Iraq Archives

April 20, 2006

Jafaari Blinks

Late word out of Iraq has Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafaari ending his bid for re-election to the position, paving the way for a national unity government that would signal stability to the Iraqi people: Under intense domestic and American pressure, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari dropped his bid to retain his job on Thursday, removing a major obstacle to forming a new government during a time of rising sectarian violence. Leaders from each of Iraq's main factions — Sunni Arab, Shiite and Kurd — called the decision a breakthrough. "I believe that we will succeed in forming the national unity government the people are waiting for," Adnan Pachachi, the acting speaker of Parliament, said at a news conference at the Convention Center inside the fortified Green Zone. But while Mr. Jaafari's capitulation after two months of resistance could indeed resolve the stalemate, daunting political challenges lie ahead. Leaders are battling over...

April 22, 2006

Iraq Forms The Unity Government

The Iraqi National Assembly has wasted no time after the Shi'ite compromise on Ibrahim al-Jafaari's withdrawal and has begun forming the national-unity executive for which America has pressed since the December elections. The division of power among the top slots remains as it did before, with the Kurds holding the presidency and the Sunnis and Shi'a taking the two vice-presidential positions: After months of political deadlock, Iraq's parliament convened Saturday to select top leadership posts, launching the process of putting together a new government aimed at pulling the country out of its sectarian strife. Before the session, Shiite lawmaker Ridha Jawad Taqi said all sides agreed on a package deal for the top spots: Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, would remain as president for a second term, with Sunni Arab Tariq al-Hashimi and Shiite Adil Abdul-Mahdi holding the two vice-president spots. In its first vote, lawmakers elected Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a Sunni,...

April 25, 2006

A Taste Of Germany In Iraq

While Europe ponders its problems with large and isolated Muslim communities in their midst, suffering from unemployment and refusing to assimilate, its citizens have begun looking towards the ummah for solutions to their own economic woes. Der Spiegel reports on the newest ethnic restaurant in Irbil: Now, finally, just in time for the World Cup, Iraqis have the opportunity to savour German cuisine and culture following last week's opening of the country's first German restaurant, in the northern city of Arbil. The "Deutscher Hof Arbil" was set up by Gunter Völker, a former German soldier who already runs a German restaurant in the Afghan capital of Kabul. The restaurant will stage parties to mark highlights in the German calendar such as the Oktoberfest beer festival and carnival. Its musical offerings will range from Oompah band classics to local Kurdish tunes. For Völker, the prospect of unemployment at home in Germany...

April 28, 2006

Zarqawi Got His Answer

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi appeared on video earlier this week, exhorting Iraqi Sunnis to join the insurgency and defeat the United States. Today the Iraqis gave an answer to one of his lieutenants, only the message will not get hand-delivered, thanks to the Iraqi security forces: Iraqi commando forces acting on a tip raided a house where Hamid al-Takhi and the two other insurgents were hiding in Samarra, a city 60 miles north of Baghdad, said police Capt. Laith Mohammed. All three were killed in a gunbattle. Mohammed said al-Takhi had been responsible for many insurgent attacks against coalition forces and civilians in the area. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq — the country's most feared insurgent group — appeared in a video earlier this week trying to rally Sunni Arabs to fight Iraq's new government and denouncing Sunnis who cooperate with it as "agents" of the Americans....

April 29, 2006

Brits Finally Start Checking On Galloway

British investigators have finally started checking into MP George Galloway and his role in the Oil for Food scandal at the United Nations. The London Times reports that their diplomats have approached Tariq Aziz, the former deputy prime minister under Saddam Hussein, to see if he will talk about Galloway's relationship with the Hussein regime: BRITISH diplomats in Baghdad have asked Tariq Aziz, Iraq’s former deputy prime minister, to help an investigation into allegations that George Galloway was given cash by Saddam Hussein under the Oil-for-Food programme. The diplomats made the secret approach through Mr Aziz’s lawyer this week on behalf of Parliament’s so-called “sleaze buster”. The lawyer, Badie Izzat Arief, claimed that they offered to try and secure Mr Aziz immunity from prosecution on any charges arising from the Oil-for-Food scandal. Embassy officials want to meet Mr Aziz, 70, in the US-run detention centre where he is held with...

April 30, 2006

Iran Invaded Iraq

Iran sent troops across the Iraqi border three miles towards Haj Oman nine days ago, where Kurdish opposition bases itself for its efforts to unseat the mullahcracy in Teheran: Teheran has attacked an anti-Iranian Kurdish group based in Iraq, it emerged yesterday, raising fears that instability there could spill over into the rest of the region. Iraq's defence ministry said more than 180 artillery shells were fired and Iranian troops crossed three miles into Iraqi territory before withdrawing. The incursion, which occurred on April 21, came after Iranian claims that a number of attacks had been conducted against Iranian army and Revolutionary Guard posts in recent weeks. They are accused of operating from bases around Haj Oman, which was the centre of the Iranian attack. Four peopile were said to have been wounded. Interesting. Apparently Iran does not want to make friends with Iraq as much as they want to...

May 4, 2006

Did The Germans Pay Ransom To Terrorists?

First the Italians paid millions to get its hostages out of Iraq, and now Germany appears to have done the same, despite professing strong support for refusing to negotiate with terrorists. The Guardian (UK) and Der Spiegel both report that the German government paid "a large amount of money" for the recent release of two Germans held hostage by terrorists: Two German hostages kidnapped in Iraq arrived home yesterday as Iraq's ambassador to Germany claimed a "load of money" had been paid to secure their release. Alaa al-Hashimi, said the German government had handed over a "large amount" to the kidnappers of René Bräunlich and Thomas Nitzschke, who were freed on Tuesday after 99 days in captivity. "Regarding the payment of ransom, I don't know. But I assume it was a large amount of money," the ambassador told Germany's ARD public television station. The Iraqi government had no part in...

Why Zarqawi Is In Management

Well, this video has to be the funniest development in the war on terror -- not that there have been a lot of events competing for that honor. Al-Qaeda leader and terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi apparently cannot master the weapons he brandishes for chilling effect on his video statements: The U.S. military command Thursday released previously unseen images of a video purportedly posted by Al Qaeda in Iraq's leader, showing him decked out in American tennis shoes and unable to operate his machine gun. ... The video, discovered in a series of raids in April on purported Al Qaeda in Iraq safe houses in the Youssifiyah area, 12 miles southwest of Baghdad, gave a view of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi that the Jordanian-born militant chose not to show the world, said Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, spokesman for the U.S. command. Al-Zarqawi is "very proud of the fact that he can...

May 8, 2006

Courage And Cowardice (Updated and Bumped)

Please see Update III below -- the identification in the London Times was incorrect. The London Times reports on the final days of Atwar Bahjat, an Iraqi woman viciously murdered by terrorists of one type or another for her courage in reporting on events in her native Samarra. Bahjat, a television reporter for al-Arabiya television, had built a following for her work in covering the violence in Iraq until kidnappers abducted her while a group of Samarrans did nothing to assist her. Bahjat's body was found later along with those of her cameraman and sound man, and the presumption was that she had been shot to death. Not so. In fact, Bhajat experienced the worst of the terrorist depravity in he final moments, made clear when a video recording of her execution was sent to her family: First she was stripped to the waist, a humiliation for any woman but...

Captured AQ Documents: "Every Year Is Worse Than The Previous Year"

CENTCOM announced today that they had captured al-Qaeda correspondence in Iraq that discusses the state of the insurgency, especially around Baghdad but also around the entire country. Far from optimistic, the documents captured in an April 16th raid reveal frustration and desperation, as the terrorists acknowledge the superior position of American and free Iraqi forces and their ability to quickly adapt to new tactics. In these passages, the AQ terrorist author -- described as a person "of significance" due to the extensive analysis applied -- often refers to the elected Iraqi government as the "Shi'ites": A glance at the reality of Baghdad in light of the latest events (sectarian turmoil) 1. It has been proven that the Shiites have a power and influence in Baghdad that cannot be taken lightly, particularly when the power of the Ministries of Interior and Defense is given to them, compared with the power of...

May 10, 2006

New AQ Capture The Man In The Centcom Memo?

The Iraqi News Agency reported last week that the military captured a high-ranking member of the al-Qaeda network in Karbala. The description given of this former Saddam Hussein army commander sounds familiar: High-ranking leader of terrorist organization Al Qaeda was detained today in Iraqi province of Karbala during military operation, Iraqi news agency INA reports. Abdel Fatih Isa, a.k.a. Abu Aisha, was arrested in a private home where he had been hiding for a long time. The arrest was made after a few houses in the town had been searched through. The terrorist is among the chief organizers of terrorist acts in capital Baghdad. According to military sources Abu Aisha was an officer from the Iraqi army during Saddam Hussein’s rule, the agency notes. I thought that the description of an AQ commander spending most of his time hiding sounded familiar. In the captured AQ document that Centcom released this...

May 11, 2006

Iraq To Unify Baghdad Force

The new Iraqi government has decided to remove the confusion of having various security forces for different ministries operating in the greater Baghdad area and consolidate all such units into one cohesive force. The concern over confusion between actual government forces and the sectarian militias has crescendoed with the recent violence in the capital, and a unified command would resolve those issues immediately: Senior Iraqi leaders are preparing a major restructuring of the capital's security brigades that would place all police officers and paramilitary soldiers under a single commander and in one uniform, in hopes of curtailing the sectarian chaos that is ravaging the city. The reorganization calls for a substantially reduced presence of American soldiers on the capital's streets, although not necessarily in their numbers nationwide. The plan, disclosed Wednesday in interviews with senior Iraqi leaders, would substantially alter Baghdad's landscape, now permeated by tens of thousands of police...

May 20, 2006

Iraqis Join The Club

Iraq officially launched its first popularly elected government this morning after its National Assembly swore in the ministers of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Cabinet. Two key security posts remain unfilled while negotiations continue, but the governance of Iraq has now passed to a permanent set of democratic institutions for the first time: Iraq's new government of national unity was sworn in before a special session of parliament on Saturday, three years after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The new ministers took the oath of office after parliament approved the Cabinet presented by incoming Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. ... The session began more than two hours late because of last-minute haggling, finally opening with readings from the Quran. The 37-member Cabinet is made up of members from all of Iraq's religious, sectarian and ethnic groups. It took months of negotiations to form after the Dec. 15 elections and is Iraq's first...

May 23, 2006

Troop Withdrawal To Speed Up: Guardian

The British newspaper The Guardian reports that Tony Blair and George Bush will shortly announce a schedule for an expedited troop withdrawal from Iraq. The coalition leaders plan to hand over entire provinces to the newly-installed Iraqi government and their security forces, perhaps in as many as 16 of the 18 provinces comprising Iraq: George Bush and Tony Blair are to discuss in Washington this week a programme of troop withdrawals from Iraq that will be much faster and more ambitious than originally planned. In a phased pullout in which the two countries will act in tandem, Britain is to begin with a handover to Iraqi security forces in Muthanna province in July and the Americans will follow suit in Najaf, the Shia holy city. Other withdrawals will quickly follow over the remainder of the year. Officials in both administrations hope that Britain's 8,000 forces in Iraq can be down...

May 30, 2006

Prayers For CBS Crew Killed, Injured In Bombing

CBS correspondent Kimberly Dozier received severe wounds and two of her crew died yesterday in a car bombing in Baghdad. The Washington Post reports that Dozier is expected to live: A car bomb explosion in central Baghdad Monday killed two CBS News crew members, an Iraqi interpreter and a U.S. soldier, and severely wounded the news team's correspondent, in one of a string of attacks that killed dozens of people in Iraq over the course of the day. Paul Douglas, a cameraman, and James Brolan, a sound man, died in the blast, CBS News said in a statement. Both men were British citizens based in London. Kimberly Dozier, an American correspondent who has covered the war in Iraq for nearly three years, was taken to a Baghdad hospital for surgery. The network said she was listed in critical condition and that doctors were "cautiously optimistic" about her prognosis. Critics of...

May 31, 2006

Pentagon Understood Haditha Contradictions, Ordered Investigation

The Haditha investigation started earlier than previously thought after a Marine Corps investigator noticed key discrepancies between the physical evidence and the reports from the Marines involved. The New York Times reveals that the Pentagon had already referred the matter to criminal investigators weeks before Time Magazine reported the alleged atrocities at the end of March, from a presentation of the allegations by the magazine: A military investigator uncovered evidence in February and March that contradicted repeated claims by marines that Iraqi civilians killed in Haditha last November were victims of a roadside bomb, according to a senior military official in Iraq. Among the pieces of evidence that conflicted with the marines' story were death certificates that showed all the Iraqi victims had gunshot wounds, mostly to the head and chest, the official said. ... When Colonel Watt described the findings to Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the senior ground commander...

June 15, 2006

Zarqawi's Thumb Drive Fingers Associates, Maliki Tries Amnesty

If al-Qaeda in Iraq reads Western news sources, and their media-savvy but tactically insane recent communications suggest they do, they may soon decide that their operation has blown its cover completely. After an AQ associate dropped a dime on Zarqawi, they now have a much larger security breach than they knew: Iraq's national security adviser said Thursday a "huge treasure" of documents and computer records was seized after the raid on terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's hideout, giving the Iraqi government the upper hand in its fight against al-Qaida in Iraq. National Security Adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie also said he believed the security situation in the country would improve enough to allow a large number of U.S.-led forces to leave Iraq by the end of this year, and a majority to depart by the end of next year. "And maybe the last soldier will leave Iraq by mid-2008," he said. Al-Rubaie...

Report Card Adds Up To A Turning Point

Once dominoes start to fall, it becomes increasingly difficult to stop their momentum. The terrorists who pledged allegiance to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi until he attained room temperature have discovered this, much to their dismay. CENTCOM spokesman General William Caldwell gives us the scorecard on the Zarqawi mission, and it looks like a rout: American and Iraqi forces have carried out 452 raids since last week's killing of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and 104 insurgents were killed during those actions, the U.S. military said Thursday. Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, said the raids were carried out nationwide and led to the discovery of 28 significant arms caches. He said 255 of the raids were joint operations, while 143 were carried out by Iraqi forces alone. The raids also resulted in the captures of 759 "anti-Iraqi elements." That result should impress even the deepest cynics. 452...

A Treasure From The Trove

Iraqi officials released a document found in the run-up to the Zarqawi mission that discussed al-Qaeda in Iraq tactics and strategy, accompanied by a gloomy prognosis for the AQI network. In the memo, the author acknowledges that the momentum had shifted to the Americans and that AQI would quickly run out of time and recruits, and proposed starting another war with America as a distraction -- preferably with Iran: A blueprint for trying to start a war between the United States and Iran was among a "huge treasure" of documents found in the hideout of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Iraqi officials said Thursday. ... While the coalition was continuing to suffer human losses, "time is now beginning to be of service to the American forces and harmful to the resistance," the document said. The document said the insurgency was being hurt by, among other things, the U.S. military's program...

June 20, 2006

Iraq Already Has A Plan For Coalition Withdrawal

Today the Senate will start debate on a non-binding resolution that will demand an end to the American presence in Iraq except for those troops engaged in training Iraqi security forces. This new proposal contains much of the same language as the amendment offered by John Kerry to the defense authorization bill that got soundly thumped last week 93-6 when offered by the GOP separately for debate, but as the newly appointed Iraqi National Security Advisor writes today in the Washington Post, the effort is completely unnecessary. First, let's take a look at the latest Democratic effort to shut down the American effort in Iraq, a silly and nonspecific proposal that inspired Senator Mitch McConnell to call it a "cut and jog": Trying to bridge party divisions on the eve of a Senate debate, leading Democrats called Monday for American troops to begin pulling out of Iraq this year. They...

Bodies Of Two Missing Soldiers Found In Iraq

The Iraqi government has found the bodies of two American soldiers reportedly captured by terrorists in Iraq last week, and the bodies show signs of torture according to the preliminary reports: The bodies of two U.S. soldiers who had been reported kidnapped have been found near the checkpoint where the men disappeared after an attack, a senior Iraqi military official said Tuesday. The U.S. military said two bodies had been found but had not yet been identified. Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, 23, of Houston and Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker, 25, of Madras, Ore., went missing Friday near the town of Youssifiyah, south of Baghdad. Spc. David J. Babineau, 25, of Springfield, Mass., was killed in the attack. ... Ahmed Khalaf Falah, a farmer who said he witnessed the attack Friday, said three Humvees were manning a checkpoint when they came under fire from many directions. Two Humvees went after the assailants,...

AQI Top 5 Terrorist Killed (Update: Confirmed, Perhaps Plus Another AQI Leader Captured)

CENTCOM announced minutes ago that one of the men expected to take the place of the now-room temperature Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has also reached thermal equilibrium near Baghdad. The spokesman for the military briefed reporters on the death of Sheikh Mansur, displaying before and after mug shots of the dead terrorist and explained his significance to the insurgent network in Iraq. So far, none of the wire services have picked up the story; I will fill in the details as they become available. UPDATE: The BBC has an addendum to the story on the discovery of the two bodies that reports up to 15 insurgents killed while hunting a "senior member of al-Qaeda in Iraq," but does not identify Sheikh Mansur despite the specifics in the briefing. UPDATE II: The Commissar asks if I may have mistranscribed the name from al-Masri or al-Mohajer. I took the name from the placard...

June 21, 2006

More On Sheikh Mansur

Yesterday I reported a breaking news item that the US had killed a Top 5 leadership figure from al-Qaeda in Iraq based on a televised briefing. Today the AP gives more background on Mansour Suleiman Mansour Khalifi al-Mashhadani: A key Al Qaeda in Iraq leader described as the group's "religious emir" was killed in a U.S. airstrike hours before two American soldiers went missing and in the same area, the military said Tuesday. Mansour Suleiman Mansour Khalifi al-Mashhadani, or Sheik Mansour, and two foreign fighters were killed as they tried to flee in a vehicle near the town of Youssifiyah, in the so-called Sunni "Triangle of Death." U.S. coalition forces had been tracking al-Mashhadani for some time, American military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said in announcing his death. He said al-Mashhadani was an Iraqi, 35 to 37 years old, and that one of the men killed with him was...

CENTCOM Confirms Second AQ Leader Captured

A new release from CENTCOM confirms that the US military captured a second high-value target three days after killing "Sheikh Mansour". Two days after the death of Mansour Suleiman Mansour Khalifi al-Mashhadani and the capture of two American servicemen later brutally butchered, American forces captured an as-yet unidentified AQI leader and three of his lieutenants: In another operation June 19 southwest of Baqouba, Coalition forces detained a senior al-Qaida in Iraq network member and three suspected terrorists during coordinated raids. The terrorist is reportedly a senior al-Qaida cell leader throughout central Iraq, north of Baghdad. He’s known to be involved in facilitating foreign terrorists throughout central Iraq, and is suspected of having ties to previous attacks on Coalition and Iraqi forces. Coalition forces secured multiple buildings and detained the known terrorist plus three suspected terrorists without incident. Troops found an AK-47 with several magazines of ammunition and destroyed them all...

Santorum: 500 Chemical-Weapons Shells Found In Iraq (Updated And Bumped)

Negroponte letter can be viewed in PDF format here. According to numerous sources but not yet on the wires, Senator Rick Santorum announced a few minutes ago that the US has found 500 chemical-weapons shells in Iraq. Hot Air has the hot link for what little data exists thus far. Apparently, some of the shells contained sarin and others mustard gas. No word has come yet on when and where the US found these munitions. I will update this as more information becomes available. UPDATE: Nothing on the wires yet at 5:10 pm CT, but let's think through what this discovery -- if it is new -- means. We have found a handful of such shells already in Iraq; I reported such a find here in November 2004. The shells had come from around the time of the first Gulf War and the contents had likely been rendered inert by...

June 22, 2006

Iraqi Police Rescue 17 Hostages

The Iraqi police, who have come under criticism from some American politicians as ineffective, today staged a successful raid that freed 17 hostages. Insurgents had kidnapped them a day earlier, part of 85 hostages taken at an Iraqi factory: Iraqi police stormed a farm north of Baghdad early Thursday and freed at least 17 people who were snatched a day earlier in a mass kidnapping of about 85 workers and family members at the end of a factory shift. ... A National Security Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters, told The Associated Press that several insurgents holding the kidnap victims were captured during the Thursday morning raid on the farm in the Mishada area, about 20 miles north of the capital. Police operations were continuing in the area, the official said, in a bid to locate the rest of...

Kurds Show Why Saddam Had To Go

While the rest of Iraq continues to show marked progress towards self-reliance and security, even in the Sunni Triangle, one portion of Iraq has already transformed itself into a remarkable area of freedom and stability. The Kurdish areas of the north have blossomed since the end of the Saddam Hussein regime, expanding their cities and rapidly modernizing through significant capital investment and reliable security. The left-wing British newspaper The Independent reports on how the Kurds have delivered on the promise of liberation: The struggle of the Iraqi Kurds for self-determination has been longer and bloodier than that of any nationalist movement outside Vietnam. It began under the British in the 1920s when "Bomber" Harris, later the commander of the air offensive against Germany, practised his art against Kurdish villages. Setting the tone for Baghdad's treatment of the Kurds over the rest of the century, he wrote with approval in 1924:...

Iraq To Offer Amnesty And American Withdrawal To Insurgents

In a development that underscores the cluelessness of the Senate debate the past two days, the Iraqi government has built an ultimatum and offer to native insurgents in Iraq that will offer amnesty for most of their actions and an American withdrawal if all insurgencies surrender themselves. The US government has helped craft the offer, which both Iraq and the US hopes will allow Iraq to reach stability quickly: THE Iraqi Government will announce a sweeping peace plan as early as Sunday in a last-ditch effort to end the Sunni insurgency that has taken the country to the brink of civil war. The 28-point package for national reconciliation will offer Iraqi resistance groups inclusion in the political process and an amnesty for their prisoners if they renounce violence and lay down their arms, The Times can reveal. The Government will promise a finite, UN-approved timeline for the withdrawal of all...

June 24, 2006

Don't Worry About That Amnesty Offer

After a day of debate over the idea of granting amnesty to native insurgents that have killed American troops, the insurgents themselves rendered the point moot. According to the Times of London, which broke the story on the Iraqi peace offer, key insurgent groups have already stated their opposition to the plan (via Newsbeat1): IRAQ’S main insurgent groups intend to reject a peace plan that Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, will present today in an attempt to halt the country’s spiral of violence. Maliki is expected to go before parliament with a 28- point plan for national reconciliation aimed at defusing the Sunni insurgency and sectarian conflict in which thousands of people have died. ... Representatives of 11 Iraqi insurgent groups told The Sunday Times yesterday that they would reject the peace offer because they did not recognise the legitimacy of the government. A senior commander authorised to speak on...

June 26, 2006

AQ Leaders Negotiated With Saddam Regime For Training

For those who keep insisting that al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein had no operational ties, the work of Ray Robison has provided explicit evidence in rebuttal. Fox News reports on the latest efforts of Robison in translating the documents captured by US forces but never translated by the CIA or Pentagon. His recent translation of a series of documents shows that AQ jihadists had negotiated with the Iraqi Intelligence Services for training facilities in Tajikistan or in Baghdad: Newly declassified documents captured by U.S. forces indicate that Saddam Hussein's inner circle not only actively reached out to the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan and terror-based jihadists in the region, but also hosted discussions with a known Al Qaeda operative about creating jihad training "centers," possibly in Baghdad. Ray Robison, a former member of the CIA-directed Iraq Survey Group (ISG), supervised a group of linguists to analyze, archive and exploit the hundreds of...

June 27, 2006

Europe To Debate Whether Iraq Can Prosecute Saddam-Regime Criminals

The European Court of Human Rights has taken it upon themselves to debate whether Iraq has any sovereignty. At least, that is the implication of their agreement to deliberate whether the Coalition should allow Iraq to try former Saddam Hussein regime figures, starting with Tariq Aziz: A lawyer for former Iraqi deputy prime minister Tareq Aziz, in US custody in Baghdad, said the European Court of Human Rights had conditionally agreed to hear a plea over fears Aziz might be handed over to the Iraqi government. Italian lawyer Giovanni Di Stefano said the court had first said it wanted to know to whom it was that Aziz had surrendered in April 2003, shortly after the fall of the former regime, by whom and where had he been held since then and at what date they proposed transferring custody. Di Stefano and fellow Italian lawyer Domenico Marinelli said in a statement...

June 28, 2006

Iraqi Insurgents Want Two-Year Withdrawal Commitment

The amnesty plan offered by Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki and President Jalal al-Talibani appears to have broken a standoff with native insurgents in Iraq. The groups have replied by demanding a commitment to a two-year withdrawal plan of foreign forces from Iraq as a condition of their surrender: Insurgents are demanding the withdrawal of all U.S. and British forces from Iraq within two years as a condition for joining reconciliation talks, a senior Iraqi government official said Wednesday. ... Iraqi government officials involved with the contacts with insurgents told The Associated Press that several militant groups sent delegates from their regions and tribes to speak on their behalf. One of the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of demands for secrecy in the talks, said the insurgents have so far rejected face-to-face talks, saying they fear being targeted by Shiite militias, Iraqi security forces and the Americans. The...

June 30, 2006

Iranian Fighters Captured In Iraq

Guess what the Iraqis and Americans found when they captured a number of Shi'ite militia fighters in Baquba? Iraqi and U.S. troops battled Shi'ite militiamen in a village northeast of Baghdad on Thursday, and witnesses and police said U.S. helicopters bombed orchards to flush out gunmen hiding there. Iraqi security officials said Iranian fighters had been captured in the fighting, in which a sniper shot dead the commander of an Iraqi quick reaction force and two of his men. They did not say how the Iranians had been identified. ... "We captured a number of militants and were surprised to see that some of them were Iranian fighters," the police intelligence captain said. An Interior Ministry official, who did not want to be named, also said Iranian gunmen had been captured. Baquba lies 90 km (60 miles) from the Iranian border. The United States and Britain have accused Shi'ite Iran...

July 2, 2006

Iraqis Put Saddam's Family On Most Wanted List

Apparently the new Iraqi government has received enough intel on insurgent financing to trace some of it back to the wife and daughter of Saddam Hussein. At a press conference, the Iraqi national security advisor unveiled their new most-wanted list, and the two women occupy slots 16 and 17: Saddam Hussein's wife and eldest daughter are among 41 people on the Iraqi government's most wanted list, along with the new leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, a top official announced Sunday. ... Al-Rubaie told reporters the government was releasing the most wanted list "so that our people can know their enemies." Saddam's wife, Sajida Khairallah Tulfah, was No. 17, just behind the ousted leader's eldest daughter, Raghad. Sajida is believed to be in Qatar, and Raghad lives in Jordan, where she was given refuge by King Abdullah II. The Jordanians deny that Raghad has participated in any actions supporting terrorists or...

July 3, 2006

Zarqawi's Little Black Book

One of the key physical devices for active intel in any terrorist takedown is the cellphone. The data we recover off of these leads us to a number of other active terrorist cells, as well as point the NSA to new potential nodes in the AQ network. CNN reports that the cell phone recovered from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's corpse gave us plenty of intel, some of it leading to key members of the new Iraqi government: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had the phone numbers of senior Iraqi officials stored in his cell phone, according to an Iraqi legislator. Waiel Abdul-Latif, a member of former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's party, said Monday that authorities found the numbers after al-Zarqawi, leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, was killed in a U.S. air strike on June 7. Abdul-Latif did not give names of the officials. But he said they included ministry employees and members...

Mobile Labs Could Not Have Produced Hydrogen As Described, Prologue

I have written several times about the issue of the mobile laboratories in Iraq and the subsequent conventional wisdom that they served as hydrogen generators for weather balloons instead of WMD production facilities. In April, I pointed out that the hydrogen theory came as a minority opinion within the CIA/DIA teams that reviewed the two labs captured by the Coalition. One month later, Joseph Shahda translated a key memo showing that the Iraqis spent $33 million on the mobile labs in September 2002, while America decided to take military action against the Iraqis, and that the same agency that controlled Iraq's WMD programs (the Military Industrialization Committee) arranged to purchase these facilities. One key point (besides the memo) that undermines the argument for a civil hydrogen production facility is the ease in which the Iraqis could already produce and store hydrogen. Oil refining creates hydrogen in fairly large quantities as...

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July 4, 2006

Mobile Labs Could Not Have Produced Hydrogen As Described, Part I

In Part I of ChemicalConsultant's analysis of the mobile weapons laboratories, he calls into question the CIA's calculations of the production capability of the facilities described. In his calculations, he posits that these mobile facilities could not have produced the hydrogen necessary for the mission the CIA claims. 1. The reaction to produce hydrogen gas from aluminum, sodium hydroxide is: 2Al(s) +2NaOH (aq) +6H2O-> 2Na+ (aq) + 2[Al(OH)4]- +3H2 (g) This means that it takes 80 grams of NaOH (molecular weight about 40) to make 6 grams of H2 (molecular weight about 2) and uses 54 grams of Al (atomic weight about 27) in the process. On a kilogram basis, 1 kg NaOH makes 6/80 = 0.075 kg or 75 g H2 and uses 54/80 = 0.675 kg or 675 g Al. My reference is www.webelements.com/webelements/elements/text/Al/chem.html. 2. According to the Fast Facts link on the website of a major hydrogen...

Iraqi Insurgents Want To Fight Foreign Terrorists

The Iraqi government will consider a request by the native insurgents negotiating for a national reconciliation to take up arms against the al-Qaeda network in Iraq. The eleven groups want the Iraqis to outfit them with weapons, claiming that they have the intel to wipe out the foreign terrorists: Iraq's government is studying a request from some local insurgent leaders to supply them with weapons so they can turn on the heavily armed foreign fighters who were once their allies, according to two Iraqi lawmakers. Leaders claiming to represent about 11 insurgent groups asked for weapons to fight foreign al-Qaeda elements in Iraq, said Haider al-Ibadi, a Shiite lawmaker and member of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa Party. "They want to take part in the war against terrorists," said al-Ibadi, who supports the proposal. "They claim they could wipe out the terrorists and work with the government." AQI seems to...

