Saturday, May 26, 2007


The blog of is going on hiatus to work on a 9/11-related paper. Oh, there may be an occasional song, but hopefully it will mostly be the paper. So good luck to the surge and reconciliation, if that's what Iraq wants. Don't forget semi-autonomous federalism and mixed region, if anyone feels the need. And always be on the lookout for conspiracies.

posted: saturday, may 26, 2007, 11:45 AM ET
update: saturday, june 16, 2007, 3:51 PM ET


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Congress passes benchmark bill

"Congress sent President Bush a new Iraq funding bill yesterday that lacked troop withdrawal deadlines demanded by liberal Democrats, but party leaders vowed it was only a temporary setback in their efforts to bring home American troops.
War opponents dismissed the bill as a capitulation to Bush and said they would seek to hold supporters in both parties accountable. But backers said the bill's provisions -- including benchmarks for progress that the Iraqi government must meet to continue receiving reconstruction aid -- represented an assertion of congressional authority over the war that was unthinkable a few months ago.
Bush, who had vowed to veto any legislation with restrictions on troop deployments, announced he would sign the $120 billion package.
. . . The focus now shifts to September, when the new funding runs out, and when U.S. commanders say they will be able to assess the results of an ongoing troop buildup.
. . . 'We are moving backward,' said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), a war opponent. 'Instead of forcing the president to safely redeploy our troops, instead of coming up with a strategy providing assistance to a post-redeployment Iraq, and instead of a renewed focus on the global fight against al-Qaeda, we are faced with a spending bill that kicks the can down the road and buys the administration time.' "

Murray, Shailagh. (The Washington Post). Congress Passes Deadline-Free War Funding Bill. May 25, 2007.

posted: saturday, may 26, 2007, 11:17 AM ET


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US public still wants out, poll says

"Americans now view the war in Iraq more negatively than at any time since the invasion more than four years ago, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
Sixty-one percent of Americans say the United States should have stayed out of Iraq and 76 percent say things are going badly there, including 47 percent who say things are going very badly, the poll found.
Still, the majority of Americans support continuing to finance the war as long as the Iraqi government meets specific goals.
. . . A majority, 76 percent, including 51 percent of Republicans, say additional troops sent to Iraq this year by Mr. Bush either have had no impact or are making things worse. Twenty percent of all respondents say the increase is improving the situation.
Most Americans support a timetable for withdrawal. Sixty-three percent say the United States should set a date for withdrawing troops from Iraq sometime in 2008."

Sussman, Dalia. (The New York Times). Poll Shows View of Iraq War Is Most Negative Since Start. May 25, 2007.

posted: saturday, may 26, 2007, 11:08 AM ET

update: saturday, may 26, 2007, 11:18 AM ET


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Maliki names cabinet replacements

"In Baghdad on Thursday, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki named replacements for six cabinet ministers who quit last month on the orders of the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr. At the time, Mr. Sadr said he was taking the action to protest Mr. Maliki’s refusal to back a timeline for the departure of American forces. But the cleric may also have wanted to distance himself from the increasingly unpopular Maliki administration, which completed its first year in office this week with scant progress in curbing violence or improving Iraq’s devastated public services.
Officials in Mr. Maliki’s office described his nominees as technocrats who would bring new levels of efficiency to the ministries, which included the politically delicate portfolios of agriculture, health and transport.
But Mr. Maliki also voiced some of his strongest opposition yet to pressure for his government to meet political 'benchmarks' on bitterly contested issues like the division of oil revenues. 'How can the head of an elected government accept another country imposing restrictions or conditions on its actions?' he said Wednesday in a television interview."

Burns, John F. (The New York Times). Iraqi Tribal Leader Is Killed, and Mourners Are Attacked. May 25, 2007.

posted: saturday, may 26, 2007, 11:02 AM ET
update: saturday, may 26, 2007, 11:19 AM ET


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Sadr returns as Hakim & Talabani medical problems / Sunni tribal leader visits Sadr City

"Moqtada al-Sadr, the influential Shiite cleric and militia leader who went into hiding before the launch of a U.S.-Iraqi security offensive in February, is in the southern city of Kufa, senior U.S. military commanders said Thursday.
Sadr, who has long opposed the U.S. occupation and is ratcheting up pressure for a withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, has returned from neighboring Iran, perhaps as recently as this week, they said.
. . . Sadr's movement is wooing Sunni leaders and purging extremists in his Mahdi Army militia in an attempt to strengthen his image as a nationalist who can lead all Iraqis at a time when antiwar sentiments are growing in the United States and Iraq's political landscape is increasingly fractured.
Sadr's apparent reemergence comes days after his main Shiite rival, cleric Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, went to Iran for treatment of lung cancer. Hakim is also trying to strike a nationalist stance, recently changing the name of his party from the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq to the Supreme Islamic Council in Iraq." [1]

"The Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, flew to the United States on Sunday for a multiweek visit that his office said was for rest and for help in reducing his weight. His office denied local news media reports that Mr. Talabani was ill and said he was in general good health apart from his weight, The Associated Press reported. His extended departure comes at a time when the United States is pressing Iraqi politicians to make progress on a variety of measures." [2]

"Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr resurfaced Friday after nearly four months in hiding and demanded U.S. troops leave Iraq, a development likely to complicate U.S. efforts to crack down on violence and broker political compromise in the country.
. . . 'No, no for Satan. No, no for America. No, no for the occupation. No, no for Israel,' the glowering, black-turbaned cleric chanted in a call and response with the crowd.
. . . 'To our Iraqi Sunni brothers, I say that the occupation sows dissension among us and that strength is unity and division is weakness,' he said. 'I'm ready to cooperate with them in all fields.'
. . . Al-Sadr's associates say his strategy rests in part on his belief that Washington will soon start reducing troop strength, leaving behind a hole in Iraq's security and political power structure that he can fill. He also believes al-Maliki's government may soon collapse under its failure to improve security, services and the economy, they say." [3]

"In a hopeful sign on Tuesday, a Sunni tribal leader made a conciliatory public visit to Sadr City, the Shiite enclave in western Baghdad. Sheikh Hamid al-Hayis, leader of an alliance of Sunni tribes that recently began providing men to fight Al Qaeda beside the marines in Anbar Province, met with backers of the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr.
Salih al-Ugaily, a Sadr supporter in Parliament, said in an interview that the two sides had agreed on the need for reconciliation and to expedite holding provincial elections, a major demand of Sunni Iraqis, many of whom have said they feel disenfranchised after boycotting previous elections." [4]

[1] Ricks, Thomas E. & Raghavan, Sudarsan. (The Washington Post). Sadr Back in Iraq, U.S. Generals Say. May 25, 2007.
[2] Cloud, David S. (The New York Times). 7 U.S. Soldiers Die in Iraq, 6 in Sweep of Baghdad. May 21, 2007.
[3] The Associated Press. Radical Anti-American Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr Returns to Iraq. May 25, 2007.
[4] Cloud, David S. (The New York Times). Baghdad Truck Bomb Kills 25 and Wounds 100 Others. May 23, 2007.

posted: saturday, may 26, 2007, 10:55 AM ET
update: saturday, june 16, 2007, 3:55 PM ET


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Sectarian killings increase

"More than three months into a U.S.-Iraqi security offensive designed to curtail sectarian violence in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq, Health Ministry statistics show that such killings are rising again.
From the beginning of May until Tuesday, 321 unidentified corpses, many dumped and showing signs of torture and execution, have been found across the Iraqi capital, according to morgue data provided by a Health Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information. The data showed that the same number of bodies were found in all of January, the month before the launch of the Baghdad security plan.
Such killings are a signature practice of Shiite militias, although Sunni insurgents are also known to execute victims. The number of found bodies is a key indicator of the level of sectarian violence, but the statistics also include some who died from causes unrelated to the political situation.
. . . Lt. Gen. Aboud Qanbar, the Iraqi commander overseeing the security plan, acknowledged in an interview that the number of unidentified corpses is rising and said there has been a spike in sectarian assaults by Shiite militias, especially elements of the Mahdi Army, the militia of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
. . . 'It's possible that some parties are using the name of Mahdi Army for killing the Sunnis,' said Ahmed Shaibani, a senior Sadr aide."

Raghavan, Sudarsan. (The Washington Post). Morgue Data Show Increase In Sectarian Killings in Iraq. May 24, 2007.

posted: saturday, may 26, 2007, 10:25 AM ET


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New US plan to have political emphasis

"Top U.S. commanders and diplomats in Iraq are completing a far-reaching campaign plan for a new U.S. strategy.
. . . The classified plan, scheduled to be finished by May 31, is a joint effort between Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior American general in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker.
. . . The overarching aim of the plan, which sets goals for the end of this year and the end of 2008, is more political than military: to negotiate settlements between warring factions in Iraq from the national level down to the local level.
. . . The plan has three pillars to be carried out simultaneously -- in contrast to the prior sequential strategy of 'clear, hold and build.' One shifts the immediate emphasis of military operations away from transitioning to Iraqi security forces . . . toward protecting Iraq's population in trouble areas.
. . . Next, the plan emphasizes building the government's capacity to function, admitting severe weaknesses in government ministries and often nonexistent institutional links between the central government and provincial and local governments.
. . . Finally, the campaign plan aims to purge Iraq's leadership of a small but influential number of officials and commanders whose sectarian and criminal agendas are thwarting U.S. efforts."

Tyson, Ann Scott. (The Washington Post). New Strategy for War Stresses Iraqi Politics. May 23, 2007.

posted: saturday, may 26, 2007, 10:15 AM ET


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Shiite stronghold model community, but tradeoff

"Ice cream shops in the Shiite stronghold of Kadhimiya are flush with sweet-toothed customers. Hospitals have new supplies. Rents have tripled as displaced Shiites flock to the historic district’s spacious homes, while pilgrims stream to the golden-domed shrine at its heart.
. . . Religious Shiite leaders and their militias have unquestionably consolidated control, transforming Kadhimiya into what could be a model for much of Baghdad if the Shiites have their way.
. . . But the future that Kadhimiya points to may not be democratic, inclusive or just, at least by Western standards. Residents and American commanders describe the area as a nerve center for benign and malignant elements of Shiite power, the raw embodiment of the Shiite revival that has swept Iraq in the last four years.
. . . For the average Iraqi, the tradeoff for relative safety is living with a certain level of extortion, political corruption and religious militancy.
Loyalties in Kadhimiya can change block by block as rival militias vie for turf. Clerics post guards with Kalashnikov rifles in winding alleyways . . . There is even a gas station controlled by a different armed group every few days.
. . . The militias’ intimidating form of street justice, complete with underground Islamic courts, has helped prevent the catastrophic bomb attacks all too common in other Shiite neighborhoods."

