Monday, February 26, 2007

Rebuilding of the Officer Corps

For those recalling the tidbits in the Baker Report about the military officer corps and who may have been reading Colonel W. Patrick Lang (ret) warnings about the apparatus being shifted to possibly support Iranian action, here is something from British Intelligence:

US generals ‘will quit’ if Bush orders Iran attack

“There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.” -Times Online

Friday, February 23, 2007

Struggle Inside Islam

One of the reasons that I had picked up Halliday's book that I was recently discussing here was to see if there were not insights into how to confront radical Islam that were mapped out by experts. Frankly, there has to be more than Reagan-style confrontation with the Soviets, which is the mud-track that some on the Right are stuck in, without any overt reflection about why that model is applicable, let alone best.
Unfortunately, that still has to wait.

Doesn't most every 'revolution' ultimately include some segment of its intitial supporters disillusioned over its ideals having got lost in translation

Anyway, Time Magazine's Baghdad bureau guy, Bobby Gosh, weighs in this week with a bleak cover story on the topic of Sunni-Shi confrontation.


His observation, on Charlie Rose show last night, that both sides are united in blaming the U.S. for the problem is remarkable. How it could come to pass that the U.S. should be blamed for a set of issues so far outside its control, almost without question or refutation, is testiment to how angry people are at America and possibly with their own hijacked revolutionary hopes for Iraq (as Halliday notes, doesn't most every 'revolution' ultimately include some segment of its intitial supporters disillusioned over its ideals having got lost in translation).

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Struggle for the Future of Islam: One Tribe, One Bullet at a Time

I had just been writing about the Pandora's box that threatens to rewrite the long-term struggle inside Islam to one based predominantly on Sunni vs. Shi'a politics (also just writing about COP Falcon in Ramadi).

While we ogle potential changes in the conceptual landscape, we know also know that the daily epiphanies in almost any struggle come down to individuals who will write History with the success or failure of their moral conviction in action.

Accordingly, I point out this post from the guys at the Fourth Rail (where else?), who have this to observe:

The U.S. now estimated 12 of the 21 tribes in Ramadi actively support the government, 6 are neutral and three have sided with al-Qaeda.

Al-Qaeda has fired back with a vicious campaign of suicide attacks, murders and kidnappings of tribal leaders in an attempt to intimidate the Anbar tribes. Last year, a captured document showed al-Qaeda's 'hit list' of Sunni politicians, tribal leaders, clerics and Baathists in Anbar.
If you read the rest of the post, you get a long list of complaints of what al-qaeda hath wrought in al-Anbar.

Coupled with the Mecca Declaration, perhaps some of the animus of 'fighting occupation' might abate. The question is will it be enough or will enough people continue to struggle without their ideological 'cover story', as it were.

It is also a question of timing, perhaps. The Shi'a led unity government might come up with yet another display of unbelievable incompetence, which would provide another "rationale" and provocation to supplant the old one(s)...

Tracking the Surge: Uneasy Silence at COP Charlie, Ghazaliyah

Time reporter Charles Crain writes about an eering silence in Ghazaliyah (see posts on Baghdad Conurbation for general info on Baghdad neighborhoods).

Meanwhile the militia and the insurgents have been finding ways to operate under the radar and out of firing range. On the streets of Ghazaliyah, Sgt. Michaud said, the Mahdi Army continued to "slowly, but surely," force Sunnis from their homes through other forms of intimidation. The more immediate threat, though, may be a spectacular Sunni insurgent attack designed to show residents in Ghazaliyah that their power has not been blunted. "If I'm the enemy: I've lost the initiative," Peterson said. "I've got to do something big and visual."

This suggests that the coordinated attack on the Tarmiya COP and the massive car bomb explotion earlier in the month were related to changing tactics, rather than outright indicators of new strength in the insurgency.

Sadly, however, dividing lines remain:

In Ghazaliyah, northeast of Baghdad's airport, Iraq's savage and complex civil war has been playing out in miniature. Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia has been encroaching from Shula, the Shi'a-dominated neighborhood to the north. The Sunni minority has virtually vanished from northern Gazaliyah, driven away by murder and intimidation. In the heavily-Sunni southern part of the neighborhood homegrown insurgents and foreign jihadists have been attacking the Americans and Shi'a-dominated security forces.