July 5, 2006

Mobile Labs Could Not Have Produced Hydrogen As Described, Part II

In Part II of ChemicalConsultant's analysis, he addresses the residue left in the mobile labs and the quality of hydrogen assumed in the CIA's explanation of the hydrogen production explanation. 5. I am surprised that both the Iraqi and “Russian” systems use an excess of aluminum instead of an excess of sodium hydroxide. Since the product sodium aluminate is soluble in water at the amount of water used (see the Handbook of Chemistry and Physics), there would be almost no residue if there were an excess of sodium hydroxide relative to aluminum. There is no explanation why so much aluminum would be used, especially when using excess sodium hydroxide would mean that the tank would only need to be washed out, instead of removing an alleged residue. Once it became apparent that the trailers were in danger of being captured, I think the Iraqis put the described residue in the...

A Brief Aside On Mobile Labs

George at Seixon has followed my posts about the mobile laboratories that the CIA and the Iraqi Survey Group now insist were designed for hydrogen production. I'll post Part III of ChemicalConsultant's critique of that analysis later tonight, but George has a few pertinent questions of his own. Besides the fact that Iraq's oil refineries could have produced all the high-quality hydrogen needed for any meteorological needs, George points out that the Iraqis had already bought several mobile production facilities abroad, and at a much lower cost: The simplest question one could have asked would be whether or not Iraq was able to easily obtain hydrogen generators rather than having to fabricate their own. Many have scoffed at this question, claiming that Iraq was so bogged down with sanctions that they probably had to make do with DIY solutions. A lazy assumption will often lead to a wrongheaded conclusion, and...

July 6, 2006

Mobile Labs Could Not Have Produced Hydrogen As Described, Part III, And Rebuttal

In the final installment of ChemicalConsultant's analysis, he addresses the engineering of the mobile labs in relation to the hydrogen production explanation, as well as the folly of using these facilities instead of simply buying trucks to transport prefilled containers of hydrogen. He also provides a rebuttal to comments made in the thread for Part I. 8. A bank of 5 Air Storage Cylinders is reported in the Major Components of the Trailers section. These serve no purpose for making hydrogen, although Annex D suggests that perhaps they were used as a source of sparging gas (see Comment and Assessment, Aeration and stirring). The investigators do point out that the sparging tube is too short to reach the alleged reaction liquid. Even if the tube were long enough, the air would dilute the hydrogen produced. Also mentioned in the Major Components section are two feed tanks. If the trailers were...

July 7, 2006

Sadr City In The Crosshairs

It looks like the Iraqis and Americans have decided to focus on one of the toughest tasks in cleaning up Baghdad: Sadr City. The Shi'ite enclave has spawned militias loosely organized around the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr, long a provocation for the majority Sunni population of greater Baghdad and a threat to the authority of the new federal government. Today Iraqi forces, backed by American support, captured two major leaders of militia efforts, including one who ran weapons from Syria: Iraqi forces backed by U.S. aircraft battled militants in a Shiite stronghold of eastern Baghdad early Friday, killing or wounding more than 30 fighters and capturing an extremist leader who was the target of the raid, Iraqi and U.S. officials said. In another operation, Iraqi troops backed by U.S. soldiers arrested a top regional commander of a Shiite militia near Hillah, a U.S. statement said. The moves appeared part...

Sadr City In The Crosshairs

It looks like the Iraqis and Americans have decided to focus on one of the toughest tasks in cleaning up Baghdad: Sadr City. The Shi'ite enclave has spawned militias loosely organized around the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr, long a provocation for the majority Sunni population of greater Baghdad and a threat to the authority of the new federal government. Today Iraqi forces, backed by American support, captured two major leaders of militia efforts, including one who ran weapons from Syria: Iraqi forces backed by U.S. aircraft battled militants in a Shiite stronghold of eastern Baghdad early Friday, killing or wounding more than 30 fighters and capturing an extremist leader who was the target of the raid, Iraqi and U.S. officials said. In another operation, Iraqi troops backed by U.S. soldiers arrested a top regional commander of a Shiite militia near Hillah, a U.S. statement said. The moves appeared part...

Dr. Germ Analyzes Aircraft BW Attack Requirements In 2002

For those who continue to reject evidence of Saddam Hussein's pursuit of WMD programs, the document released yesterday by the FMSO DocEx project makes it a much more difficult proposition. Document CMPC-2003-004346 reveals that Dr. Rehab Rasheed Taha, otherwise known as Dr. Germ, prepared an analysis in 2002 of how to spread biological weapons material using an aircraft as the medium, and how far they had advanced on the application: In the name of God, most Merciful, most Compassionate THE BIOLOGICAL COMMITTEE DECISION An appendage to the Biological Committee Decision, on 10 March 2002, subsequent to the biological activity combined list review, that was received after the delegate’s return from Moscow, and in reference to the concluded meeting convened on 10 April 2002, [when] the (GRL) draft list study was completed. – The Biological Section is evaluating what is shown in the third revised attachment for the continuous observation and...

July 10, 2006

Know Our Enemies

Rusty at My Pet Jawa has the latest in al-Qaeda PR -- a video of the two American soldiers captured and murdered by terrorist thugs in Iraq. Kristian Menchaca and Thomas Tucker fell victim to a sophisticated ambush by AQ operatives, and the Mujahedin Shura Council/AQI organization released the extremely graphic video that starts with Osama bin Laden's picture and shifts to a long overview of their desecrated bodies. The terrorists decaptitated one, and both show obvious signs of torture and mutilation. CQ readers should conisder whether to follow the link. In truth, I hesitated to do so earlier when I saw the post at Hot Air. In the end, I decided to watch the video as well as see the photographs, because I believe that we need to see who our enemies are in this war. We have shaded our eyes after 9/11 and even before that, allowing network...

July 13, 2006

Iraq Takes Over In Muthanna

The Iraqi government has taken over security responsibilities for the province of Muthanna, the first transition for the eventual handover of all security to the Iraqis. CENTCOM posts the announcement from Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and General George Casey: Iraq witnessed a historic event today with the transfer of security responsibility in Muthanna Province from the Multi-National Force - Iraq (MNF-I) to the Provincial Governor and civilian-controlled Iraqi Security Forces. The handover represents a milestone in the successful development of Iraq’s capability to govern and protect itself as a sovereign and democratic nation. Muthanna is the first of Iraq’s 18 provinces to be designated for such a transition. As Prime Minister Maliki announced on June 19, 2006, the joint decision between the Iraqi government and MNF-I to hand over security responsibility is the result of Muthanna’s demonstrated abilities to take the lead in managing its own security and governance duties at...

July 15, 2006

Sadr Itching To Join Hezbollah

Moqtada al-Sadr, otherwise known as the man who brought a knife to a gunfight -- twice -- now wants to put his military genius to work on behalf of Hezbollah. Sadr threatened that his Mahdi Army would not sit on the sidelines while the Zionists attacked Islamists in Lebanon: The radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr said Friday that Iraqis would not “sit by with folded hands” while Israel struck at Lebanon, signaling a possible increase in attacks from his mercurial militia, the Mahdi Army. In a written statement, Mr. Sadr also said that he considered the United States culpable in the conflict unfolding in Lebanon, since America was the largest foreign ally of Israel. ... It is no surprise that Mr. Sadr should rise to Lebanon’s defense. Since 2004, he has transformed his organization into one similar to Hezbollah, the militant Shiite faction there. From its ragtag beginnings, Mr. Sadr’s...

July 16, 2006

ChemicalConsultant's Answers

CQ's correspondent on the mobile laboratories, ChemicalConsultant, has sent a reply to the questions and the criticisms that he received on the earlier thread. That debate was one of the most intriguing we have had on CQ, and revealed a few of our regulars as having expertise in chemistry. i closed the earlier thread because it had dwindled down to a back-and-forth volley between two readers, but the debate remains as interesting as ever. ChemicalConsultant has a fairly technical argument, and it's above my pay grade, although my son would probably be able to make more sense of it. I'd love to get more of the scientific input that we saw in our earlier thread and put aside the more political aspects. RESPONSE ON ALUMINUM –NaOH CHEMISTRY In case the commenters on the Mobile Labs, etc, thread wondered what happened to ChemicalConsultant, well, I’m back. Part of my absence was...

July 17, 2006

America's Stock Rises Among The Sunni -- As They See The Alternative

The New York Times reports on an interesting development among the Sunni in Iraq, who had bitterly opposed the American presence in their country. They have discovered mathematics and demographics -- and realized that the Shi'a outnumber them almost 3-1. This epiphany has led to a growing sentiment among the former ruling class of Iraq that the Americans may be the only thing standing between them and oblivion: As sectarian violence soars, many Sunni Arab political and religious leaders once staunchly opposed to the American presence here are now saying they need American troops to protect them from the rampages of Shiite militias and Shiite-run government forces. The pleas from the Sunni Arab leaders have been growing in intensity since an eruption of sectarian bloodletting in February, but they have reached a new pitch in recent days as Shiite militiamen have brazenly shot dead groups of Sunni civilians in broad...

July 18, 2006

Now If Turkey Had Allowed Transit For The 4-ID

Turkey has objected to a warning given by the United States against cross-border action against the Kurdish terrorist group PKK, claiming a double standard for Turkey as opposed to Israel. The PKK have committed raids into Turkish territory, killing 15 Turkish security troops, and Istanbul wants to conduct a military operation -- much like Israel has done with Hezbollah in Lebanon: "We have repeatedly said that we believe that unilateral military action across the border with Iraq would be unwise," the US amabassador to Turkey, Ross Wilson, said in an interview with the NTV news channel. He was speaking after Ankara on Monday urged Washington and Baghdad to act against the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), whose militants have enjoyed safe haven in the mountains of northern Iraq, signalling that it is ready to take cross-border action if they fail to do so. ... Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan quickly...

August 12, 2006

New Security Plan Gets First Big Win

American troops captured 60 suspect al-Qaeda terrorists in Baghdad today in the first big test of the new security plan for the Iraqi capital. The cell specialized in bomb-making and had planned attacks in the near future, according to CENTCOM: A statement by the U.S. military said the arrests in Baghdad were made Friday in Arab Jabour, a southern neighborhood of the capital and a stronghold of Sunni insurgents. The 60 detained men are believed associated with a senior Iraqi al-Qaida leader in a cell that "specializes in bomb making," the statement said. "The group has been reported to be planning and conducting training for future attacks," it said. "Multiple forms of credible intelligence led the assault force to the location, later determined to be a funeral gathering, where the suspects were detained." Women and children at the funeral were separated from the men and the arrests were made without...

August 16, 2006

Needed: A Commitment To Win

The death toll in Iraq continues to rise, as civilian deaths hit a new high in July, mostly in Baghdad and the Sunni triangle. By any measure, the war in Iraq has shifted dangerously, and the strategies employed to this point have failed to bring security to Iraq's capital: July appears to have been the deadliest month of the war for Iraqi civilians, according to figures from the Health Ministry and the Baghdad morgue, reinforcing criticism that the Baghdad security plan started in June by the new government has failed. An average of more than 110 Iraqis were killed each day in July, according to the figures. The total number of civilian deaths that month, 3,438, is a 9 percent increase over the tally in June and nearly double the toll in January. The rising numbers suggested that sectarian violence is spiraling out of control, and seemed to bolster an...

August 22, 2006

Iraqis Keep Reporting For Duty

A week ago, I wrote that the United States needed a commitment to win in Iraq, rather than playing not to lose, or we should get out of the country. Rick Moran said much the same thing in his essay from yesterday. However, the Iraqis still show that they have committed to self-government and the rule of law, even in the difficult province of Anbar: More than 500 Iraqi men have joined the police in restive Anbar province — a focal point of the Sunni Arab insurgency — in the most successful recruiting drive in the region by U.S. and Iraqi forces, the U.S. military said Tuesday. ... U.S. Marines screened thousands of applicants earlier this month in various regions along the western Euphrates River valley before shortlisting the recruits for the Anbar police force, said a statement by the U.S. command. Most American deaths this month have been in...

New Security Plan Working?

After seeing violence in Baghdad and its environs escalate constantly during the first half of the year, the Bush administration and the Maliki government in Iraq scrambled to find a better security plan. Although not too many news outlets have reported this, the new plan appears to have had an effect (via Big Lizards): Violence in Baghdad has declined in the past two weeks and all but ended in some formerly deadly neighborhoods, the U.S. military said in a cautiously upbeat report on Tuesday on a major security clampdown in the city. ... Twenty-two raids in the past week against such groups in the capital had led to 37 arrests, Major General William Caldwell told a news conference. He presented statistics showing a 16 percent drop in the daily average of attacks in Baghdad since August 7, at 21 compared to 25 in the preceding two months. "What we have...

Sanctions Next

Iran didn't bring the world to an end on August 22nd, but they may have ended hopes of resolving the nuclear crisis without an escalating series of adversarial actions. To no one's surprise, Iran rejected the requirement of uranium-enrichment suspension, instead offering a counterproposal to the incentive package backed by the West: IRAN yesterday turned its back on an international package of incentives designed to stop it developing a nuclear bomb, paving the way for possible United Nations sanctions against Tehran. Iran hand-delivered a 20-page document offering a “new formula” to resolve the nuclear stand-off to Tehran-based ambassadors from Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and Switzerland, which was representing the United States. ... Ali Larijani, the country’s top nuclear negotiator, said that the Islamic Government was ready for “serious negotiations”, state television reported. “Although there is no legal justification for the Security Council’s illegal action, based on [UN Secretary-General] Kofi...

August 25, 2006

My Dinner With Andre The Terrorist

The Washington Post's Ellen Knickmeyer reports on the Mahdi Army and the Shi'ite death squads that have turned Baghdad into a sectarian gangland. While Knickmeyer's courage cannot be questioned, her report only echoes what we already know -- that death squads kill without compunction or even the barest excuse of justice, and that stopping them has to be the highest priority for American and Iraqi security forces in the capital: In a grungy restaurant with plastic tables in central Baghdad, the young Mahdi Army commander was staring earnestly. His beard was closely cropped around his jaw, his face otherwise cleanshaven. The sleeves of his yellow shirt were rolled down to the wrists despite the intense late-afternoon heat. He spoke matter-of-factly: Sunni Arab fighters suspected of attacking Shiite Muslims had no claim to mercy, no need of a trial. "These cases do not need to go back to the religious courts,"...

August 28, 2006

Iraqi PM: Iraq Will Never Have Civil War

Nouri al-Maliki told CNN last night that Iraq would never fall into civil war despite the sectarian violence currently plaguing the capital. He also predicted that Coalition troops could start significant drawdowns within months as Iraqi forces take control of more provinces: On a day in which at least 46 people were killed, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said he did not foresee a civil war in Iraq and that violence in his country was abating. "In Iraq, we'll never be in civil war," al-Maliki told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer." ... Asked when coalition troops might leave, the Iraqi leader was equivocal. "It could be a year or less, or a few months," he said. "This has to do with the -- with our success of the democratic -- or the political process in Iraq, and to have the security agencies to protect this process." Maliki has to...

September 3, 2006

AQ #2 In Iraq Busted

Iraqi forces working independently captured al-Qaeda in Iraq's second in command this week, the Iraqi national-security minister announced this morning. Hamed Jumaa Faris Juri al-Saaydi and twenty of his closest friends found themselves in custody after a raid in Baqubah: "We now think al-Qaeda in Iraq is suffering a great deal and disintegrating," [Mowaffak al-] Rubaie said in a news conference at the U.S.-controlled Green Zone that was broadcast live across the Middle East. "The al-Qaeda organization is suffering from a leadership crisis." Saaydi, also known as Abu Humam or Abu Rana, ordered the February attack on the golden-domed Shiite shrine in Samara that ignited the ongoing ferocious wave of sectarian killings, Rubaie said. He accused Saaydi of trying to spark a civil war between Iraq's Sunnis and Shiite Muslims. Rubaie said Iraqi forces had been tracking Saaydi's movements since the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the No. 1 leader...

September 9, 2006

Phase II Report: Saddam Retained Banned Missiles, Biological Stocks

Thanks to the genius of CQ reader Harrison Colter, I now have searchable PDFs of the Phase II reports. The new copies have already paid dividends. In the overall report on pre-war intel accuracy, two of the conclusions of the report seem to have gotten lost in the mainstream media coverage. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has concluded that Saddam Hussein maintained his stocks of biological material intended to create weapons as well as missiles banned by the cease-fire in 1991. In fact, as the report states, Saddam never accepted the missile-range restrictions and intentionally developed missiles to violate them. These conclusions, numbers 4 and 8, appear on pages 54 through 58: Although Iraq no longer had a large scale BW production capability after 1996, Iraq did retain an inherent dual-use BW capability. Iraq retained technical B W know-how through scientists who were involved in the pre- 199 1...

Searchable Phase II Reports

Earlier, I noted that CQ reader Harrison Colter provided me with searchable versions of the Phase II documents released by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence yesterday. I'm now hosting these documents for others to use as reference: Phase II - Overall Accuracy Phase II - Iraqi National Congress intelligence Hopefully this will make it easier for all of us to peruse the actual data, rather than relying on the politically-charged conclusions from all sides....

September 10, 2006

The Disingenuousness Of Jay Rockefeller

Senator Jay Rockefeller has provided one of the loudest voices decrying the Bush administration after the release of the Phase II reports this week, but last night's headline is simply jaw-dropping. Claiming that the White House "duped" America regarding Iraq and its ties to terrorism, he now says that the US and the Iraqis would have been better off with Saddam still in charge (via AJ Strata): "The absolute cynical manipulation, deliberately cynical manipulation, to shape American public opinion and 69 percent of the people, at that time, it worked, they said 'we want to go to war,'" Rockefeller told CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson. "Including me. The difference is after I began to learn about some of that intelligence I went down to the Senate floor and I said 'my vote was wrong.'" Rockefeller went a step further. He says the world would be better off today if the...

September 11, 2006

Forum On Iraq Tonight At Macalester College

As I announced last week, I have been invited to a panel discussion at Macalester College in Saint Paul this evening on the Iraq war. The debate is sponsored by Democracy for America, which has invited three other speakers to debate the war. The speakers include Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, Univ. of St. Thomas Peace and Justice Studies professor; Phil Steger, Friends for a Nonviolent World director; and Lou Ellingson, Swift Boat retired Navy captain and small business owner. It's my understanding that all three will speak in opposition to the war. I felt that I owed some effort to defend the positions I've taken in a public forum, even one that has the potential to be as hostile as this might be. The people at DFA have been great, very encouraging and very polite, and I'm working from the assumption that the evening will feature sharp but polite disagreement on policy...

Iraq War Forum: Opening Remarks

As I announced earlier, I will take part in a Macalester College forum on the Iraq War this evening. I'm posting my opening remarks to the forum so that CQ readers who could not attend can read my speech and my arguments. I hope they inspire a healthy and rational debate here in the comments section. I'll let you know if they did the same at the forum. The War In Iraq Good evening, and thank you for your hospitality. A few weeks ago, Grace Kelley e-mailed me asking if I knew anyone in the area that would defend the decision to invade Iraq for tonight’s forum. I think I surprised Grace when I volunteered to do it myself. She had been unable to get anyone to commit to speaking in this forum, and while I do not know the individual circumstances of those she approached before, I do know...

The Return From The Lion's Den

I had to laugh this afternoon after I received an e-mail from my mother, who occasionally posts here as Vayapaso, regarding my appearance at Macalester College for the forum on Iraq. She said, "You're walking into a den of lions tonight," and from the comments, she wasn't alone in that observation. I'm glad to report back that no one got devoured tonight and that the evening went very well indeed. As most people guessed, the audience and the panel were (for the most part) highly opposed to my point of view. However, they all treated me rather graciously, even if they did not agree with me on almost anything I said -- save for my remarks about democracy, at least as it applied in the United States. I won't get into the nitty-gritty of the debating positions. I don't think they would be surprising on either side to CQ readers,...

September 13, 2006

Sistani Kills Federalism Plan

In a move that belies earlier reports that Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani had withdrawn from Iraqi politics, the widely respected Shi'ite imam scotched a plan by Shi'ite political groups to transform Iraq into a loosely-knit federation of three autonomous states. The Shi'ite-controlled legislature will table the proposal indefinitely, and the third-ranking official in the government pronounced the plan dead: The speaker of the Iraqi parliament said Tuesday that a controversial plan to partition the country into three autonomous regions is politically dead. Mahmoud al-Mashhadani said in an interview that legislation to implement a concept known as federalism, which threatened to collapse the country's fragile multi-sect government, would likely be postponed indefinitely after a meeting of political leaders on Wednesday. The federalism plan would create a Shiite region in southern Iraq much like the autonomous zone in the north controlled by the Kurds. Sunnis have generally opposed the plan, on grounds...

September 18, 2006

Would More Troops In Anbar Help?

The New York Times takes a look at a question that has plagued the Iraq mission from the beginning, and which continues to stir debate to this day. With the latest alarming reports coming out of Anbar, Thom Shanker asks whether more troops would improve the situation -- and gets a mixed response: IN the lawless villages and empty deserts of Anbar Province, the Sunni heartland that provides safe haven for indigenous insurgents and foreign terrorists, what could an American commander do if more troops showed up? This tantalizing “what if?” is being debated with renewed intensity after it was revealed last week that a Marine Corps intelligence assessment said Anbar’s dire security situation could be improved only by injecting more economic aid and a division’s worth of troops to reinforce the current 30,000-strong coalition contingent. ... The answer is, they would help, in the short term. But many military...

September 21, 2006

CNN Found Saddam-AQ Connection In 1999

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence appears to have missed some intel in their evaluation that no ties existed between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda or Osama bin Laden. Perhaps they can be forgiven for missing information produced by another organization outside of the American intel community -- but one would think that at least one member of the committee watched CNN in 1999 (via CQ reader Stoo Pid): Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has offered asylum to bin Laden, who openly supports Iraq against the Western powers. Despite repeated demands from Washington, the Taliban refused to hand over bin Laden after the August 7 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, demanding proof of his involvement in terrorist activities. However, in recent weeks, both the United States and Britain have renewed their pressure on the Taliban to expel bin Laden. It's an interesting article, one that has drawn a...

September 24, 2006

Iraq As Switzerland?

Sunni legislators in Iraq's National Assembly have agreed to allow debate on a proposal to restructure Iraq into three semi-autonomous cantons along federalist principles, a proposal that they have opposed since the formation of the new republic in 2003. The other factions agreed to set up a constitutional amendment committee in order to get the Sunnis to retreat on federalism: Iraq's fractious ethnic and religious parliamentary groups agreed Sunday to open debate on a contentious Shiite-proposed draft legislation that will allow the creation of federal regions in Iraq, politicians said. ... The deal opens the way for Iraq's Shiites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds to move ahead politically and break a two-week political deadlock that threatened to further sour relations between the communities. If left unresolved, the deadlock could have further shaken Iraq's fragile democracy and led to more sectarian violence. The federalism bill calls for setting up a system to...

NIE: Ending 12-Year Iraqi Quagmire Made Terrorism Worse

The new National Intelligence Estimate will report that the Iraq War has amplified Islamist movements and created a new generation of jihadists, according to the New York Times, which saw an advance copy of the summary and spoke to several sources involved in its creation. (The Washington Post also reports on it here.) Mark Mazetti explains how the various intelligence agencies have concluded that our efforts to topple Saddam have inspired even more radicalism, but strangely absent from this report is how Islamist expansion managed to exponentially grow in the twelve years that we attempted to resolve the Iraq quagmire peacefully: A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks. The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a...

September 26, 2006

Brits Take Out Osama Protege

Omar al-Farouq had quite an adventurous career as an al-Qaeda terrorist. He had joined AQ in the heady days of the early 1990s, training in Aghanistan and eventually rising in the organization until Osama bin Laden handpicked him to run the AQ network in Southeast Asia. Captured by the Americans in 2002, he escaped last year and fulfilled American expectations by running to Iraq. The adventure came to an end yesterday in Basra: BRITISH troops shot dead one of al-Qaeda’s most elusive fugitives yesterday after his extraordinary flight from a US prison in Afghanistan to a luxury villa in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. Omar al-Farouk, 35, was handpicked by Osama bin Laden to run al-Qaeda’s network in South-East Asia and was captured in June 2002, weeks before he allegedly planned to bomb eight American embassies across the region. The Kuwaiti-born terror suspect was groomed at an Afghan camp...

September 28, 2006

As A General, He Makes A Passable Cleric

Moqtada al-Sadr has never shown himself to be much of a military genius. One of his first forays into the war in Iraq got scathing reviews from John Burns in April 2004, who got an unplanned visit with his forces. Now Sabrina Tavernise reports for the New York Times that Sadr has lost command over a significant portion of his Mahdi Army and can no longer impose his discipline on it: The radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr has lost control of portions of his Mahdi Army militia that are splintering off into freelance death squads and criminal gangs, a senior coalition intelligence official said Wednesday. The question of how tightly Mr. Sadr holds the militia, one of the largest armed groups in Iraq, is of critical importance to American and Iraqi officials. Seeking to ease the sectarian violence raging across the country, they have pressed him to join the political...

Join The Jihad, Take The Dirt Nap

The leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, released an audiotape that tries to recruit more radical Muslims to the Iraqi jihad. In doing so, Zarqawi's replacement shows why the US considers Iraq a central ground for the war on terror and how effective our effort there has been against the terrorists. Unbidden and apparently thinking it an attraction, Masri told his followers that the US-led Coalition has killed over 4,000 terrorists in Iraq: Al-Qaida in Iraq's leader, in a chilling audiotape released Thursday, called for nuclear scientists to join his group's holy war and urged insurgents to kidnap Westerners so they could be traded for a blind Egyptian sheik who is serving a life sentence in a U.S. prison. The fugitive terror chief said experts in the fields of "chemistry, physics, electronics, media and all other sciences — especially nuclear scientists and explosives experts" should join his group's...

October 1, 2006

Turkey Warns Iraqi Kurds On Terrorism

Newsweek's Lally Weymouth conducts an intriguing interview with Abdullah Gul, Turkey's foreign minister, in which he warns Iraq and the US to curb Kurdish terrorists -- or Turkey will do it themselves. Gul has plenty to say on Iraq's internal security troubles, and issues a warning to America about withdrawing from Iraq: Q. So, would Turkey invade northern Iraq to bring the PKK under control? A. We will do whatever is necessary to fight this organization. I want to give the message that if our friends don't help us, we will do the job ourselves. ... Q. In the United States many people believe the time has come to withdraw. A. How can you leave a vacuum over there? Then, what will happen? All the neighbors of Iraq and the U.S. should work hand in hand with the Iraqi government and the different tribes in Iraq to bring stability. I...

October 3, 2006

How The Geneva Convention Protects Western Troops

A coroner's inquest in the UK concluded that two British soldiers, captured by Iraqis in March 2003, were executed by Saddam's officers after a few hours of torture. The finding confirms accusations made by Tony Blair during the operation: IRAQI officers loyal to Saddam Hussain filmed their cold-blooded murder of two British bomb disposal officers who were captured after a roadside ambush. An inquest was told that Staff Sergeant Simon Cullingworth, 36, and Sapper Luke Allsopp, 24, thought that they were being taken to hospital for treatment, but instead they were moved to a compound run by Saddam’s military intelligence. The harrowing ordeal lasted for hours until Iraqi agents killed the pair. The soldiers were buried in a shallow grave. The Geneva Conventions do not appear to have helped Allsopp and Cullingworth. Iraq entered into the covenant in 1956, and so operated under its strictures, at least in theory. Neither...

October 5, 2006

Iraqi Tribes Get Enthusiastic About Counterterrorism

When Nouri al-Maliki negotiated a deal with tribal leaders in Anbar to fight terrorists, some wondered whether the tribes would follow through on their pledges. That question appears answered, according to the LA Times, which reports that they have responded with surprising enthusiasm to the government's call for assistance: U.S. officials say the decision of some tribal leaders to begin going after insurgents reflects growing public anger over attacks that have killed or injured more than 8,000 Iraqis, according to local government figures. They also say there has been growing alarm on the part of some tribal leaders over insurgents' demands for adherence to strict Islamic law. U.S. military leaders say that alarm has inspired a sense of partnership that didn't exist earlier. "It's only frankly been the last six months that they've recognized two things: One, they can't do it themselves, and two … they had much more in...

October 9, 2006

Will Baker Bring Back Federalism For Iraq?

Both the New York Times and the London Times indulged in a little speculation about the advice James Baker will give the White House after his Iraq Study Group concludes its research into war policy. The NYT focuses more on the open nature of the inquiry, while the British newspaper believes a decision has already been made: James A. Baker III , the Republican co-chairman of a bipartisan commission assessing Iraq strategy for President Bush, said today that he expected the group to depart from Mr. Bush’s call to “stay the course.” In an interview on the ABC News program “This Week,” Mr. Baker said, “I think it’s fair to say our commission believes that there are alternatives between the stated alternatives, the ones that are out there in the political debate, of ‘stay the course’ and ‘cut and run.’ ” Mr. Baker, who served Mr. Bush’s father as secretary...

October 23, 2006

Iraq: Don't Panic

The elected government in Iraq has hit the road, trying to keep its Western allies from panicking and retreating in reaction to a spike in violence over the past month. Deputy PM Barham Salih met with British ministers in an attempt to shore up Coalition resolve: Salih, in London for talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and other British ministers, made clear his anxiety about the change in tone in London and Washington, where senior figures are questioning whether the current strategy in Iraq is viable. "I'm obviously concerned about the debate both in the U.S. and Europe, I have to say, because there is too much of a pessimistic tone to this debate -- even I would say in certain circles a defeatist tone," he told BBC radio. "We need to be realist but not defeatist. We need to understand that there is a need of utmost urgency...

November 3, 2006

A Chat About Iraq

CQ reader Roger B says that the New York Times headline on its November surprise should really read, "BUSH DIDN'T LIE: Keller, Kerry, Moore, Dean Resign." I've bumped my post to just below this one so that readers can consider the effect that the revelation of the UN's inspector assessment of Saddam's nuclear program will have on the Iraq debate. Speaking of debate, I joined Nick Gillespie of Reason Magazine and its Hit & Run blog and Judd Legum of Think Progress for a chat on that very topic last night, pre-NYT: asap: All right ... we're talking Iraq tonight. Apparently just like everyone else. asap: Should a timeline be set for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, or should withdrawal be contingent on the accomplishment of certain specified goals? Edward Morrissey: Withdrawal means one of two things: the mission is over and it was accomplished, or the mission...

