role for itself and demonstrate global relevance, the alliance is running the risk of overreaching itself in strategic and political terms, with potentially dangerous consequences. In the run-up to Riga, there has been much talk of a “Nato-bis”, or second version, of a privileged partnership between Nato and hopefully like-minded states in the Asia-Pacific region such as Japan and Australia. The wisdom of this is questionable, to put it mildly, given its potential for needless friction with a rising China. The push for a Nato-bis is probably not intended to foster a “west against the rest” alignment in east Asia; but that could be its inadvertent effect. Nato should not be acting like a solution in search of a problem.

In the military sphere, there is a similar element of disregard for the consequences of Nato’s decision to broaden the scope of its presence in Afghanistan and to extend its war aims. These now go well beyond the initial intention immediately after the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks of toppling the Taliban from government and of going after al-Qaeda leaders and operatives.

Nato’s aims of state-building and reconstruction are noble and ambitious; but Afghanistan is a country larger than Iraq, with a history of impatience vis-à-vis the presence of even well-intentioned foreigners. Even if Nato’s members come up with all the soldiers and kit they have promised, it is unlikely that the alliance can fulfil its goals, with only about one-third of the manpower deployed by the Soviet Union in the same country a quarter of a century ago. The Soviets had a no-less ambitious agenda of social and­ ­economic modernisation and failed – not just because the Red Army tended to behave less well than Nato’s ­soldiers.

The leaders assembled in Riga would render Nato and the west a signal service if they were to steer clear of premature and ill-thought-out entanglements in east Asia and if they were to lower the scope of the alliance’s ambitions in Afghanistan – while actually giving their soldiers there the wherewithal to fulfil a more realistic mission.

Now that we actually have a Secretary of Defense in place less worried about his own reputation and bureaucratic standing, or hell-bent on absurdly calling Iraq and Afghanistan successes, but rather hugely more seized of the grave and detiorating situation in both countries--one hopes a better strategic overlay will be brought to bear towards analyzing, not only the grevious errors committed to date in Iraq (and increasingly Afghanistan, given lack of requisite resources and sustained focus), but also the future of alliance structures like NATO that are undergoing a period of real flux and uncertainty.

Posted by Gregory at 11:22 PM | Comments (4)

December 30, 2006

Saddam's Death


I will shed no tears for Saddam Hussein. An odious genocidaire, he ranks high in the pantheon of 20th Century monsters. But it is clear as day that this judicial process, not least the rush to execution, positively reeked of victor's justice. This is not to say the trial could not have been even worse, as genuine attempts by some in the USG were made to assist the Iraqi authorities in putting together a credible tribunal. But, like the rest of the Iraq War, it was mostly a fiasco (see here for detail regarding some of the many shortcomings in the process).

To be sure, an international war crimes tribunal sitting in the Hague, or a South African style Truth and Reconciliation Commission, either would have been far better than the process we witnessed--particularly given the critical imperative of forging better national reconciliation among Iraq's different ethnic groups and sects. And, yes, as David Kurtz points out, we cannot help sensing in the motley gaggle of hooded hangmen (pictured above) a revanchist, vigilante-style justice that gives the lie to the impartiality of the entire process.

Above all, however, what saddens me in all this was that Saddam was not methodically tried and convicted while alive, not only for the murder of the males of one hapless Shi'a villlage on the outskirts of Baghdad, but for the entire gamut of his despicable crimes--his brutal campaign of genocide in Kurdistan, his massacres of thousands upon thousands of Marsh Arabs, his command decisions during the long Iran-Iraq war, and more. Could we not have tried him in the Hague, even if it lasted past Bush's Presidency, say, on the whole panoply of crimes he was rightly accused of, with witnesses, prosecution and defense teams better protected, rather than under a state of seige, with fewer grave shortcomings in standards of judicial procedure, and above all, with a better sense that justice had been pursued deliberately rather than in a vengeful (however understandable) rush to execution?

P.S. Don't miss John Burns writing this weekend on Saddam's end.

Posted by Gregory at 04:54 PM | Comments (29)

Carrots and Sticks

I found this interview of Javad Zarif, the Iranian Ambassador to the U.N., of interest, particularly this snippet:

As far as U.S. polices are concerned and the aftermath of the Baker-Hamilton report, what is needed is a change in the approach of the U.S. towards Iran, towards Iraq, and towards the region. What has brought all these miseries to the region is that the U.S. has dealt with the region based on wrong perceptions and a totally erroneous approach. The U.S. must come to realize that other countries have interests, have concerns, have anxieties. The U.S. must deal with these anxieties, concerns and interests, and not be concerned with only its own. Of course any country in any situation will try to maximize its national interest. That’s a given. But, you have to address any situation based on a recognition that the other side also has these similar national interests.

If you deal with the other side as less than a human society, then don’t expect to have multiple outcomes. What I’m saying is that in Western terminology, concepts are used that would infuriate the other sides. Even the terminologies used by the United States in the liberal realist tradition—such as “carrot and stick”—are not meant for humans, but rather for donkeys. In studies of Orientalism, the Eastern part of the world is dealt with as an object rather than as serious, real human societies with longer, older civilizations with concerns and needs that have to be dealt with.

(Hat Tip: Nikolas Gvosdev)

Posted by Gregory at 03:39 PM | Comments (3)

Saddam's Last Words?

Were they really: "Avoid engagement with Iranians"? Condeleeza Rice would be pleased!

UPDATE: This Haaretz piece has Saddam's last words as "Palestine is Arab". Does anyone have more definitive press accounts of what exactly he said during his final minutes? Perhaps both these things, perhaps neither, but I'd be curious to see. Just by way of trivia and historical comparison, note Adolf Eichmann's last words (another war criminal sentenced to death via a hangman's noose) were: "Long live Germany. Long live Austria. Long live Argentina. These are the countries with which I have been most closely associated and I shall not forget them. I had to obey the rules of war and my flag. I am ready."