The COP is a short drive from the road that serves as a dividing line between Ghazaliyah's Sunni and Shi'a communities. Moved from its home at Camp Liberty, one of the bases within the sprawling American compound at the airport, Charlie Company fortified a row of houses with concrete, razor wire and plenty of firepower. The COP is the first test of the counter-insurgency strategy the military plans to implement across Baghdad.

Refugees and Baghdad Street Fighting Afterall; Cheney may be US Baghdad Bob

VP Cheney's rose tint is undiminished - He's starting to look like Baghdad Bob, yes? Time Magazine's quote of the day:

"I look at it and see it is actually an affirmation that there are parts of Iraq where things are going pretty well." - VP Dick Cheney, responding to Tony Blair's decision to withdraw 1,600 British troops from Iraq
"Basra is dominated by 4 paramilitaries, who are fighting turf wars with one another and with the Iraqi government over oil smuggling rights." - Juan Cole

Mother Jones crunches the numbers and comes up with evidence that tensions and fitna imposed by the rejectionists in Iraq have created room for general rise in "jihadi" attacks (see chart below and story here - btw, read all of the rest of the feature, some of the statistics are astounding).

At this point in time, the world is not obviously safer (we've merely traded one kind of conflict for another), there are massive refugees (just not related to US bombing campaign to oust Saddam), and there will be street fighting in Baghdad by US Marines of significant intensity ...

They say things get worse before they get better, and while that is often the case, this project seems to be on long, long term horizon..

The Pandora's Box: Rewriting of the Struggle Within Islam

Damascus, the Ummayid Mosque and its minarate

Having just finished Islam and the Myth of Confrontation: Religion and Politics in the Middle East, I've added English scholar and author Fred Halliday (at the LSE) to the link list, next to Juan Cole.

For most of 2006 and now into 2007, the world has been watching to see if the much mooted struggle within Islamic polities among radical groups (with backward looking and discontinuous political "remedies") and moderate groups (seeking reform, integration, and individual freedom) has morphed into a different struggle at the hands of al-qa'ida and others, into a rapidly widening, full-scale struggle between Shia politics and Sunni politics. It is refined to put it that way, as Halliday remarks, "... this 7th-century division does not account for the major conflicts of the Islamic world then or later, in a way that wars between Catholic and Protestant were to do in early-modern Europe."

Halliday notes the paucity of analyzing the conflict by holy text, by creed, because it misses the important linkages with the evolving regional politics. He goes through an almost must-read of the historical evolution of the current state of political conflict, with a rich set of hyperlinks - the internet at its best, with layers of information at a click! - that turns out to be much shorter than having to read all of Shia Revival.


Still, he doesn't deny that what have been for many, many years lesser or dormant differences cannot come to the fore, in the passion of the times:

Modernity, and the use of communal or religious differences for contemporary political ends, are however no barrier to the spread of hatred and violence. These fires, once lit, can destroy forms of coexistence that have existed for centuries. This is clearly the case in the "war of elimination" in Baghdad today (a city from which, it may be recalled, the Jewish community who had lived there for over two millennia experienced a mass exodus in the early 1950s).

Moreover, while at the beginning states may seek to control such sectarian loyalties, as both Iran and Saudi Arabia have done, such control may not last: today Iran has much less influence over the Shi'a of Iraq than it had three or ten years ago. How far these flames will spread is anyone's guess, ...

Some may take comfort from the dire warning that issued from a conference of Sunni and Shi'a clergy recently held in Qatar. As representatives of each side promised to stop preaching suspicion of the other, and Shi'a committed themselves to stop cursing the caliphs, a prominent Iraqi cleric warned that if this conflict were to continue, the direst of all consequences would follow: namely that young people in the Muslim world would be tempted ... to turn to secularism.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Neocons in History: Part II, A Clean Break ... Goes Bust

In a keen foreshadowing, Jim Lobe wrote a note in 2002 called, "Neoconservatives Consolidate Control over U.S. Mideast Policy", in opining about the rise in the Bush administration of Elliott Abrams:

Neoconservative hawks in the administration of President George W. Bush have won a major battle against the State Department in the fight for control of U.S. Mideast policy with the surprise appointment of Iran-Contra figure Elliott Abrams to the region's top policy spot in the National Security Council (NSC).

For the first time, someone who has publicly assailed the "land-for-peace" formula that has guided U.S. policy in the Arab-Israeli conflict since the 1967 war has been appointed to a top spot in Mideast policy.