November 4, 2006

Gold Star Families Travel To Iraq In Support Of The Mission

The group Move America Forward sponsored a visit to Iraq by families of servicemen who lost their lives during the war there as a demonstration of support for the mission. Twelve parents traveled through Iraq in an effort to bolster support for the war: To demonstrate their contention that things are better in Iraq than what has been portrayed in many news accounts, the delegation is intentionally traveling to Iraqi provinces that have largely been free of the violence that has erupted in Baghdad and the surrounding Sunni triangle. “Shouldn’t the American people be told about the good things happening in Iraq? Isn’t it legitimate news for example to be told of the success enjoyed by the people of northern Iraq who have established democratic institutions in communities that are almost entirely free of violence?” Morgan asked. The group includes seven Gold Star Family members including Joseph Williams (his son...

November 6, 2006

Troops Speak Out Against Withdrawal

We have heard a lot from the Democrats in this election season about supporting the troops by withdrawing them from Iraq. Terms like "phased redeployment" and "event horizon" have been thrown around by critics of the war. However, the people that will have to execute those maneuvers do not have much enthusiasm for them, the Washington Post reports: For the U.S. troops fighting in Iraq, the war is alternately violent and hopeful, sometimes very hot and sometimes very cold. It is dusty and muddy, calm and chaotic, deafeningly loud and eerily quiet. The one thing the war is not, however, is finished, dozens of soldiers across the country said in interviews. And leaving Iraq now would have devastating consequences, they said. With a potentially historic U.S. midterm election on Tuesday and the war in Iraq a major issue at the polls, many soldiers said the United States should not abandon...

November 10, 2006

Not Going To Bite

My good friend John Hinderaker links to a CBS report about the latest entertainment coming from al-Qaeda this evening, as do some of our mutual friends in the conservative blogosphere, that hails the Democratic midterm victory as a "reasonable" move. Abu Hamza al-Muhajir had plenty to say in the new videotape released from an undisclosed location in Iraq, but the wonder is that anyone pays any attention to it. Here's the portion in question: The terror group also welcomed the U.S. Republican electoral defeat that led to the departure of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and vowed to continue its fight until the White House is blown up. In the tape, al-Muhajir praised the outcome of Tuesday's elections in which Democrats swept to power in the House and the Senate, in large part due to U.S. voter dissatisfaction over the handling of the war in Iraq. "The American people have...

November 11, 2006

Still Not Biting

Yesterday, I responded to John at Power Line about holding Democrats accountable for terrorist propaganda statements of delight at the midterm elections. In an update, after kindly linking back to me, John asks this question: But isn't a reasonable starting point for that engagement the fact that the terrorists are delighted that the Dems have won, and are convinced that the Dems' policies, as the terrorists understand them, will benefit the jihadis? Don't the Democrats have some obligation to face up to the fact that the prospect of our disengagement from Iraq--and if that isn't their "new direction," then what in God's name is?--is viewed with glee by the enemy? My response is lengthy again, so I decided to make it a separate post. This is one point where John and I differ. I don't take Abu Hamza at his word, nor Zarqawi before him. Al-Qaeda has made plenty of...

November 15, 2006

And Now It Seems Withdrawal Is ... Bad

After leading the charge to retreat from Iraq and declare victory with our backup lights lit, the New York Times now discovers that most military experts -- including critics of the Busg administration's handling of post-war Iraq -- believe a drawdown will touch off a civil war, not avoid one. While Carl Levin and Jack Reed try to fine-tune a Senate resolution so that retreat doesn't sound like retreat, Anthony Zinni and John Batiste point out that lowering the security forces in Baghdad will make violence increase, not decrease: One of the most resonant arguments in the debate over Iraq holds that the United States can move forward by pulling its troops back, as part of a phased withdrawal. If American troops begin to leave and the remaining forces assume a more limited role, the argument holds, it will galvanize the Iraqi government to assume more responsibility for securing and...

November 16, 2006

The Final Push?

Fresh on the heels of the New York Times interviews with retired generals opposing the cut-amd-run/phased deployment strategies of the Democrats, the Guardian (UK) reports that the White House will propose a concentrated effort to stamp out the sectarian violence in Baghdad. The new plan calls for an additional 20,000 American troops for the Iraqi capital and a renewed mandate for aggressive action against the militias and death squads: President George Bush has told senior advisers that the US and its allies must make "a last big push" to win the war in Iraq and that instead of beginning a troop withdrawal next year, he may increase US forces by up to 20,000 soldiers, according to sources familiar with the administration's internal deliberations. ... Point one of the strategy calls for an increase rather than a decrease in overall US force levels inside Iraq, possibly by as many as 20,000...

November 26, 2006

Guess Who Financed The Insurgencies?

The New York Times reports on the financial underpinnings of the insurgencies in Iraq, showing that they have developed well-oiled mechanisms for generating millions in funding for their operations. A significant portion of those funds come from their abduction industry, and the major donors to that program have been France and Italy: The insurgency in Iraq is now self-sustaining financially, raising tens of millions of dollars a year from oil smuggling, kidnapping, counterfeiting, connivance by corrupt Islamic charities and other crimes that the Iraqi government and its American patrons have been largely unable to prevent, a classified United States government report has concluded. The report, obtained by The New York Times, estimates that groups responsible for many insurgent and terrorist attacks are raising $70 million to $200 million a year from illegal activities. It says $25 million to $100 million of that comes from oil smuggling and other criminal activity...

November 30, 2006

A Strange Consensus On Iraq

The James Baker-led Iraq Study Group has found consensus around a set of policy goals, and in the best traditions of Washington DC, they have decided to leak it to the press a week prior to releasing it officially. A review of this consensus in the New York Times proves that when a group of politicians gather on any sticky policy issue, we can expect them to act like ... politicians: The bipartisan Iraq Study Group reached a consensus on Wednesday on a final report that will call for a gradual pullback of the 15 American combat brigades now in Iraq but stop short of setting a firm timetable for their withdrawal, according to people familiar with the panel’s deliberations. The report, unanimously approved by the 10-member panel, led by James A. Baker III and Lee H. Hamilton, is to be delivered to President Bush next week. It is a...

December 4, 2006

Momentum For More Troops Building

Over the last few weeks, a momentum appears to have built for the deployment of more troops to Iraq within the White House, rather than beginning a withdrawal from the country and its efforts to provide security for itself. The departure of Donald Rumsfeld and the nomination of Robert Gates, a member of the Iraq Study Group that is expected to recommend a slow retreat, supposedly signaled an exit for George Bush. Instead, as the Wall Street Journal reports, it may have freed him to try one big push to secure Baghdad: Outside the military, most of the debate is focused on a U.S. troop withdrawal. But inside the Pentagon, the recent dismissal of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has given some new life to arguments by military officers who say the U.S. must pour more troops and money into the country to expand the Iraqi army -- the one institution...

December 6, 2006

These Are The Realists?

The Iraq Study Group released its long-awaited report today, and while it has some important information on the current state of our operation in Iraq, its recommendations descend from some strange Utopian vision of peace and brotherhood that only exists in the fevered imagination of the so-called realists. The ISG calls for a "support group" of nations surrounding Iraq and relies on their supposed self-interest in a stable and functional Iraq: RECOMMENDATION 3: As a complement to the diplomatic offensive, and in addition to the Support Group discussed below, the United States and the Iraqi government should support the holding of a conference or meeting in Baghdad of the Organization of the Islamic Conference or the Arab League both to assist the Iraqi government in promoting national reconciliation in Iraq and to reestablish their diplomatic presence in Iraq. ... The Support Group would not seek to impose obligations or undertakings...

It's Still Bad, Especially For Israel

I've had more of a chance to look through the ISG report ... and it really doesn't get any better. The fundamental problem with the ISG is to misunderstand the entire war on terror. When we invaded Afghanistan, we did it because it sheltered and promoted terrorism, specifically the terrorists that had killed almost 3,000 Americans on 9/11. Iran and Syria do the same; they shelter and promote the terrorists that have killed American troops in Iraq as well as our allies in Israel. Syria allows them to cross their border with Iraq at will to organize, train, and hide, and Iran provides them with weapons. What the Baker/Hamilton group proposes is nothing less than an endorsement of their tactics. By going to Teheran and Damascus to ask for their assistance, we will have proven that their terrorism and interference pays dividends -- or did the ISG believe that they...

December 7, 2006

The Consequences Of Withdrawal

The Times of London spells out the consequences of an American withdrawal on the many Iraqis who trusted us to see the mission through to completion. Speaking to several Iraqi Army non-commissioned officers, Ned Parker reports that several of them plan to flee their native land if the Americans pull out: The Iraqi sergeant has dodged bullets from the al-Mahdi Army and traded fire with Sunni insurgents. Yet in his years with the Iraqi Army he has learnt one simple lesson: once the US military pulls back in Iraq, he should leave the country if he wants to survive. “As soon as it happens, I will quit my job and live outside Iraq,” the sergeant told The Times. “We need to give the Americans back all the authority over the Iraqi Army like before.” Concerns abound that Iraq’s Defence Ministry is being manipulated to serve the interests of powerful Sunni...

Giuliani, McCain Reject Israel-Iraq Linkage

At least two presidential aspiranta have publicly opposed the Iraq Study Group and its linkage of the situation in Iraq with the Palestinian conflict. Rudy Giuliani called some of the ISG's recommendations "useful", but told Dennis Prager that leaving Iraq would be a "terrible mistake", while John McCain scotched the notion of a regional conference dominated by two terror-supporting states: "The idea of leaving Iraq, I think, is a terrible mistake," the former mayor said. The group's report, however, stresses that America should not make an "open-ended" commitment of troops and links the presence of troops to milestones met by the Iraqi government. Mr. Giuliani also rejected the panel's recommendation that America tie the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict to stabilizing Iraq. When asked about this linkage on Mr. Prager's radio show, Mr. Giuliani said, "Israel and Palestine is an important issue. Sometimes it's used as an excuse to...

December 8, 2006

Not Exactly A Hit Abroad

The Iraq Study Group played well inside the Beltway yesterday, but it tanked on the road, according to the Times of London. If James Baker and Lee Hamilton expected swoons of delight from abroad, then they will have to prepare themselves for disappointment: The recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group were broadly welcomed by most Republicans and Democrats in Washington yesterday, but received a far cooler reception in Iraq, Iran, Israel and from the US military. The report, which calls for the withdrawal of all US combat troops from Iraq by early 2008, negotiations with Iran and Syria, and a renewed Middle East peace initiative, was a rare triumph of political compromise in Washington. But for those directly affected by the Iraq war and the wider regional instability — the Iraqis themselves, Israel and the US troops on the ground — the report was widely seen as unrealistic and...

Perhaps Not Such A Hit At Home, Either

Earlier, I wrote that the Iraq Study Group proposal bombed with the nations most directly involved in its recommendations, especially with Iraqis. The report seemed to fare much better inside the Beltway, but it turns out that even there people question the report's policy recommendations: Members of Congress yesterday questioned the practicability of recommendations from the Iraq Study Group about how to reverse the chaos in Iraq, but they praised the panel's stark assessment of conditions there. ... Democrats were guarded in their treatment of the report, especially its call for engaging Syria and Iran in diplomacy. In comments after a hearing yesterday with the co-chairmen of the Iraq Study Group, Levin suggested that "there could be some kind of effort to generally support the recommendations." But Republicans and Democrats alike on the Senate Armed Services panel quizzed former secretary of state James A. Baker III and former congressman Lee...

December 9, 2006

Iran: We'll Help US Retreat

Iran has decided that it will help the US retreat from Iraq -- as long as we are willing to pay the price. So far, the opening will require us to forego opposition to their nuclear program, but that's only the beginning: Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has said Tehran is willing to help the US withdraw from Iraq. But he added that Iran would only assist if the Americans changed their attitude towards Tehran. The BBC's Frances Harrison in Tehran says Mr Mottaki did not spell out the change of attitude required. But she adds that Iran probably wants the US to drop its insistence that it freeze its nuclear programme before any kind of talks. ... Speaking in Bahrain, Mr Mottaki said the key issue in solving the problems in Iraq was the withdrawal of foreign forces. "If the United States changes its attitude, the Islamic Republic of...

Progress On Oil Revenue

The thorny issue of Iraqi oil revenues appears closer to resolution, although it may still take more negotiations to finalize. The Kurds may find themselves on the short end of this debate as a result: Iraqi officials are near agreement on a national oil law that would give the central government the power to distribute current and future oil revenues to the provinces or regions, based on their population, Iraqi and American officials say. If enacted, the measure, drafted by a committee of politicians and ministers, could help resolve a highly divisive issue that has consistently blocked efforts to reconcile the country’s feuding ethnic and sectarian factions. Sunni Arabs, who lead the insurgency, have opposed the idea of regional autonomy for fear that they would be deprived of a fair share of the country’s oil wealth, which is concentrated in the Shiite south and Kurdish north. ... Officials cautioned that...

December 10, 2006

So Much For Negotiations With 'Insurgents'

The Times of London reveals that the American consulate in Iraq spent two months in high-level negotiations with the insurgencies in Iraq, including some groups previously thought to be associated with al-Qaeda. The talks collapsed earlier this year when Nouri al-Maliki, sympathetic to Iran, formed the government -- a move which the insurgents saw as a betrayal: SECRET talks in which senior American officials came face-to-face with some of their most bitter enemies in the Iraqi insurgency broke down after two months of meetings, rebel commanders have disclosed. The meetings, hosted by Iyad Allawi, Iraq’s former prime minister, brought insurgent commanders and Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador to Iraq, together for the first time. After months of delicate negotiations Allawi, a former Ba’athist and a secular Shi’ite, persuaded three rebel leaders to travel to his villa in Amman, the Jordanian capital, to see Khalilzad in January. “The meetings came about...

Maliki Out?

It appears that events have begun to pick up pace in Iraq. First a broad agreement seems to have coalesced around revenue sharing for Iraq's oil production, and now it looks like Nouri al-Maliki might be getting the heave as Prime Minister: Major partners in Iraq's governing coalition are in behind-the-scenes talks to oust Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki amid discontent over his failure to quell raging violence, according to lawmakers involved. The talks are aimed at forming a new parliamentary bloc that would seek to replace the current government and that would likely exclude supporters of the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who is a vehement opponent of the U.S. military presence. The new alliance would be led by senior Shiite politician Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, who met with President Bush last week. Al-Hakim, however, was not expected to be the next prime minister because he prefers the role of powerbroker, staying...

December 12, 2006

No Reduction In Troops: Military

President Bush heard from his military experts about the situation in Iraq and the way forward to win the war. While they agreed with the Iraq Study Group's report on the current woes of the mission, they disagreed strongly with the ISG's recommendations for resolving them: President Bush heard a blunt and dismal assessment of his handling of Iraq from a group of military experts yesterday, but the advisers shared the White House's skeptical view of the recommendations made last week by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, sources said. The three retired generals and two academics disagreed in particular with the study group's plans to reduce the number of U.S. combat troops in Iraq and to reach out for help to Iran and Syria, according to sources familiar with the meeting, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the session was private. The White House gathering was part of...

December 13, 2006

Saudis: Don't Leave Iraq

The Saudis have warned the United States against pulling out of Iraq, telling American officials that a retreat would set off a bloodbath. In fact, the Saudis feel so strongly about it that they told the US that an American withdrawal would prompt them to fund a sectarian arms race to protect the Sunni minority: Saudi Arabia has told the Bush administration that it might provide financial backing to Iraqi Sunnis in any war against Iraq’s Shiites if the United States pulls its troops out of Iraq, according to American and Arab diplomats. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia conveyed that message to Vice President Dick Cheney two weeks ago during Mr. Cheney’s whirlwind visit to Riyadh, the officials said. During the visit, King Abdullah also expressed strong opposition to diplomatic talks between the United States and Iran, and pushed for Washington to encourage the resumption of peace talks between Israel...

December 17, 2006

Amnesty For The Ba'athists

One of the pressing problems in Iraq has been the exclusion of the Sunnis since the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime. The new Iraqi government needs to find a way to get the Sunnis engaged in the governance of Iraq without allowing them to dominate it as they have done throughout the nation's history. Nouri al-Maliki has taken a step in that direction this weekend, throwing open the doors to former members of Saddam's security forces, a move that has unnerved Maliki's Shi'a allies and even some Sunnis: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki and his Shiite-dominated government reached out to former members of Saddam Hussein's regime Saturday, inviting them to claim government pensions and rejoin the army in a gesture meant to calm the country's sectarian passions. "The Iraqi army opens its doors to officers and soldiers from the former army who wish to serve the country," Maliki said...

December 20, 2006

The Kurds Respond To The ISG

The Iraq Study Group delivered its recommendations for changing strategies in Iraq at the beginning of the month, a report that has received criticism from all sides -- liberals for not demanding an immediate withdrawal, and conservatives for its recommendation to turn to the sponsors of terror to "stabilize" Iraq. Some of the strongest criticism came from Iraq itself, and today the Washington Post hosts a column from Mansour Barzani, a leading Kurd, on the lack of credibility of the ISG: Our federal constitution, which the majority of the Iraqi people voted for, is treated flippantly, as though it were a negotiable document rather than the hard-fought result of lengthy negotiation among those willing to participate in the new Iraq. Further, the study group's approach is driven by the concerns of the countries in this region rather than by the concerns of the Iraqi people. Many Iraqis, especially the Kurds,...

December 21, 2006

Sadr Reconsiders, Part 37B

With the US talking about sending more troops to Baghdad and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani organizing a coalition to strip Nouri al-Maliki of his position as Prime Minister, Moqtada al-Sadr has apparently blinked yet again. The radical Shi'ite cleric has begun to consider a unilateral cease-fire in the sectarian war that he has masterminded in an attempt to bolster his political viability in Iraqi politics: Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who heads a militia feared by Iraq's Sunnis, is considering a one-month unilateral cease-fire and may push his followers to rejoin the political process after a three-week boycott, officials close to him said. The issue is expected to come up at a meeting Thursday in the holy city of Najaf between al-Sadr and a delegation representing the seven Shiite groups that form the largest bloc in Iraq's parliament, the Shiite officials said on condition of anonymity because of the secrecy...

December 22, 2006

Iraqi Shi'ites Deal For End To Insurgencies

Two of the major Shi'ite factions in Iraq have agreed on a deal to end the Shi'ite insurgencies that have fueled the death and destruction in Baghdad. The Dawa and Sciri parties have thrown down a gauntlet to both Moqtada al-Sadr and the Sunni parties that have backed their own insurgents: Two of the senior Shia political leaders in Iraq agreed in principle to crack down on death squads within their own ranks yesterday. The rival Shia factions struck the deal in an attempt to salvage the country from collapse, said Haidar al-Abadi, a Shia MP in the Dawa party, who is close to Nouri al-Maliki, the Prime Minister. The Dawa and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri) agreed that the national unity Government had been rendered impotent by the failure of the Shia coalition to take on militants who have been killing Sunnis and fuelling...

December 23, 2006

Sistani Balks

The carefully-laid plans to form an ecumenical political coalition in Iraq hit a major snag today when Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani refused to endorse it. Sistani wants nothing to do with any project that undermines the unity of Shi'ites: Iraq's most revered Shiite cleric withheld support Saturday for a U.S.-backed plan to build a coalition across sectarian lines, Shiite lawmakers said, jeopardizing hopes that such a show of political unity could help stem the country's deadly violence. Members of the United Iraqi Alliance, the Shiite coalition that dominates parliament, met with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf after traveling to the holy city over the past few days. Al-Sistani holds no political post and rarely emerges from his home and adjacent office, but he has strong influence over Shiite politics. Some members of the Shiite alliance have sought a coalition that would include Kurds and Sunnis, and sideline Muqtada al-Sadr,...

December 26, 2006

British Turn Against Basra Police

One of the differences between the British and American zones in Iraq has been the more laissez-faire approach taken by the British in the South when it comes to the Shi'ite militias. They have infiltrated the local police forces in greater numbers in that region, turning what should be law-enforcement positions into vigilante gangs attempted to seek retribution for decades of Sunni oppression. The British have apparently tired of this, and this week they have taken action against the worst of the offenders: About 1,000 British and Iraqi troops raided a police station in the southern city of Basra on Monday, killing seven gunmen and taking custody of more than 100 prisoners who were believed to be marked for execution by a renegade police unit. Many of the prisoners at the Jamiat police station showed signs of torture, including cigarette and electrical burns, gunshot wounds in their legs and knees,...

December 28, 2006

Message Delivered

The US has delivered a message to Moqtada al-Sadr in the ongoing struggle to contain the violence in Baghdad and end the sectarian militias. A raid by US and Iraqi Army forces killed a high-ranking aide to Sadr who had supplied IEDs used in attacks against Iraqi forces: A top deputy of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr was killed Wednesday during a raid by U.S. and Iraqi troops in the southern holy city of Najaf, sparking protests from Sadr's followers and complicating an already tense relationship with the powerful anti-American leader. Hurling rocks and shouting expletives, thousands of angry Sadr loyalists marched through the streets of Najaf after Sahib al-Amiri was shot and killed by a U.S. soldier during an early morning raid. "Agents and stooges!" protesters shouted at Iraqi soldiers and local authorities. U.S. military officials declined to confirm that Amiri was a Sadr aide, saying only that he had...

Ford On Iraq

The blogosphere is abuzz today about the Bob Woodward interview that took place in July 2004 with now-deceased former President Gerald Ford about Iraq and other topics. In the interview, Ford criticized the Iraq invasion, opposing the decision and claiming that he would have looked harder for other options: Former president Gerald R. Ford said in an embargoed interview in July 2004 that the Iraq war was not justified. "I don't think I would have gone to war," he said a little more than a year after President Bush launched the invasion advocated and carried out by prominent veterans of Ford's own administration. In a four-hour conversation at his house in Beaver Creek, Colo., Ford "very strongly" disagreed with the current president's justifications for invading Iraq and said he would have pushed alternatives, such as sanctions, much more vigorously. In the tape-recorded interview, Ford was critical not only of Bush...

January 4, 2007

About That Eid Thing ... Never Mind

Remember how critics of the execution of Saddam Hussein expressed their outrage that the Iraqis had profaned the Eid celebrations? Recall how people argued that Muslim celebrations of this holiday are marked by a suspension of all hostilities and a focus on unity and peace? Perhaps some Muslims didn't get the memo: Outraged in-laws slashed the nose and ears of a Pakistani college student who married a woman without the consent of her higher-caste family, and then fractured his legs with blows from an ax, police and the victim said. Mohammed Iqbal told The Associated Press on Wednesday about 30 male relatives of his wife stormed into his mother's village home during the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha, demanding vengeance for the "dishonor" the marriage had brought to their family. "You have mixed our honor with dirt," Iqbal, 22, speaking from his hospital bed, recounted the attackers chanting as they...

January 5, 2007

Bill Ardolino Reports

Bill Ardolino of INDC Journal filed his first report as an embed for the Examiner today. Bill reports on the medics that keep everyone alive in the Iraq theater, including many Iraqis: Corpsman HN Jerad “Doc J” Jurgensmier bandaged the exit wound with an abdominal pressure dressing. HM3 Joshua “Scuba Steve” Watson located the pinhole-sized entrance wound in the man’s lower back — an unlucky inch below the body armor’s ceramic protection — and put gauze over it. He then wet the abdominal bandages to keep the exposed organs moist, tied back his legs with two green cravats and threw a bag of charcoal under them for elevation. With the wound dressed and the patient stabilized, the Iraqi Police carried their wounded comrade down to an Iraqi Police patrol truck (ambulances are juicy targets for insurgents) and transport to Camp Fallujah Surgical. It’s likely that the Iraqi policeman will live....

January 6, 2007

A Terrorist Catch-And-Release Program? (Update: CNN Forgot Something!)

NOTE: CNN left something out of this report. See update below. Yesterday, a Republican Congresswoman alleged that the American military in Iraq had most of its high-value enemy targets in detention at one point or another, but released them without properly identifying them: The U.S. military already knows what half of its most-wanted terrorist targets look like because they have been apprehended and photographed in the past, a Republican congresswoman said Friday. The United States is operating "a catch and release program for al Qaeda in Iraq," said Rep. Heather Wilson, a member of the House intelligence committee. In remarks at the National Press Club, the New Mexico lawmaker said a senior official told her that the U.S. military already has photographs of "fully half of the high-value al Qaeda targets in Iraq" presently being hunted. "They're wearing orange jumpsuits in the mugshots we took of them when we captured...

Surge Or Escalation?

Ever since the ISG made its recommendations to the White House last month, the administration has considered a surge in deployments to Iraq as a short-term boost to turn the corner on violence there. President Bush has not yet announced his new Iraq strategy, but by now most people believe it will comprise some form of the surge, especially with his replacement of the top military commanders in the theater, who opposed both the deployment of more troops and the "phased redeployment" of troops out of Iraq. However, the nature of the surge seems rather murky, especially when John McCain addressed the issue yesterday: McCain seems to be launching his 2008 campaign by taking the role of foremost advocate of sending significantly more troops for long-term deployment to Iraq. “There are two keys to any surge of U.S. troops: to be of value, it must substantial and it must be...

Maliki: Attack All Militias

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced today that his government will take immediate action against sectarian militias of all stripes in Baghdad. His announcement comes as the Bush administration appears ready to shift more troops to the capital, at least temporarily, and as confidence ebbs that Maliki would ever address the largest problem in Iraqi politics: Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Saturday that Iraq's armed forces are set for an assault on Baghdad to take out militias and rogue security forces. Aided by multinational troops, the Iraqi forces "will hunt down all outlaws regardless of their sectarian and political affiliations," al-Maliki said at an Iraqi Army Day parade. "We will also severely punish those [security forces] who do not carry out orders or operate in a partisan or sectarian way," he said. Forces will search out insurgents neighborhood-by-neighborhood, The Associated Press reported, and will start the assault this...

January 10, 2007

The Engagement Of Fallujans

Bill Ardolino files another of his embed reports from Iraq, the second of a series for The Examiner, and this focuses on the challenges of creating a stable society in Fallujah. An IED attack on an Abrams tank demonstrates the challenges for the American effort to engage the civilians of the city in an environment of terrorist attacks: The political situation is at another key turning point. Insurgents currently maintain the ability to disrupt the government because they are willing and able to pursue aggressively the two respected currencies in Iraq: money and violence. In contrast, U.S. and Iraqi government forces are limited in their efforts to establish a competing center of power, and many locals are caught in the middle. Americans don’t have the support of — but aren’t necessarily opposed by — many locals, don’t know the language or area and lack the backing from our political leaders...

The Last Best Chance

President Bush will take to the airwaves tonight to unveil his new strategy in Iraq, attempting to build enough support to shift more troops for at least a limited engagement against sectarian militias that threaten to undermine the Iraqi government. In preparation, Bush spent hours polishing his speech and meeting with lawmakers of both parties to ensure he strikes the right tone: President Bush spent hours Tuesday practicing in front of cameras, preparing to make his case for increasing the U.S. military commitment in Iraq in a prime-time address to the nation tonight, even as congressional Democrats readied legislation to block any increase in the number of troops. Members of Congress who met with Bush said he appeared to understand that, after years of upbeat rhetoric and positive assessments that belied a lack of progress inside the country, his credibility was on the line. "He told us what he planned...

Hitting Reverse A Little Early

With just a few hours left before George Bush delivers his speech on the shift in Iraq war policy, politicians have already queued up to declare themselves in support or opposition to the plan. Unsurprisingly, most Democrats oppose it, but a few Republicans have joined them. Senator Sam Brownback, who has made it clear that he wants to run for the 2008 nomination as a staunch conservative, made the biggest splash among GOP naysayers: Kansas Republican Sen. Sam Brownback came out against President Bush's expected call tonight for a surge of 22,000 more troops into Iraq. "I do not believe that sending more troops to Iraq is the answer," Brownback said while traveling in Iraq. "Iraq requires a political rather than a military solution." Brownback had previously supported a short-term surge of troops if it could help achieve long-term political stability, which the Bush Administration has said it hopes a...

Bush Speech Live Blog

I will live-blog the President's speech, which starts as 8 pm CT, at this link. 7:32 PM CT - I will appear on CHQR's The World Tonight with Rob Breakenridge at 8:40 pm CT. We'll be discussing the speech and its implications. CHQR broadcasts on 770 AM in Calgary, but CQ readers can listen to the station's Internet stream. 7:34 - The Anchoress sends a link to this Newsweek item showing a Democratic flip-flop on the surge. I agree with her that the Democrats seem to use the automatic-gainsay strategy with Bush about Iraq, but I do recall this article -- and it was remarkable because Silvestre Reyes came out so strongly opposed to the Democrats' policy of defeat and retreat. Has Reyes repudiated his support for the surge today? I haven't heard. Also, Sister Toldjah has more thoughts along these lines ... 7:45 - Drudge has the speech up...

January 11, 2007

The Softly-Softly General

President Bush selected General David Petraeus as his new commander in Iraq in part because of his success in pacifying his sector of the Iraq theater in 2003. Petraeus learned the tactics as a student of British experience in imperial military counterinsurgency operations, a point that the Times of London believes will make a significant difference: The new US ground commander picked by President Bush to direct the military “surge” into Iraq believes that the war can be won with a radical change of tactics: those used by the British in Malaya and Ulster. Lieutenant-General David Petraeus, handed perhaps the toughest US military assignment since the Vietnam War — to stabilise Iraq and defeat its militias — is one of the Army’s premier intellectuals and a devoted student of counter-insurgency techniques used by the British and French during the last century. General Petraeus, who has spent 2½ of the past...

Do Iraqis Want The Extra Troops?

The New York Times filed a story at 1:37 am this morning (the time on the RSS feed timestamp) from John Burns and Sabrina Tavernise that paints the Iraqi government as leery of the proposed increase of troops in Baghdad. According to the Times, the Maliki government doesn't want more troops, as it will force them to deal with Shi'ite bad actors: As President Bush challenges public opinion at home by committing more American troops, he is confronted by a paradox: an Iraqi government that does not really want them. The Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has not publicly opposed the American troop increase, but aides to Mr. Maliki have been saying for weeks that the government is wary of the proposal. They fear that an increased American troop presence, particularly in Baghdad, will be accompanied by a more assertive American role that will conflict with the...