MORE: This account, perhaps the most plausible, has Saddam's last words as: "Down with the traitors, the Americans, the spies and the Persians." Don't miss this part either:

When he rose to be led back to the execution room at 6 a.m., he looked strong, confident and incredibly calm. Whatever apprehension he may have had only minutes earlier had faded.

The general prosecutor asked Mr. Hussein to whom he wanted to give his Koran. He said Bandar, the son of Awad al-Bandar, the former chief justice of the Revolutionary Court who was also to be executed soon.

The room was quiet as everyone began to pray, including Mr. Hussein. “Prayers be upon Mohammed and his holy family.”

Two guards added, “Supporting his son Moktada, Moktada, Moktada.”

Mr. Hussein seemed a bit stunned, swinging his head in their direction.

They were talking about Moktada al-Sadr, the firebrand cleric whose militia is now committing some of the worst violence in the sectarian fighting; he is the son of a revered Shiite cleric, Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, who many believe Mr. Hussein had murdered.

“Moktada?” he spat out, a mix between sarcasm and disbelief.

The national security adviser in Iraq, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, asked him if he had any remorse or fear.

“No,” he said bluntly. “I am a militant and I have no fear for myself. I have spent my life in jihad and fighting aggression. Anyone who takes this route should not be afraid.”

Mr. Rubaie, who was standing shoulder to shoulder with Mr. Hussein, asked him about the murder of the elder Mr. Sadr.

They were standing so close to each other that others could not hear the exchange.

One of the guards, though, became angry. “You have destroyed us,” the masked man yelled. “You have killed us. You have made us live in destitution.”

Mr. Hussein was scornful. “I have saved you from destitution and misery and destroyed your enemies, the Persian and Americans.”

The guard cursed him. “God damn you.”

Mr. Hussein replied, “God damn you.”

It's somewhat ironic that the guards at Saddam's execution were Sadrites--supporters of arguably our greatest foe in today's Iraq.

Posted by Gregory at 03:34 PM | Comments (28)

Lieberman and the "V" Word

Joe Lieberman: "Rather than engaging in hand-wringing, carping or calls for withdrawal, we must summon the vision, will and courage to take the difficult and decisive steps needed for success and, yes, victory in Iraq. [emphasis added]"

Wow. The "V" word, eh? Even GOP stalwarts like Ed Meese, James Baker and Sandra Day O'Connor have been reticent, of late, to use same (see the ISG report), substituting the more modest "success" for "victory". But "independent" Democrats are more courageous, it appears. Piddling semantic word parsing, perhaps, but one can't help feeling the Senator is rather on the jingo-bullish side--especially, it must be said, given that his op-ed provides precious little by way of the specifics regarding the "vision, will and courage" we are urged to summon up on behalf of la patrie.

P.S. Incidentally, I agree with Lieberman that the paramount challenge we face in Iraq is our failure to provide basic security, but that's a rather blindingly obvious insight by now, isn't it? But when Lieberman writes: "(t)he most pressing problem we face in Iraq is not an absence of Iraqi political will or American diplomatic initiative, both of which are increasing and improving; it is a lack of basic security," one is compelled to ask: what "American diplomitic initiative" could he possibly be speaking of? And one that's "increasing and improving"? Pray tell more, Senator. This observer, at least, is all ears....

Posted by Gregory at 03:29 PM | Comments (0)

Crawford Portraits


Like the seasons coming and going, it seems we are perennially treated to such recurring photo montages of the "war council" convening amidst the Crawford tundra. I guess a sense of resolve and hard work and confidence is meant to be portrayed by these (increasingly tiresome) photo-ops. What I feel instead, alas (with the exception of Bob Gates), is a deep lack of confidence in this team. Their specific skills and aptitudes aside, the bottom line is this: we're nearing four years into this conflict, one we've incessantly been told is the central front in the war on terror and, for all intensive purposes-- the Commander-in-Chief is still without an effective war strategy (having now cast about for weeks in search of one, at very least let's say since Rumsfeld's hugely belated departure). Unpardonable, to quote Chuck Hagel. But that's what happens when a nation rushes to war with cheap swagger, not even planning for an insurgency, or post-conflict stability operations. And when discredited national security actors are (in the main) running the show. (Photo Credit: Evan Yucci/AP)

UPDATE: Related fare, from Bush: "It's my job to listen to a lot of opinions and come up with a strategy that says we have a plan." (via Bruce M via Dan Froomkin)

Posted by Gregory at 02:21 AM | Comments (8)

December 12, 2006

In-House News

I'm terribly sorry this site has been down these past 4-5 days. I'm not really sure precisely what happened yet, save that access to the site has been severely restricted with most visitors seeing a blank page now for days (as of this writing the side-bars appear to still be down, and I'm not sure comments are working). Given this (continuing) mishap, as well as similar events in the past, I'm very much in the market for an accomplished site design guru to, first and foremost, prevent any such recurrences, to include ensuring I've got enough 'hosting' space on the web, and potentially also doing some varied site re-design work. Basically, I need someone with a range of expertise to perform a major tune-up. Note I'm happy to pay for this service, I just really need someone of quality with a track record to do a really good job of it, and put these types of site melt-down episodes behind us here at B.D. Please E-mail me at if you're interested or have any suggestions. Thanks in advance.

UPDATE: I've gotten some initial feedback from site designers and others, and I'll be getting in touch in the coming days. For B.D. readers, I would suggest that you probably start checking back over at this site sometime after the New Year, at which point hopefully it will be functioning well again, and equally important, I'll have some time to write here too. Sorry to be out of commission during a busy time on the foreign policy front, but I've got little choice given varied committments. This said, I do hope to be back in the swing of things in the New Year, though perhaps with slightly different emphases here (of which more later). Best wishes to all during the holidays in the meantime.