Years later, we get the following numbers, which suggest that "Peace through Boldness", as Lobe shorthands it, has brought sentiment well past the point of constructive tension:

In a nutshell:
Egypt: favorable 13% unfavorable 73%
Jordan: favorable 5% unfavorable 90%
Lebanon: favorable 31% unfavorable 64%
Saudi Arabia: favorable 11% unfavorable 82%
UAE: favorable 35% unfavorable 61%

Among the most interesting figures, however, is that 45% said that being a Muslim was the most important part of their identity--more than the number who referred to their Arab or national identities. That's nearly double from the 2002 poll result.

That is about as bad a policy outcome as one could imagine, in a conflict in which military power is arguably secondary (or only an integral part of a wider whole) ...


This bad news comes at a critical juncture for I/P policy, whether or how to continue to confront the Hammas, as recent talks have produced little forward motion, but plenty of pressure points (not all of neocon making, but also not looking like neo-con inpsired solutions will bring anything):

From Amman, limiting "provocations" and the primacy of negotiations, under even adverse circumstances:
Tuesday, February 20, 2007

His Majesty King Abdullah II called on the Israeli government to revive the peace process with the Palestinians and overcome obstacles that hinder the resumption of negotiations between the two sides in accordance with international legitimacy resolutions.

During a telephone conversation with the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, His Majesty also urged Israel to stop "excavation work" near Al Aqsa Mosque, adding such acts threaten the Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem and contribute to increasing tension in the region. - Petra News Agency

From Israel, pre-conditions of negotiations (not even peace) and trust-building gestures:

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert demanded yesterday in talks with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the Palestinian unity government recognize Israel, renounce terror and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

Olmert said Israel would reject alternatives to the three conditions that are meant to make the unity government appear acceptable in the eyes of the world. The conditions were first set by the Quartet, comprised of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia.

Israel will not have any contact with Palestinian figures who are considered moderates, such as finance minister-designate Salam Fayad, if they serve in a government that does not accept the Quartet's conditions, Olmert said. In the Jerusalem meeting, he rejected the suggestion that Israel negotiate with the Palestine Liberation Organization, headed by Abbas, thereby freeing Hamas of the requirement to recognize Israel.

Olmert also demanded that the Palestinian government release captive soldier Gilad Shalit, who was abducted near Gaza in June. He also wants the government to stop the arms-smuggling between the Sinai and the Gaza Strip and deploy forces in northern Gaza to prevent Qassam fire.

Olmert promised that Israel would maintain contact with Abbas, but [Olmert] said the relationship would be limited to two subjects: fighting terror in accordance with the first phase of the roadmap and making the daily lives of Palestinian civilians easier.- Haaretz

The Political Misfortune of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby

Today will be closing arguments in the perjury case of VP Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, whose political fortunes changed forever when Robert Novak wrote his column on July 14, 2003. The taxpayers fortunes have changed some $1.4 million, not including the trials, according to the AP, and Libby has raised a fortune of more than $3 million in his legal defense fund.

The folks over at Firedoglake have been making hay that the old-platform media hasn't been up to the task of covering the trial, but I wandered for 20 minutes through their website, before I gave up in a sea of un-organized details (excellent source material for writing a book, but not for time-pressed information consumers. Bloggert David Corn offers more concise summaries, in my estimation. Extensive pre-trial background, well presented, here.)

Perhaps AH can ask them to put together a timeline and to write up what they hoped to find out but which wasn't shown at trial, whatever came up that was totally unexpected, and the general import of the behind-the-scenes spillover for readers interested in more than simple guilt or innocence of the charges? (One effort here, Libby Trial Dodges the Truth).

Bloggert Swopa, while complaining about old-platform reports, offers up an interesting conjecture that, to him, seems in plain sight to those following the details:

What I think the [Washington] Post and [TPM bloggert John Marshall] are trying to imply is that those calls [to six Washington journalists] from Air Force One were specifically orchestrated by Libby, based on Cheney's instructions on Air Force Two. And special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has sources on both planes to back that theory up.

Few people have speculated in advance of a verdict about whether Libby may eventually get a pardon for any of his adjudicated transgressions, perhaps with some pulbic support out of pity if folks come to understand that the true impetus for the Plame affair originated with his bosses. At least one neocon, Elliott Abrams, who pleaded guilty to lying to Congress as a diplomat in Reagan's State Department, had their political careers resuscitated. Abrams was pardoned by Bush-41 and, after a series of very critical posts with Bush-43, became a Deputy National Security Adviser, a post he still holds.