Wong, Edward & Cave, Damien. (The New York Times). Baghdad District Is a Model, but Only for Shiites. May 22, 2007.

posted: saturday, may 26, 2007, 10:02 AM ET


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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sadr fight qaeda so US exit; outreach to Sunnis

"Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr . . . is reaching out to a broad array of Sunni leaders, from politicians to insurgents, and purging extremist members of his Mahdi Army militia who target Sunnis. Sadr's political followers are distancing themselves from the fragile Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which is widely criticized as corrupt, inefficient and biased in favor of Iraq's majority Shiites. And moderates are taking up key roles in Sadr's movement, professing to be less anti-American and more nationalist as they seek to improve Sadr's image and position him in the middle of Iraq's ideological spectrum.
'We want to aim the guns against the occupation and al-Qaeda, not between Iraqis,' Ahmed Shaibani, 37, a cleric who leads Sadr's newly formed reconciliation committee, said.
. . . 'We are not anti-American. We think the Americans have an important role in rebuilding Iraq, but as companies, not as an army,' [Salah al-Obaidi, a senior aide to Sadr said]. . . 'We can open a new channel with the Democrats, even some of the Republicans.'
. . . If the sectarian war can be stopped, if the Mahdi Army and Sunni insurgent groups can join hands and break al-Qaeda in Iraq, there will be less reason for U.S. forces to stay, said Shaibani, wearing a black dishdasha, a traditional loose-fitting tunic, and clutching a Nokia cellphone during an interview in late April. 'The American argument is we can't have a timetable because of al-Qaeda,' he said. 'So we're going to weaken al-Qaeda for you.'

Raghavan, Sudarsan. (The Washington Post). Iraq's Sadr Overhauls His Tactics. May 19, 2007.

posted: tuesday, may 22, 2007, 2:40 PM ET


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Hakim to be treated for "limited tumor"

"The leader of Iraq's largest Shiite party said Monday that tests in the United States have shown that he suffers from a "limited tumor" and that he will get medical treatment in Iran.
Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, 57, did not say where the tumor was, but officials close to him said he was diagnosed with lung cancer after undergoing tests last week at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston."

Hendawi, Hamzi. (The Associated Press). Iraqi Shiite Leader Says He Has Tumor. May 21, 2007.

posted: tuesday, may 22, 2007, 2:19 PM ET


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Record number of contractor deaths

"At least 146 contract workers were killed in Iraq in the first three months of the year, by far the highest number for any quarter since the war began in March 2003, according to the Labor Department, which processes death and injury claims for those working as United States government contractors in Iraq.
That brings the total number of contractors killed in Iraq to at least 917, along with more than 12,000 wounded in battle or injured on the job, according to government figures and dozens of interviews.
The numbers, which have not been previously reported, disclose the extent to which contractors — Americans, Iraqis and workers from more than three dozen other countries — are largely hidden casualties of the war, and now are facing increased risks alongside American soldiers and marines as President Bush’s plan to increase troop levels in Baghdad takes hold.
. . . Nearly 300 companies from the United States and around the world supply workers who are a shadow force in Iraq almost as large as the uniformed military. About 126,000 men and women working for contractors serve alongside about 150,000 American troops, the Pentagon has reported. Never before has the United States gone to war with so many civilians on the battlefield doing jobs — armed guards, military trainers, translators, interrogators, cooks and maintenance workers — once done only by those in uniform."

Broder, John M. & Risen, James. (The New York Times). Contractor Deaths in Iraq Soar to Record. May 19, 2007.

posted: tuesday, may 22, 2007, 2:12 PM ET


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Friday, May 18, 2007

US ignored Afghan drugs now financing Taliban

"To fight a Taliban insurgency flush with drug money for recruits and weapons, the Bush administration recognizes that it must also combat the drug trafficking it had largely ignored for years. But plans to clear poppy fields and pursue major drug figures have been frustrated by corruption in the Afghan government, and derided by critics as belated half-measures or missteps not likely to have much impact.
. . . The State Department and Pentagon repeatedly clashed over drug policy, according to current and former officials who were interviewed. Pentagon leaders refused to bomb drug laboratories and often balked at helping other agencies and the Afghan government destroy poppy fields, disrupt opium shipments or capture major traffickers, the officials say.
And the C.I.A. and military turned a blind eye to drug-related activities by prominent warlords or political figures they had installed in power, Afghan and American officials say.
. . . Administration officials say they had believed they could eliminate the insurgency first, then tackle the drug trade. “Now people recognize that it’s all related, and it’s one issue,” said Thomas Schweich, the State Department’s coordinator for counternarcotics in Afghanistan."