Posted by Gregory at 02:52 PM | Comments (9)

December 07, 2006

ISG Excerpts (VII)

Iraq cannot be addressed effectively in isolation from other major regional issues, interests, and unresolved conflicts. To put it simply, all key issues in the Middle East—the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iraq, Iran, the need for political and economic reforms, and extremism and terrorism—are inextricably linked. In addition to supporting stability in Iraq, a comprehensive diplomatic offensive—the New Diplomatic Offensive—should address these key regional issues. By doing so, it would help marginalize extremists and terrorists, promote U.S. values and interests, and improve America’s global image.

Under the diplomatic offensive, we propose regional and international initiatives and steps to assist the Iraqi government in achieving certain security, political, and economic milestones. Achieving these milestones will require at least the acquiescence of Iraq’s neighbors, and their active and timely cooperation would be highly desirable.


RECOMMENDATION 1: The United States, working with the Iraqi government, should launch the comprehensive New Diplomatic Offensive to deal with the problems of Iraq and of the region. This new diplomatic offensive should be launched before December 31, 2006.

RECOMMENDATION 2: The goals of the diplomatic offensive as it relates to regional players should be to:

Support the unity and territorial integrity of Iraq.

Stop destabilizing interventions and actions by Iraq’s neighbors.

Secure Iraq’s borders, including the use of joint patrols with neighboring countries.

Prevent the expansion of the instability and conflict beyond Iraq’s borders.

Promote economic assistance, commerce, trade, political support, and, if possible, military assistance for the Iraqi government from non-neighboring Muslim nations.

Energize countries to support national political reconciliation in Iraq.

Validate Iraq’s legitimacy by resuming diplomatic relations, where appropriate, and reestablishing embassies in Baghdad.

Assist Iraq in establishing active working embassies in key capitals in the region (for example, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia).

Help Iraq reach a mutually acceptable agreement on Kirkuk.

Assist the Iraqi government in achieving certain security, political, and economic milestones, including better performance on issues such as national reconciliation, equitable distribution of oil revenues, and the dismantling of militias.

Recommendation 6:

The New Diplomatic Offensive and the work of the Support Group should be carried out with urgency, and should be conducted by and organized at the level of foreign minister or above. The Secretary of State, if not the President, should lead the U.S. effort. That effort should be both bilateral and multilateral, as circumstances require.

With all due respect to a very accomplished Secretary of State (putting POTUS aside for obvious reasons), one wonders whether she'd be up to this hugely complex task, keeping in mind all her other responsibilities, with each of Bob Zeollick and Philip Zelikow no longer around, and given her lack of Middle East expertise. Worth noting too, this isn't giddy "transformational" diplomacy (whatever that means) but rather the plain, old fashioned crisis management and damage control kind.

MORE, from Ignatius:

I like this "New Diplomatic Offensive" precisely because it is so ambitious. It would put the United States back in the business of trying to solve the Arab-Israeli problem, which has been driving the Middle East crazy for nearly 40 years. As for Iran and Syria, the great advantage of asking them to join a global effort to stabilize Iraq is that if they say no, it's blood on their hands. As the report notes, "An Iranian refusal to do so would demonstrate to Iraq and the rest of the world Iran's rejectionist attitude and approach, which could lead to its isolation."

And what is America's leverage for bringing Iran and Syria to the table (other than the implicit threat to walk away and let them worry about the Iraqi civil war)? The report includes this delicious Bakeresque ploy: "Saudi Arabia's agreement not to intervene with assistance to Sunni Arab Iraqis could be an essential quid pro quo for similar forbearance on the part of other neighbors, especially Iran."

Aha! So that explains the unusual op-ed by quasi-official Saudi analyst Nawaf Obaid in The Post on Nov. 29 threatening that Saudi troops would be sent into Iraq if America should leave. It was a bargaining chip.

I'm not sure the linkage Ignatius makes between the ISG's recommendations and the Obaid op-ed should be quite this direct (update: and see this comment), but having passed through DC for a meeting the day the piece appeared in the Washington Post, I must say it did strike me as somewhat of an atypical opinion piece by Saudi standards, in its attention-grabbing manner, and the timing was not uninteresting either. More on all this soon, including more detail on strategies for U.S. leverage on Iran and Syria that Ignatius doesn't mention, and that might profitably be fleshed out some more in relation to the ISG's recommendations. This Itamar Rabinovich piece is still important for broad context too, I'd think, regarding the Syrian track, and here is some of my initial (hastily put together) analysis.

Posted by Gregory at 04:44 AM | Comments (41)

ISG Excerpts (VI)

The Defense Department and the intelligence community have not invested sufficient people and resources to understand the political and military threat to American men and women in the armed forces. Congress has appropriated almost $2 billion this year for countermeasures to protect our troops in Iraq against improvised explosive devices, but the administration has not put forward a request to invest comparable resources in trying to understand the people who fabricate, plant, and explode those devices.

We were told that there are fewer than 10 analysts on the job at the Defense Intelligence Agency who have more than two years’ experience in analyzing the insurgency. Capable analysts are rotated to new assignments, and on-the-job training begins anew. Agencies must have a better personnel system to keep analytic expertise focused on the insurgency. They are not doing enough to map the insurgency, dissect it, and understand it on a national and provincial level. The analytic community’s knowledge of the organization, leadership, financing, and operations of militias, as well as their relationship to government security forces, also falls far short of what policy makers need to know.