Against this backdrop, one starts to see the injustice, the duplicity, in the GOP's strategy for handling leaks and leakers.

On the one hand, it is fairly clear to an outside observer, that the Attorney General has been set to the task of providing a penalty to those who leak information. Leaking itself is neither good or bad, but the person who leaks must face consequences.

The imputed policy of imposing costs on a leaker can be gleaned from a number of instances:

  1. the robust prosecution of the investigative journalists who used leaked grand jury testimony in the baseball steroid scandal

  2. the partial, rather than full, de-classification of the deeply embarrassing NIE of April 2006 on Iraq, so that the leaker could still be held accountable, presumably;

  3. the case of imposing a cost on Joe Wilson, albeit non-legal, for relying on a privileged position inside the government (his wife Valerie Plame's connection to the CIA) to provide information in an NYT op-Ed that others might have wanted to keep secret.

While we might think intuitively in terms of a "just leak", one that serves the public interest better than the elected officials are doing, there is, of course, no such legal category.


However, not only is the GOP's Administration in an odd position of having used 'leaks' to fight Wilson's 'leaks' (perceived as non-loyalty or policy-unfaithfulness, if not outright peddling of privileged information) but they also have promoted convicted liars right on up to the the highest ranks of government, namely the NSC.

It a hurdle to portray the first as anything more than vindictive and the second, hypocrisy.

(photo: AP)

Neocons in History - Black Eye for the New Century, So Far

I've been casting about to compose a post on the erstwhile Department of State's (DoS) "Future of Iraq" project, and I came across this reasonably well-known tidbit from the pages of neocon History. To be sure, it is to their credit that, unlike the White House's website on Saddam's "Apparatus of Lies" (painfully ironic in retrospect), they are brave enough to continue to show their history:

Such uncertainty will, by itself, have a seriously destabilizing effect on the entire Middle East. ...

In the near term, this means a willingness to undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing. ...

Although we are fully aware of the dangers and difficulties in implementing this policy, we believe the dangers of failing to do so are far greater.

Letter to President W. J. Clinton, January, 1998 - signed by:

Elliott AbramsRichard L. ArmitageWilliam J. Bennett
Jeffrey BergnerJohn BoltonPaula Dobriansky
Francis FukuyamaRobert KaganZalmay Khalilzad
William KristolRichard PerlePeter W. Rodman
Donald RumsfeldWilliam Schneider, Jr.Vin Weber
Paul WolfowitzR. James WoolseyRobert B. Zoellick

(shading = appointee of President G. W. Bush, some still "serving")

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Taking the Temperature: Newt Revisited

It often pays to revisit Newt Gingrich, from time to time, if only now because the current candidates for the GOP nomination are not likely to put forward any bold ideas (Romney is flogging tort-reform, for instance).


Newt has long been saying that the State Department is "broken", but it was recently before the Senate in testimony that he called for a huge investment in the State Department (without suggesting how it might be funded), as follows:

14. The State Department is too small, too undercapitalized and too untrained for the demands of the 21st century. There should be a 50% increase in the State Department budget and a profound rethinking of the culture and systems of the State Department so it can be an operationally effective system.
Now, just when you thought that a new Conservative belief in the merits of diplomacy was what was on his mind, he also comes up with the notion that diplomats ought to be subordinated in the military chain of command:

1. Place General Petreaus in charge of the Iraq campaign and establish that the Ambassador is operating in support of the military commander.
Also, if one grabs his speech from Herzliya (key Israeli defense conference), you come across this jab at the DoS:

The US should have as an explicit goal, regime change in Iran, as its constitution makes them a revolutionary regime. In 2006 even the Department of State which seeks to deny the nature of reality, noted that Iran is a leading sponsor of terror. What I need is something that will be similar to Reagan’s Replacement strategy in Iran. The current unrest in Iran will facilitate this.
So, it is also a change in policy viewpoint that Newt wants "up-funded" (which is my new diplo-military term, to keep faith with the spirit of the proposal).

Altogether, nothing new, just more spending, it appears, whereby the DoS becomes an elements in the DoD Chain of command ...

By the way, that is to be sharply contrasted with Senator J. Warner (wartime rubber stamp from Virginia), who was unabashedly questioning General Casey on how he and Ambassador Kalizad interacted in the field with the new Iraqi government and making the overt point of suggesting that the military might want to put the Ambassador in the lead, if only because questions may be coming down the road.