Attorney For War-Crimes Suspect Busted For Pimping

The case of PFC Corey Clagett took a bizarre turn yesterday when his attorney found himself under arrest for money laundering and running a prostitution ring out of a nightclub. The former federal prosecutor and Abu Ghraib defense attorney could face decades of prison time: Paul Bergrin, who spent seven years as a New Jersey local and federal prosecutor, allegedly took over the NY Confidential escort service when the self-described "king of all pimps" Jason Itzler was arrested in 2005. Mr. Bergrin helped launder more than $800,000 in credit card payments for "escorts" who often cost $1,000 an hour, the district attorney of Manhattan, Robert Morgenthau, said. ... Prosecutors also said Mr. Bergrin falsely told New Jersey parole officers that Itzler — a former client on parole from a 2001 ecstasy-smuggling conviction — was a paralegal in the Abu Ghraib defense case so Itzler could receive a more lenient curfew....

Maliki To Militias: You're On Your Own

In another indication that the Iraqi government may have less problems with the surge than the New York Times predicts, Nouri al-Maliki has told the Shi'ite militias to disarm now or deal with the Americans by themselves. This includes Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army despite the influence the radical cleric has on the current government: Iraq's prime minister has told Shiite militiamen to surrender their weapons or face an all-out assault, part of a commitment U.S. President George W. Bush outlined to bring violence under control with a more aggressive Iraqi Army and 21,500 additional American troops. Senior Iraqi officials said Wednesday that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, under pressure from the U.S., has agreed to crack down on the fighters even though they are loyal to his most powerful political ally, the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Previously, al-Maliki had resisted the move. The Iraqis still want to have overall command...

January 12, 2007

Arab Nations Support The Surge

Not everyone opposes the Bush administration's surge plan for Iraq, not even in the Middle East. Arab nations that do business with the US have quietly pressed the White House to find ways to stay engaged in Iraq, fearful of both the collapse of the keystone nation in the region and the rise of Iran: Arab allies have quietly put serious pressure on President Bush to remain in Iraq, fearing premature evacuation will turn the country over to Iranian-backed militia, sources said Wednesday. "What concerns us is the instability and uncertainty in the area," Egyptian Ambassador Nabil Fahmy told the New York Daily News. "We need to stabilize the situation before the next step, otherwise it will become complete chaos." Several other Sunni Arab nations that are valuable U.S. allies - including Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, the Emirates - are concerned about Iran's influence and the growing power of...

January 13, 2007

Coleman Opposes The Surge

Senator Norm Coleman, one of our friends at the Northern Alliance, gave a speech in the Senate that announced his opposition to the Bush administration's plans for a troop surge in Baghdad and Anbar. As with most of Coleman's speeches, it is a must read -- nuanced and effective, even if people disagree with his conclusions. Coleman insists that he supports the war on terror, and agrees with the White House about the growing use of the insurgencies by Iran as proxies in a war against the United States. However, he believes that the sectarian strife is ultimately a political problem and cannot be solved through military action: It is for this reason that I oppose the proposal for a troop surge in Baghdad, where the violence can only be defined as sectarian. A troop surge proposal basically ignores the conditions on the ground, both as I saw on my...

Continue reading "Coleman Opposes The Surge" »

January 14, 2007

The Turkey Tangle

Turkey has issued another warning about the Kurdish insurgency in its eastern provinces, threatening to invade northern Iraq to put an end to the provocations. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has dismissed American assurances of cooperation, coming close to a diplomatic ultimatum against Iraq: Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Friday reaffirmed Turkey's right to send troops into Iraq to crush Kurdish rebels there and chided U.S. officials for questioning it. "The Turkish Republic will do whatever is necessary to combat the terrorists when the time comes, but it will not announce its plans in advance," Erdogan told a news conference after a meeting of his ruling AK Party. "We say we are ready to take concrete steps with the Iraqi government and we also say these steps must be taken now." In sharp language underscoring Turkish anxiety about the chaos in Iraq, Erdogan said it was wrong for Washington -- "our...

January 15, 2007

Saddam Deputies Hanged -- Film At 11?

Two of the remaining men on the execution list in Iraq for crimes against humanity in the Saddam Hussein regime were executed overnight, ending speculation on when the Nouri al-Maliki government would proceed with the hangings. The Iraqis forced witnesses to pledge to behave themselves, but one of the defendants lost his head, literally: American military officials, who had custody of Mr. Hussein, were particularly upset and pushed hard to ensure that the execution of his co-defendants, Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, former head of the Mukhabarat secret police and the younger half-brother of Mr. Hussein, and Awad Hamad al-Bandar, who was chief judge of the revolutionary court under Mr. Hussein, was carried out properly. The government spokesman who announced the executions, which took place at 3 a.m., Bassam al-Husseini, said both the executioners and the witnesses had to sign statements promising to behave in a dignified manner. In what government officials...

Rebuilding Teams Bolstered Under The Bush Plan

The Bush surge has more to it than just the deployment of 20,000 more troops for Baghdad and Anbar. One of the less-debated aspects of the new strategy is a higher investment in money and personnel for the rebuilding effort in Iraq. The number of teams will double and go further out into the Iraqi communities that they will attempt to revive: As part of its latest plan to stabilize Iraq, the United States intends to more than double the number of regional reconstruction teams and to add nearly 400 specialists for existing and new teams, in fields from politics and the rule of law to agribusiness and veterinary care, according to an official outline of the plan. The document calls for the measures to be taken swiftly, in three phases, with waves of new teams and personnel expected to be put in place in March, June and September. The...

January 16, 2007

Has Baghdad Stopped Burning?

Two sources within Iraq report that al-Qaeda has begun to flee Baghdad in advance of the American troop surge. Richard Miniter, blogging at Pajamas Media, confirms with US military intelligence a report from an insurgent press outlet quoted by Iraq the Model: Al Qaeda terrorists are fleeing Baghdad in advance of President Bush’s 21,500-man troop surge, a senior military intelligence officer told Pajamas Media today. Under orders from the al Qaeda commander in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, fighters are streaming toward the Diyala region of Iraq. This confirms reports posted on Iraq the Model, which cited al-Sabah, a well-known mouthpiece for al Qaeda in Iraq. In speaking with Pajamas Media the military intelligence officer supplied several new details of the al Qaeda retreat. The apparent evacuation of Baghdad by al Qaeda forces comes from direct orders issued by al-Masri, the former soldier who took control of the Iraqi wing of...

January 17, 2007

The War Of The Fleas

Michelle Malkin has returned from her embed with the US military in Baghdad and has published her first report on her experiences. It's a taste of a series of posts to come, and it underscores the frustration of the troops with both the Bush administration and the anti-war activists: Modern war in the Middle East is no longer as cut-and-dry as shooting all the bad guys and going home. We are fighting a "war of the fleas"--not just Sunni terrorists and Shiite death squads, but multiple home-grown and foreign operators, street gangs, organized crime, and freelance jihadis conducting ambushes, extrajudicial killings, sectarian attacks, vehicle bombings, and sabotage against American, coalition, and Iraqi forces. Cellphones, satellites, and the Internet have allowed the fleas to magnify their importance, disseminate insurgent propaganda instantly, and weaken political will. I came to Iraq a darkening pessimist about the war, due in large part to my...

January 18, 2007

Mahdi Army Leaders Arrested

Over the last few weeks, the Iraqi government has quietly rounded up some of the senior leadership of the Mahdi Army in preparation for the tactical shift by the US military. The arrests give hope that the Iraqi government may actually use this opportunity to separate itself from the radical Shi'ites that have influenced its operations, including Moqtada al-Sadr: Facing intense pressure from the Bush administration to show progress in securing Iraq, senior Iraqi officials announced Wednesday that they had moved against the country’s most powerful Shiite militia, arresting several dozen senior members in the past few weeks. It was the first time the Shiite government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki had claimed significant action against the militia, the Mahdi Army, one of the most intractable problems facing his administration. The militia’s leader, the cleric Moktada al-Sadr, helped put Mr. Maliki in power, but pressure to crack down on...

A Telling Set Of Values

The Washington Post reports today on the wave of anger and outrage sweeping the Arab world after the hangings of Saddam Hussein and two of his key henchment over the last three weeks. The accidental beheading, the rush to the gallows for Saddam, and his execution during Eid have gotten them pretty steamed -- and believing that executions were handled better under Saddam: Beirut's daily an-Nahar newspaper ran a caricature Tuesday of the Iraqi flag adorned with three nooses. At the center of the red, white and black banner, the outline of the coiled ropes appears similar to the word "Allah" in Arabic script. The cartoon appears under the caption "The New Iraq." That gallows humor reflected the swelling tide of Arab anger and revulsion at the Iraqi government's execution Monday of Barzan Ibrahim, who was beheaded as he was hanged, and the cellphone recordings of the taunts and gloating...

Mahdi Army Under 'Siege'

The new operation to clean up Baghdad seems to have taken the Mahdi Army by surprise. Mahdi Army leaders tell the AP that even in their Sadr City base they have begun to feel under siege, hiding their uniforms and ending operations to avoid detection by the increasing American forces: Mahdi Army fighters said Thursday they were under siege in their Sadr City stronghold as U.S. and Iraqi troops killed or seized key commanders in pinpoint nighttime raids. Two commanders of the Shiite militia said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has stopped protecting the group under pressure from Washington and threats from Sunni Muslim Arab governments. The two commanders' account of a growing siege mentality inside the organization could represent a tactical and propaganda feint, but there was mounting evidence the militia was increasingly off balance and had ordered its gunmen to melt back into the population. To avoid capture, commanders...

January 19, 2007

The Mouth Of Sadr Arrested

The new offensive against Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army continues to creep ever closer to the center of the problem. This morning, US and Iraqi troops arrested his media director and killed the man guarding him, effectively removing Sadr's propagandist from the fight: U.S. and Iraqi forces arrested one of Muqtada al-Sadr's top aides Friday in Baghdad, his office said, as pressure increases on the radical Shiite cleric's militia ahead of a planned security sweep aimed at stemming the sectarian violence ransacking the capital. Sheik Abdul-Hadi al-Darraji, al-Sadr's media director in Baghdad, was captured Friday and his personal guard was killed, according to another senior al-Sadr aide. "We strongly condemn this cowardly act," Sheik Abdul-Zahra al-Suweiadi said. The U.S. military said special Iraqi army forces operating with coalition advisers captured a high-level, illegal armed group leader in Baladiyat, but it did not identify the detainee. It said two other...

January 22, 2007

A Bigger Mistake By Maliki

The Iraqi government appeared to be taking the fight against the Mahdi Army and Moqtada al-Sadr seriously ... for a week or so. Yesterday, they took one gigantic step backwards when they announced that Sadr would rejoin the government, having cut yet another deal to keep from paying the price for his sectarian warfare: The Iraqi Government announced a deal to bring Hojatoleslam Moqtada al-Sadr back into the political fold yesterday, even as violence spread farther across the country. The populist Shia cleric’s six Cabinet ministers and 30 MPs ended their boycott of government and parliamentary activities, begun last November, when they protested at a meeting between Nouri alMaliki, the Prime Minister, and President Bush in Jordan. ... The violence came as more than 3,000 US paratroops arrived in Baghdad to take part in the new Baghdad security plan with which Mr al-Maliki hopes to restore order to the capital....

January 24, 2007

Petraeus: Baghdad Can Be Secured

General David Petraeus testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday in his confirmation hearing to replace General Casey as the top commander in Iraq, telling the Senators that the situation in Baghdad could be resolved with the extra troops and the new Iraqi commitment to security. He faced skepticism from both sides of the aisle, but insisted that a concerted "clear and hold" strategy with Americans in place to hold neighborhoods could give the Iraqi government the room it needs to turn the corner in the capital: Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, President Bush’s new choice as the top commander in Iraq, told senators on Tuesday that the new military strategy to secure Baghdad can work, and that he had asked that the additional troops the administration promised be deployed as quickly as possible. In his first public comments about Mr. Bush’s plan to send some 21,500 troops, the...

Bloggers Have Resolutions, Too

The Senate has two competing resolutions under consideration that intend to criticize President Bush's new "surge" strategy, especially the increase of troops in Baghdad. The Senate Armed Services Committee passed the resolution authored by Chuck Hagel and Joe Biden, while John Warner, Susan Collins, and Ben Nelson will sponsor a "softer" resolution. Hugh Hewitt and NZ Bear held a blogger conference call earlier today, which I wanted to attend but could not, and have offered a resolution of their own: Yesterday General Petraeus testified that the Biden/Warner resolutions and those like them encourage the enemy. What does it mean, "to encourage the enemy?" It means that the enemy gathers will and strength from the prospect of a collapsing political will to seek victory in Iraq and stability in the region. With that additional strength and will the enemy redoubles and retriples efforts to kill American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines....

January 26, 2007

Bill Ardolino Completes His Embed

Bill Ardolino of INDC Journal has completed his embed mission in Iraq, free-lancing as a contributor to the Examiner newspaper chain and blogging about his experiences. He plans a series of in-depth posts about his experiences and more reporting from the front when he gains his bearings. It will be a must-read site for the next few weeks. However, Bill can use your help. I know that this cost him around ten times as much as his free-lancing brought in due to the expenses of the equipment and other needs that he incurred. He has made up about a third of the gap through donations, but he could use more help in covering his costs. If you haven't already done so, consider donating a few dollars to Bill's efforts through his PayPal/credit card link at the end of the post above....

Slippery Sadr Triangulates Again

Guess who's endorsing the Bush surge strategy in Iraq now? One of the intended targets of the enforcement effort in Baghdad, Moqtada al-Sadr has issued an endorsement of the new push to rid the capital of sectarian violence as long as Iraqis remain in command of the mission: Muqtada Sadr, the radical anti-American cleric, has backed away from confrontation with U.S. and Iraqi forces in recent weeks, a move that has surprised U.S. officials who long have characterized his followers as among the greatest threats to Iraq's security. Thursday, a leader of the Sadr movement in one of its Baghdad strongholds publicly endorsed President Bush's new Iraq security plan, which at least some U.S. officials have touted as a way to combat Sadr's group. "We will fully cooperate with the government to make the plan successful," said Abdul-Hussein Kaabai, head of the local council in the Shiite Muslim-dominated Sadr City...

January 27, 2007

Democrats Will Push Replacement AUMF

Steny Hoyer announced yesterday that Congress will pursue a new strategy in its opposition to the war in Iraq, one that has the effect of turning back time. Instead of issuing meaningless resolutions or taking the political risk of defunding the troops under fire, Hoyer and the Democrats now want to re-write the original Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed in 2002 regarding Iraq: Democrats may promote a new revised bill authorizing the use of force in Iraq -- to replace the 2002 bill that allowed the Bush administration to proceed with the war, a top Democrat said Friday. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer -- No. 2 in the House behind Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- said that is one step Democrats might pursue to change conditions in Iraq. "Frankly, it is time for the president to accept that we are no longer involved in a nation-building exercise. We...

January 29, 2007

Insurgents Lose Battle, Badly

Iraqi forces, backed by American troops, killed 250 insurgents in a bloody battle near Najaf yesterday. The fifteen-hour battle prevented the terrorists from attacking Shi'ite pilgrims on their way to celebrate Ashura, a flashpoint for violence in the past. However, some reports indicate that Shi'ite splinter groups may have been among the forces attacking the Iraqis: At least 250 militants were killed and an American helicopter was shot down in violent clashes near the southern city of Najaf on Sunday, Iraqi officials said. For 15 hours, Iraqi forces backed by American helicopters and tanks battled hundreds of gunmen hiding in a date palm orchard near the village of Zarqaa, about 120 miles south of Baghdad, by a river and a large grain silo that is surrounded by orchards, the officials said. It appeared to be one of the deadliest battles in Iraq since the American-led invasion four years ago, and...

US Declassifying Intel On Iranian Role

American intelligence officials will declassify data that shows the Iranian efforts to foment disorder and terrorism in Iraq, according to Eli Lake of the New York Sun. The effort comes in response to the publicly-announced skepticism of Democratic leadership in Congress, and may wind up as an Internet site for mass dissemination: New evidence of Iran's role in Iraq will be made [public] in Baghdad by the chief spokesman for the multinational forces in Iraq, Major General William Caldwell. The Directorate of National Intelligence worked over the weekend to clear new intelligence and information that sources inside the intelligence community said would implicate Iran in deliberately sending particularly lethal improvised explosives to terrorists to kill coalition soldiers. The intelligence community is currently debating whether to make the new evidence, which it plans to declassify, available on the Internet. The plan to present the evidence will coincide with a presentation this...

January 30, 2007

Has Congress Amended An AUMF In The Past?

Earlier today, Russ Feingold began holding hearings on whether Congress had the authority to rescind or modify an authorization for the use of military force (AUMF), once approved and implemented by the executive. This weekend, I argued that Congress could not simply rescind an AUMF without the executive declaring an end to hostilities, once given command of the war. Feingold plans to use the hearings to demonstrate that Congress can indeed overrule the executive, withdraw their AUMF, and force an end to a deployment. Does Congress have any precedent for such an action? This was the subject of a friendly set of e-mails between myself and Glenn Greenwald after he posted examples of Republican Senators demanding an end to our deployment in Somalia after the debacle of Mogadishu. These include Jesse Helms, Strom Thurmond, Phil Gramm, and John McCain, who made the case for Senatorial action: Dates certain, Mr. President,...

January 31, 2007

Cult Group Ready For Major Battle

The cult group destroyed by the Iraqi-run offensive on the eve of Ashura may have been obscure, but they had one point in common with the other insurgencies in Iraq -- they were armed to the teeth. Close air support from the US forces backing up the IA units made the difference, as more that 260 cultists died with bags of ammunition surrounding them: The dead wore the same footwear, imitation leather dress shoes with Velcro flaps. Their mangled bodies filled the trenches. Bags of ammunition, with the names of fighters written on them, sat by their sides. A pulpit made of bamboo stood next to a grassy field, a newspaper filled with rambling and enigmatic religious writing strewn nearby. An unauthorized hourlong walk Tuesday through the bombed compound of a religious cult called Heaven's Army revealed provocative clues about the group, which was decimated Sunday in a 24-hour U.S....

Our Mercenaries?

It seems that William Arkin has had enough of supporting the troops, now that a few of them told NBC that they believe that Americans should support the mission as well. In his Washington Post blog, Arkin suddenly feels that the troops should just shut up and retreat: So, we pay the soldiers a decent wage, take care of their families, provide them with housing and medical care and vast social support systems and ship obscene amenities into the war zone for them, we support them in every possible way, and their attitude is that we should in addition roll over and play dead, defer to the military and the generals and let them fight their war, and give up our rights and responsibilities to speak up because they are above society? I can imagine some post-9/11 moment, when the American people say enough already with the wars against terrorism...

February 1, 2007

Senate Closer To Anti-Surge Resolution

The Senate moved closer to a non-binding resolution opposing the surge strategy last night when two key members of the chamber reached a compromise on the wording in the bill. John Warner and Carl Levin have agreed to reinforce the resolution with a vow that the Senate will not stop funding the troops: Democratic and Republican opponents of President Bush's troop-buildup plan joined forces last night behind the nonbinding resolution with the broadest bipartisan backing: a Republican measure from Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) announced the shift, hoping to unite a large majority of the Senate and thwart efforts by the White House and GOP leaders to derail any congressional resolution of disapproval of Bush's decision to increase U.S. troop levels in Iraq by 21,500. Although the original Democratic language was popular within the party, it had little appeal among Republicans. Warner's...

McCain Launches His Own Resolution

John McCain has decided to eschew the competing resolutions expressing disfavor with the new White House surge strategy in favor of an open-ended series of benchmarks intended to demonstrate what progress in Iraq will look like. The resolution gives no deadlines but does describe the process by which the Pentagon should measure success. Here is the conclusion on McCain's bill: Resolved, That it is the sense of the Senate that -- (1) Congress should ensure that General David Petraeus, the Commander of Multinational Forces - Iraq, and all United States personnel under his command, have the resources they consider necessary to carry out their mission on behalf of the United States in Iraq; and (2) that the Government of Iraq must make visible, concrete progress toward meeting the political, economic, and military benchmarks enumerated in the preamble to this Resolution. McCain obviously wants to offer a way for the Senate...

February 3, 2007

Warner Opposing His Own Resolution?

John Warner has declared that he will filibuster his own non-binding resolution on the surge to protest the conduct of Harry Reid in limiting votes on alternatives, such as John McCain's proposed language that supports the President's new stratey for Baghdad and Anbar. The GOP says they can organize all 49 Senators in their caucus, which would keep any resolution from proceeding to a vote: Sen. John W. Warner will join his fellow Republicans in voting Monday to block the resolution he wrote rebuking President Bush's Iraq war policy. "Senator Warner supports the Senate Republican leadership's effort to establish a free and open debate on Iraq on the Senate floor, including possible amendments," a spokesman for the Virginia Republican said yesterday afternoon. Earlier in the day, Mr. Warner told colleagues during a closed-door strategy meeting at the Library of Congress that he opposes the manner in which Senate Majority Leader...

NIE: It's A Civil War

The intelligence community released its National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq yesterday, a nine-page document that the Washington Post correctly characterizes as "bleak". It adopts the term "civil war" for the ongoing conflict in Iraq, and at the same time notes that the term doesn't do justice to the myriad of conflicts active in the country at the moment. However, it also warns about the effect a withdrawal would have on the region. First, though, the bad news: The U.S. intelligence community yesterday released a starkly pessimistic assessment of the situation in Iraq, warning that even if security improves, deepening sectarian divisions threaten to destroy the government and ultimately could lead to anarchy, partition or the emergence of a new dictatorship. Citing "the current winner-take-all attitude and sectarian animosities infecting the political scene," declassified judgments of a new National Intelligence Estimate predicted that Iraqi leaders will be "hard pressed" to reconcile...

February 4, 2007

Iraqi Official: Half Of Violence Comes From Syria

While the US focuses on Iran as a fomenter of the violence wracking Baghdad and its environs, Iraqi officials have begun pointing west instead east as an explanation. After the worst single bombing in the last four years took 135 lives yesterday in a Shi'ite section of the capital, an Iraqi official angrily accused Syria of allowing "Saddamists" to flow freely across the border: A senior Iraqi official has said half of all insurgent attacks in Baghdad are carried out by militants from Syria. Ali al-Dabbagh said the Iraqi government has provided Damascus with evidence to back up this claim. ... Speaking on al-Arabiyah television, Mr al-Dabbagh said many of the insurgents emanated from neighbouring Syria. "Fifty per cent of terrorism enters Iraq from Syria, and we have evidence" to prove that, the Associated Press news agency reported. "The Interior Ministry and the Ministry of State for National Security gave...

February 5, 2007

A Split On Al-Qaeda

The classified portion of the National Intelligence Estimate downplays the effect of al-Qaeda in Iraq, declaring them to be a small minority of the Sunni terrorists. However, four of the sixteen intelligence agencies dissented from this view, including the intel units of the two forces fighting in Iraq. They believe that the Sunni insurgencies have been almost completely co-opted by AQI: In a division reminiscent of the intelligence debates before the Iraq war, America's war fighters and satellite imagery experts have issued a formal dissent on one of the National Intelligence Estimate's most important judgments. Disputing the view that Al Qaeda plays only a small role in the overall Sunni insurgency in Iraq, four of America's 16 intelligence agencies have obliged the Directorate of National Intelligence to provide a formal dissent to the 90-page classified Iraq assessment issued last week. Those agencies include the Treasury Department's Office of Intelligence and...

Surge Delay Is Deadly: Iraq

Both Shi'ite and Sunni Iraqi leaders want the US to accelerate the deployment for the new surge strategy in Baghdad. Shi'ites blame the US for not filling the power vacuum quickly enough after the Mahdi Army started to flee the capital, leaving them exposed for the Sunni bombing that killed 135 people this weekend. The Sunnis want the US in place to keep the situation from deteriorating even further: A growing number of Iraqis blamed the United States on Sunday for creating conditions that led to the worst single suicide bombing in the war, which devastated a Shiite market in Baghdad the day before. They argued that slowness in completing the vaunted new American security plan has made Shiite neighborhoods much more vulnerable to such horrific attacks. The chorus of critics said the new plan, which the Americans have barely started to execute, has emasculated the Mahdi Army, the Shiite...

Bill Ardolino On A Nighttime Raid In Fallujah

Bill Ardolino, having completed his embed mission in Iraq with American forces, has begun to write about his experiences at length. His latest essay tells about his experience on a nighttime raid with US Marines and Iraqi Army forces, and presents the difficult routine of these missions: A fifth stop was another dry hole, but occupants told the Jundi that the house of the man they were looking for was a block away, so the soldiers immediately splashed down a sewage-filled side street on foot, leaving the cordon, the convoy and its crew-served heavy weapons behind. We chased them down the darkened alley, Lt. Kim struggling to communicate with the IA's about their ad hoc plan of action. The move was poorly planned but ultimately successful, as a blindfolded man was led from the quickly targeted house with no shots fired. This chaotic initiative highlights one of the strengths and...

GOP Blocks Cloture On Surge Resolution

The Republicans welcomed Harry Reid to Senate leadership today, filibustering the Warner-Levin amendment on the surge strategy in Iraq when Reid tried to push it through without allowing alternatives or amendments to come to the floor. The Democrats could not even get a majority to approve cloture, let alone the 60 votes needed, and Reid's efforts sank into failure -- at least for now: Republicans blocked a full-fledged Senate debate over Iraq on Monday, but Democrats vowed they would eventually find a way to force President Bush to change course in a war that has claimed the lives of more than 3,000 U.S. troops. "We must heed the results of the November elections and the wishes of the American people," said Majority Leader Harry Reid. Reid, D-Nev., spoke moments before a vote that sidetracked a nonbinding measure expressing disagreement with Bush's plan to deploy an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq....

February 6, 2007

Iranian Diplomat Abducted In Baghdad

Iran blames the United States for the abduction of a diplomat by men in the uniform of the Iraqi Army, according to state news agency IRNA. ABC reports that Iraqi police captured two men involved in the incident, who got transferred immediately to the custody of the Iraqi Army: Gunmen wearing Iraqi army uniforms seized an Iranian diplomat as he drove through central Baghdad, officials said Tuesday. Tehran condemned the abduction and blamed U.S. forces in Iraq. One Iraqi government official also said the diplomat was detained Sunday by a special Iraqi army unit that reports directly to the U.S. military. But a military spokesman denied any U.S. troops or Iraqis that report to them were involved. "We've checked with our units and it was not an MNF-I (Multi-National Forces Iraq) unit that participated in that event," military spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver said, adding he could not confirm the...

February 7, 2007

Did Plame Initiate The Niger Investigation?

One of the accepted facts of the entire Valerie Plame scandal has been that Plame suggested her husband, Joseph Wilson, for the Niger investigation after Dick Cheney requested the research into Iraqi attempts to purchase uranium in Africa. That timeline paints Plame as responsive to the VP's office and not an initiator of action on the "sixteen words" controversy. Byron York, who has followed the Scooter Libby trial for National Review, reports that the timeline has been proven incorrect, casting doubt on the tenor of Plame's request and Wilson's assignment: The accepted version of events is that Vice President Dick Cheney got things started when he asked for information about possible Iraqi attempts to purchase uranium in Africa. After that request, CIA employee Valerie Plame Wilson suggested sending her husband to look into the question, and after that, the CIA flew Joseph Wilson to Niger to investigate. But the new...

February 8, 2007

Baghdad Surge Targets Political Figures

The US and Iraqi forces have not limited the new full-court press in Baghdad to just the foot soldiers of the insurgencies and independent militias, but also to those who give them political cover. The arrest of a near-Cabinet-level official in a raid specifically targeting the minister shows that the surge aims higher than expected: US and Iraqi forces in Baghdad have arrested the deputy health minister during a raid at his offices. The minister, Hakem al-Zamili, is a key member of the political group led by radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr. He is accused of aiding Shia militiamen and using ambulances to move weapons, a ministry source told the BBC. ... Iraqi officials say US and Iraqi troops broke down doors in the ministry's offices in central Baghdad in their search for Mr Zamili. The minister and some of his guards were arrested. This seems very significant. Certainly few...

Seven GOP Senators Demand Complete Debate

After the failure to approve cloture on the single amendment allowed to reach the floor by Harry Reid, it appeared that the Democrats had decided to allow the effort to pass a non-binding resolution to die on the floor -- and blame Republicans for supposedly ending the debate. Seven Republican Senators have decided to push back against that decision, demanding that GOP and Democratic leaders reach some level of accommodation for a full debate on all proposals, a surprise that Reid attempted to ignore when it arose during yesterday's session: Senate Republicans who earlier this week helped block deliberations on a resolution opposing President Bush's new troop deployments in Iraq changed course yesterday and vowed to use every tactic at their disposal to ensure a full and open debate. In a letter distributed yesterday evening to Senate leaders, John W. Warner (Va.), Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and five other GOP supporters...

February 9, 2007

They Were For Dissent And Alternative Analysis Before They Were Against It

The acting Inspector General of the Defense Department has issued a long-awaited report on the intelligence analysis provided by Douglas Feith during the period between 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq. According to Thomas Gimble, Feith and others did not violate laws or policies at the Department of Defense, nor did they mislead Congress -- but Gimble still concludes that their activities were "inappropriate": A Pentagon investigation into the handling of prewar intelligence has criticized civilian Pentagon officials for conducting their own intelligence analysis to find links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, but said the officials did not violate any laws or mislead Congress, according to Congressional officials who have read the report. The long-awaited report by the Pentagon’s acting inspector general, Thomas F. Gimble, was sent to Congress on Thursday. It is the first major review to rebuke senior officials working for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for...

February 13, 2007

Iranian Smoking Guns Found ... Literally

The Telegraph reports this morning that rifles imported from Austria by Iran have surfaced among insurgents in Iraq. Steyr-Mannlicher exported 800 of its high-powered HS50 models, capable of piercing body armor, to the National Iranian Police Association for their anti-narcotics efforts: Austrian sniper rifles that were exported to Iran have been discovered in the hands of Iraqi terrorists, The Daily Telegraph has learned. More than 100 of the.50 calibre weapons, capable of penetrating body armour, have been discovered by American troops during raids. The guns were part of a shipment of 800 rifles that the Austrian company, Steyr-Mannlicher, exported legally to Iran last year. The sale was condemned in Washington and London because officials were worried that the weapons would be used by insurgents against British and American troops. This appears to aubstantiate the findings of the Department of Defense, presented this weekend, that Iran has actively supplied weapons to...