In addition, there is significant underreporting of the violence in Iraq. The standard for recording attacks acts as a filter to keep events out of reports and databases. A murder of an Iraqi is not necessarily counted as an attack. If we cannot determine the source of a sectarian attack, that assault does not make it into the database. A roadside bomb or a rocket or mortar attack that doesn’t hurt U.S. personnel doesn’t count. For example, on one day in July 2006 there were 93 attacks or significant acts of violence reported. Yet a careful review of the reports for that single day brought to light 1,100 acts of violence. Good policy is difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that minimizes its discrepancy with policy goals. [my emphasis]


pp. 94-95

Posted by Gregory at 04:19 AM | Comments (6)

ISG Excerpts (V)

Oil (short-term):

Recommendation 62: As soon as possible, the U.S. government should provide technical assistance to the Iraqi government to prepare a draft oil law that defines the rights of regional and local governments and creates a fiscal and legal framework for investment. Legal clarity is essential to attract investment.

The U.S. government should encourage the Iraqi government to accelerate contracting for the comprehensive well work-overs in the southern fields needed to increase production, but the United States should no longer fund such infrastructure projects.

The U.S. military should work with the Iraqi military and with private security forces to protect oil infrastructure and contractors. Protective measures could include a program to improve pipeline security by paying local tribes solely on the basis of throughput (rather than fixed amounts).

Metering should be implemented at both ends of the supply line. This step would immediately improve accountability in the oil sector. [my emphasis]

pp. 84-85

Posted by Gregory at 04:14 AM | Comments (2)

ISG Excerpts (IV)

RECOMMENDATION 46: The new Secretary of Defense should make every effort to build healthy civil-military relations, by creating an environment in which the senior military feel free to offer independent advice not only to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon but also to the President and the National Security Council, as envisioned in the Goldwater-Nichols legislation.

Why, I wonder what this could be about?

See also:

U.S. military forces, especially our ground forces, have been stretched nearly to the breaking point by the repeated deployments in Iraq, with attendant casualties (almost 3,000 dead and more than 21,000 wounded), greater difficulty in recruiting, and accelerated wear on equipment.

Additionally, the defense budget as a whole is in danger of disarray, as supplemental funding winds down and reset costs become clear. It will be a major challenge to meet ongoing requirements for other current and future security threats that need to be accommodated together with spending for operations and maintenance, reset, personnel, and benefits for active duty and retired personnel. Restoring the capability of our military forces should be a high priority for the United States at this time.

The U.S. military has a long tradition of strong partnership between the civilian leadership of the Department of Defense and the uniformed services. Both have long benefited from a relationship in which the civilian leadership exercises control with the advantage of fully candid professional advice, and the military serves loyally with the understanding that its advice has been heard and valued. That tradition has frayed, and civil-military relations need to be repaired.

Thank God Rumsfeld is out.

pp. 76-77

Posted by Gregory at 04:07 AM | Comments (3)

ISG Excerpts (III)

RECOMMENDATION 21: If the Iraqi government does not make substantial progress toward the achievement of milestones on national reconciliation, security, and governance, the United States should reduce its political, military, or economic support for the Iraqi government.

I'm going to go out on a limb and call this the Panetta/Perry clause.

See also, very importantly:

While these efforts are building up, and as additional Iraqi brigades are being deployed, U.S. combat brigades could begin to move out of Iraq. By the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq. At that time, U.S. combat forces in Iraq could be deployed only in units embedded with Iraqi forces, in rapid-reaction and special operations teams, and in training, equipping, advising, force protection, and search and rescue. Intelligence and support efforts would continue. Even after the United States has moved all combat brigades out of Iraq, we would maintain a considerable military presence in the region, with our still significant force in Iraq and with our powerful air, ground, and naval deployments in Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar, as well as an increased presence in Afghanistan. These forces would be sufficiently robust to permit the United States, working with the Iraqi government, to accomplish four missions:

Provide political reassurance to the Iraqi government in order
to avoid its collapse and the disintegration of the country.

Fight al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations in Iraq using special operations teams.

Train, equip, and support the Iraqi security forces.

Deter even more destructive interference in Iraq by Syria and Iran.

Amidst this withdrawal oriented talk, however, do note at p. 73:

Because of the importance of Iraq to our regional security goals and to our ongoing fight against al Qaeda, we considered proposals to make a substantial increase (100,000 to 200,000) in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq. We rejected this course because we do not believe that the needed levels are available for a sustained deployment. Further, adding more American troops could conceivably worsen those aspects of the security problem that are fed by the view that the U.S. presence is intended to be a long-term “occupation.” We could, however, support a short-term redeployment or surge of American combat forces to stabilize Baghdad, or to speed up the training and equipping mission, if the U.S. commander in Iraq determines that such steps would be effective.

I think the Baker-Hamilton Commission (as well as people like Zinni) are holding open the "surge" option for various reasons, including: A) by not going the Gelb-Biden federalism route, trying to stabilize Baghdad becomes even more critical (as some sustainable central authority being nurtured there is imperative if hopes of securing a viable, unitary polity are to be credibly maintained) and B) diplomacy with Syria and Iran would likely be enhanced by a show of American strength in the Iraqi capital, so that we are not seen to be negotiating from a position of blatant weakness.

Posted by Gregory at 03:48 AM | Comments (5)

ISG Excerpts (II)

Engaging Iran is problematic, especially given the state of the U.S.-Iranian relationship. Yet the United States and Iran cooperated in Afghanistan, and both sides should explore whether this model can be replicated in the case of Iraq.

Although Iran sees it in its interest to have the United States bogged down in Iraq, Iran’s interests would not be served by a failure of U.S. policy in Iraq that led to chaos and the territorial disintegration of the Iraqi state. Iran’s population is slightly more than 50 percent Persian, but it has a large Azeri minority (24 percent of the population) as well as Kurdish and Arab minorities. Worst-case scenarios in Iraq could inflame sectarian tensions within Iran, with serious consequences for Iranian national security interests.

Our limited contacts with Iran’s government lead us to believe that its leaders are likely to say they will not participate in diplomatic efforts to support stability in Iraq. They attribute this reluctance to their belief that the United States seeks regime change in Iran.