Risen, James. (The New York Times). Poppy Fields Are Now a Front Line in Afghan War. May 16, 2007.

posted: friday, may 18, 2007, 6:11 PM ET


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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Sunni says US is problem; against faction meet / Anti-Shiite conspiracy, Shiite hotelier says

" 'The problem in Iraq is the American Army,' . . . [Muhammad al-Daini, a Sunni Arab member of the Iraqi Parliament] told a group of attentive American legislators. . . 'What brought terrorism, what brought Al Qaeda and what brought Iranian influence is the Americans.'
Mr. Daini, soft-spoken and generally unsmiling, has been ushered from meeting to meeting by a public relations firm paid by an American businessman who calls the Iraqi politician 'a true humanitarian.' The businessman, Dal LaMagna, says he is devoting the fortune he made selling his high-end grooming tools business, Tweezerman, to seeking an end to the violence in Iraq.
. . . The American lawmakers were polite and inquisitive but some appeared nonplussed by hints of the polarization of Iraqi views. When Representative Bill Delahunt, Democrat of Massachusetts, suggested that it might be valuable to get all Iraqi factions to meet for talks in the United States, Mr. Daini demurred.
. . . Mr. Daini, 35, is a member of the National Dialogue Front, a Sunni Arab political group led by Saleh al-Mutlak, a former Baath Party official who insists that the Baath Party, the party of Saddam Hussein, was the best party ever to govern Iraq." [1]

"Ayad owns a hotel in the southern city of Karbala, home to two of Shiism’s most important shrines. His wife and two daughters wear veils. He believes that the violence in Iraq is a Sunni and American conspiracy against Shiites, and he argues that Iran is the best ally of Iraqi Shiites.
. . . The Sunnis, he said, have 'oppressed us since the days of the Prophet, and now it is our chance to hit back and rule.'
According to Ayad, a Shiite takeover in Iraq would set a good model for the Shiites of Lebanon, where they number about a third of the population, and Bahrain, where they are a majority.
'Perhaps the Shiite minority in Saudi Arabia will act too, rid themselves of the Sunni oppression against them, and rule or at least separate themselves from Riyadh and create their own state.'
It is exactly this possibility that has made the Sunni Arab regimes fear a Shiite regional revolt and moved some to support the Sunni insurgency in Iraq or at least to voice their resentment of the Iraqi Shiite government, which is seen as being biased against Iraqi Sunnis.
. . . 'When we fought the Persians during the 1980s, we were wrong. We’re Shiites before being Iraqis. Sunnis invented national identity to rule us.' "

Op-ed by Hussain Abdul-Hussain, "a former reporter for The Daily Star of Lebanon." [2]

Peace thru oppression?

[1] Shane, Scott & Wong, Edward. (The New York Times). Antiwar Iraqi in Washington Has a More Sectarian Agenda at Home. May 14, 2007.
[2] Abdul-Hussain, Hussain. (The New York Times). In Iraq, the play was the thing. May 7, 2007.

posted: wednesday, may 16, 2007, 6:14 AM ET

update: wednesday, may 18, 2007, 6:29 PM ET


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Oil missing

"Between 100,000 and 300,000 barrels a day of Iraq’s declared oil production over the past four years is unaccounted for and could have been siphoned off through corruption or smuggling, according to a draft American government report.
Using an average of $50 a barrel, the [Government Accountability Office] report said the discrepancy was valued at $5 million to $15 million daily.
The report does not give a final conclusion on what happened to the missing fraction of the roughly two million barrels pumped by Iraq each day, but the findings are sure to reinforce longstanding suspicions that smugglers, insurgents and corrupt officials control significant parts of the country’s oil industry.
The report also covered alternative explanations for the billions of dollars worth of discrepancies, including the possibility that Iraq has been consistently overstating its oil production.
. . . Virtually the entire economy of Iraq is dependent on oil revenues."

Glanz, James. (The New York Times). Billions in Oil Missing in Iraq, U.S. Study Says. May 12, 2007.

posted: wednesday, may 16, 2007, 5:49 AM ET


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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Surge addresses 2005-06 security turnover mistake

"The push to expand the U.S. and Iraqi presence in Baghdad's neighborhoods reflects what U.S. commanders now acknowledge was a mistaken drawdown in 2005 and 2006 of American troops in the capital, leaving Iraqi forces in their place.
'What we had been doing for 3 1/2 years didn't keep up with the sectarian violence spreading so swiftly,' said Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Fil Jr., the senior U.S. commander for Baghdad. The new approach 'will take every bit of the five brigades' of combat troops now flowing in as reinforcements in the city of 6 million people, he said.
"It's fairly obvious that we transferred out too soon," said Col. Bryan Roberts, who commands a U.S. cavalry brigade in central Baghdad.
The limited U.S. troop presence was one reason that sectarian killings soared out of control in Baghdad after the February 2006 bombing of an important Shiite mosque in Samarra. That spurred what U.S. officers now call the sectarian cleansing of most of eastern Baghdad and large swaths of the west -- as Shiites forced Sunnis out of all but a few enclaves -- a movement that was arrested only with the troop increase this February.
'The sectarian cleansing is pretty much done on the east side' of Baghdad, said a U.S. military official. But since the influx of U.S. and Iraqi forces began, he said, 'for the most part the Shia expansion is frozen where it is.' "

Tyson, Ann Scott. (The Washington Post). Commanders in Iraq See 'Surge' Into '08. May 9, 2007.