ABC: Sadr Bugs Out

Well, so much for the whole 72 virgins thing and the radical Islamist desire to die in martyrdom: The story tonight in Iraq is not the arrival of more U.S. troops, but the departure of one of the country's most powerful men, Moqtada al Sadr and members of his army. According to senior military officials al Sadr left Baghdad two to three weeks ago, and fled to Tehran, Iran, where he has family. Al Sadr commands the Mahdi Army, one of the most formidable insurgent militias in Iraq, and his move coincides with the announced U.S. troop surge in Baghdad. Sources believe al Sadr is worried about an increase of 20,000 U.S. troops in the Iraqi capital. One official told ABC News' Martha Raddatz, "He is scared he will get a JDAM [bomb] dropped on his house." Sources say some of the Mahdi army leadership went with al Sadr. This...

February 14, 2007

It Was The One-Armed Arms Dealer

The capture of more than a hundred sniper rifles in Iraq that had previously been sold to Iranian police agencies had the manufacturer backpedaling yesterday. The London Telegraph reports that the Austrian government and the Steyr corporation both denied any responsibility or knowledge of an arms transfer from Teheran to Iraqi insurgents: Austria yesterday washed its hands of any responsibility after it was revealed that powerful sniper rifles it sold to Iran had been acquired by insurgents in Iraq. The Daily Telegraph revealed yesterday that American troops had recovered more than 100 Steyr HS50 Mannlicher rifles, part of a consignment of 800 sold to Iran by Austria last year, during a series of raids in Iraq. Astrid Harz, a spokesman for the Austrian foreign ministry, said yesterday that the sale had been "checked very thoroughly" and what happened to the rifles after they were delivered to Teheran ostensibly for use...

A Slow Bleed To Defeat

As the new Democratic majority took control of Congress, bloggers across the spectrum generally agreed the Democrats had three options to satisfy their anti-war base and stage a meaningful objection to the war in Iraq. First, they could end all funding for the war, which would leave them with the responsibility for everything that followed afterwards. Second, they could issue no-confidence motions in an attempt to humiliate George Bush into withdrawing from Iraq. Third, they could run so many investigations into war management that it would force the Pentagon to use its resources on fighting political battles rather than wage war. Unfortunately, none of us considered a fourth option -- a slow bleed of funding that will allow Democrats to defund the war while blaming the White House for mismanaging the remaining resources: Top House Democrats, working in concert with anti-war groups, have decided against using congressional power to force...

More Confirmation On Mahdi Flight

While the debate rages over the location of Moqtada al-Sadr, the Guardian (UK) reports that the upper command structure of the Mahdi Army has also bugged out to Iran. A senior official in the Iraqi government tells Michael Howard that they have left Iraq to "regroup": Senior commanders of the Mahdi army, the militia loyal to the radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, have been spirited away to Iran to avoid being targeted in the new security push in Baghdad, a high-level Iraqi official told the Guardian yesterday. On the day the Iraqi government formally launched its crackdown on insurgents and amid disputed claims about the whereabouts of Mr Sadr, the official said the Mahdi army leadership had withdrawn across the border into Iran to regroup and retrain. "Over the last three weeks, they [Iran] have taken away from Baghdad the first and second-tier military leaders of the Mahdi army," he...

Baghdad Welcomes The Surge?

The new surge strategy has hit the streets of Baghdad, and thus far, it seems the Iraqi street has not hit back. The AP reports that the Shi'ite neighborhoods on which the new surge has concentrated has either welcomed the soldiers or shrugged at their presence: The Baghdad neighborhoods targeted by the Americans — Shaab, Ur and Baida — lie north of the Shiite militia stronghold of Sadr City, which had been off-limits until Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki lifted his protection of the notorious Mahdi Army, the largest Shiite militia. Last year, U.S. soldiers came under intense sniper fire in those neighborhoods from Mahdi Army militiamen who were expanding into Shiite areas outside Sadr City. This time, however, Iraqis watched in curiosity as some 2,500-3,000 troops — or an entire Stryker brigade — fanned out in the area, going house-to-house looking for weapons or suspected militia fighters as part of...

February 15, 2007

Iraq Government Confirms Sadr In Iran

The controversy over the whereabouts of Moqtada al-Sadr has ended. An advisor to Nouri al-Maliki confirmed on the record that Sadr is in Iran, as the US reported earlier (via Michelle Malkin): An adviser to Iraq's prime minister said Thursday that radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is in Iran, but denied he fled due to fear of arrest during an escalating security crackdown. Sami al-Askari said al-Sadr traveled to Iran by land "a few days ago," but gave no further details on how long he would stay in Iran. A member of al-Sadr's bloc in parliament, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of fear of reprisals, said al-Sadr left three weeks ago. "I confirm that Muqtada al-Sadr is in Iran on a visit," said al-Askari. "But I deny that his visit is a flight." Sadr's supporters insist that he is still in Iraq, but no one has seen the...

Al-Qaeda In Iraq Leader Captured By Iraqi Forces

See updates -- NBC backing away from capture. Eight months ago, American forces killed the founder of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who had run the organization since the American invasion three years earlier. Tonight, the Iraqis have his replacement in custody (via Hot Air): The leader of al-Qaida in Iraq was wounded and an aide was killed in a clash Thursday with Iraqi forces north of Baghdad, the Interior Ministry spokesman said. The clash occurred near Balad, a major U.S. base about 50 miles north of the capital, Brig. Gen Abdul-Karim Khalaf said. Khalaf said al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri was wounded and his aide, identified as Abu Abdullah al-Majemaai, was killed. Sources tell NBC News that al-Masri is in custody. The new surge in Baghdad and Anbar intended on making the lives of terrorists more difficult. It seems to have succeeded in the case of...

February 16, 2007

Democrats Pass Resolution While Surge Goes Into Effect

The Democrats passed the House resolution objecting to the new surge strategy in Iraq even as American soldiers began to apply it in earnest. House leadership had predicted a wave of Republican support for the non-binding proposal, but in the end they could only get 17 Republicans to cross the aisle -- and managed to lose two of their own: After four days of emotional debate over the extent of presidential powers in wartime and the proper role of Congress, the House of Representatives adopted a resolution today denouncing President Bush’s plan to send more American troops to Iraq. The 246 to 182 vote in favor of the non-binding but nevertheless important measure set the stage for a crucial Senate debate on Saturday on how to debate the administration’s Iraq policy, or indeed whether it should be debated at all. There had been virtually no doubt about the outcome in...

February 17, 2007

Next Stop -- The Senate

After the House approved the non-binding resolution calling the surge strategy a failure before the military implements it, the Senate prepared a rare Saturday session to vote on the bill. Harry Reid wants to have no debate or alternative resolutions and will force a cloture vote around 12:45: Determined to check President Bush, Democratic critics of the Iraq war hope a strong House vote critical of the administration's troop buildup will pay dividends in the Senate. But Republicans are insisting on an alternative that rejects any reduction in troop funding, making it unlikely Democrats will prevail in a test vote Saturday. "Americans deserve to know whether their senator stands with the president and his plan to deepen our military commitment in Iraq, or with the overwhelming majority of Americans who oppose this escalation," Majority Leader Harry Reid said Friday on the eve of the Senate showdown. ... Earlier this month,...

Anbar Tribes Continue Turning Against Al-Qaeda

With all of the focus on Baghdad and the surge, the second portion of the President's new strategy has gotten little attention. Four thousand Marines have begun arriving in Anbar, the power base for al-Qaeda in Iraq, in order to clear the province of these terrorists. They may find their job a little easier than first thought, as the savagery of AQI has turned many tribal leaders against the extremists: Sunni tribes in troubled Anbar province have begun working closely with U.S. and government forces, contributing nearly 2,400 men to the police department and 1,600 to a newly organized tribal security force, authorities say. U.S. troops are training and equipping the new tribal forces, which are called Emergency Response Units (ERUs), and are charged with defending the areas where they live, according to the local U.S. commander. By a U.S. count, 12 of the Ramadi area's 21 tribes are cooperating...

Rice Flies To Baghdad

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made an unannounced trip to Baghdad to personally observe the start of the new surge strategy. Rice told reporters that she's "pleased" with the initial implementation, and that the increased American troops will have a big impact on the city's security: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived Saturday in Baghdad to assess the security crackdown there, she told reporters traveling with her on the unannounced visit. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Rice will discuss security and reconstruction in various provinces across the war-ravaged nation. She will meet with U.S. and other Iraqi officials, an embassy spokesman said. The secretary is scheduled to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories after the talks in Baghdad. Rice said she had been told the Iraqis are "doing the job alongside their coalition counterparts and they are off to a good start." The military command has taken a...

Washington Post Spanks Murtha

The unbelievable cynicism of John Murtha's "slow bleed" plan to end the war in Iraq has not gone unnoticed by the Washington Post. The editorial board excoriates Murtha in no uncertain terms not just for his plan to elevate the Democrats on the backs of the troops in Iraq, but also for his ignorance on Iraq (via Instapundit): Mr. Murtha has a different idea. He would stop the surge by crudely hamstringing the ability of military commanders to deploy troops. In an interview carried Thursday by the Web site MoveCongress.org, Mr. Murtha said he would attach language to a war funding bill that would prohibit the redeployment of units that have been at home for less than a year, stop the extension of tours beyond 12 months, and prohibit units from shipping out if they do not train with all of their equipment. His aim, he made clear, is not...

Cloture Vote In Process

The Senate is holding their cloture vote as I post this. So far, the Democrats have gotten four Republicans to cross the aisle -- John Warner, Chuck Hagel, Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins. Joe Lieberman crossed from the Democratic caucus, making a net of 3 for the Democrats -- and they need a net 10. Norm Coleman crossed. Dems +4. This surprises me; Coleman told us specifically that he supported the surge in Anbar, and this resolution makes no mention of supporting that portion of the operation. It's a major disappointment. 1:19 PM CT - Cloture fails, 56-34. The resolution has been withdrawn by Harry Reid. UPDATE: The AP reports this as "Republicans foiled a Democratic attempt to rebuke President Bush". UPDATE II: Allahpundit has this update: The only Republicans to vote with the Dems last time were Coleman and Susan Collins. Joining them today: John Warner, Olympia Snowe, Arlen...

February 18, 2007

Hillary: Sound Retreat In 90 Days, Or Else

Hillary Clinton, stung by attacks from the Left on her vote to authorize the war in Iraq, has heeled around and now demands an immediate end to the effort. A video on her campaign web site demands that the US begin its retreat in 90 days, or else Congress will force a Constitutional showdown with George Bush: U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the early front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, has called for a 90-day deadline to start pulling American troops from Iraq. Clinton, the wife of former President Bill Clinton, has been criticized by some Democrats for supporting authorization of the war in 2002 and for not renouncing her vote as she seeks the U.S. presidency in next year's election. "Now it's time to say the redeployment should start in 90 days or the Congress will revoke authorization for this war," the New York senator said in a video...

Do Americans Want To Cut And Run?

Investors Business Daily reports on a poll they conducted earlier this month that appears to contradict the conventional wisdom that the midterms were a referendum on the war. In fact, the IBD poll shows that sentiment has actually built towards a commitment to victory in Iraq, and they angrily denounce John Murtha and the defeatists (via Power Line): There's a reason the founders of this country designated a single commander in chief and placed the responsibility to wage war in the hands of the president. We saw recently the futility of having 100 commanders in chief when the Senate tried to pass a resolution of disapproval of the war in Iraq and couldn't agree on the terms of our surrender. Now it's the House of Representatives' turn, led by Rep. John Murtha, who believes the fine young men and women we send to defeat terror and our sworn enemies are...

February 19, 2007

Can Oil Save The Sunnis?

The Iraqi government faces many issues, but perhaps none as intractable as oil revenues. The proper division of monies from oil production has plagued the National Assembly and sectarian relations since the end of the Saddam Hussein tyranny. The Kurds and the Shi'ites, freed from Saddam's grip, want to use the oil revenue from their sectors to directly benefit themselves. The lack of such resources in Sunni-controlled territory fuels the Sunni insurgents, afraid that they will be left destitute in a federal system. Now, however, it appears that the Sunnis may have more resources than first thought. The New York Times reports that Western engineers have discovered significant fields of oil and natural gas in Anbar: In a remote patch of the Anbar desert just 20 miles from the Syrian border, a single blue pillar of flanges and valves sits atop an enormous deposit of oil and natural gas that...

February 20, 2007

Game On

After a period of quiet after the US and Iraq started implementing their Baghdad security plan, the insurgents have decided to start pushing back. While America still has troops in transit, terrorists struck a US base yesterday, killing two and wounding 17: In a rare coordinated assault on an American combat outpost north of Baghdad, suicide bombers drove one or more cars laden with explosives into the compound on Monday, while other insurgents opened fire in the ensuing chaos, according to witnesses and the American military. Two American soldiers were killed and at least 17 were wounded. The brazen attack, which was followed by gun battles and an evacuation of the wounded by American helicopters, was almost surely the work of Sunni militants, most likely Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, according to American and Iraqi officials. It appeared to be part of a renewed drive by insurgents in recent weeks as...

British Troops To Leave Iraq

Tony Blair will announce the start of force reductions in the southern, Shi'ite regions of Iraq. Blair will tell the UK that their mission to train the native Iraqi security forces and transfer responsibility to them had succeeded, and that their presence is no longer required: Tony Blair is preparing to announce a major reduction in British troops in Iraq as a result of a successful operation to improve security in the southern city of Basra. Downing Street indicated tonight that Mr Blair could make his promised statement this week on Britain's future strategy in Iraq, He will be in the Commons tomorrow for his weekly Prime Minister's questions session Reports circulating in Whitehall tonight suggested that Britain's 7,000 contingent in Iraq could be cut to around 4,000 by the early summer. ... Mr Blair said on Sunday that Iraq's own armed forces and police were now in the main...

February 21, 2007

Whither Sadr City?

The US has a decision ahead of then with the new surge strategy that could either help drive out the Shi'ite insurgents or lose them the entire city of Baghdad. The joint Iraqi-American forces have cleared and held Shi'ite enclaves around Sadr City, but have not yet entered that power base of the Mahdi Army. They must determine whether and when to do so, and the credibility of the US forces and the Iraqi government depends on their next moves: U.S. and Iraqi forces have moved aggressively in the last week to combat Sunni Arab insurgents in neighborhoods across the capital and to establish a stronger presence in religiously mixed districts long plagued by sectarian violence. But as the new security crackdown enters a second week, they face their most sensitive challenge: whether, when and how to move into the Shiite-dominated slum of Sadr City, stronghold of the Al Mahdi...

February 22, 2007

Blair: We'll Go Back If Needed

Critics of the Iraq war have painted Tony Blair's decision to draw down the British troop levels as a repudiation of the war and an end to the Coalition in Iraq. Democrats wasted no time in pointing out the supposed incongruity of a British withdrawal in the south and an American surge in the west and center of Iraq. However, the man who made the decision to draw down the British contingent said today that he would send them back if the situation warranted higher troop levels: The UK is to withdraw 1,600 troops from Iraq but Mr Blair said numbers could increase again "if we're needed". He told MPs on Wednesday that the remaining 5,500 troops would stay until 2008. However, when he was asked about reversing that decision on the Today programme, he said: "I don't want to get into speculating about that because we have the full...

February 23, 2007

Democrats Try Binding Resolutions

Democrats have not given up on attempting to micromanage the war in Iraq despite their loss in the Senate last Saturday. A new effort has begun to rewrite the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, with Democrats claiming that the existing AUMF is obsolete -- rather than admit that they want to end our deployment altogether: Senate Democratic leaders intend to unveil a plan next week to repeal the 2002 resolution authorizing the war in Iraq in favor of narrower authority that restricts the military's role and begins withdrawals of combat troops. House Democrats have pulled back from efforts to link additional funding for the war to strict troop-readiness standards after the proposal came under withering fire from Republicans and from their party's own moderates. That strategy was championed by Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) and endorsed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). "If you strictly limit a...

February 25, 2007

Kurds Support Oil Revenue Sharing Plan

The Kurds have signed off on a plan to share oil revenues that will address many of the Sunni economic concerns that have driven some to extremism. The political breakthrough may help de-escalate the internal conflict in Iraq and allow the Sunnis to feel that they can participate in the representative government without losing everything: Leaders of Iraq's oil-rich Kurdish region have apparently approved a draft oil law that will be presented to Iraqi lawmakers in coming weeks, an eagerly awaited breakthrough that is expected to professionalize and expand drilling in the country. The agreement was announced Saturday by Massoud Barzani, president of the regional government in Kurdish-populated northern Iraq, during a news conference in the northern city of Sulaymaniyah attended by Iraq's president and the U.S. ambassador, the Associated Press reported. ... Iraqi officials in recent weeks have been struggling to reach an agreement on legislation that would govern...

February 27, 2007

Iraqi Cabinet Approves Oil Revenue Sharing

The plan recently approved by the Kurds to split the oil revenue of Iraq with the Sunnis won approval from the Iraqi cabinet. It now faces debate in the National Assembly, whose final approval will resolve one of the toughest issues in post-war Iraq and one that has helped fan the flames of the insurgencies: The Iraqi cabinet approved a draft of a law on Monday that would set guidelines for nationwide distribution of oil revenues and foreign investment in the immense oil industry. The endorsement reflected a major agreement among the country’s ethnic and sectarian political blocs on one of Iraq’s most divisive issues. The draft law approved by the cabinet allows the central government to distribute oil revenues to the provinces or regions based on population, which could lessen the economic concerns of the rebellious Sunni Arabs, who fear being cut out of Iraq’s vast potential oil wealth...

February 28, 2007

Quid Pro Qu'Iran

The Bush administration has reversed its position on engaging with the two terror-sponsoring nations in the Middle East to help stabilize Iraq. After rejecting the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group to start conducting diplomatic talks with Iran and Syria, Condoleezza Rice announced that she would be doing just that -- but only after the White House forced Iraq to forge an agreement on its toughest internal issue: American officials said Tuesday they had agreed to hold the highest-level contact with the Iranian authorities in more than two years as part of an international meeting on Iraq. The discussions, scheduled for the next two months, are expected to include Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Iranian and Syrian counterparts. The announcement, first made in Baghdad and confirmed by Ms. Rice, that the United States would take part in two sets of meetings between Iraq and its neighbors, including Syria...

Sadr City Showdown

Combined US and Iraqi forces swept through Sadr City yesterday, arresting more than a dozen suspected militia members and making a statement about the lack of limitation on the new surge operation. The US characterized their targets as "rogue" elements of the Mahdi Army and the captured could include as many as ten Iraqi policemen: American and Iraqi troops on Tuesday stormed several buildings in Sadr City, Baghdad’s main bastion of Shiite militancy, and detained at least 16 people suspected of participating in militia violence including killings, kidnappings and torture, the American military and local officials said. The early morning raids appeared to be the largest military operation in Sadr City since the new American-led crackdown began this month, intended to wrest control of Baghdad, the capital, from sectarian militias. American and Iraqi forces have conducted aggressive sweeps through neighborhoods abutting Sadr City, but Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has...

March 1, 2007

Bullish On The Iraqis

I have a new essay up at American.com, a project of the American Enterprise Institute, about the new agreement on oil revenue in Iraq. The agreement opens the door to eventual reconciliation and a success for the US in the Middle East: With most of American politics focused on the troop surge and partisan maneuverings over its implementation, another story has gotten lost: The Iraqis themselves have made important progress in a basic economic issue that has fueled the sectarian divide. ... Over the past three years, the politicians were unable to settle on an equitable and secure revenue-sharing plan that still allowed the Kurds and the Shi’ites to manage their own resources. But now things have changed. The Kurds, who had held out the longest, agreed to share their oil revenues on a basis that had already won support from the Shi’ites and the Sunnis. Two days later, the...

March 4, 2007

Sadr City Sweep Underway

The US and Iraqi armies began their sweep of Sadr City in force today, tackling the toughest nut of the new Baghdad surge strategy. First indications show that the Mahdi Army has melted away: Hundreds of U.S. soldiers entered the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City on Sunday in the first major push into the area since an American-led security sweep began last month around Baghdad. Soldiers conducted house-to-house searches, but met no resistance in a district firmly in the hands of the Madhi Army militia led by radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, said Lt. Col. David Oclander. The move into Sadr City came following negotiations with political leaders in the neighborhood. Al-Sadr had withdrawn his militia under intense pressure from the government, but there were worries that a large-scale military push without political clearance could bring a backlash and jeopardize the entire security effort. "The indication that we are getting is...

March 5, 2007

Mum On Plan B

The Pentagon has not discussed an alternate strategy for Iraq if the surge does not produce the desired results, the Washington Post reports. Peter Pace, Joint Chiefs chairman, parries such questions with the response that "Marines don't talk about failure," and that "Plan B is to make Plan A work": In the weeks since Bush announced the new plan for Iraq -- including an increase of 21,500 U.S. combat troops, additional reconstruction assistance and stepped-up pressure on the Iraqi government -- senior officials have rebuffed questions about other options in the event of failure. Eager to appear resolute and reluctant to provide fodder for skeptics, they have responded with a mix of optimism and evasion. Even if the administration is not talking about Plan B, the subject is on a lot of minds inside and outside the government. "I would be irresponsible if I weren't thinking about what the alternatives...

March 6, 2007

King David

It's no secret that the Bush surge strategy has a narrow political window to show success, and that the pressure mainly falls on the man who now commands the troops in Iraq. David Petraeus has carved out enough political support to get most of what he wants in the short term, and he has the fortitude to do whatever he feels necessary to win -- or to pull the plug: Petraeus's willingness to kick out against authority is the untold story of an otherwise orthodox career - and offers a clue to what may happen next in Iraq. He has surrounded himself in Baghdad with a team of officers described as "defence dissidents". His intellectual restlessness is typified by his now famous quizzing of an embedded reporter during the 2003 march on Baghdad. "Tell me how this ends," he repeatedly demanded. Now he has a chance to answer his own...

Cut And Run, v3.0

The Democrats in Congress have come up with yet another proposal to end the war in Iraq. After the non-binding resolution foundered and the John Murth slow-bleed plan blew up in their faces, the Democrats have hit on their latest strategy -- making President Bush certify troop readiness or allow him to waive the requirements: Senior House Democrats, seeking to placate members of their party from Republican-leaning districts, are pushing a plan that would place restrictions on President Bush's ability to wage the war in Iraq but would allow him to waive them if he publicly justifies his position. Under the proposal, Bush would also have to set a date to begin troop withdrawals if the Iraqi government fails to meet benchmarks aimed at stabilizing the country that the president laid out in January. The plan is an attempt to bridge the differences between anti-war Democrats, led by Rep. John...

March 7, 2007

Michael Yon Returns

Michael Yon has returned from his embed assignment in Iraq. Be sure to read his excellent report. Don't forget to hit the tip jar while you're there. Posting will be light today here at CQ today....

March 8, 2007

Learning The Right Lessons

Perhaps it is too early to grant General David Petraeus rock-star status, but he has garnered some good press of late. USA Today reports on Petraeus' philosophy of war and its application in Baghdad, as well as early indications of success: Twenty years ago, David Petraeus, then a young Army officer, wrote a Ph.D. dissertation for Princeton University, saying many of the lessons U.S. military leaders learned from the Vietnam War were wrong. Generals had become hesitant to commit forces except when they could win conventional battles with superior American firepower. "The senior military have universally been more cautious since Vietnam," Petraeus wrote. That hesitancy posed a problem in Petraeus' view. The U.S. military was turning away from the very fight — insurgencies — that it would likely confront. The United States' enemies had also learned from Vietnam and would not want to confront U.S. military might head-on. Now the...

The Doomed Plan To Doom Iraq

The Democrats unveiled their latest version of Cut and Run, which will demand a total withdrawal from Iraq by no later than the fall of 2008 -- just in time for the Presidential election. The plan forces President Bush to certify that the Iraqi government has met a series of benchmark tests, and any failure will trigger an immediate and early withdrawal: House Democrats today unveiled a plan for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of August 2008, introducing legislation that attaches a complex series of conditions to military spending requested by President Bush. The plan, described in a Capitol Hill news conference by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democratic leaders, would require Bush to certify that the Iraqi government is meeting military, political and economic benchmarks. If he cannot, it would move up the U.S. withdrawal to as early as the end of this...

March 9, 2007

Al-Baghdadi Captured

Iraq and the US scored a big victory today when it rolled up the leadership of an al-Qaeda affiliated group in Iraq. Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, who has taunted Americans in press releases in the past, wound up in our custody after a series of raids: The shadowy leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaida-inspired group that challenged the authority of Iraq's government, was captured Friday in a raid on the western outskirts of Baghdad, an Iraqi military spokesman said. Abu Omar al-Baghdadi was arrested along with several other insurgents in a raid in the town of Abu Ghraib, said Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, spokesman for the Baghdad security operation. U.S. officials had no confirmation of the capture and said they were looking into the report. Al-Moussawi said al-Baghdadi admitted his identity, as did another "of the terrorists" who confirmed "that the one in our hands is al-Baghdadi." Hot...

March 10, 2007

The Party Of Meaningless Gestures

Do the Democrats really want to end the war, or only look like they want to end the war? Their bills say "retreat", but their words say "pose", as Kathryn Jean Lopez notes at The Corner: [Senator Carl] Levin described a relatively modest goal, sayin he would be comfortable if the resolution received at least 40 votes. He allowed that such a plan would backfire if the measure received several votes fewer than previous resolutions critical of Bush’s policy. Apparently, the entire point of these resolutions is to tally how badly they fail in the Senate. The new definition of victory - for the Democratic majority -- is to garner more than 40 votes. Now the Democrats want to define victory in Iraq as defeat, and defeat in the Senate as victory. And Democrats wonder why people don't trust them with national security?...

March 11, 2007

If America Wins In Iraq And No One Reports It, Will It Make A Difference?

The Washington Post, among other news outlets, made a stink last week about the lack of a publicly-stated Plan B in the event the surge strategy failed to make a difference in Iraq. However, with preliminary indications showing success, Robert Kagan wonders whether journalists have a Plan B for themselves: Leading journalists have been reporting for some time that the war was hopeless, a fiasco that could not be salvaged by more troops and a new counterinsurgency strategy. The conventional wisdom in December held that sending more troops was politically impossible after the antiwar tenor of the midterm elections. It was practically impossible because the extra troops didn't exist. Even if the troops did exist, they could not make a difference. Four months later, the once insurmountable political opposition has been surmounted. The nonexistent troops are flowing into Iraq. And though it is still early and horrible acts of violence...

March 13, 2007

WaPo: Pelosi Plan A Murtha Trick

The Washington Post excoriates the Democratic leadership for exploiting the appropriations process on war funding to pander for votes in a scorching editorial this morning. Calling Cut and Run/Slow Bleed 3.0 nothing more than a "trick" meant to impose an impossible timeline on a troop withdrawal, the Post blasts the Democrats for thinking about nothing more than their electoral prospects in 2008: The Democratic proposal doesn't attempt to answer the question of why August 2008 is the right moment for the Iraqi government to lose all support from U.S. combat units. It doesn't hint at what might happen if American forces were to leave at the end of this year -- a development that would be triggered by the Iraqi government's weakness. It doesn't explain how continued U.S. interests in Iraq, which holds the world's second-largest oil reserves and a substantial cadre of al-Qaeda militants, would be protected after 2008;...

Hundreds Of Mahdis, Thousands Of Insurgents Detained

The new counterinsurgency strategies of David Petraeus have shown remarkable initial success. USA Today reports that the US and Iraqi forces now employing the Baghdad security plan have captured thousands of insurgents as well as large numbers of Mahdi Army militia members -- and Moqtada al-Sadr has yet to poke his head above ground: Coalition forces have detained about 700 members of the Mahdi Army, the largest Shiite militia in Baghdad, the top U.S. commander in Iraq said Monday. The militia, which is loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and has clashed with U.S. troops in the past, has mostly avoided a direct confrontation with American and Iraqi government forces, Gen. David Petraeus said in an interview with USA TODAY. Some of the militia's top leaders have left the capital, and Iraqi government officials are negotiating with al-Sadr's political organization in an effort to disband the militia, Petraeus said. "I...

March 14, 2007

The Candy Man Can

Who can take tomorrow, dip it in a dream? The candy man, baby: The commander of U.S. troops in Iraq wanted some sweets, and nothing was going to stop him. Not even the fact that he was tramping through a neighborhood that only days ago had been teeming with snipers and Al Qaeda fighters who would love nothing better than to say they just shot Gen. David H. Petraeus. With soldiers casting anxious glances along the desolate dirt road, the four-star Army general made a beeline for a tiny shop and helped himself to a bite-sized, honey-coated pastry proffered by the owner. Oblivious to the flies buzzing around his head, Petraeus chatted briefly with a man who said his cafe had been damaged in recent battles between U.S. forces and insurgents. Then, after promising compensation for the cafe owner, Petraeus hiked on. "Tell him the next time I come back...

March 15, 2007

US Curbs Kurds

Responding to Turkey's complaints about PKK involvement in Kurdish guerilla attacks, the US has quietly pressured the Iraqi government and the Kurdish sector in Iraq to throttle support for the terrorist group. The issue threatened to bring Turkish troops streaming across the Iraqi border in retaliation for attacks and destabilizing the one portion of Iraq that has rebuilt itself: The United States is dealing with Turkish complaints about Kurdish separatists operating in northern Iraq and has not ruled out military action against the rebels, the U.S. official assigned to handle the problem says. Retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Joseph Ralston, a special envoy tasked with countering the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, said Wednesday in an Associated Press interview that U.S. pressure has resulted in moves against the group's operations by Iraqi and European authorities. Turkish officials repeatedly have accused the United States of insufficient efforts to prevent attacks into...

Clinton: I'll Ignore Genocide

Hillary Clinton made an astonishing statement on her policy for Iraq if elected President, in an interview with the New York Times yesterday. She refused to commit to total withdrawal from Iraq, saying that she would keep American troops in Anbar to fight terrorists, a stance that will not endear her to the anti-war Left in her party. At the same time, she said she would refuse to send troops back into Baghdad, even if a genocide took place: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton foresees a “remaining military as well as political mission” in Iraq, and says that if elected president, she would keep a reduced but significant military force there to fight Al Qaeda, deter Iranian aggression, protect the Kurds and possibly support the Iraqi military. In a half-hour interview on Tuesday in her Senate office, Mrs. Clinton said the scaled-down American military force that she would maintain in Iraq...