Nevertheless, as one of Iraq’s neighbors Iran should be asked to assume its responsibility to participate in the Support Group. An Iranian refusal to do so would demonstrate to Iraq and the rest of the world Iran’s rejectionist attitude and approach, which could lead to its isolation. Further, Iran’s refusal to cooperate on this matter would diminish its prospects of engaging with the United States in the broader dialogue it seeks. [my emphasis]

"Dialogue" and "isolation" are touchstone words in Iran in the context of Iranian national interests and diplomacy, which is to say, the players that matter in Teheran will understand well the meaning of those words. In short, if Bush signs on to the Baker-Hamilton approach, agrees to engage with Iran over the Iraq issue (with possible regional overlays), and is then rebuffed by Teheran--the United States will be on much firmer footing to isolate Iran--even, to a significant degree, with countries like Russia and China. (Not being "rebuffed" doesn't mean there can't be difficult exchanges, but certainly if the U.S. makes a good faith effort to move the Iraq agenda forward cooperatively with Iran, only to then be scuttled by Teheran, the U.S. will be better positioned to move to further isolate Iran, likely materially weakening its global position. Worth noting too, "isolation" is something Iran tries to avoid at all costs, and as they have often in the past spoken of their desire to have constructive "dialogue" with various nations, calling their bluff on this score (at least to a fashion), is a smart move, in my view).

Also important to review in this context is "Recommendation 10", which puts the nuclear agenda on a wholly separate track (not really a major concession, as Baker-Hamilton are speaking mostly of a limited Iraq channel with Iran, not pursuing a "Grand Bargain" with the nuclear issue carved out), and see more at p. 51 (carrots that could be provided to Iran--including reassurance on the regime change issue, see roman "v") and p. 53 (positive actions Iran could take to help us in Iraq). Frankly, if I had to guess, I think Baker is somewhat skeptical that Iran will really step up, but is more interested in peeling Damascus away from Teheran's orbit some.

P.S. On moving Syria away from Iran, see importantly "Recommendation 15" and "Recommendation 16", which might signal to Asad (if Bush signs on to this approach, of course) that the U.S. could be re-emerging as an 'honest broker' on the Arab-Israeli front:

RECOMMENDATION 15: Concerning Syria, some elements of that negotiated peace should be:

Syria’s full adherence to UN Security Council Resolution 1701 of August 2006, which provides the framework for Lebanon to regain sovereign control over its territory.

Syria’s full cooperation with all investigations into political assassinations in Lebanon, especially those of Rafik Hariri and Pierre Gemay el.

A verifiable cessation of Syrian aid to Hezbollah and the use of Syrian territory for transshipment of Iranian weapons and aid to Hezbollah. (This step would do much to solve Israel’s problem with Hezbollah.)

Syria’s use of its influence with Hamas and Hezbollah for the release of the captured Israeli Defense Force soldiers.

A verifiable cessation of Syrian efforts to undermine the democratically elected government of Lebanon.

A verifiable cessation of arms shipments from or transiting through Syria for Hamas and other radical Palestinian groups.

A Syrian commitment to help obtain from Hamas an acknowledgment of Israel’s right to exist.

Greater Syrian efforts to seal its border with Iraq.

RECOMMENDATION 16: In exchange for these actions and in the context of a full and secure peace agreement, the Israelis should return the Golan Heights, with a U.S. security guarantee for Israel that could include an international force on the border, including U.S. troops if requested by both parties.

Note: See also Recommendation 17 on the Palestinian issue.

Posted by Gregory at 03:00 AM | Comments (14)

ISG Excerpts (I)

The Gelb-Biden approach rejected (p. 39)

The costs associated with devolving Iraq into three semiautonomous regions with loose central control would be too high. Because Iraq’s population is not neatly separated, regional boundaries cannot be easily drawn. All eighteen Iraqi provinces have mixed populations, as do Baghdad and most other major cities in Iraq. A rapid devolution could result in mass population movements, collapse of the Iraqi security forces, strengthening of militias, ethnic cleansing, destabilization of neighboring states, or attempts by neighboring states to dominate Iraqi regions. Iraqis, particularly Sunni Arabs, told us that such a division would confirm wider fears across the Arab world that the United States invaded Iraq to weaken a strong Arab state.

While such devolution is a possible consequence of continued instability in Iraq, we do not believe the United States should support this course as a policy goal or impose this outcome on the Iraqi state. If events were to move irreversibly in this direction, the United States should manage the situation to ameliorate humanitarian consequences, contain the spread of violence, and minimize regional instability. The United States should support as much as possible central control by governmental authorities in Baghdad, particularly on the question of oil revenues.

Posted by Gregory at 02:52 AM | Comments (1)

In-House Note

I've been overwhelmed with work and other obligations but did have a chance to make a rapid first-cut through the ISG report. While I don't have time to analyze it in any detail, I will post some of the key passages tonight, and then turn to analysis as soon as time allows. Sorry that's the best I can do right now, but there are only so many hours in the day.

Posted by Gregory at 02:34 AM | Comments (2)

December 06, 2006

Memos Everywhere

It is the season of the memos. Hadley's. Rumsfeld's. More soon, perhaps. These were leaked (purposefully by their respective authors, or on their express direction, in my view) rather transparently so as to say: 'see, we've got ideas too!'--before the much more detailed Baker-Hamilton recommendations are released tomorrow. A somewhat pitiable display of bureaucratic butt-covering, it would appear, but there it is. Regardless, and while we await the release of the ISG's recommendations, it is worth noting perhaps the massive disconnect between the rather clinical recommendations captured in these memos and the actual situation in Iraq. For instance, both Hadley and Rumsfeld appear keen to lessen Shi'a influence in the Ministries, but alas, much more easily said than done, it would appear.