This is the new wartime posturing, whereby everyone is not in the same boat, or so it seems, but thinking about "blame time", just as they do inside large corporations.


Sadly, parts of Newt's testimony look like generals trying to prep to win the last war: more troops, a radically revamped US AID office, "new metrics", a National Security Budget that is closer to historic highs than historic lows, and very, very clearly a "fix" for the "inter-agency process".

Two observations, at least, on that. One, a revamped US AID office suggests that the US is going to be in a long term "war" that involves ... nation building, yes? If not, than what? Two, how can General Petreaus hope to fix the inter-agency process? If it is clearly so necessary/paramount and so clearly outside the scope of what Petreaus can do singlehandedly, then why should this General succeed, except in spite of the inter-agency process, not by fixing it?

That question is a nice segue to the next point.


I found the organizational and process recommendations that Newt made to be startling, an indication that the CIC basically delegated the war to his minister at defense, Rumsfeld and ignored the signs, those little thought poems from Rumsfeld conveying that some problems might have required (or still require?) a "big rethink" so to speak, profound process and institutional re-alignment.

Here is what Newt had in mind:

2. [Petreaus] should report daily to the White House on anything significant which is not working or is needed.

3. Create a deputy chief of staff to the President and appoint a retired four star general or admiral to manage Iraq implementation for the Commander in Chief on a daily basis.

4. Establish that the second briefing (after the daily intelligence brief)the President will get every day is from his deputy chief of staff for Iraq implementation.

5. Establish a War Cabinet which will meet once a week to review metrics of implementation and resolve failures and enforce decisions. The President should chair the War Cabinet personally and his deputy chief of staff for Iraq implementation should prepare the agenda for the weekly review and meeting.

Which all begs the question of what decision making really looks like inside the wartime Bush White House, if these things are not currently going on. I assume that Newt might reasonably be expected to know that they are not.


There are those who maintained that a single U.S. President could handle two major military engagements, a far flung fight against terrorism, the challenge of reshaping domestic homeland security, a re-election campaign and much else besides.

Even given processes that are optimally efficient, that's a LOT of activity to coordinate!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Senate Confirms Role in Ongoing "Broken Branch" of US Government

The US Senate today confirmed its role in the Broken Branch of government by failing to pass a procedural step required to move on to floor debate of a no-confidence motion in President Bush's 5-year prosecution of Operation Iraqi Freedom.


Senator Judd Gregg, R-New Hampshire, is emerging as a chief spoiler for the GOP, offering amendments here and there that are designed to torpedo bills (cf. the line-item veto amendment that he recently offered). His amendment or alternative bill would have requested a vote that the Congress never pull funding from U.S. troops involved in the conflict.

The Congress ought not ever cede its authority to end a war in this way. Against the backdrop that the GOP dominated Congress has consistently ceded too much authority and trust to the Bush Administration over the course of the Iraqi deployment, following VP Cheney's "last throws" ad hoc assessments among others, a call for the Congress to once again vote away its authority to pull funding from any mission.


Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) didn't even show up for the vote. This is emblematic of how debate really occurs in the US today.

Frankly, the Senate floor is too exposed politically. It's easier to regurgitate pre-hashed comments on Sunday morning shows, calling on "my fellow colleagues", rather than actually call on them in person on the Senate floor. It's easier to stick to your talking points, than to answer questions from across the isle. It's easier to read a statement than it is to make extemporaneous remarks that are worthy of consideration.

So broken is the tradition of debate, that Senator McCain was comfortable staying away from the floor on a question of such importance to the Nation, choosing instead to campaign from the relative safety of the podium, the carefully composed photo-op, and make pronouncements to talk-show hosts about what his position is.


A down-vote on a no-confidence measure is a vote that confidence is justified or warranted. To defeat a no-confidence measure on a procedural motion, to shy away from a real vote, is hardly the way to show confidence in the President or in his Generals.

The fact that, even at this late date in the conflict, that elected officials are unwilling to let their precious careers be defined by the defining issue of the times is telling of just how much self-saving compliance and pushover rubber-stamping is still available from the days when the Senate was fully in GOP hands.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Operation Kryptonite

Oh, I wish so much that we have photos of this!

Taliban, self-proclaimed "heros and martyrs of al-Islam", throwing children in front of bullets to save themselves ...