Bush: I'll Find My Veto Pen

The White House has threatened to veto the new Democratic bill to limit his options in Iraq, which would double the number of vetoes in the Bush administration. No one expects the measure to pass in Congress, but the President wants to leave no doubt about its fate if it does: In the face of determined opposition from the Bush administration, the Senate on Wednesday began an impassioned debate over an exit strategy from Iraq, headed toward a vote on a Democratic resolution aimed at a pullout of American combat troops in 2008. Underscoring the mounting tensions between the Democratic Congress and the White House, administration officials immediately issued a veto threat, even though the measure is considered unlikely to win final passage. The administration’s statement denounced the Democratic plan in forceful terms, declaring that it would “embolden our enemies” and “hobble American commanders in the field.” In the House,...

The Opportunity In Sadr City

A report by The Scotsman on the shock experienced by American troops on their first forays into Sadr City reveal an opportunity that we can seize to push the militias aside. Basic services such as sewage and trash removal do not exist, and although the residents of the slums have so far given the American surge a chance, success will depend on replacing those services provided by the militias: In a capital where public services barely function and five straight hours of electricity is a cause for celebration, Sadr City stands out. Some 2.5 million people, nearly all of them Shiites, live in the northeastern Baghdad community. Many of them lack running water and proper sewerage. Hundreds of thousands have no jobs and subsist on monthly food rations, a throwback to the international sanctions of the Saddam Hussein era. Streets in some parts of Sadr City run black with sludge....

GOP Defeats Reid Measure To End Deployment

Senate Republicans turned back an effort by Harry Reid to set a fixed withdrawal date for US troops in Iraq. Reid lost by a thin margin, 50-48, as three Democrats defected to the opposition for this measure: Democrats aggressively challenged President Bush's Iraq policy at both ends of the Capitol on Thursday, gaining House committee approval for a troop withdrawal deadline of Sept. 1, 2008, but suffering defeat in the Senate on a less sweeping plan to end U.S. participation in the war. In the Senate, after weeks of skirmishing, Republicans easily turned back Democratic legislation requiring a troop withdrawal to begin within 120 days. The measure set no fixed deadline for completion of the redeployment, but set a goal of March 31, 2008. The vote was 50-48 against the measure, 12 short of the 60 needed for passage. Senate Democrats promptly said they would try again to force a...

March 16, 2007

Decline In Deaths And Attacks Shows Surge Success

US and Iraqi generals pointed to sharp declines in both attacks and deaths in the month since the new Baghdad security strategy has been implemented as a sign of its success. Civilian deaths declined by 80%, and 2,000 displaced families have returned to their homes: Iraqi and US generals have hailed a fall in insurgent attacks as proof that the Baghdad “surge” plan is begining to show results one month into the operation. Yet despite an apparent fall in the number of kidnappings and murders, the scourge of car bombs and roadside bombs has not abated and most officers caution that the crucial bench-mark will be Baghdad’s death toll in the coming months. General Qasim al-Mussawi, spokesman for the Iraqi operation, said that the number of civilians killed in the past month had fallen to 265, compared with 1,440 from mid-January to mid-February. But there was no way to verify...

Mosul Court Sets Example For Independent Iraqi Justice

A court in Mosul, staffed by anonymous judges who operate courts that exclude Westerners as observers, has set an example for an independent judiciary in Iraq. Carefully guided by American military advisors but only after the adjudication of cases, the tribunal has established itself as a clean and impartial standard by which other courts can pattern themselves: Last year, the criminal justice system here had nearly ground to a halt. Intimidated judges were refusing to hear trials. Some judges were allowing suspected insurgents to go free. Then American advisers in this northern Iraqi city made a proposal: The Iraqis should bring in judges from Baghdad who would serve anonymously. And local officials and the chief judge in Baghdad agreed. Now U.S. military officers and State Department officials here tout the Mosul program as a major success and a model for the rest of the country. But the Americans also acknowledge...

March 17, 2007

Sadr Goes All In

Moqtada al-Sadr has played his hole card in his high-stakes game against the US and Iraqi forces in Baghdad. Sadr skipped town as the Coalition gathered its strength for the new surge stratgey to secure Baghdad, taking a powder east to Iran to consult with his sponsors. His whereabouts still unknown, he ended his silence by issuing a statement to fuel an anti-American rally in Sadr City: Residents of the Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City on Friday showed signs of growing resentment toward the presence of U.S. troops in the area, chanting "No occupation!" and "No America!" in a march demanding the removal of a U.S. base there. The protest came as U.S. military officials cited Sadr City, stronghold of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada Sadr, as a success story in a month-old effort to improve security in Baghdad. It also coincided with an announcement that the Pentagon is speeding up the...

March 18, 2007

Iraqi Survey Says ...

The Times of London conducted a major poll of Iraqis to determine their state of mind a month after the beginning of the surge, and it finds the Iraqis rather optimistic. Four hundred pollsters went door to door to speak to over 5,000 Iraqi adults, and found that almost a majority of them preferred life now under the democracy of Nouri al-Maliki rather than the oppression of Saddam Hussein: The poll highlights the impact the sectarian violence has had. Some 26% of Iraqis - 15% of Sunnis and 34% of Shi’ites - have suffered the murder of a family member. Kidnapping has also played a terrifying role: 14% have had a relative, friend or colleague abducted, rising to 33% in Baghdad. Yet 49% of those questioned preferred life under Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, to living under Saddam. Only 26% said things had been better in Saddam’s era, while 16%...

March 20, 2007

Dueling Ramadan Executed

Taha Yassin Ramadan, Saddam Hussein's Vice-President and one of the co-authors of his atrocities, was executed today after an appeals court ordered the death penalty last January. He handed his will to his lawyer after Iraqi authorities carefully weighed him, avoiding the inadvertent decapitation that occurred during an earlier hanging: Saddam Hussein's former deputy was hanged before dawn Tuesday, the fourth man to be executed in the killings of 148 Shiites following a 1982 assassination attempt against the former leader in the town of Dujail. Taha Yassin Ramadan, who was Saddam's vice president when the regime was ousted, went to the gallows on the fourth anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq. Bassam al-Hassani, an adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said the execution went smoothly, although Ramadan appeared frightened and recited the two shahadahs — a declaration of faith repeated by Muslims — "There is no God...

March 21, 2007

Iraqi Insurgents Using Children For Attacks

The BBC reports that the increased checkpoints implemented as part of the surge strategy has forced Iraqi insurgents into a brutal change in tactics. Believing them more likely to pass through the security posts, terrorists have begun using children to carry out suicide attacks on Iraqi civilians: A US military official has said children have been used in a bomb attack in Iraq, raising fears that insurgents are using a new tactic. Gen Michael Barbero said a vehicle stopped at a checkpoint was waved through because two children were seen in the back, but was then detonated. Militants were changing tactics in response to tighter security, he said. ... Gen Barbero said there had been also two adults in the car. They parked it near a market, abandoned it with the children inside and apparently detonated it. The two children died, along with three civilians in the vicinity, officials said....

March 22, 2007

Mahdis Fracturing, US Trying To Heal Them?

The Mahdi Army, once a large structure ready to do Moqtada al-Sadr's bidding, has fractured under the weight of the US surge strategy. Hundreds of Mahdi commanders now take orders directly from Iran, where they have gone to train while the US and Iraqi security plan makes the kind of progress that threatens their political stranglehold on Baghdad: The violent Shiite militia known as the Mahdi Army is breaking into splinter groups, with up to 3,000 gunmen now financed directly by Iran and no longer loyal to the firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, adding a potentially even more deadly element to Iraq's violent mix. Two senior militia commanders told The Associated Press that hundreds of these fighters have crossed into Iran for training by the elite Quds force, a branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guard thought to have trained Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon and Muslim fighters in Bosnia and Afghanistan. The breakup...

Democrats Undone Over Iraq

William Butler Yeats wrote that "the center does not hold" in his famous poem, "The Second Coming", and Congress' new majority looks to prove it. The Democrats now face uprisings on both right and left flanks over the latest version of Cut and Run making its way to the House floor, and the prospects of passage even where filibusters cannot block votes appears very dim indeed: Representative Dan Boren is a Democrat, but after visiting Iraq last week he announced a decision that puts him at odds with his party’s leaders: he intends to vote against their plan to set a deadline for troops to leave Iraq. “A timeline, in effect, is cutting off the funds,” said Mr. Boren, a conservative second-term lawmaker whose territory covers the eastern swath of Oklahoma, from the bottom of Kansas to the top of Texas. “That is not the solution.” His views have barely...

March 23, 2007

CBS: IED Attacks Decrease Dramatically

CBS News published a report on Wednesday that escaped my attention, but it should get wide play in the blogosphere. According to their sources in the military, the surge has resulted in a stark dropoff of roadside bomb attacks, a reversal of the pre-surge trend: After warning that the threat of deadly EFPs, or Explosively Formed Penetrators, was growing at an alarming rate, the U.S. military now says there's been a "dramatic" decrease in the use of the powerful roadside bombs. EFPs "can punch through most of the armor out on the battlefield today," Army Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a U.S. military spokesman said of the devices, which U.S. officials have said come from Iran. ... "In February, we noticed a 47 percent decrease in explosively formed penetrators being detonated against our troops, a 53 percent decrease in the number of troops wounded and a 51 percent decrease in the...

WaPo Slams Democrats For Devotion To Pork Over National Security

On the eve of a critical House vote on supplemental funding for the Iraq war, the Washington Post scolds the Democrats who attached billions in pork spending to bribe its members to vote for a withdrawal timetable. The editors take apart the legislation, stating that its sponsors care more for a handful of peanut farmers than for the 24 million Iraqis who depend on the US for their security: TODAY THE House of Representatives is due to vote on a bill that would grant $25 million to spinach farmers in California. The legislation would also appropriate $75 million for peanut storage in Georgia and $15 million to protect Louisiana rice fields from saltwater. More substantially, there is $120 million for shrimp and menhaden fishermen, $250 million for milk subsidies, $500 million for wildfire suppression and $1.3 billion to build levees in New Orleans. Altogether the House Democratic leadership has come...

Why Is CENTCOM Kicking Michael Yon Out Of Iraq?

Michael Yon has provided some of the best reporting on the ground in Iraq. He embeds with the troops, reporting honestly on the ups and downs of our efforts there. He has proven himself courageous under fire and keeps returning to give Americans a clear view of the status of our mission. Now, however, Yon may find himself booted out of Iraq: A general emailed in the past 24 hours threatening to kick me out. The first time the Army threatened to kick me out was in late 2005, just after I published a dispatch called “Gates of Fire.” Some of the senior level public affairs people who’d been upset by “Proximity Delays” were looking ever since for a reason to kick me out and they wanted to use “Gates of Fire” as a catapult. In the events described in that dispatch, I broke some rules by, for instance, firing...

The House, The Bill, And The Veto

Nancy Pelosi barely managed to eke out a victory on the supplemental spending bill for the Iraq war. The pork-laden bill passed with the bare minimum number of votes, and only after two Republicans crossed the aisle: The House of Representatives today passed a $124 billion emergency spending bill that sets binding benchmarks for progress in Iraq, establishes tough readiness standards for deploying U.S. troops abroad and requires the withdrawal of American combat forces from Iraq by the end of August 2008. The bill promptly drew a veto threat from President Bush. After four hours of floor debate yesterday and today, the House approved the bill by a vote of 218 to 212. One lawmaker voted present and three did not vote. ... In a largely party-line vote, 216 Democrats were joined by two Republicans in supporting the bill, while 198 Republicans and 14 Democrats opposed it. Voting with the...

March 24, 2007

Iraqi VP: Pullout Would Cripple Security

Iraqi VP Tareq al-Hashemi responded to yesterday's vote in Congress by emphasizing that Iraqi security troops still need more time to avoid creating a security vacuum when the Americans leave. The BBC manages to editorialize in the middle of its report, too: Iraq's vice-president has warned that a quick withdrawal of US troops could worsen the security situation in Iraq. Tareq al-Hashemi responded after the US House of Representatives passed a bill imposing a deadline for all US troops to leave Iraq by 31 August 2008. Mr Hashemi said replacing US troops with poorly-trained Iraqis whose loyalty was questionable would create a security vacuum. US President George W Bush vowed to veto the Democratic-sponsored bill. "I do believe that for the common interest of my country we need coalition forces to stay until further notice," Mr Hashemi said on a visit to Japan. "We are expecting a timetable for conditional...

March 25, 2007

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished, Part 67C

The assassination attempt on Iraq's deputy prime minister now looks like an inside job, and the perpetrator had already been suspected of being a security risk. However, since both men are Sunnis and related to each other, the erstwhile assassin never got searched before blowing himself up within feet of the politician: The suicide attack against Iraq's Sunni deputy prime minister is now seen as an inside job carried out by a member of his own security detail — a distant relative who had been arrested as an insurgent, freed at the official's request, then hired as a bodyguard, a senior security official and an aide to the victim told The Associated Press on Sunday. The assassination attempt, at least the third major security breach involving a top politician in four months, prompted Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to order a government-wide security shake up, including plans to hire a foreign...

March 27, 2007

Red On Red In Iraq

Iraqi Sunni insurgents have begun turning on their former friends in al-Qaeda, to the point of open combat in some areas, according to Sunni politicians and insurgent spokespeople. The development gives hope that the Iraqi factions will reject foreign terrorists and that the conflict can provide an opening for the end of the native insurgencies: Insurgent leaders and Sunni Arab politicians say divisions between insurgent groups and Al Qaeda in Iraq have widened and have led to combat in some areas of the country, a schism that U.S. officials hope to exploit. The Sunni Arab insurgent leaders said they disagreed with the leadership of Al Qaeda in Iraq over tactics, including attacks on civilians, as well as over command of the movement. ... Insurgent leaders from two of the prominent groups fighting U.S. troops said the divisions between their forces and Al Qaeda were serious. They have led to skirmishes...

Reid Scores A Victory On Iraq By Backing Defeat

Harry Reid won his most important victory as Senate Majority Leader today by unexpectedly passing the supplemental spending bill for Iraq with the mandatory timetables for withdrawal within 12 months. Two Senators, Ben Nelson and Chuck Hagel, reversed their stand on the automatic withdrawal from less than two weeks ago, when the Senate last considered it: Senate Democrats scored a surprise victory yesterday in their bid to force President Bush to end the Iraq war, turning back a Republican amendment that would have struck a troop withdrawal plan from emergency military funding legislation. The defection of a prominent Republican war critic, Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, sealed the Democrats' win. Hagel, who opposed identical withdrawal language two weeks ago, walked onto the Senate floor an hour before the late-afternoon vote and announced that he would "not support sustaining a flawed and failing policy," adding: "It's now time for the Congress...

March 28, 2007

Now They Complain Of Overcrowding

You can never win. First critics said the surge would never work. Now that US and Iraqi forces have started rounding up terror suspects by the hundreds as a result of the improved security plan, the critics now complain that we've captured too many: Hundreds of Iraqis detained in the Baghdad security crackdown have been crammed into two detention centers run by the Defense Ministry that were designed to hold only dozens of people, a government monitoring group said Tuesday. The numbers suggested that the security plan’s emphasis on aggressive block-by-block sweeps of troubled neighborhoods in the capital had flooded Iraq’s frail detention system, and appeared to confirm the fears of some human rights advocates who have been predicting that the new plan would aggravate already poor conditions. ... In one of the detention centers, in the town of Mahmudiya, south of Baghdad, 705 people were packed into an area...

March 29, 2007

Fruit Loops

Many of us railed against the pork that the House included in its supplemental spending bill for the Iraq war, along with its mandatory time tables for defeat and retreat. Proving that the House is a collection of pikers in a porkfest, the Senate added its own pork onto their version of the bill -- leading to the strange speech of Barbara Boxer using "Strawberry Fields Forever" in support of a war funding bill: "There's a song called 'Strawberry Fields Forever,' " the California Democrat declared on the Senate floor, as an aide displayed a poster of an icy berry patch. "This is a strawberry field," Boxer continued, seeking funds for frostbitten fruit farmers. "It looks like an ice rink. The strawberries are somewhere in there; they are destroyed. I also want to show you oranges. . . . Here you can see the icicles near the avocados." The relationship...

April 1, 2007

Risky Business

The Iraqi government will start relocating Arabs from Kirkuk, where Saddam Hussein put them in an effort to dilute Kurdish claims to the city. The move could create a flash of ethnic violence, as the provenance of the oil-rich area has implications for Kurdish autonomy and the unity of Iraq as a nation: The Iraqi government will soon begin relocating Arabs who were moved to Kirkuk under an edict by Saddam Hussein to force Kurds out of the disputed northern city, officials said Saturday. The controversial step for the oil-rich city could help determine whether it becomes part of an autonomous Kurdish region, but critics warned that it would stoke sectarian tensions. Iraq's cabinet on Thursday endorsed a committee's recent recommendation to compensate eligible Arabs who voluntarily leave the city, said Sadiq al-Rikabi, a political adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Those who choose to move will receive about $15,000...

Obama: Senate Will Abandon Timelines After Veto

Barack Obama made clear that Senate Democrats will wind up voting for an Iraq supplemental without the mandatory timetables for withdrawal. Saying that the Democrats would not "play chicken" with the troops, he told the AP in Iowa that the entire exercise was designed to pressure Bush into changing policy: If President Bush vetoes an Iraq war spending bill as promised, Congress quickly will provide the money without the withdrawal timeline the White House objects to because no lawmaker "wants to play chicken with our troops," Sen. Barack Obama said Sunday. "My expectation is that we will continue to try to ratchet up the pressure on the president to change course," the Democratic presidential candidate said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I don't think that we will see a majority of the Senate vote to cut off funding at this stage." ... Given that Bush is determined to...

April 3, 2007

Reid Wants To Play Chicken A Little Longer

Barack Obama assured America that the Democrats would fund the troops in Iraq if the White House vetoed the current supplemental two days ago. Speaking with the AP in Iowa, he said that the Democrats would not "play chicken" with the troops and would drop the mandatory timetables in the next supplemental. Apparently Obama forgot to tell Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid about this strategy, because he announced that a veto would bring a defunding bill to the floor: Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid yesterday endorsed the Senate's toughest antiwar bill yet, a bid to cut off funding within a year, sending a clear signal to President Bush that the Iraq debate will continue in Congress regardless of whether he carries through on his veto threats. Reid (Nev.) announced that he had teamed up with Sen. Russell Feingold (Wis.), one of the Democrats' strongest war critics, on legislation to...

April 4, 2007

Was McCain Right?

John McCain took a lot heat this week for asserting that the security situation has improved since the beginning of the surge. Michael Ware at CNN especially ridiculed his comments, and scenes of McCain touring Baghdad with a heavy security detail brough more derision. However, Terry McCarthy at ABC News reports that McCain may have been correct after all: CHARLIE GIBSON: Our man in Baghdad, Terry McCarthy, noticed that the troop surge is having a large and positive effect. TERRY MCCARTHY: It's been about seven weeks since the US troop surge into Baghdad began, and so far about half of the 30,000 troops have arrived. ... The locals told us that things are getting better. Children's playgrounds are filling up, shopping streets are busier, and people have time to drink a cup of tea, or eat an ice cream. McCarthy shows a couple of unfortunately familiar scenes of attacks and...

Iraq To Expand Security Plan

The new surge security plan in Iraq has performed so well, the Iraqi government will now expand the strategy to Mosul, where Petraeus first conceived it. The results in Baghdad have Iraqi officials optimistic enough to start ending curfews and removing concrete barriers: Iraq says it is extending the current security drive beyond Baghdad to areas outside the capital. Efforts to bring the security plan to the northern city of Mosul began on Tuesday, officials said, and Baghdad's outskirts would also be targeted Officials have expressed optimism about reduced sectarian violence in Baghdad, and have decided to ease the curfew. How well has Petraeus's plan performed? Moqtada al-Sadr fired two of his deputies for not leaving a banquet when Petraeus arrived. Salam al-Maliki and Qusai Abdul-Wahab represented Sadr's faction in the Iraqi National Assembly, at least until they broke bread with the American commander. Petraeus used some of the same...

April 5, 2007

Max Boot: McCain Was Right

Max Boot writes from Iraq of his surprise over John McCain's comments regarding the Iraqi security situation. While he acknowledges that McCain wore body armor and had armed personnel guarding him, Boot points out the obvious -- that McCain makes a good target, but that other assumptions should not be drawn from it. Boot also tells his readers that McCain was right: Though only three of the five extra brigades scheduled to be deployed have yet arrived in Baghdad, the offensive has already paid big dividends. A semblance of normality is returning in some neighborhoods, markets are reopening, sectarian murders and ethnic cleansings have been dramatically reduced. The situation still isn’t great, but at least the downward trend has been stopped. There have been a few big suicide bombings lately that obscure this improvement, but most of these have been outside Baghdad, where the current security operation is focused. Needless...

April 8, 2007

Sadr: It's On

Moqtada al-Sadr has decided to finally acknowledge that the surge strategy in Baghdad will undermine the basis of his power in Iraq, and has ordered the Mahdi Army to resist American and Iraqi forces trying to put him out of business. In a missive to his forces today, Sadr told his minions to focus their attacks on American forces where possible in order to keep from losing all political standing in Iraq: The renegade cleric Muqtada al-Sadr urged Iraqi forces to stop cooperating with the United States and told his guerrilla fighters to concentrate their attacks on American troops rather than Iraqis, according to a statement issued Sunday. The statement, stamped with al-Sadr's official seal, was distributed in the Shiite holy city of Najaf on Sunday — a day before a large demonstration there, called for by al-Sadr, to mark the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad. ... In...

April 9, 2007

Reid Vs Levin On Troop Funding

Carl Levin and Harry Reid seem to be on different pages in the battle over funding and withdrawal timetables for the war in Iraq. Just a couple of days after Harry Reid threatened to defund the war effort if Bush did not accept mandatory time triggers for troop withdrawals, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee insisted that the Democrats would not follow the Majority Leader's lead on funding: The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said Sunday that the Senate would not cut off funding for the Iraq war but would keep pressing President Bush for a settlement among Iraqi leaders to end the violence. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), appearing on ABC's "This Week," disagreed with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who said last week that he would co-sponsor legislation to cut off almost all money for the war in Iraq by next March. "Well, we're...

April 12, 2007

Explosion In Green Zone Kills Two

This will bode ill for supporters of the war in Iraq. An apparent suicide bombing has killed two members of the Iraqi parliament within the Green Zone as they ate in the Assembly's cafeteria: A bomb exploded in the Iraqi parliament's cafeteria in a stunning assault in the heart of the heavily fortified Green Zone Thursday, killing at least two lawmakers and wounding 10 other people. The blast in the parliament building came hours after a suicide truck bomb blew up on a major bridge in Baghdad, collapsing the steel structure and sending cars tumbling into the Tigris River, police and witnesses said. At least 10 people were killed. The bomb in parliament went off in a cafeteria while several lawmakers were eating lunch, media reports said. In addition to the two dead, state television said at least 10 people were wounded. The bombing came amid the two-month-old security crackdown...

April 14, 2007

What Happened To 'Follow The Money'?

It gets disheartening defending the obvious pre-9/11 connections between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda when the White House seems unmotivated to do so, but Thomas Jocelyn and Andy McCarthy haven't been chased off the story by Senator Carl Levin and the Washington Post. When both asserted that no one had found connections between Saddam and AQ, they both reminded readers to follow the money: But Levin's story, which was simply repeated without any real investigation by the Post or even the inspector general's office, relies on a false dichotomy. The senator now pretends that the CIA and other intelligence outfits had reached a rock-solid conclusion that there was no noteworthy relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda in 2002, but Feith's shop improperly pressed on. The Post summarized the inspector general's report as saying: " the CIA had concluded in June 2002 that there were few substantiated contacts between al-Qaeda operatives and...

April 16, 2007

Sadr Plays His Last Political Card

Moqtada al-Sadr has played his final political card in Iraq by withdrawing his ministers from the Cabinet of Nouri al-Maliki. The move puts pressure on Maliki to find other factions to support his majority, and so far, Maliki has refused to buckle to demands for a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops: The head of Moqtada Sadr's Iraqi parliament bloc says the radical cleric has ordered his ministers to withdraw from the cabinet. Mr Sadr's bloc, which has six cabinet ministers, is trying to press Prime Minister Nouri Maliki to set a timetable for a US troop withdrawal. Mr Maliki has refused, saying a pullout depends on conditions on the ground. Analysts say Mr Sadr holds great power among Iraq's Shia majority, but the unity government is likely to survive. If Maliki survives the withdrawal of Sadr's support, Sadr is finished politically. He drew only middling crowds in Najaf...

April 18, 2007

Saudis Forgive Iraqi Debt

The Bush administration won an important foreign-policy victory yesterday when Saudi Arabia agreed to write off 80% of Iraq's debt to their southern neighbor. Bush has worked for the last four years since the fall of Saddam Hussein to drastically reduce the crushing load of debt on the new Iraqi government. The Saudi decision is doubly important, as the conservative Sunnis did not appear likely to forgive so much debt from a Shi'ite nation: Saudi Arabia has agreed to forgive 80 percent of the more than $15 billion that Iraq owes the kingdom, Iraqi and Saudi officials said yesterday, a major step given Saudi reluctance to provide financial assistance to the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad. But Iraqi Finance Minister Bayan Jabr said in an interview that Russia was holding out on debt forgiveness until talks begin on concessions that Russian oil and gas companies had under Saddam Hussein. Russian Embassy...

April 20, 2007

The Axis Of Embarrassment (Updated ... BS?)

See update below -- not very credible. Bloggers today have been linking to an article in The Spectator, a well-regarded British magazine, written by Daily Mail columnist Melanie Philips regarding Iraqi WMDs. According to the man assigned to look for them, the WMDs were there -- before the Bush Administration apparently botched security at the sites and his classified reports went missing. Meet David Garbautz, who served as an Air Force agent in Special Investigations for 12 years before his most important assignment: Between March and July 2003, he says, he was taken to four sites in southern Iraq — two within Nasariyah, one 20 miles south and one near Basra — which, he was told by numerous Iraqi sources, contained biological and chemical weapons, material for a nuclear programme and UN-proscribed missiles. He was, he says, in no doubt whatever that this was true. This was, in the first...

Sunni Tribes Form Alliance Against Insurgents

I missed this story this morning, so I'm glad Allahpundit linked to it. It gives me an opportunity to make amends for the Gaubatz story below with some good news from Iraq. Sunni tribal chiefs plan on forming an anti-insurgent political party in Anbar, reflecting the success the US has had against al-Qaeda in Iraq and the brutality of AQI against the local people: A group of Sunni tribal leaders in beleaguered Al Anbar province said Thursday that it intended to form a national party to oppose insurgents such as Al Qaeda in Iraq and reengage with Iraq's political process. The announcement came after 200 sheiks said to represent 50 tribes met here and agreed to form a provincial sheiks council and hold the first convention in May of their new party, called Iraq Awakening. Sheiks from three other provinces will attend, organizers said. The driving force behind the new...

April 21, 2007

The Gates Timetable?

Robert Gates warned the Iraq government that they have to make progress on political reconciliation by this summer or he may pull American troops out of the security plan for Baghdad. Sounding a tone that one normally associates with war critics, he said that the Iraqi National Assembly had to pass key legislation quickly, as the surge will only buy them a limited amount of time in which to accomplish their goals: Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, unsatisfied with the pace of political reconciliation in Iraq, laid down an implicit deadline Friday by urging Iraqi leaders to pass key laws by summer while repeating his warning that U.S. troops will not patrol Iraqi streets indefinitely. Gates also described as "mixed" the results of two-month-old military operations to curb violence in Baghdad, which have included tens of thousands of additional U.S. troops. "Our commitment to Iraq is long-term, but it is...

April 22, 2007

Good Cop, Really Bad Cop

The New York Times reports on the interrogation methods of the new Iraqi Army in an article that will likely renew the debate on torture. Iraqi Army forces whipped a suspected terrorist with an electrical cord to get a confession -- but that confession led to the discovery of safe houses, bomb-construction facilities, and the names of insurgency leaders. All of this will make American soldiers safer in Iraq, but at what cost? “The detainee gave us names from the highest to the lowest,” Captain Fowler told the Iraqi soldiers. “He showed us their safe houses, where they store weapons and I.E.D.’s and where they keep kidnap victims, how they get weapons, where weapons come from, how they place I.E.D.’s, attack us and go away. Because you detained this guy this is the first intelligence linking everything together. Good job. Very good job.” The Iraqi officers beamed. What the Americans...

April 24, 2007

War Supplemental Now Includes Minimum-Wage Increase?

House and Senate conferees have reached agreement on the supplemental funding bill for the war in Iraq, the Washington Post reports. It maintains the timetables for withdrawal that could get initiated as early as July 1 and maintains a few of the pork-barrel items that raised such ire during the debates in both chambers. Democrats have also added their minimum-wage increase to the bill, an odd addition to war funding: House and Senate negotiators reached agreement yesterday on war-funding legislation that would begin bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq as early as July, setting a goal of ending U.S. combat operations by no later than March. The $124 billion bill, slated for final votes in the House and Senate tomorrow and Thursday, sets up a veto clash with President Bush by week's end. Some congressional Democrats had considered making advisory all dates for withdrawing U.S. troops in the hopes of...

Nancy No-Show

Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have insisted that the American military has done nothing to improve the situation in Iraq. Reid has gone so far as to declare the war lost and to malign the character of General David Petraeus, whose report he dismisses as valueless. Pelosi has a simpler way of dealing with Petraeus and his briefing for Capitol Hill -- avoid him: As the House and Senate prepare to vote this week on the final conference report on the $124 billion troop funding bill — which would also mandate that U.S. combat troops begin withdrawing from Iraq on Oct. 1 at the latest — Gen. David Petraeus is scheduled to come to the Hill tomorrow to brief lawmakers on the progress of the recent troop escalation. ABC News has learned, however, that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will not attend the briefing. "She can't make the briefing tomorrow,"...

April 25, 2007

Why No One Wants An American Withdrawal

The Guardian (UK) has relentlessly opposed the war in Iraq for the past four years and more, giving its readers on the Left a steady diet of bad news and angry opinion based on its editorial policy. British newspapers have an open editorial bias, and readers expect news from a point of view. Guardian readers may find themselves surprised today, however, to find a detailed explanation of all the reasons why the nations in the Middle East do not want an American withdrawal from Iraq -- and the catastrophes that would follow one: The so-called axis of moderate Arab states - comprising Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan - dreads an early US withdrawal. First, because it would be widely interpreted as an American defeat, which would weaken these pro-American regimes while both energising and radicalising their populations. Second, if the US leaves, the emergence of a Shia regime in Iraq...