posted: sunday, may 13, 2007, 10:33 AM ET

update: sunday, may 13, 2007, 10:45 AM ET


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Friday, May 11, 2007

US killing Afghan civilians lately

"Air strikes called in by U.S. Special Forces soldiers fighting with insurgents in southern Afghanistan killed at least 21 civilians, officials said Wednesday. One coalition soldier was also killed.
Helmand provincial Governor Assadullah Wafa said Taliban fighters sought shelter in villagers' homes during the fighting in the Sangin district Tuesday evening, and that subsequent air strikes killed 21 civilians, including several women and children.
. . . The report of civilian casualties comes less than a week after Afghan officials said that 51 civilians were killed in the western province of Herat.
It also comes one day after the U.S. military apologized and paid compensation to the families of 19 people killed and 50 wounded by U.S. Marines Special Forces who fired indiscriminately on civilians after being hit by a suicide attack in eastern Afghanistan in March.
Afghanistan's upper house of parliament on Tuesday passed a bill calling for a halt to all international military operations unless co-ordinated with the Afghan government, action seen as a rebuke of the international mission here." [1]

"Col. John Nicholson, an Army brigade commander in eastern Afghanistan, met Tuesday with the families of the 19 Afghans killed and 50 wounded when a Marine Special Operations unit opened fire on a crowded stretch of road near Jalalabad after a suicide bomber in a vehicle rammed their convoy.
. . . The company commander and the senior enlisted member from the unit involved in the incident were relieved of duty last month. With six other marines involved, they were returned to Camp Lejeune, N.C., until the investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigation Service is completed, said Maj. Cliff W. Gilmore, a spokesman for the Marine Special Operations Command.
. . . Anger among Afghans at American tactics has seemed to intensify since the March 4 incident. After an incident this month in western Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai warned at a news conference that continuing civilian casualties would not be tolerated." [2]

[1] Khan, Noor. (The Associated Press). 21 civilians said killed by Afghan air strike. May 9, 2007.
[2] Cloud, David S. (The New York Times). U.S. Pays and Apologizes to Kin of Afghans Killed by Marines. May 9, 2007.

posted: friday, may 11, 2007, 2:27 PM ET

update: friday, may 18, 2007, 6:32 PM ET


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Oil law by Sept, need navy-air-force, Rubaie says

"Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the national security adviser to Iraq’s prime minister, undertook on Tuesday what may have been his most challenging mission yet: trying to persuade American lawmakers who have all but run out of patience that still more patience is required.
. . . Mr. Rubaie stressed that a law distributing oil revenues would be in place by September and that a date would be set for provincial elections to be held in 2008.
Work is under way on constitutional reforms, he said, and the overhaul of the policy barring most former Baath Party members from government jobs would be completed by the end of the year.
. . . Mr. Rubaie also asserted that Iraqi government officials were involved in serious discussions with several insurgent groups, including the 1920s Revolutionary Brigade and Ansar al-Sunna — an effort to split the opposition and turn them against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.
. . . Mr. Rubaie stressed that Iraq was involved in a historic process to overcome the long legacy of authoritarian rule, and that the early withdrawal of American troops would lead to chaos." [1]

"Although U.S. troops could eventually redeploy to forward bases in Iraq and the region, he said, a U.S. presence will be needed until Iraq builds not just an army, but also an air force and a navy, which could take decades.
'We will need coalition forces for the foreseeable future,' he said in an interview with editors and reporters at The Washington Post. 'Building an air force to own our air and to be able to defend Iraq cannot be done overnight, or in months. It will take decades to build an air force and to build a navy.' " [2]

[1] Gordon, Michael R. (The New York Times). Official Takes Case to U.S., but Skeptics Don’t Budge. May 9, 2007.
[2] Wright, Robin. (The Washington Post). Iraq Seeks Time to Take Steps, but Levin Notes 'Disconnect'. May 10, 2007.
posted: friday, may 11, 2007, 2:03 PM ET
update: sunday, may 13, 2007, 10:17 AM ET


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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

More thoughts on draft oil law

If there is concern over the timely distribution of oil revenue, then the idea mentioned previously of having an outside organization do the distributing seems like a good solution. If some want the revenue distributed by the central government and others want it done by a third party, then let the ones who want it done by the central government have their revenue distributed by the central government and the ones who want it done by a third party have it done by a third party.

Another way of equitably distributing oil revenue and addressing Kurdish concerns over management could be to divide the oil fields between the various groups. The Shiites and Kurds could keep managing the fields in their regions, but the Sunnis and any other groups would get to manage fields in the Shiite and Kurdish regions proportionate to their population.

The potential for manipulation or coercion of Iraqis of all groups by those who control Iraq's oil or oil revenue is great, so care should be taken to pass a law that will ensure that these things will not occur.

posted: wednesday, may 9, 2007, 10:27 AM ET
update: wednesday, may 9, 2007, 10:33 AM ET


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Many US soldiers believe abuse of Iraqis OK

"More than one-third of U.S. soldiers in Iraq surveyed by the Army said they believe torture should be allowed if it helps gather important information about insurgents, the Pentagon disclosed yesterday. Four in 10 said they approve of such illegal abuse if it would save the life of a fellow soldier.
In addition, about two-thirds of Marines and half the Army troops surveyed said they would not report a team member for mistreating a civilian or for destroying civilian property unnecessarily. 'Less than half of Soldiers and Marines believed that non-combatants should be treated with dignity and respect,' the Army report stated.
About 10 percent of the 1,767 troops in the official survey -- conducted in Iraq last fall -- reported that they had mistreated civilians in Iraq, such as kicking them or needlessly damaging their possessions.
. . . The study also found that the more often soldiers are deployed, the longer they are deployed each time; and the less time they spend at home, the more likely they are to suffer mental health problems such as combat trauma, anxiety and depression." [1]