Compel his ministers to take small steps — such as providing health services and opening bank branches in Sunni neighborhoods — to demonstrate that his government serves all ethnic communities;

Bring his political strategy with Moktada al-Sadr to closure and bring to justice any JAM actors that do not eschew violence;

Shake up his cabinet by appointing nonsectarian, capable technocrats in key service (and security) ministries;

Announce an overhaul of his own personal staff so that “it reflects the face of Iraq”;

Demand that all government workers (in ministries, the Council of Representatives and his own offices) publicly renounce all violence for the pursuit of political goals as a condition for keeping their positions...

Next, Rumsfeld: "Aggressively beef up the Iraqi MOD and MOI, and other Iraqi ministries critical to the success of the ISF — the Iraqi Ministries of Finance, Planning, Health, Criminal Justice, Prisons, etc. — by reaching out to U.S. military retirees and Reserve/National Guard volunteers (i.e., give up on trying to get other USG Departments to do it.)"

And then, grim realities, via Nir Rosen:

With the January 30, 2005, electoral success of the Shia parties, the balance of power between Shias and Sunnis shifted, initiating an apartheid process. In the ministry of health, pictures of Muqtada and his father were everywhere, along with pictures of Shia saints and banners celebrating Shia holidays. Traditional Shia music reverberated through the hallways. Doctors and ministry employees referred to the minister of health as “imami,” or “my imam,” as though he were a cleric. And in the ministry of transportation, walls were adorned with Shia posters, including some specifically supporting Muqtada. Sadrists instituted a program they called “cleansing the ministry of Saddamists,” with “Saddamist” defined so broadly that all Sunnis felt vulnerable. Ousted Sunnis were replaced by Shias with no apparent qualifications. In one case, a Sunni chief engineer in the transportation ministry was fired and replaced with an unqualified Shia who wore a cleric’s turban to work. Efficiency dropped; the ministries of health and transportation barely functioned, and the ministry of the interior operated an anti-Sunni death squad. Its secret prisons were uncovered in November 2005.

Although SCIRI controlled the ministry of the interior, which nominally controlled the security forces, the rank and file were poor, young Shia men, often members of the Mahdi Army. Local police forces thus fell under the control of the Sadrists. Iraqi police stations and army bases were decorated with posters of Muqtada, as were police and military vehicles. Even in the Sunni Anbar province, the Iraqi army was composed of Sadrists. In the spring of 2006, when Sunni soldiers from the Anbar province graduated as new members of the Iraqi army and were told that they would serve outside their home province, among Shias, they rioted and tore off their uniforms. (The Americans had established police forces in Anbar, composed of local Sunni men selected by their tribes. When I visited them in the spring of 2006, these police had not been paid in months, because the ministry of the interior was not sending the money.)

Sunnis had initially courted Muqtada, who opposed Iranian intervention, in the hope of establishing a united front against Americans. But Muqtada’s Mahdi Army was in fact primarily responsible for the attacks against Sunnis. The Mahdi Army could claim, as it did, that it had handed over its weapons after battling Americans in Najaf, Sadr City, and other Shia enclaves, that it was a purely “spiritual army,” but since Mahdi Army soldiers pervaded the police force, they were still armed and in control. And although the ministry of the interior had been implicated in attacks against Sunnis, it was the police themselves that conducted such attacks regularly.

Posted by Gregory at 06:00 AM | Comments (9)


Michael Gordon:

No military expert was more forthright in opposing the war in Iraq than Anthony Zinni.

The retired U.S. Marine general who once served as the United States's top military officer in the Middle East argued that the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq was vastly overstated and that invading the country would be a burdensome distraction from the struggle against Al Qaeda.

These days Zinni is delivering another provocative message: Leaving Iraq quickly would strengthen Iranian influence throughout the Middle East, create a sanctuary for terrorist groups, encourage even more sectarian strife in Iraq and risk turmoil in an oil-rich region.

"This is not Vietnam or Somalia," said Zinni, who served in both places. "It is not one of those places we can walk away from. If we just pull out we will find ourselves back in in short order."

As President George W. Bush and the Iraq Study Group have reviewed Iraq strategy, Zinni has developed his own plan. His program, which was outlined in a paper released Monday by the World Security Institute, calls for a new steering group to ensure that America's policies toward Iraq are carried out efficiently, including job creation programs, integrating Iraq's militias into government supervised national guard units and encouraging the Iraqi Army to develop a civil affairs capability.

The proposal also opens the door for a temporary increase in American troops to improve security and build a sense of political momentum, something advocated by Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican.

"It may be necessary to surge them for a sort term," Zinni said. "I do believe more troops are required on the ground. I believe what Senator McCain says."

Even in the context of pressuring the Iraq government to 'perform' (whatever that might mean) by intimating troop reductions are likely and that U.S. forces won't be in country forever, and even in the context of focusing more on training and equipping and related capacity-building of Iraqi Forces via embeds (rather reverse or otherwise)--it appears the situation in Baghdad is so immensely critical that sane observers like Tony Zinni favor a short-term surge (such a move would also allow us to dialogue with Damascus and Teheran from a position of greater strength, rather than with the capital city of Iraq capsizing into greater chaos).

Posted by Gregory at 05:30 AM | Comments (21)

Quote of the Day

Bob Gates:

Senator Kennedy, the -- 12 graduates of Texas A&M have been killed in Iraq. I would run in the morning with some of those kids. I’d have lunch with them. They’d share with me their aspirations and their hopes. And I’d hand them their degree, I’d attend their commissioning, and then, I would get word of their death. So this all comes down to being very personal for all of us.

The statistics -- 2,889 killed in Iraq as of yesterday morning. That’s a big number, but every single one of them represents not only an individual tragedy for a soldier whose been killed, but for their entire family and their friends, and I see this.