April 26, 2007

House Disregards Petraeus, Votes For Withdrawal

The House rejected the message from General David Petraeus, the man the Senate sent just three months ago to command the American forces in Iraq, and voted for a supplemental spending bill that will require the start of an American withdrawal by October 1. It passed on the barest of majorities and has no hope of surviving a veto, but the Democrats insist that they will play this game of chicken all the way to its conclusion: The House on Wednesday narrowly approved a $124 billion war spending bill that would require American troops to begin withdrawing from Iraq by Oct. 1, setting the stage for the first veto fight between President Bush and majority Democrats. Only hours after Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander in Iraq, told lawmakers that he needed more time to gauge the effectiveness of a troop buildup there, the House voted 218 to 208 pass...

The Goalpost-Shifting Of The Democrats

I decided to follow up yesterday's Five Myths piece with another look at Harry Reid and Nancy "No-Show" Pelosi. The inconsistencies between Democratic positions on the Iraq war in just a matter of weeks are astonishing, once one does a little research. It was just in January that Democrats scolded the White House for not listening to its generals. In at least one case, the vacillation occurs within the same interview. For instance, here's what the two Democratic leaders had to say earlier in the year: * Senate Democrats voted unanimously to confirm General Petraeus in January. * “Listen to the generals.” - Sen. Harry Reid, 01/19/2007 * “If the President won't listen to generals, he won't listen to the American people, who have spoken for a new direction, then perhaps he will listen to us, Congress, when we send him a supplemental bill that acknowledges reality in Iraq.” -...

Joe Lieberman Sends A Warning

Joe Lieberman delivered a speech today warning of the consequences that will arise from the passage of the troop-withdrawal bill that the House sent over to the Senate this morning. The Tank has the whole speech, and it should be read all of the way through, but here are a few highlights: When we say that U.S. troops shouldn’t be “policing a civil war,” that their operations should be restricted to this narrow list of missions, what does this actually mean? To begin with, it means that our troops will not be allowed to protect the Iraqi people from the insurgents and militias who are trying to terrorize and kill them. Instead of restoring basic security, which General Petraeus has argued should be the central focus of any counterinsurgency campaign, it means our soldiers would instead be ordered, by force of this proposed law, not to stop the sectarian violence...

Breaking: Senate Passes Supplemental, 51-46

CNN reports that the Senate just passed the bill that the House approved last night, 51-46, setting up the second veto of President Bush's two terms in office. More as it develops ... UPDATE: AP has it up now: The 51-46 vote was largely along party lines, and like House passage of the same bill a day earlier, fell far short of the two-thirds margin needed to overturn the president's threatened veto. Nevertheless, the legislation is the first binding challenge on the war that Democrats have managed to send to Bush since they reclaimed control of both houses of Congress in January. "The president has failed in his mission to bring peace and stability to the people of Iraq," said Sen. Robert Byrd (news, bio, voting record), D-W.V., chairman of the Appropriations Committee. He later added: "It's time to bring our troops home from Iraq." ... Republicans said the vote...

April 28, 2007

US Raids Capture AQI Terrorists, Iranian Weapons

A day after the Pentagon announced the capture of al-Qaeda mastermind Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, US forces in Iraq captured a number of AQI terrorists in a series of raids. They also found and detonated a truck bomb and discovered a cache of Iranian arms south of Baghdad: U.S. forces detained 17 suspected insurgents in raids targeting al-Qaida in Iraq on Saturday, the military said, a day after the Pentagon announced the capture of one of the terror network's most senior and experienced operatives. Elsewhere, U.S. fighter jets destroyed a truck bomb discovered in Anbar province, and an American raid south of Baghdad netted insurgent weapons apparently imported from neighboring Iran, the military said Saturday. ... The U.S. military in Baghdad said Saturday's raids targeting suspected al-Qaida in Iraq insurgents netted four people in Mosul; six near Karmah, 50 miles west of Baghdad; two near the Syrian border; two in the...

April 29, 2007

Good News In Anbar

Just as the Democrats have raised the white flag on Iraq, the New York Times reports that the surge strategy has started paying off in Anbar. Shops have reopened, people have moved back, and everyone's challenging the insurgents except Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi (via Memeorandum): Anbar Province, long the lawless heartland of the tenacious Sunni Arab resistance, is undergoing a surprising transformation. Violence is ebbing in many areas, shops and schools are reopening, police forces are growing and the insurgency appears to be in retreat. “Many people are challenging the insurgents,” said the governor of Anbar, Maamoon S. Rahid, though he quickly added, “We know we haven’t eliminated the threat 100 percent.” Many Sunni tribal leaders, once openly hostile to the American presence, have formed a united front with American and Iraqi government forces against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. With the tribal leaders’ encouragement, thousands of local residents have...

April 30, 2007

Brownback Supports The Biden Initiative On Iraq

Joe Biden has tried selling his plan to split Iraq into three protostates for at least the last two years, with not much success. First, the Turks would likely have a Kurdish insurrection on their hands, and more importantly, the Iraqis don't seem particularly keen on the idea. However, Biden has won over one convert: It would be an unusual pairing, but two presidential hopefuls from opposite sides of the political spectrum, Senator Brownback and Senator Biden, could team up on a proposal for Iraq that splits the country into three loosely federated states. Mr. Brownback, a Republican known for his social conservatism, suggested yesterday that the bipartisan proposal could follow President Bush's veto this week of legislation tying war funding to a timetable for withdrawal of American troops. The Kansas senator voted against the Democratic bill, but he has occasionally veered away from his party's base on the war,...

Ledeen Responds To Tenet

Michael Ledeen found himself in the middle of a controversy regarding the new book by former CIA chief George Tenet, and unexpectedly so. According to Ledeen, he had not been contacted by Tenet or his co-author for the book for his input. Nevertheless, Ledeen found Tenet's scorn for him and his efforts to assist the intel community on Iran on the front page of the New York Times this past weekend. Now Ledeen responds at National Review Online, and he accuses Tenet of misrepresenting Ledeen's efforts: In December, 2001, I participated in discussions between two Pentagon officials and Iranians who claimed knowledge of Iranian-sponsored efforts to kill Americans in Afghanistan. We met in Rome, Italy over several days. The discussions were approved by Stephen Hadley, the deputy national-security adviser, and the two Defense department officials’ travel was approved by their superiors. The American ambassador in Rome was fully informed in...

May 1, 2007

AQI Leader Killed?

That's right, put a big fat question mark at the end of that sentence, because so far the only source on record for that assertion comes from the Iraqi Interior Ministry, which has a track record of overenthusiasm with kill reports. Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the successor to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, reportedly died in a battle today with other insurgents: The leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, was killed on Tuesday in an internal fight between insurgents, the Interior Ministry spokesman said, but the U.S. military said it could not confirm the report. Spokesman Brigadier-General Abdul Kareem Khalaf told Reuters: "We have definite intelligence reports that al Masri was killed today." He said the battle happened near a bridge in the small town of al-Nibayi, north of Baghdad. Another source in the ministry said Masri had been killed in what he described as "probably score-settling within al Qaeda...

Dude, Where's My Bill?

Congress passed its Iraq war supplemental bill last week, but the White House still has not received it. The holdup, according to Congressional Quarterly (via National Review), is that Nancy Pelosi has not yet signed the bill. And the reason for the delay? Apparently, Pelosi has no idea what Congress passed: The conference report on the bill (HR 1591 - H Rept 110-107) was adopted by the House and cleared by the Senate last week, but Pelosi, D-Calif., wanted time to personally read it and sign it before sending it to Pennsylvania Avenue. "It's a major piece of legislation and you have to go through it word for word and line by line," Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami said Monday. "She believes this is very important legislation, which she will sign and the president will receive Tuesday." The White House had wanted to get the bill and send it back, complete...

They Weren't Paying Attention

Today is the fourth anniversary of George Bush's speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln -- the one Democrats and anti-war activists call the "Mission Accomplished" speech. The crew of the carrier flew the banner because their mission had indeed been accomplished -- they had successfully supported the invasion of Iraq and the fall of Saddam Hussein's government, and were returning to the United States. Instead, everyone has attributed the banner's message to George Bush. All that proves is that they didn't listen to what he had to say four years ago. As A Better Where To Find points out, Bush hardly communicated anything remotely like "the war is over": We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We're bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous. We're pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime, who will be held to account for their crimes. We've begun the search...

Military Already Feels The Consequences Of Delayed Funding

One of the points in dispute about the Iraq war supplemental bill about to get vetoed by the President is whether the delay has affected military operations. Harry Reid said that the current funding will cover operations until mid-July, while the White House insists that it has already begun degrading operations and readiness. A Congressional Research Service analysis supports the Democrats -- but only by saying that robbing Peter to pay Paul will still have impact on a broad range of activities (emphases mine): If the Army temporarily tapped all this transfer authority, it could have a total of $60.1 billion available rather than $52.6 billion. Based on projections of monthly obligations rates, the Army could finance the O&M costs of both its baseline and war program for almost two additional months or through most of July 2007, if it tapped all of this transfer authority (see Table 2). It...

May 2, 2007

Now What?

With George Bush delivering only the second veto of his presidency, the question of funding the mission in Iraq became even more acute. Eighty-six days after the start of the 110th Congress, the military still has not received funding for operations in Iraq this year, and the process has to start from Square One while the Pentagon has to start juggling the books: President Bush vetoed a $124 billion measure yesterday that would have funded overseas military operations but required him to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq as early as July, escalating the most serious confrontation between the White House and Congress over war policy in a generation. Bush carried through on his veto threat just after the legislation arrived at the White House, calling the timetable a "prescription for chaos and confusion" that would undercut generals. "Setting a deadline for withdrawal would demoralize the Iraqi people, would encourage...

May 3, 2007

Al-Baghdadi Reaching Room Temperature (Update: Jabouri?)

The Iraqis have announced another big takedown from al-Qaeda, and this time it looks like the US military will confirm the kill. Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, has gone to meet his 72 virgins, courtesy of a joint US-Iraq operation: U.S. and Iraqi forces have killed the head of the self-styled Islamic State in Iraq, an al Qaeda-led militant group that has claimed many major attacks in the country, Iraq's deputy interior minister said on Thursday. Hussein Kamal said Abu Omar al-Baghdadi had been killed in a battle north of Baghdad. He declined to say when but said authorities had recovered Baghdadi's body. "Abu Omar al-Baghdadi was killed north of Baghdad by Iraqi and American forces. He died as a result of wounds sustained in clashes. The Interior Ministry has his body to carry out further checks," Kamal told Reuters by telephone. U.S....

Groping For Agreement

Democrats and Republicans began the process of reaching a compromise on funding the military operations in Iraq yesterday, with Democrats apparently making the first big concession. The Washington Post reports that the demand for withdrawal timelines will be dropped -- and in return, the Republicans will back benchmarks tied to non-military aid for Iraq: 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. Democrats backed off after the House failed, on a vote of 222 to 203, to override the president's veto of a $124 billion measure that would have required U.S. forces to begin withdrawing as early as July. But party leaders made it clear that the next bill will have to include language that influences war policy. Senate Majority Leader Harry M....

LAT: Early Withdrawal Would Be A Disaster

Yesterday, CNN reported on the disastrous consequences that a precipitate American withdrawal would create for Iraq. Today, the Los Angeles Times follows suit, describing the delicate process of training a national army from scratch, and the collapse that would ensue if America bugs out: For almost three years, training the Iraqi army has been among the top priorities for the U.S. military. And for nearly that long, U.S. officials have considered it among their chief frustrations. Now, with President Bush under steady pressure to begin pulling U.S. troops from Iraq, the administration once again is emphasizing the need to train Iraqi forces to take over the country's security. But despite some signs of progress, both Iraqis and their American advisors at this training range are blunt about how much work remains: If a U.S. pullout comes anytime soon, most say, the Iraqi army will collase. "Honestly put, I think Iraq...

May 4, 2007

Iraqis: Don't Abandon Us

Perhaps the debate over whether to persevere in Iraq has become too brittle to accept anyone else's opinion, but the foreign minister of Iraq gives it a game try. In today's Washington Post, Hoshyar Zebari implores Americans and the world not to abandon Iraq to the terrorists and sectarian lunatics. Zebari explains that Iraq has changed profoundly since liberation, and the media paint a distorted picture of his country: Last weekend a traffic jam several miles long snaked out of the Mansour district in western Baghdad. The delay stemmed not from a car bomb closing the road but from a queue to enter the city's central amusement park. The line became so long some families left their cars and walked to enjoy picnics, fairground rides and soccer, the Iraqi national obsession. Across the city, restaurants are slowly filling and shops are reopening. The streets are busy. Iraqis are not cowering...

Another Round Of Duck-Duck-Responsibility

The Democrats have always had it in their power to end the Iraq war simply by defunding it, and forcing the Pentagon to retreat from the terrorists and insurgents in Baghdad, Anbar, and leave the Iraqis to the tender mercies of radical Islamists. They chose not to do so, but to dally for 85 days before producing timetables for withdrawal that everyone knew George Bush would veto, a veto that Congress could not possibly override. Now they have apparently decided to rethink the funding bill to exclude withdrawal requirements and take a different tack. Hillary Clinton and Robert Byrd want to amend the 2002 AUMF to place a five-year sunset provision that will force Bush to withdraw from Iraq: As Democrats in Congress search for new ways to bring an end to the conflict in Iraq while producing a funding bill that President Bush will sign, the front-runner for the...

May 5, 2007

Do The Troops Support Torture?

A strong majority of troops in Iraq disavow the use of torture, even to save the life of their fellow soldiers, a new study shows. Only 10% in the anonymous survey admit to even mild forms of abuse, such as unnecessarily destroying private property. One might consider that good news, but the Washington Post takes the glass-one-third-empty approach in reporting it: 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...

Democrats To Kick The Can

The Chicago Tribune reports that Democrats will produce a supplemental bill for the Iraq war that will not have fixed timelines for withdrawal, in order to ensure that George Bush will sign it. Dick Durbin will reach out to Republicans to fashion a compromise that will allow the surge to work through September -- and some Republicans may bail if the situation doesn't show improvement (via TMV): President Bush appears poised to win months more of funding for troops in Iraq. But if conditions don't improve there by fall, he could lose support from a battalion of congressional Republicans. Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill, while still debating details, say they are likely to pass a bill that would tie war spending to a set of benchmarks for Iraq's progress but no deadlines for troop withdrawal, which caused Bush to veto a funding bill this week. They would then address the...

CIA Senior Operative Calls Tenet A Liar (Updated)

George Tenet has received plenty of criticism about his new book, At the Center of the Storm, ranging from poorly researched anecdotes to excoriation over the long delay and changing stories after he left the agency. Now one of his senior management team has flatly told Jeff Stein at CQ Daily that Tenet is a liar: Lehrer asked about the half dozen former CIA officials who signed a joint letter deploring Tenet’s book, as well as Michael Scheuer, former head of the agency’s Osama bin Laden unit, who wrote in The Washington Post that, “We shouldn’t buy his attempts to let himself off the hook.” “Well, Jim, none of them were — none of those six worked with me,” Tenet said. But one who did has now come forward to call Tenet — more in sorrow than anger — a liar. Tyler Drumheller, head of the Clandestine Service’s Europe Division...

May 7, 2007

Not Even The Sunnis Want Partition

We have heard plenty of people talk about the idea of splitting Iraq into three autonomous cantons in order to allow each of the three main demographics groups to run a portion of the country. Senator Joe Biden has pushed this idea for months, claiming it to be the only way out of Iraq. Recently, Sam Brownback endorsed that plan and wants to team up with Biden to present it to the Senate. According to the plan's advocates, a partition will provide the only framework for enabling the Sunnis, which has a lower level of population than the majority Shi'a or the already-transitioned Kurds. However, the leader of the Sunnis in the Iraqi National Assembly has threatened to walk out and take his coalition with him until the Iraqi government rejects this notion completely: Iraq's top Sunni official has set a deadline of next week for pulling his entire bloc...

May 9, 2007

An Eruption Of Shi'ite Disunity

We have heard plenty about the sectarian fighting in Iraq, as ethnic and religious differences have inspired militia attacks that focus primarily on Baghdad and its environs. To the south, the Shi'ites comprise the vast majority of the population, and the concern there has not so much been sectarian violence as it has been about Iranian influence on a monolithic block of Shi'a. Yesterday's bombing in Kufa, however, indicates that the Shi'ites have significant fractures as well: A suicide car bomber attacked a crowded market in this holy Shiite city Tuesday, killing at least 16 people, injuring more than 70 others and further stoking tensions between rival Shiite militias. The bomb was detonated in a gray sedan beside a restaurant and across the street from a girls primary school. ... The incident was a continuation of a series of showdowns in recent days between the two groups in far-reaching sections...

Democrats Move Closer To De-Funding

The Democrats have moved closer to using their actual Constitutional power to defund the Iraq war in a compromise bill being floated in the House. In the new supplemental, funding for the troops in Iraq would only be unconditional for two months. After that, it would cease entirely unless the Iraqis passed an oil revenue sharing plan and other restructuring bills that have not progressed as planned: A House Democratic proposal introduced yesterday that would give President Bush half of the money he has requested for the war effort, with a vote in July on whether to approve the rest, hinges on progress in meeting political benchmarks that Iraq has thus far found difficult to achieve. The House measure, which could come to a vote as early as tomorrow, would substantially raise the pressure on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government to meet lagging commitments -- including new laws on...

New Veto Threat From Bush

George Bush does not appear to have bought into the idea of a sixty-day revolving credit line on funding the troops in Iraq. Today, Bush warned Congress that he would veto any bill that provided funding on such a short time line, and Gates joined him in underscoring the disruptive nature of these machinations on the supplemental: President Bush would veto any bill drafted by House Democratic leaders that would fund the Iraq war only into the summer months, his spokesman said Wednesday. And Defense Secretary Robert Gates told a Senate committee that such short-term funding would be very disruptive and "have a huge impact" on contracts to repair and replace equipment. The Defense Department, he said, just doesn't "have the agility to manage a two month appropriation." Gates also told the Senate Defense Appropriations panel that if the military begins to see progress in Iraq later this fall, including...

May 10, 2007

War Support Starting To Crumble

The lack of energy from the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki has added what might be a final straw to Republican discontent about the progress of the war. A delegation of Congressional Republicans met with President Bush last night at the White House, and they delivered the message that GOP support had its limits, and those limits are approaching quickly: House Republican moderates, in a remarkably blunt White House meeting, warned President Bush this week that his pursuit of the war in Iraq is risking the future of the Republican Party and that he cannot count on GOP support for many more months. The meeting, which ran for an hour and a half Tuesday afternoon, was disclosed by participants yesterday as the House prepared to vote this evening on a spending bill that could cut funding for the Iraq war as early as July. GOP moderates told Bush they would...

Iraqis Appear Poised To Close The Door

A letter circulated by Moqtada al-Sadr and signed by more than half of the Iraqi National Assembly demands a timetable for American withdrawal from Iraq and a cap on the number of troops allowed into the country. If the Assembly passes this as a resolution, it could have devastating consequences on American policy for Iraq. I look at the implications at Heading Right this morning, especially in light of growing discontent among war supporters of the Iraqi commitment to reform. UPDATE: John Aravosis is angry that Democrats will back away from the games they have been playing on the Iraq war supplementals, but he's missing the bigger picture: It's time to replace some conservative Democrats in Washington, DC. I just heard from an impeccable source that there is serious concern on the Hill that conservative Democrats in the House will vote with the Republicans to strip any and all restrictions...

Day 94 And Not Much Has Changed

House Democrats passed another version of the Iraq war supplemental this evening, voting to supply funds for only 60 days of operations in the theater. The vote split along party lines, meaning that the Senate will have to find another formula if the funds are to get to the troops in time: The Democratic-controlled House voted Thursday night to pay for military operations in Iraq on an installment plan, defying President Bush's threat of a second straight veto in a fierce test of wills over the unpopular war. The 221-205 vote, largely along party lines, sent the measure to a cool reception in the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is seeking compromise with the White House and Republicans on a funding bill. Under increasing political pressure from Republicans, Bush also signalled flexibility, offering to accept a spending bill that sets out standards for the Iraqi government to meet....

May 16, 2007

Senate Tubes Withdrawal Timeline

The Senate blocked a bill from coming to the floor that would have imposed a fixed withdrawal date for American troops in Iraq. Proponents could only muster 29 votes, but as Allahpundit writes, those votes came from an interesting subset of the Democratic caucus: The Senate on Wednesday rejected legislation that would cut off money for combat operations in Iraq after March 31, 2008. The vote was a loss for Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., and other Democrats who want to end the war. But the effort picked up support from members, including presidential hopefuls previously reluctant to limit war funding — an indication of the conflict's unpopularity among voters. The proposal lost 29-67 on a procedural vote, falling 41 votes short of the necessary votes to advance. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a Democratic presidential front-runner, previously opposed setting a deadline on the war. But she said she agreed to back...

Democratic Consistency On The War

Senate Democrats failed to get their firm withdrawal date passed today, but they did manage to change a few minds. Two months ago, 35 Democrats insisted that they would not cut or reduce funding for the troops. They voted for the Gregg Amendment, which said: Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that Congress should not take any action that will endanger United States military forces in the field, including the elimination or reduction of funds for troops in the field, as such action with respect to funding would undermine their safety or harm their effectiveness in pursuing their assigned missions. In 60 days, 17 Democrats changed their minds about the Gregg resolution and voted for the Reid-Feingold amendment, which said: (c) Prohibition on Use of Funds- No funds appropriated or otherwise made available under any provision of law may be...

May 19, 2007

'Welcome To Teheran'

The Guardian has a scathing report on the British efforts in southern Iraq and the resultant influence of Iran in the Shi'ite militias vying to fill the power vacuum around Basra. It demonstrates the futility of the approach used by the British in engaging militias instead of marginalizing and defeating them, as even the Iraqi commanders on the ground explain: When he finished his conversation, the general - who didn't want his name published because he feared retribution from militias -stretched out his hand to me and said: "Welcome to Tehran." I asked him about British claims that the security situation was improving. His reply was withering: "The British came here as military tourists. They committed huge mistakes when they formed the security forces. They appointed militiamen as police officers and chose not confront the militias. We have reached this point where the militias are a legitimate force in the...

May 21, 2007

Iraqi Forces Repel Major Mosul Attack

Many have questioned the slow training and progress of the Iraqi Army and other security forces over the past three years. Training an army from the ground up has tremendous difficulties, and early on, they performed poorly. Iraqi units did not always engage when ordered, and pay issues and terrorist attacks drove many recruits out of the ranks. Now, however, it looks like the Iraqi Army has become a formidable force for stability. In Mosul, they just turned back what looks like one of the largest-scale coordinated attacks on an Iraqi city yet seen: Iraqi Security Forces countered several terrorists who targeted bridges, transition jails, police stations and a combat outpost with vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, sporadic small-arms fire and indirect mortar attacks throughout the evening. “This was a total team effort on the part of the Iraqi Security Forces and emergency responders,” said U.S. Army Col. Stephen Twitty, commander...

Democrats Capitulate On Capitulation

Democrats in Congress have decided to forego their efforts to impose withdrawal timetables on spending for the Iraq war -- at least for now. The AP reports from its sources that the Democrats will offer a straight-up spending supplemental that also eliminates most of the pork from the bill, but retains the federal minimum-wage hike: In grudging concessions to President Bush, Democrats intend to draft an Iraq war-funding bill without a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and shorn of billions of dollars in spending on domestic programs, officials said Monday. The legislation would include the first federal minimum wage increase in more than a decade, a top priority for the Democrats who took control of Congress in January, the officials added. While details remain subject to change, the measure is designed to close the books by Friday on a bruising veto fight between Bush and the Democratic-controlled Congress...

Guardian: Iran Pulling The Insurgent Strings In Iraq

Iran has decided to increase the pace and scope of attacks from insurgent groups they control and influence in Iraq over the summer. The mullahs aim to leverage the discontent of the Democrats in Congress to force an American withdrawal by the end of September: Iran is secretly forging ties with al-Qaida elements and Sunni Arab militias in Iraq in preparation for a summer showdown with coalition forces intended to tip a wavering US Congress into voting for full military withdrawal, US officials say. "Iran is fighting a proxy war in Iraq and it's a very dangerous course for them to be following. They are already committing daily acts of war against US and British forces," a senior US official in Baghdad warned. "They [Iran] are behind a lot of high-profile attacks meant to undermine US will and British will, such as the rocket attacks on Basra palace and the...

May 23, 2007

Democrats Split On Iraq Funding

As I noted yesterday, the Democratic leadership in Congress finally acknowledged the reality of their position yesterday and agreed to send a supplemental funding bill for the Iraq war without timelines for withdrawal. In doing so, they're claiming victory from a clause that they earlier derided as worthless, and their anti-war wing now threatens to part company with the present leadership: Congressional Democratic leaders Tuesday dropped their insistence that the Iraq war-spending bill include a timeline for U.S. troop withdrawal, clearing the way to end a lengthy standoff with President Bush. The measure will include benchmarks that the Baghdad government must meet to continue to receive U.S. reconstruction aid, although the president will be allowed to waive those requirements. ... The plan to link reconstruction aid to benchmarks, which was proposed by Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), the former chairman of the Armed Services Committee, was initially derided by Democrats,...

May 24, 2007

That Wasn't So Hard, Was It?

The Democratic-controlled Congress finally accomplished something after over four months of the 110th's session. They managed to pass a supplemental funding bill for the troops in Iraq, even though it took them 108 days to figure one out -- and they managed to vote overwhelmingly for it: Congress voted tonight to meet President Bush’s demand for almost $100 billion to pay for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through September, providing a momentary truce in a bitter struggle over war policy. ... This ends a months-long impasse between the Bush administration and Democrats who took control of Congress in January. Many House Democrats were dissatisfied with the resolution and a majority of them — 140 — voted against the war spending bill. Eighty-six supported it. Under a convoluted process, the war spending was supported mainly by Republicans on a 280-to-142 vote and later the Senate passed it, 80-14. A package...

May 25, 2007

Look Who's Showing His Face Again

After an absence of almost four months from public life, Moqtada al-Sadr finally surfaced in the city of Kufa today. He did his typical anti-US, anti-Israel rant at Friday prayers, the first time he has been seen in Iraq since before the surge: Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr appeared in public for the first time in months on Friday and delivered a fiery anti-American sermon in the holy Shiite city of Kufa. "No, no for the devil. No, no for America. No, no for the occupation. No, no for Israel," he chanted at the start of his speech. The roughly 6,000 worshippers in the mosque repeated after him. Al-Sadr told the worshippers that "the occupation forces should leave Iraq," and condemned fighting between his Mahdi Army militia and Iraqi security forces, saying it "served the interests of the occupiers." Al-Sadr had gone into hiding in Iran four months ago at...

So Now They Believe Saddamists And Islamists Would Work Together?

The release of Phase II of the review of pre-war intel has generated some odd comments from war critics. The same people who have told us over and over again that al-Qaeda and other radical Islamists would never have worked with a supposed secularist like Saddam Hussein now say "I told you so" when the pre-war intel warned of post-invasion connections between AQ and the Ba'athists: The U.S. intelligence community accurately predicted months before the Iraq war that al-Qaeda would link up with elements from former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime and militant Islamists to conduct terrorist attacks against U.S. forces in that country, according to a report released today by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Two national intelligence assessments sent to the White House and other senior Bush administration policymakers in January 2003 also predicted that al-Qaeda "would try to take advantage of U.S. attention on postwar Iraq...

May 26, 2007

White House Already Planning Post-Surge Phase

The New York Times has heard that the White House has begun to structure a troop withdrawal for the middle of 2008, apparently to be used regardless of whether the current surge strategy succeeds or not. The plan envisions a significant continuing presence in Iraq to fight al-Qaeda, but an overall decrease as Iraqi Army forces take over security responsibility for Baghdad: The Bush administration is developing what are described as concepts for reducing American combat forces in Iraq by as much as half next year, according to senior administration officials in the midst of the internal debate. It is the first indication that growing political pressure is forcing the White House to turn its attention to what happens after the current troop increase runs its course. The concepts call for a reduction in forces that could lower troop levels by the midst of the 2008 presidential election to roughly...

May 27, 2007

Reminder: Iraq Is The Central Front Against AQ

A mash note from #2 Islamist nutjob Ayman al-Zawahiri provides a reminder to like-minded minions and to the world at large that al-Qaeda sees Iraq as the central front for their efforts to create the new Caliphate. The Times of London reports on Zawahiri's message to the ummah, exhorting Muslims to help use Iraq to launch a Greater Syria run by and for murderous terrorists: THE deputy leader of Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has urged supporters in Iraq to extend their “holy war” to other Middle Eastern countries. In a letter sent to the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq in the past few weeks, Zawahiri claims that it is defeating US forces and urges followers to expand their campaign of terror. He conjures a vision of an Islamic state comprising Lebanon, Palestine and Syria, where Al-Qaeda has already gained its first footholds. The goal of an Islamic “greater Syria”, first outlined...

Jules Nails The AP, Michelle Gets The Rest

Jules Crittenden notices a substantial gap in the AP's reporting on the war on terror, and wonders what games the news agency wants to play with American body counts: I thought body counts went out with the Vietnam War. The AP is kicking off Memorial Day weekend with a fresh body count in Iraq. How come no mention of Americans killed in Afghanistan since last Memorial Day? The AP story leads with the number of new graves opened for dead American soldiers since Memorial Day last, but only those killed in Iraq. Why this slight? Are the dead in Afghanistan not worthy of respect in the eyes of the Associated Press? It is possible that this article is not about honoring the dead at all, or even about reporting the news, but just another thinly veiled editorial attack on the Bush administration? Would the Associated Press be so callous as...

US Forces Free Dozens Of AQ Victims

US forces raided an al-Qaeda torture facility today in Baghdad, freeing 42 hostages. Some of them showed signs of torture and had to be immediately hospitalized: U.S. forces raided an al-Qaida hide-out northeast of Baghdad on Sunday and freed 42 Iraqis imprisoned inside, including some who had been tortured and suffered broken bones, a senior U.S. military official said Sunday. The raid was part of a 3-month-old security crackdown that included the deployment of 3,000 more U.S. troops to Diyala, a violent province north of the capital that has seen heavy fighting in recent weeks, said Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq. Caldwell said Iraqis told U.S. forces about the hide-out: "The people in Diyala are speaking up against al-Qaida." Caldwell said the 42 freed Iraqis marked the largest number of captives ever found in a single al-Qaida prison. At the same time, American forces...