"The top U.S. commander in Iraq said Monday he was concerned by a recent survey that concluded many combat troops would not report a member of their unit for killing or wounding an innocent civilian.
Speaking to the annual meeting of The Associated Press, Gen. David Petraeus called for a 'redoubling of our education efforts' to identify potential for abuses among soldiers in Iraq and anticipate problems related to combat stress during extended missions that can last up to 15 months." [2]

[1] Ricks, Thomas E. & Tyson, Ann Scott. (The Washington Post). Troops at Odds With Ethics Standards. May 5, 2007.
[2] Murphy, Brian. (The Associated Press). Petraeus 'Concerned' by Ethics Report. May 7, 2007.

posted: wednesday, may 9, 2007, 10:07 AM ET

update: wednesday, may 9, 2007, 10:11 AM ET


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Inatl conference: debt relief, reform, proxy war

"The Thursday conclave [at the international conference in Sharm el Sheik, Egypt] centered around trying to persuade the international community, particularly the Persian Gulf countries, to agree to a debt relief and financial aid for Iraq. The United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said that donor countries, including Britain, Saudi Arabia and China, pledged to waive $30 billion in Iraqi debt.
In return, Baghdad promised to enact a series of reforms, like better inclusion of the country’s Sunni minority in the political process, an oil law and better legal protections for Iraqi Sunnis and Kurds." [1]

"Iraq has become a proxy battlefield for influence in the region between the Shiite Muslim government of Iran and the Sunni-led capitals of the Arab world. While the United States would like to help buttress Iraq’s Shiite-led central government, some Arab capitals have been reluctant to offer their support out of concern that they would, in turn, be helping to empower Iran.
Arab leaders believe that the presence of American troops in Iraq are destabilizing the region, inciting people to adopt the most radical Islamic ideologies. But they fear that a precipitous withdrawal would lead to civil war and give Iran a stronger hand in Iraq than it already has, analysts and former officials said." [2]

"For their part, the [U.S] official said, Arab governments need to show more appreciation of the problems Maliki faces and the progress, however slow, he has made. Iraq's Sunni Arab neighbors, including Saudi Arabia, do not understand "what's really happening in Iraq," he said.
The official, who briefed reporters after attending the Rice-Maliki meeting, said that negative Arab views of Maliki's Shiite-dominated government are skewed by a fixation on the Sunni-Shiite divide, based on information from "interested parties" inside Iraq.
While the administration shares their concerns about Sunni minority rights and Shiite Iran's growing influence in Baghdad, he said, the answer "is not exclusion, passivity and ostracization of Iraq" by its neighbors." [3]

[1] Cooper, Helene & Elsen, Jon. (The New York Times). U.S. Officials Meet Briefly With Iranians. May 4, 2007.
[2] Slackman, Michael & Cooper, Helene. (The New York Times). Concern Is High and Unity Hopes Are Nil at Talks on Iraq. May 3, 2007.
[3] DeYoung, Karen. (The Washington Post). Rice Presses Maliki on Eve Of Conference on Iraq Aid. May 3, 2007.

posted: wednesday, may 9, 2007, 9:48 AM ET


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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Baghdadi not killed; existence questioned

"On Thursday, Iraqi government officials said the man who had been killed was actually Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, a Sunni insurgent umbrella organization said to have been created by al-Qaeda in Iraq.
But [Maj. Gen William B.] Caldwell questioned whether Baghdadi 'even exists,' stressing that the U.S. military had nobody, 'alive or dead,' that is 'going through any kind of testing or analysis at this point,' referring to both Masri and Baghdadi.
'There's a lot of discussion about a person called al-Baghdadi, but we actually have no knowledge who that might be,' Caldwell said.
The Islamic State of Iraq, in a statement posted on an insurgent Web site, asserted that Jubouri had been "martyred" but that Baghdadi was still alive.
'We assure the nation that our chief 'Abu Omar al-Baghdadi' is still enjoying the blessings of God, and that what media agencies stated that he was killed is not true,' the statement read."

Raghavan, Sudarsan. (The Washington Post). U.S. Identifies Dead Insurgent As Group's Propaganda Chief. May 4, 2007.

posted: sunday, may 6, 2007, 11:59 PM ET

update: monday, may 7, 2007, 12:04 AM ET


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Draft oil law submitted to Parliament; Kurd issues

" Iraq's oil minister said the country's draft oil law was submitted to parliament on Wednesday, setting up potentially bitter negotiations over the creation of a framework for managing the country's vast petroleum supplies and distributing oil revenue.
. . . The prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Nechirvan Barzani, told Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that Kurds would not accept the oil law unless a piece of companion legislation, and accompanying annexes detailing revenue distribution, were amended. The changes would allow the Kurds greater concessions in developing oil fields in their territory, according to Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish legislator.
. . . 'The Kurds will not accept the law to be put before the parliament as a first part and a second part -- it needs to be a package,' Othman said. 'The whole problem is because this law was made in a hurry, and the Americans were rushing everyone to do it. The details haven't been discussed, that's why there's no agreement.'
Mehdi Hafedh, a parliament member . . . said he believed that the Kurdish opposition was determined but that eventually a compromise solution would be reached." [1]