Somebody asked me about the pressures of this hearing and I said, the pressures of the hearing are nothing compared to the pressures I got from a woman who came over to me at the hotel while I was having dinner the other night, seated by myself, and she asked if I was Mr. Gates, and I said yes. She congratulated me on my nomination and she said, "I have two sons in Iraq. For God’s sake, bring them home safe. And we’ll be praying for you."

Now that’s real pressure.

Senator, I am not giving up the presidency of Texas A&M, the job that I’ve probably enjoyed more than any that I’ve ever had, making considerable personal financial sacrifice, and, frankly, going through this process, to come back to Washington to be a bump on a log, and not to say exactly what I think, and to speak candidly, and, frankly, boldly, to people at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue about what I believe and what I think needs to be done.

I intend to listen closely to people. I intend to draw my own conclusions. And I’ll make my recommendations. But I can assure you that I don’t owe anybody anything. And I’ve come back here to do the best I can for the men and women in uniform, and for the country, in terms of these difficult problems that we face.


While I am open to alternative ideas about our future strategy and tactics in Iraq, I feel quite strongly about one point: Developments in Iraq over the next year or two will, I believe, shape the entire Middle East and greatly influence global geopolitics for many years to come. Our course over the next year or two will determine whether the American and Iraqi people, and the next president of the United States, will face a slowly, but steadily improving situation in Iraq and in the region, or will face the very real risk, and possible reality, of a regional conflagration. We need to work together to develop a strategy that does not leave Iraq in chaos, and that protects our long-term interests in and hopes for the region. I did not seek this position or a return to government. I am here because I love my country and because the president of the United States believes I can help in a difficult time.

"2,889 killed in Iraq as of yesterday morning." It is heartening to see a high-ranking Defense official stressing in Congressional testimony the exact human toll this conflict has exacted on our Armed Services, especially as I recall a senior Pentagon official (not too long ago) struggling to remember how many of our troops had died in Iraq (also during Hill testimony).

Posted by Gregory at 05:22 AM | Comments (3)

Gates on Iran, Syria

SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D-WV): Mr. Chairman, I thank you.

Dr. Gates, our relationship goes back over a number of years.

Do you support -- now we hear all these rumors about the potential for an attack on Iran, due to its nuclear weapons program, or on Syria, due to its support of terrorism. Do you support an attack on Iran?

MR. GATES: Senator Byrd, I think that military action against Iran would be an absolute last resort; that any problems that we have with Iran, our first option should be diplomacy and working with our allies to try and deal with the problems that Iran is posing to us. I think that we have seen in Iraq that once war is unleashed, it becomes unpredictable. And I think that the consequences of a conflict -- a military conflict with Iran could be quite dramatic. And therefore, I would counsel against military action, except as a last resort and if we felt that our vital interests were threatened.

SEN. BYRD: Do you support an attack on Syria?

MR. GATES: No, sir, I do not.

SEN. BYRD: Do you believe the president has the authority, under either the 9/11 war resolution or the Iraq war resolution, to attack Iran or to attack Syria?

MR. GATES: To the best of my knowledge of both of those authorizations, I don’t believe so.

SEN. BYRD: Would you briefly describe your view of the likely consequences of a U.S. attack on Iran.

MR. GATES: It’s always awkward to talk about hypotheticals in this case. But I think that while Iran cannot attack us directly militarily, I think that their capacity to potentially close off the Persian Gulf to all exports of oil, their potential to unleash a significant wave of terror both in the -- well, in the Middle East and in Europe and even here in this country is very real. They are certainly not being helpful in Iraq and are doing us -- I think doing damage to our interests there, but I think they could do a lot more to hurt our effort in Iraq.

I think that they could provide certain kinds of weapons of mass destruction, particularly chemical and biological weapons, to terrorist groups. Their ability to get Hezbollah to further destabilize Lebanon I think is very real. So I think that while their ability to retaliate against us in a conventional military way is quite limited, they have the capacity to do all of the things, and perhaps more, that I just described.

SEN. BYRD: What about an attack on Syria? Could you briefly describe your view of the likely consequences of a U.S. attack on Syria.

MR. GATES: I think the Syrian capacity to do harm to us is far more limited than that in -- of Iran, but I believe that a military attack by the United States on Syria would have dramatic consequences for us throughout the Middle East in terms of our relationships with a wide range of countries in that area. I think that it would give rise to significantly greater anti-Americanism than we have seen to date. I think it would immensely complicate our relationships with virtually every country in the region.

SEN. BYRD: Would you say that an attack on either Iran or Syria would worsen the violence in Iraq and lead to greater American casualties?

MR. GATES: Yes, sir, I think that’s very likely.

SEN. BYRD: Your answer is yes on both questions.

MR. GATES: Yes, sir. Very likely.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’d like to add my voice to many others who have praised you for your leadership. I’ve really enjoyed being on this committee, and you’ve made it a real pleasure to serve here.

Dr. Gates, thank you for your willingness to serve. It looks like we’re going to be working together for at least a couple more years. Things are going pretty well for you right now.

Iran. Do you believe the Iranians are trying to acquire nuclear weapons capability?

MR. GATES: Yes, sir, I do.

SEN. GRAHAM: Do you believe the president of Iran is lying when he says he’s not?

MR. GATES: Yes, sir.

SEN. GRAHAM: Do you believe the Iranians would consider using that nuclear weapons capability against the nation of Israel?

MR. GATES: I don’t know that they would do that, Senator. I think that the risks for them obviously are enormously high. I think that they see value --

SEN. GRAHAM: If I may?

MR. GATES: Yes, sir.

SEN. GRAHAM: The president of Iran has publicly disavowed the existence of the Holocaust, he has publicly stated that he would like to wipe Israel off the map. Do you think he’s kidding?