May 29, 2007

Will The Surge Miss Its Goals?

The Pentagon has grown convinced that the political goals of the surge will not be met by the time the supplemental expires, the Los Angeles Times reports today. Only one of the three main reforms still has a chance for implementation by September, and the oil revenue plan still has to work its way through a parliament taking the bulk of the summer as a vacation: U.S. military leaders in Iraq are increasingly convinced that most of the broad political goals President Bush laid out early this year in his announcement of a troop buildup will not be met this summer and are seeking ways to redefine success. ... Enactment of a new law to share Iraq's oil revenue among Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish regions is the only goal they think might be achieved in time, and even that is considered a long shot. The two other key benchmarks are...

May 30, 2007

Sadr's Militia Kidnapped Britons

Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army apparently masterminded the kidnapping of five Britons in Iraq. The abductions likely came as retribution for the death of Sadr's lieutenant in a gunfight earlier this month between the Mahdis and the British: Iraq's most prominent Shia militia has emerged as the chief suspect in the kidnappings of five British nationals in Iraq. Negotiations with the Mahdi Army are already under way after one of several spokesmen for the armed force under the command of the Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr claimed responsibility for the kidnappings at the finance ministry in Baghdad. Hundreds of Iraqi and American troops raided Sadr City, Baghdad’s largest Shia neighbourhood, in an operation that ended early today. Residents said areas of Sadr City were sealed off and several arrests were made. Iraqi forces have established a special battalion of soldiers and police officers to search for the kidnapped men. “We are conducting...

May 31, 2007

People Power Vs Al-Qaeda

People power -- the rising of ordinary people of a nation or region in force against oppression -- has toppled more than one dictator in the last generation, or even in the last few years. The phenomenon started with Filipinos forcing an end to the Marcos regime two decades ago, and continued with Poles, Czechs, Georgians, the Lebanese, and others. The people of Palermo even rose up against almost a millenia of terror and crippled the Mafia. Now it looks like the Sunnis in Iraq may have had enough of terror, too (via Power Line): A battle raged in west Baghdad on Thursday after residents rose up against al-Qaida and called for U.S. military help to end random gunfire that forced people to huddle indoors and threats that kept students from final exams, a member of the district council said. ... U.S. forces backed by helicopter gunships clashed with suspected...

June 4, 2007

Bring A Long Ladder For That Last Helicopter

Iraqis who have worked with the US to help bring peace and stability to their country now want some guarantees about their future if the troops start withdrawing in the face of terrorists. They want assurances that they will not become the second Montagnards: With pressure building in Washington for an American troop pullout, Iraqis who have worked closely with U.S. companies and military forces are begging their employers for assurances that they will be able to leave with them. "They must take care of the people who worked with the Americans," said Hayder, an Iraqi who has worked for several U.S. companies since coalition forces entered Iraq. ... A woman who has worked closely with the U.S. military said she was deeply worried about what will happen when the Americans leave. "Who is going to protect us?" she asked during an interview near her home in downtown Baghdad. When...

June 6, 2007

Turkish Incursion Into Iraq

Turkey sent thousands of troops into northern Iraq, chasing Kurdish insurgents after an apparent attack on a Turkish base. The move threatens to destabilize the area most successfully adjusted to the new status of Iraq and bring the US and Turkey into diplomatic conflict: Several thousand Turkish troops crossed into northern Iraq early Wednesday to chase Kurdish guerrillas who operate from bases there, Turkish security officials told The Associated Press. Two senior security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said the raid was limited in scope and that it did not constitute the kind of large incursion that Turkish leaders have been discussing in recent weeks. “It is not a major offensive and the number of troops is not in the tens of thousands,” one of the officials told the AP by telephone. The official is based in southeast Turkey,...

June 7, 2007

Kiss And Make Up, Jihadi Style

The reports that al-Qaeda in Iraq had been attacked by another terrorist group, Islamic Army of Iraq, turns out to be true -- and unfortunately short-lived. Instead of the prospect of two insurgent groups decimating each other, they have announced a truce: A Sunni insurgent group that waged a deadly street battle last week against the rival group al-Qaeda in Iraq in a Sunni neighborhood of west Baghdad announced Wednesday that the two forces had declared a cease-fire. The Islamic Army of Iraq, a more moderate and secular Sunni group, said it had reached the cease-fire with al-Qaeda in Iraq because the groups did not want to spill Muslim blood or damage "the project of jihad." Last week, the two groups fought for several days in the Sunni neighborhood of Amiriyah, leaving about 30 of their fighters dead. Residents of the neighborhood and leaders from the Islamic Army, which reportedly...

June 10, 2007

Going Long

Earlier this year, the disputes over the strategy for Iraq could get boiled down to three directions: go big, go home, or go long. Today's Washington Post reports that the third option has begun to get the most traction in both DC and Baghdad, as the two governments look for the best way to fight terror while ending the appearance of an occupation: U.S. military officials here are increasingly envisioning a "post-occupation" troop presence in Iraq that neither maintains current levels nor leads to a complete pullout, but aims for a smaller, longer-term force that would remain in the country for years. This goal, drawn from recent interviews with more than 20 U.S. military officers and other officials here, including senior commanders, strategists and analysts, remains in the early planning stages. It is based on officials' assessment that a sharp drawdown of troops is likely to begin by the middle...

June 14, 2007

News From Iraq Not Good, Not Final Either

The Washington Post reports that a Pentagon statistical and operational analysis of the Iraq war delivers mostly bad news. Civilian deaths have begun to rise again, the Iraqi government has yet to engage on political reform, and violence has risen in some areas. This report will certainly fuel the pessimism that has overtaken the majority of Americans on Iraq. However, at Heading Right, we look at some of the points that many will miss in the commentary over the report. Specifically, the new strategy has had a positive effect in the areas of focus, and the report itself warns against jumping to conclusions too quickly....

June 15, 2007

Iraq Improving: Lieberman

Joe Lieberman has struggled mightily to maintain American backing for the war in Iraq, amd today he writes what amounts to a rebuttal of yesterday's Washington Post analysis for the Wall Street Journal. The Senator just returned from a trip to Iraq and other Middle East nations, and claims that he sees major improvements since his last visit in December: I recently returned from Iraq and four other countries in the Middle East, my first trip to the region since December. In the intervening five months, almost everything about the American war effort in Baghdad has changed, with a new coalition military commander, Gen. David Petraeus; a new U.S. ambassador, Ryan Crocker; the introduction, at last, of new troops; and most important of all, a bold, new counterinsurgency strategy. The question of course is--is it working? Here in Washington, advocates of retreat insist with absolute certainty that it is not,...

June 19, 2007

Diyala's Turn

The US has achieved a significant level of success in Iraq's Anbar province in driving terrorists out. Tribal leaders have allied themselves with American forces and have even started a grassroots political force called the Awakening, acting to pursue al-Qaeda and other foreign Islamists from their territory. As a result, violence has dropped by a third in Anbar over the last four months, and now the US wants to take that show on the road -- to Diyala: About 10,000 US soldiers have launched an offensive against al-Qa'eda in Iraq, killing at least 22 insurgents. The raids, named Operation Arrowhead Ripper, took place in Baquba, the capital of Diyala province, and involved air assaults under the cover of darkness. The operation is still ongoing. The troops were accompanied by attack helicopters, Strykers and Bradley Fighting Vehicles, a statement from the military said. Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim al-Rubaie, the commander of Iraqi...

June 21, 2007

Baqubah Day 2: No One's Dropping Leaflets

Michael Yon continues his reporting from the front on the new massive operation to trap and kill al-Qaeda in Diyala. Despite the heat and the good fighting form of the enemy, which Yon estimates as better than most in Iraq, the US has systematically trapped them in the area -- and aren't offering any surrender deals: The combat has only just begun, and media has now figured out this is serious business. During the morning brief (June 20th), Major Robbie Parke mentioned that CNN, TIME, Reuters and some others, are trying to get out here now. Problem is space. Looks like Gordon and I are mostly alone for now. Others are said to be in Baqubah, but if they are here, they are missing some of the most important parts, and if they were at the important commander’s meetings, I would have seen them. The heat is intense for the...

June 23, 2007

US Captures Two Senior AQI Leaders In Baqubah

Despite reports that the leadership of al-Qaeda in Iraq bugged out of Baqubah just ahead of the five-day-old American offensive in Diyala, American forces captured two senior AQI commanders today. Other American operations in Iraq netted suspects in Tikrit and Mosul. A Sadr City operation captured militants with Iranian ties as well: U.S. and Iraqi troops captured two senior al-Qaida militants and seven other operatives Saturday in Diyala province, an Iraqi commander said, as an offensive to clear the volatile area of insurgents entered its fifth day. The U.S. military also cracked down elsewhere in Iraq, saying in a statement that seven other al-Qaida fighters were killed and 10 suspects detained in raids in Tikrit, east of Fallujah, south of Baghdad and in Mosul. Three other militants suspected of having ties to Iran were detained in a predawn operation by U.S. forces working with Iraqi informants in Baghdad's main Shiite...

June 24, 2007

Chemical Ali To Hang

Another of Saddam Hussein's genocidal henchman will swing from the gallows. His cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, better known as "Chemical Ali", received the death sentence for murdering thousands in Halabja, and scores of thousands more throughout Kurdistan, in the late 1980s: Two decades after Iraq's military laid waste to Kurdish villages, the Iraqi High Tribunal on Sunday sentenced Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali," and two others to death for their roles in the bloody campaign against the restive ethnic minority. Al-Majid, a cousin of executed former President Saddam Hussein, was convicted of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for ordering army and security services to use chemical weapons in an offensive said to have killed some 180,000 people during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. ... Two others sentenced to hang for anti-Kurdish atrocities were former defense minister Sultan Hashim Ahmad al-Tai and Hussein Rashid Mohammed, a former deputy...

June 25, 2007

Hegseth Vs Levin

Pete Hegseth, who just completed a tour in Iraq as an officer in the 101st Airborne a year ago, has some issues with the anti-war rhetoric he has discovered in the time since his return. Now serving in the New Jersey National Guard -- and a native of Minnesota -- Hegseth focuses on recent statements from Senate Armed Services chair Carl Levin (D-MI) to rebut the arguments repeatedly made by those who want an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. He takes the three basic charges apart in today's Washington Times: · A deadline for withdrawal is an incentive for Iraqi political compromise. Levin thinks we ought to pressure Iraq's government with a warning tantamount to saying: "You better fix the situation before we leave and your country descends into chaos." He should consider the more likely result: an American exit date crushing any incentive for Iraqi leaders to cooperate and instead...

Baqubah: The Noose Tightens

Michael Yon gives us another update from Operation Arrowhead Ripper, and he tells us the US and Iraqi forces have come close to liberating Baqubah. Yon also reports that the Iraqi Army has performed well in the operation, but that the Iraqi police leave a lot to be desired: For security reasons, the Iraqi Army (IA) was not included in the initial planning of Arrowhead Ripper, yet with each succeeding day the IA has taken a larger role in the unfolding attack. The Fifth Iraqi Army Division is considered an increasingly competent group of fighters, and from the limited scope of 5th IA that I personally witnessed, that judgment seems correct. The 5th is committed to battle. Whereas the Iraqi Army is coming into the fight, and playing increasingly critical roles, the local police force is less impressive. On the night of the 23 June, for instance, a police checkpoint...

June 30, 2007

Shelton Takes On Tenet

Two months ago, former CIA Director George Tenet offered his side of the Iraq war story in his memoirs, At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA. In that book, Tenet tried to attack Douglas Feith and other backers of action against Iraq, partly by micharacterizing one key player's presentations and her background in intelligence. At the time Christina Shelton issued a brief statement in rebuttal to Tenet on both points. In today's Washington Post, Shelton gives a much more detailed account of her role and Tenet's lack of truth: On Aug. 15, 2002, I presented my part of a composite Pentagon briefing on al-Qaeda and Iraq to George Tenet, then CIA director. In his recent book, "At the Center of the Storm," Tenet wrote that I said in opening remarks that "there is no more debate," "no further analysis is required" and "it is an open-and-shut...

July 1, 2007

'Bless The Beasts And The Children'

Michael Yon continues reporting from the front in the new US/Iraqi push to clear Baqubah of al-Qaeda forces. His post title will need explaining, but first, Michael embeds with an armored unit to a village on the outskirts of Baqubah. A firefight ensued, and when the Americans had driven off the AQI terrorists, an unsettling quiet came over the battlefield: On 29 June, American and Iraqi soldiers were again fighting side-by-side as soldiers from Charley Company 1-12 CAV, led by Captain Clayton Combs, and Iraqi soldiers from the 5th IA, closed in on a village on the outskirts of Baqubah. The village had the apparent misfortune of being located near a main road—about 3.5 miles from FOB Warhorse—that al Qaeda liked to bomb. Al Qaeda had taken over the village. As Iraqi and American soldiers moved in, they came under light contact; but the bombs planted in the roads, and...

July 2, 2007

Hezbollah Operative Further Proof Of Iranian Involvement

The announcement yesterday of an arrest in March of a high-ranking Hezbollah terrorist in Iraq gives more credence to the accusations of Iranian involvement in Iraq's insurgencies. The US caught Ali Moussa Dadouk in southern Iraq after he masterminded a Karbala attack that killed five American soldiers -- and Dadouk fingered the Iranians for much more: Iran's elite Quds force helped militants carry out a January attack in Karbala that killed five Americans, a U.S. general said Monday. U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner also accused Tehran of using the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah as a "proxy" to arm Shiite militants in Iraq. The claims were an escalation in U.S. accusations that Iran is fueling Iraq's violence, which Tehran has denied, and were the first time the U.S. military has said Hezbollah has a direct role. A senior Lebanese Hezbollah operative, Ali Mussa Dakdouk, was captured March 20...

An Interesting Improvement

The new surge strategy appears to have had at least a temporary effect on violence in Iraq. Civilian deaths dropped dramatically from May to June, according to a new report from Iraq: Iraqi civilian deaths dropped to 1,241 last month, according to figures issued on Sunday, the lowest since a US-led crackdown was launched in February in Baghdad and other violent regions of the country. The latest numbers, compiled from interior, defence and health ministry figures and made available to AFP, indicate that 1,241 civilians died last month, compared to 1,951 in the previous month. ... The June casualties are the lowest since the February 14 launch of the US and Iraqi military crackdown known as Operation Fardh al-Qanoon (Imposing the Law) in and around Baghdad. In that month 1,626 civilians were reported killed. That's a notable drop, one that caught the attention of most major American newspapers. The Los...

July 6, 2007

Domenici Wavers

George Bush's efforts in Iraq took a blow yesterday when Republican Senator Pete Domenici announced that he wants American troops out of combat areas in Iraq by early next year. Oddly, he insisted that he didn't want a withdrawal, leaving his vision of American involvement unclear: White House efforts to keep congressional Republicans united over the Iraq war suffered another major defection yesterday as Sen. Pete V. Domenici (N.M.) broke with President Bush and called for an immediate change in U.S. strategy that could end combat operations by spring. The six-term lawmaker, party loyalist and former staunch war supporter represents one of the most significant GOP losses to date. Speaking to reporters at a news conference in Albuquerque, Domenici said he began to question his stance on Iraq late last month, after several conversations with the family members of dead soldiers from his home state, and as it became clear...

July 9, 2007

Brother Moqtada's Traveling Salvation Show

Moqtada al-Sadr has once again fled to Iran, apparently after a split widened in recent weeks between the leader of the Mahdi Army and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Sadr's support had been seen as key for Maliki early in his term, but with the US pressuring Maliki for serious reform and reconciliation, Sadr and his militias have come under increasing military and political pressure: Fiery Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has gone back to neighbouring Iran, U.S. military sources in Baghdad said on Sunday. Earlier this year, U.S. officials said the anti-American cleric was hiding in Iran to avoid a major security crackdown in Baghdad, although his aides say he never left Iraq. ... His lower profile has coincided with a growing rift between his movement and Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Sadr pulled his six ministers out of Maliki's cabinet in April when the prime minister refused to...

July 11, 2007

Webb Amendment Fails, Top GOP Candidates Back Away From Surge

One of the contentious bills offered in the Senate to handcuff the President into a withdrawal from Iraq died on the floor this afternoon. Jim Webb (D-VA) offered what was essentially the 2006 John Murtha plan to use forced rotation requirements to bring down troop levels in Iraq, but his amendment failed to gain cloture: Senators lacked the four votes needed Wednesday to bring to the floor a Democrat-sponsored amendment that would have set restrictions on U.S. troop rotations in Iraq and Afghanistan, to give troops more time at home. The tally for the procedural motion was 56 to 41. Sixty votes were required to cut off debate on the amendment so a vote could be held. Under the proposal by Jim Webb, D-Virginia, military personnel who return from deployments would have had to remain stateside for at least as long as they spent overseas, before they could be sent...

Iraq Report To Be Mixed Bag

The White House report on Iraq will show mixed progress on benchmarks demanded by Congress, ABC News reports tonight. The Iraqi government has made satisfactory progress on almost half of the benchmarks, almost all related to security, while disappointing on most of the political goals: An eagerly awaited White House report on Iraq will be released tomorrow, which will claim the Iraqi government has made satisfactory progress on 8 of the 18 benchmarks set by Congress. This is the first assessment of the Iraqi government's success rate since President Bush ordered the troop surge in January. White House officials tell ABC News' Jonathan Karl the report will cite encouraging signs that should eventually lead to a reduction of U.S. forces in Iraq. The report notes that progress is "satisfactory" on eight of the benchmark criteria, mostly dealing with the Iraqi security forces. This actually sounds better than the initial buzz...

July 12, 2007

That's Wishful Thinking In Itself

The Washington Post editorial board scolds leading anti-war Democrats for their wishful thinking on the consequences of a withdrawal from Iraq. The essay informs them that just wishing that Iraq isn’t the central front of the war on terror doesn’t make it so, and that the rush to pull out now when Congress had agreed to wait for September seems inexplicable. It would be inexplicable indeed — if the problem was just wishful thinking. At Heading Right, I argue that the consequences of withdrawal now will lead to a regional conflict, one in which almost every nation in Southwest Asia would be tempted to participate. At the very least, a retreat leaves significant portions of Iraq in the hands of al-Qaeda, giving them another free and clear base of operations against the West. We would only have to return after the next massive attack, and it would be much more...

'This Bill Is About Politics'

The House just passed a resolution that demands a withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. The final vote had more Democrats crossing over to oppose it (10) than Republicans crossing the aisle to support it (4), and it faces a certain veto if it even gets through the Senate: Iraq has achieved only spotty military and political progress toward a democratic society, the Bush administration conceded Thursday, an unenthusiastic assessment followed quickly by a House vote to withdraw U.S. troops by spring. The measure passed 223-201 in the Democratic-controlled House despite a veto threat from President Bush, who has ruled out any change in war policy before September. ... A few hours after Bush's remarks, Democratic leaders engineered passage of legislation requiring the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops to begin within 120 days, and to be completed by April 1, 2008. The measure envisions a limited residual force to train...

Continue reading "'This Bill Is About Politics'" »

July 13, 2007

The Petraeus Betrayal

The US Senate sent General David Petraeus to Iraq in January in full understanding of his intent to implement a new counterinsurgency strategy as a means to control the violence in Iraq. After 108 days of stalling on funding these operations, Congress finally cut the check less than two months ago. Petraeus finally got the rest of the combat troops requested for the operations last month. Now Congress wants to pull the plug, and Charles Krauthammer calls foul. At Heading Right, I talk about the very confused messages coming from Congress. They send Petraeus to Iraq when he clearly states his intention to conduct a large-scale counterinsurgency strategy, they hold up his funding, and just when he gets all of the troops he requested, they try to pull the rug out from underneath him. Given that the military benchmarks have largely been met at this point, why does Congress want...

July 14, 2007

A Crossroads For The Surge

The Times of London reports on a crossroads in Jabour that demonstrates the successes and the dangers of the surge in Iraq. While the soldiers would prefer to be elsewhere, the efforts to close down lines of communication for al-Qaeda and other terrorists has created an "Iraqi surge" in the area -- the creation of a new police unit from tribal volunteers who want the momentum to stay against the terrorists. The tribal leaders remain cautious about cooperating too much with the Americans, however, because they are afraid we're leaving: This shabby outpost is at the heart of President Bush’s Iraqi strategy. And it is, therefore, at the centre of a raging political debate in Washington that could yet see US troops hurried home. It is one of four such camps established in the lawless Arab Jabour region since mid-June as part of Mr Bush’s troop “surge” – his last-ditch...

July 15, 2007

A Case Of Missing Context At The Gray Lady

Nouri al-Maliki may have provided a push for Congress to get more aggressive with the White House over troop withdrawals in Iraq yesterday. However, the Prime Minister sounded a rather contradictory note, expressing confidence in Iraq's ability to secure itself while pleading for more time and pledging more progress on political reform. The New York Times reports on only one of these contradictory statements: Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki declared Saturday that Iraqi forces could secure the country on their own “any time” American troops decided to withdraw, his first response to the White House report this week that found his government falling well short of many political reforms and military goals sought by Congress. Mr. Maliki has been under attack by American officials and many Iraqi politicians for leading a government mired in disputes and unable to make progress on major legislation seen as crucial to stabilizing the country....

July 17, 2007

Pace: Iraq Has Turned Around (Update: UN Chief Warns On Withdrawal)

General Peter Pace, the outgoing chair of the Joint Chiefs, has called the surge a success, saying that it has brought about a "sea change" in security for Iraq. Time Magazine reports on his remarks from Ramadi, which in itself demonstrates a level of success, as the Anbar Province has changed markedly from the lost cause it appeared a year ago (via Hugh Hewitt): In his most optimistic remarks since the U.S. troop buildup began, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday that Iraq has undergone a "sea change" in security in recent months, and that this will influence his recommendation to President Bush on how long to continue the current strategy. After conferring with Maj. Gen. Walter Gaskin and other commanders in this provincial capital west of Baghdad, Pace told reporters he has gathered a positive picture of the security environment not only here...

Norm Coleman: I Told You So

No one had to get a bigger charge out of George Galloway's pending suspension from the UK House of Commons than Norm Coleman. The British Parliament has acted to punish Galloway for his dishonesty in hiding the source of his funding for his Mariam Appeal fund -- Saddam Hussein and Galloway's take in the Oil-For-Food scandal. Galloway's apologists laughed off Senator Coleman's interrogation of Galloway, but the Minnesota Senator gets the last laugh -- and takes it: The anti-war Respect MP was criticised by the Standards and Privileges Committee for “concealing the true source of Iraqi funding” to a charity he set up and failure to co-operate with the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. It backed a finding that there was “strong circumstantial evidence” that his Mariam Appeal received cash from the regime of Saddam Hussein, the payments delivered through the UN’s Oil for Food Programme “with Mr Galloway’s connivance”. It...

Michael Yon: The Saga Of The General Lee

Michael Yon has another excellent dispatch from his embed mission in Iraq, although this piece gives more of an in-depth look at the connection between men and machines. Yon profiles the travails of a Stryker used by the men of the 1-24th Regiment as an example of how tough it is to lose one. The General Lee saved lives on more than one occasion in 2005, until IEDs finally retired it: The patrols can be tedious. Fatigue accumulates after months of fighting, and it seems most units who are performing routine missions go against the grain of strict regulation and plug music into their comms to keep them alert. When they beep into the comms to talk, the music clicks off. It’s against the regs, but when everyone is tired—and weary—it works for a while. Some soldiers will listen to music before combat missions, sort of like Apocalypse Now, and...

McCain's Shot Across Reid's Bow

With the Senate about to conduct a pajama party tonight to discuss all the ways in which we can retreat in the face of our enemies, John McCain seems almost alone in the Senate in confronting Harry Reid on the consequences of his actions. They want to conduct a series of votes overnight in order to force Republicans into cloture on an amendment that would demand a pullout of Iraq by next April and beginning in September: They called for sleeping cots to be rolled into a room off the Senate floor and told members to prepare for repeated votes throughout the evening. Senators even left open the possibility of dispatching the sergeant at arms to summon colleagues from their homes to the floor if lawmakers ignored the debate. The threat was reminiscent of a 1988 debate on campaign finance reform in which Capitol police carried Oregon Republican Sen. Robert...

July 18, 2007

Republicans Call Reid's Bluff

Harry Reid kept the Senate in business all night long as a way to publicize the fact that Republicans won't allow cloture on an amendment for retreating from Iraq. For some reason, Reid apparently thought that this would somehow break the will of the Republicans in a manner that had escaped the Democratic effort to complain about the same cloture rules they used repeatedly to block legislation and presidential appointments when Reid was Minority Leader instead of Majority Leader. In the end, not only didn't Reid move the Republicans, he took most of the night off himself: So much for forcing Republicans to filibuster all night. As the clock struck midnight and Tuesday became Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid loosened up a bit on his plans to teach members of the minority that Democrats set the schedule on the debate over Iraq. ... Speaking of those mandatory attendance tallies,...

US Captures Top AQI Figure

Update: US confirms. See Update 1. The US captured a senior figure for al-Qaeda in Iraq on July 4th, the BBC reports this morning. Khaled Mashhadani told investigators that he acted as a conduit between the real AQI leader and senior al-Qaeda leadership outside of Iraq: US forces say they have arrested a senior member of al-Qaeda in Iraq, the group accused of being behind some of Iraq's deadliest violence. The man was named as Khaled Mashhadani. He was captured earlier in July in the northern city of Mosul, officials said. US military officials said he had told interrogators that the group's supposed leader, Omar al-Baghdadi, was a front. Mashhadani may give the US enough information to target the real leader of AQI, if it isn't Omar al-Baghdadi. Interestingly, some think that Khaled Mashhadini is Omar al-Baghdadi. Nibras Kazimi gave a run-down on al-Baghdadi four months ago: This is what...

Reed-Levin Cloture Going Down To Defeat

Harry Reid can't even tire the Senate into voting for cloture. The Levin-Reed bill has only received 52 votes to end debate, even after the insomnia festival that Reid staged last night. As expected, the Democrats wound up the debate with the same number in support that they had when it started. The final vote will show 53 votes in favor of cloture, and the Republican caucus largely united against the Congressional incursion on executive powers. Even moderate Republicans like Arlen Specter, George Voinovich, and Chuck Grassley could not support a declaration of defeat from the Senate. The publicity stunt has failed. UPDATE: Reid changed his vote at the end, so cloture failed 52-47. He called the bill "bipartisan", but it looks like all of the GOP except Chuck Hagel voted against it. It's an odd sense of the term "bipartisan," but then again, Reid hasn't exactly put on an...

'I Will Stand Where I Stand'

Harry Reid wanted a debate, and he got one, especially from John McCain, during last night's stunt -- which Reid himself mostly skipped. It didn't change a single vote, and more importantly, Reid didn't get what he wanted -- a Republican refusal to engage. Instead, Republicans made it clear that they had no intention of allowing Congress to usurp the role of the executive, and McCain made it clear why. Here's his entire statement from the debate early this morning: Mr. President, we have nearly finished this little exhibition, which was staged, I assume, for the benefit of a briefly amused press corps and in deference to political activists opposed to the war who have come to expect from Congress such gestures, empty though they may be, as proof that the majority in the Senate has heard their demands for action to end the war in Iraq. The outcome of...

John Burns: US An 'Important Inhibtor Of Violence' In Iraq

Although I have often criticized the New York Times for its bias and editorial decisions, I have often expressed admiration for John Burns, their intrepid reporter on the ground in Iraq. He has found himself in the thick of militia and insurgent action, and was one of the first to give Americans a comprehensive look at Moqtada al-Sadr -- from his experience as a hostage. He reports in the same fashion as Michael Yon, telling the story straight, regardless of whether the news is good or bad. Last night, he appeared on the Charlie Rose Show, and he continued in that same vein. When asked about the consequences of pulling troops out of Iraq, Burns told Rose that a catastrophe would almost certainly follow: JOHN BURNS: Well, I think, quite simply that the United States armed forces here -- and I find this to be very widely agreed amongst Iraqis...

Guest Post: Senator James Inhofe

I am pleased to welcome Senator James Inhofe to Captain's Quarters again. In this guest post, Senator Inhofe shares his thoughts about the overnight session Harry Reid demanded. Iraq and the Continuous Session Thank you, Ed, for the opportunity to address your readers. Last night’s shameless press stunt further politicizes a situation that, now more than ever, requires a strong dose of thoughtful discussion and honest debate. Harry Reid’s orchestrated political theatre was never intended to be a serious consideration of Iraq and the War on Terror, but merely a brazen publicity event. And so as our American sons and daughters woke up in Baghdad to put their lives on the line and fight another day, the Democrats kept the Senate up late fighting to undermine their mission and undermine our nation. Armed with a “Let Us Vote” sign and speeches proving how we have already lost, they arrived at...

July 20, 2007

OK, Now Stop Listening To The Generals

For the first part of the Iraq war, critics kept insisting that we "listen to the generals," who wanted new strategies and more troops on the ground. Now that we have both, the same critics apparently have the opposite advice. Congress held a briefing with Generals David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno, along with Ambassador Ryan Crocker, and then essentially said they weren't going to listen to them: The top commanders in Iraq and the American ambassador to Baghdad appealed for more time beyond their mid-September assessment to more fully judge if the new strategy was making gains. Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the No. 2 commander in Iraq, told Pentagon reporters that while he would provide the mid-September assessment of the new military strategy that Congress has required, it would take “at least until November” to judge with confidence whether the strategy was working. But their appeals, in three videoconferences...

Seven Rules, One Oath

One of the toughest tasks facing the Americans in Iraq is the building of a truly national security force, both as an Army and as a police force. Up to now, the police forces have tended towards the sectarian, and ineffective as a result, althought the Army has fared better. As part of his reporting from Iraq, Michael Yon describes a conference held by the US military that included Iraqi Army officers and leaders from insurgent and tribal groups that have committed to solidarity as Iraqis in a unified security force. But how to get there? Colonel Steve Townsend presided over the conference, which developed into a negotiation -- and a remarkably civil and effective negotiation at that: Colonel Townsend clarified the purpose of the meeting; it was not to formalize relations or to establish a chain of command, but to work out ways of cooperating to bring better days...