"In Iraq, the Kurds have taken issue with a new provision that was quietly packaged with the draft oil law by the Shiite-led Oil Ministry last month. The measure would essentially cede control of the management of nearly all known oil fields and related contracts to a state-run oil company to be established after passage of the law, said a spokesman for the Kurdish regional government.
The spokesman, Khalid Salih, said the provision violated a clause in the Constitution that says the central government must work with regional governments to determine management of known fields that have not been developed. The Kurds . . . have been arguing for maximum regional control over oil contracts.
The provision is part of four so-called annexes that are to be debated with the draft oil law in Parliament. Any objection to one or more of the annexes will stall passage of the law.
. . . A senior Shiite Arab legislator, Sheik Jalaladin al-Saghir, said the concerns raised by the Kurds amounted to a bargaining tactic. 'I think it’s a maneuver,' he said, adding that he believed the Kurds 'will move forward to pass the law since everybody needs it.' " [2]

[1] Partlow, Joshua. (The Washington Post). Draft Oil Measure Sent to Parliament. May 3, 2007.
[2] Wong, Edward & Stolberg, Sheryl Gay. (The New York Times). Iraqi Blocs Opposed to Draft Oil Bill. May 3, 2007.

posted: sunday, may 6, 2007, 11:50 PM ET


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75,000 US troops for advisory role

"The surge must be accompanied by a commensurate surge in Iraqi troops. To date, the Iraqis have simply been shifting soldiers from other areas into Baghdad. But these are stop-gap soldiers — as are our own — when what we seek is permanence. The Iraqi government must double the size of its army, to 300,000 combat troops from 150,000 today. The American surge will give them the breathing room to do so, and a deadline by which it must be done.
. . . The idea is that, starting this fall, the Iraqi units would bulk up so the American units could begin to break up, moving to an advisory model in which the number of American soldiers embedded with Iraqi units triples while the overall United States force declines.
. . . Oddly, the Congressional resolutions calling for withdrawal would allow for this continued American advisory presence, somehow not including these troops as 'combat forces.'
. . . The issue will be the numbers. A meaningful advisory force — both the embedded troops and the support personnel — would likely mean 75,000 Americans still in Iraq in the fall of 2008. This is about half of what we’ll have in place for the surge this summer, but more than the supporters of the resolutions might expect."

Op-ed by Owen West, Marine Reserves major.

West, Owen. (The New York Times). Why Congress Should Embrace the Surge. May 1, 2007.

posted: sunday, may 6, 2007, 11:32 PM ET

update: monday, may 7, 2007, 12:03 AM ET


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Iraq terror acts rose 91% in 2006

"The number of terrorism incidents in Iraq -- and resulting deaths, injuries and kidnappings -- skyrocketed from 2005 to 2006, according to statistics released by U.S. counterterrorism officials yesterday.
Of the 14,338 reported terrorist attacks worldwide last year, 45 percent took place in Iraq, and 65 percent of the global fatalities stemming from terrorism occurred in Iraq. In 2005, Iraq accounted for 30 percent of the worldwide terrorist attacks.
The figures, compiled by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) and released with the annual State Department Country Reports on Terrorism, showed that the number of incidents in Iraq rose 91 percent, from 3,468 in 2005 to 6,630 in 2006.
Almost all of those incidents involved the death, injury or kidnapping of at least one person. All told, the number of people killed, injured or kidnapped as a result of terrorism in Iraq jumped 87 percent, from 20,685 to 38,713."

Kessler, Glenn. (The Washington Post). U.S. Cites 91 Percent Rise In Terrorist Acts in Iraq. May 1, 2007.

posted: sunday, may 6, 2007, 11:18 PM ET


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Iraqi dept removing anti-militia security officers

"A department of the Iraqi prime minister's office is playing a leading role in the arrest and removal of senior Iraqi army and national police officers, some of whom had apparently worked too aggressively to combat violent Shiite militias, according to U.S. military officials in Baghdad.
. . . Although some of the officers appear to have been fired for legitimate reasons, such as poor performance or corruption, several were considered to be among the better Iraqi officers in the field. The dismissals have angered U.S. and Iraqi leaders who say the Shiite-led government is sabotaging the military to achieve sectarian goals.
. . . At the national level, some U.S. officials are increasingly concerned about the Office of the Commander in Chief, a behind-the-scenes department that works on military issues for the prime minister.
One adviser in the office, Bassima Luay Hasun al-Jaidri, has enough influence to remove and intimidate senior commanders, and her work has 'stifled' many officers who are afraid of angering her, a senior U.S. military official said. U.S. commanders are considering installing a U.S. liaison officer in the department to better understand its influence."

Partlow, Joshua. (The Washington Post). Maliki's Office Is Seen Behind Purge in Forces. April 30, 2007.

posted: sunday, may 6, 2007, 11:09 PM ET


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Bush vetoes withdrawal bill; Dems drop timeline

"President Bush vetoed a $124 billion war spending bill on Tuesday, setting up a second round in his long battle with Congressional Democrats who are determined to use the financing measure to force the White House to shift course in Iraq.
The veto was only the second of Mr. Bush’s presidency. In a six-minute televised speech from the White House, the president called the measure a “prescription for chaos and confusion,” and said, as he has for weeks, that he could not sign it because it contained timetables for troop withdrawal.
. . . Democrats concede they do not have enough votes to override the veto. But, speaking in the Capitol shortly after Mr. Bush’s remarks, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California, and the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said they would not be deterred from pushing the president as hard as they could to bring the troops home.
'If the president thinks by vetoing this bill he will stop us from working to change the direction of the war in Iraq, he is mistaken,' Mr. Reid said. He added, 'Now he has an obligation to explain his plan to responsibly end this war.' " [1]