MR. GATES: No, I don’t think he’s kidding. And -- but I think that there are, in fact, higher powers in Iran than he, than the president. And I think that while they are certainly pressing, in my opinion, for a nuclear capability, I think that they would see it in the first instance as a deterrent. They are surrounded by powers with nuclear weapons -- Pakistan to their east, the Russians to the north, the Israelis to the west, and us in the Persian Gulf --

SEN. GRAHAM: Can you assure the Israelis that they will not attack Israel with a nuclear weapon, if they acquire one?

MR. GATES: No, sir, I don’t think that anybody can provide that assurance.

Still More:

Gates: I’m not optimistic that a negotiation with Iran would provide a lot of benefit. I know that -- as you well know, I co-chaired this Council on Foreign Relations study on U.S. policy toward Iran in 2004, with Dr. Brzezinski, President Carter’s national security adviser, and we recommended a negotiation with Iran. But I would say that the conditions have changed fairly dramatically since we wrote that report. Among other things, Iran has a new leader who is quite unambiguous about his views of the rest of the world.

Iran has gone from doing some things in 2004 that were harmful to our effort in Iraq, but also some things that could be perceived as being helpful to us, as far as I can tell, to being entirely negative now. They are clearly helping Hezbollah train fighters. So I think that -- I think the circumstances that led to the -- to our recommendations in 2004 have changed in some important ways.

I think it’s worth keeping an open mind in the vein of having all the options on the table. I think it’ll be interesting to see what the Baker-Hamilton recommendations are in this regard. I know that Secretary Baker -- one of his favorite lines is that it was only on his 15th trip to Damascus that he actually made headway with the Syrians, so it’s clearly -- they’re clearly a tough nut to crack.

I do believe that long-term stability in Iraq will be influenced by Syria and Iran, and I think that we need to look at ways, either incentives or disincentives, to bring them to try and be constructive in terms of the state on their border. How we do that, I don’t have any specific ideas at this point, and whether that involves negotiations or sitting down with them now by ourselves or in an international conference or putting it off until some later date, I think along the lines of keeping our options open at least merits thinking about.


SEN. BAYH: One final question, Mr. Gates, with regard to Iran and their nuclear aspirations. I agree with your assessment of why they seek to have a nuclear capability. They impress me as the kind of individuals, the leaders of their country, that will only respond to the prospect of forceful steps; rhetoric alone probably will not be enough. I’ve been told that they see our continued presence in Iraq as a constraining factor on us, that it limits us from having as credible a deterrent with regard to Iran as we need to have to get them to give up their nuclear aspirations, or to at least give us the best chance of accomplishing that.

Do you agree with the statement that beginning the process -- or bringing closure eventually to our presence in Iraq is necessary to maximizing our chances to have the deterrent to deter the Iranians from their nuclear aspirations?

MR. GATES: Senator, I’m not sure about that. I think that -- I think that some of the public statements by the president of Iran, that some of the actions the Iranians have taken, are beginning in a significant way to frighten other neighbors and to create concerns among countries both in the region and in Europe and elsewhere, who are potentially in a position to be helpful to us in bringing pressure to bear, both economic and political pressure to bear on Iran.

So I’m not -- I’m not saying -- denying what you’re suggesting, but I think -- I’m not sure it’s right, either. I think there are some other factors at work that the Iranians are going to have to take into account.

SEN. CORNYN: Well, just one final observation. My time has expired. And again I thank you for your presence.

You know, I’ve been told by some that they view us as being bogged down in Iraq from a manpower standpoint, from a resources standpoint and that, frankly, they like that. They don’t want to see us extricate ourselves from that place because they know it constrains our ability to deal more forcefully with other threats, including the one that they present.

MR. GATES: When we did our study for the Council on Foreign Relations on U.S. policy toward Iran in 2004, what we were hearing then -- and things were going considerably better for the United States in Iraq at that time -- was that one of the reasons the Iranians were ambiguous in their approach to what was going on in Iraq, with some gestures of assistance to us, as well as doing some things that were not helpful, but that they were quite frightened by having U.S. troops on both their West and East border, Western and Eastern borders. And what I’ve heard -- and I haven’t talked to any intelligence analysts about this -- what I’ve heard is that the -- because they think things aren’t going as well for us, they’re not as frightened right now.

By the same token, it seems to me that if things do start to go right in Iraq, and we do begin to get the situation stabilized, that may, in turn, bring considerable pressure on them because they’ll see that they’ve got a different kind of state on their Western border than they had anticipated, that may not be as militarily threatening as Saddam Hussein was, but is potentially politically threatening, and also that the U.S. will have shown that we were able to be successful. It seems to me it could go either way.

I see much less cheap bravado and empty posturing above, in favor of more sanity and sobriety, certainly as compared to Mr. Gates' predecessor.

Note: Transcript here.

Posted by Gregory at 05:12 AM | Comments (5)

December 05, 2006

Civil War?

Anyone who wishes to argue Iraq is currently not in a state of civil war should at very least deign to grapple with this must-read article. And while I don't care too much what Matt Lauer's views are on the matter, frankly, I do very much take Colin Powell and Kofi Annan's views on this same question with utmost seriousness. More background here, and this link has experts weighing in on whether Iraq was in a state of civil war back in September '05--when the situation was not as bad as now. For my part I think the sectarian blood-letting has gotten so awful it matters little what label we ascribe to it, save that Powell has a point when he says: "I have been using it (the phrase 'civil war') because I like to face the reality." Which is to say, our policymakers need to understand at very least that significant ethnic cleansing is taking place in certain parts of Iraq, and that Baghdad today is seeing conditions not unlike (and often worse) those that prevailed in Beirut from '75-'91 during the Lebanese Civil War. As I said, read this grim article for more.

Posted by Gregory at 12:16 AM | Comments (14)


He's out. Any thoughts on who should replace him? (NB: Suggesting Rick Santorum is strictly forbidden!)

Posted by Gregory at 12:08 AM | Comments (22)

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