"President Bush and congressional leaders began negotiating a second war funding bill yesterday, with Democrats offering the first major concession: an agreement to drop their demand for a timeline to bring troops home from Iraq.
. . . 'We made our position clear. He made his position clear. Now it is time for us to try to work together,' House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said after a White House meeting. 'But make no mistake: Democrats are committed to ending this war.'
Bush said he is 'confident that we can reach agreement,' and he assigned three top aides to negotiate.
But a new dynamic also is at work, with some Republicans now saying that funding further military operations in Iraq with no strings attached does not make practical or political sense.
. . . House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (Md.) indicated that the next bill will include benchmarks for Iraq -- such as passing a law to share oil revenue, quelling religious violence and disarming sectarian militias -- to keep its government on course. Failure to meet benchmarks could cost Baghdad billions of dollars in nonmilitary aid." [2]

[1] Stolberg, Sheryl Gay & Zeleny, Jeff. (The New York Times). Bush Vetoes Bill Tying Iraq Funds to Exit. May 2, 2007.
[2] Weisman, Jonathan & Murray, Shailagh. (The Washington Post). Democrats Back Down On Iraq Timetable. May 3, 2007.

posted: sunday, may 6, 2007, 10:53 PM ET

update: monday, may 7, 2007, 12:06 AM ET


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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

War of insurgency-subversion-infiltration post-WWII

"Following World War II, there were ample indicators that America's enemies would turn to insurgency to negate our advantages in firepower and mobility. The French experiences in Indochina and Algeria offered object lessons to Western armies facing unconventional foes. These lessons were not lost on the more astute members of America's political class. In 1961, President Kennedy warned of 'another type of war, new in its intensity, ancient in its origin — war by guerrillas, subversives, insurgents, assassins, war by ambush instead of by combat, by infiltration instead of aggression, seeking victory by evading and exhausting the enemy instead of engaging him.' In response to these threats, Kennedy undertook a comprehensive program to prepare America's armed forces for counterinsurgency."

Yingling, Paul, Lt. Col. (Armed Forces Journal). A failure in generalship. May, 2007. *

* Good article, but it doesn't mention the surge or Gen. Petraeus who are doing the counterinsurgency that the article seems to favor.

posted: tuesday, may 1, 2007, 4:22 PM ET


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Security contractor laws not enforced, Blackwater president says

"Actually, there are quite a few federal laws that regulate [private security] contractors. The Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA) creates jurisdiction for federal court trials, and the wrongdoing itself is covered under statutes like the War Crimes Act, the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, the Anti-Torture Statute, the Defense Base Act, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and a whole raft of other domestic regulations, not to mention international prohibitions. The issue has never been about regulation; rather, it has always been about a lack of enforcement.
. . . Author Jeremy Scahill has called Blackwater’s founder a “Christian supremacist” and has claimed that he has created, 'a private army to defend Christendom around the world against secularists.'
. . . [Blackwater founder and CEO Erik] Prince is a practicing Roman Catholic and I assure you is no radical. His views, which others have inflated to serve their own agendas, are his own and he makes no effort to force them on anyone at Blackwater." [1]

"In his new best-selling book, 'Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army' (Nation), the writer Jeremy Scahill describes the company as the private and secretive Praetorian Guard of the Bush administration. He has called Blackwater, 'one of the greatest beneficiaries of the ‘war on terror,’ ' profiting from lucrative contracts with the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency, and deploying battalions of secret soldiers in nine countries, notably Iraq and Afghanistan.
Gary Jackson, the president of Blackwater USA since October 2001, keeps a decidedly low profile, but he recently granted an interview to the author R. J. Hillhouse, who runs an unusual blog on security and intelligence called The Spy Who Billed Me. She is both skeptical and sympathetic toward private military contractors, which are dominated by companies like Blackwater, and often run by special-operations veterans like Mr. Jackson and retired C.I.A. officers." [2]

[1] Hillhouse, R.J. (The Spy Who Billed Me). Exclusive Interview: Blackwater USA's President Gary Jackson. April 26, 2007.
[2] Weiner, Tim. (The New York Times). A Security Contractor Defends His Team, Which, He Says, Is Not a Private Army. April 29, 2007.

posted: tuesday, may 1, 2007, 4:04 PM ET


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Maintenance problems for US built facilities

"Inspections of eight facilities that were rehabilitated or built as part of U.S. reconstruction efforts in Iraq revealed problems with maintenance that suggest some such projects may not function as long or as well as planned, according to a federal oversight agency.
The evaluations were conducted by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, which is charged with monitoring projects for fraud, waste and abuse of funds.
. . . [It] looked at eight projects across Iraq, with a total cost of about $150 million, and found maintenance and operational problems with seven.
The findings range from unrepaired water leaks that damaged floors at the Camp Ur military base in Nasiriyah, generators that weren't working at Baghdad International Airportand expensive equipment going unused at a maternity and pediatric hospital in Irbil.
Bowen said that each of the facilities had generally been completed as originally envisioned but that the problems found had at least, in some cases, partly impaired the facilities' ability to function fully."

Hedgpeth, Dana. (The Washington Post). Report Finds Problems at Iraqi Sites Built or Aided by U.S. April 29, 2007.

posted: tuesday, may 1, 2007, 3:33 PM ET

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