By Terry Friel
KABUL (Reuters) - Taliban fighters used children as human shields to flee heavy fighting this week during an operation by foreign and Afghan forces to clear rebels from around a key hydro-electric dam, NATO said on Wednesday.

The Taliban have used human shields before, but never children, local residents say.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Money News

The "budget race" continues .... er, not to be seen left not wanting for budget dollars:

item: Army, Marine Corps Short $5 Billion for New Armored Vehicles in FY-08
item: Navy Outlines $5.6 Billion in Unfunded Needs
item: SOCOM Requires Additional $391 Million in FY-08 For Body Armor, Weapons
item: Army Details $10.2 Billion in 'Unfunded Requirements' for 2008

item one-time bonus for re-up: Every Marine who re-enlists before Sept. 30 will get at least $10,000, including those who already re-enlisted this fiscal year, according to a Corps-wide message released Wednesday.

item build-up: The service is in the midst of adding 22,000 Marines to its ranks — about 5,000 leathernecks a year — by 2011, for a total of 202,000 Marines.

BUT ...

The number of waivers granted to Army recruits with criminal backgrounds has grown about 65 percent in the last three years, increasing to 8,129 in 2006 from 4,918 in 2003, Department of Defense records show.

While everyone focuses on other aspects of the OUSDF's 'policy shaping' of pre-war intelligence, here are the Comptrollers budget figures.

Keeping Faith: Not lost in Translation

There has to be some solution to the issue of special visas. Where there is a will there is a way, and there really ought to be a will:

(CBS) Iraqi interpreters have to keep their faces hidden to survive working so closely with U.S. troops. They are the eyes and ears of American soldiers, but as CBS News chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan reports, for that, they are hunted down and murdered.

There are close to 10,000 translators in Iraq alone — but until now, only 50 special visas to the U.S. have been available each year for both Iraq and Afghanistan.

For interpreters, like "Timmy," whose real name CBS News can't reveal, that lack of special visas is almost a death sentence.


"He's pulled soldiers out of trucks after the trucks have been hit with an IED. He's protected me while I was rendering first aid to a soldier," Krieger says.

Krieger says he has trusted him with his life multiple times.

Both men believe Timmy will die if he stays in Iraq. But he needs a U.S. general's signature to apply for that special visa. The problem is that he doesn't work with any generals.

A View from the Frontlines

Some comments from the guys at COP (Combat Post) Falcon, in Ramadi, courtesy the Army Times.

"So, every day ... every single day they have to look around and deal with the fact that they are under small arms contact daily."

"We have spilt blood here...we've invested really our lives for making this area of Ramadi better."

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

ISF Deployment

The guys at the Fourth Rail are indispensable for understanding what is really going on in Iraq.

They've compiled and collated a lot of open-source material about the development and deployment of the ISF. I've been trying to get information on the Iraq 6th Division, who have responsibility in Baghdad.

Anyway, at least someone is trying to provide some systematic information, at least enough so that folks have a sense of forward or backward motion on some metrics, a step that can only help, IMO. The concerns about sharing too much info with 'the enemy' are slim, in my estimation. It's their country and they appear to know quite well who is where and doing what already, judging by the effectiveness of some of their attacks.

link: Order of Battle

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Bali bomber 'preaches by phone from jail'

You cannot make this stuff up.

Bali bomber 'preaches by phone from jail'


Today we learn that a sitting member of the Iraqi Parliament, Jamal Jafaar Mohammed, might be a convicted and still-active terrorist. Mohammed was sentenced to death in Kuwait in 1984 for the bombings of the U.S. and French embassies there in 1983, in which 5 died and 86 were wounded.

The Spanish Connection

Hit and Run:

A top Pakistani intelligence official told ABC News that following a "crunch" by British counterterrorism authorities on Pakistani militant networks in the U.K. after the July 2005 bombings, "dozens of local leaders for groups, such as Jaish e Muhammad ('Army of Muhammad' in Arabic) and Lashkar e Tayyba ('Army of the Pure' in Urdu) moved to Spain," settling in the area around Barcelona.

They have since established a very strong "rear base" in Barcelona to support terrorist activity in Britain, setting up logistics and recruitment networks in the local Pakistani community, the source said

Five Minutes to Midnight

Back in January, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, famed mavens of homo-suicidal doomsday estimation, nudged forward their symbolic clock to five minutes to midnight, nearly as close as it has ever been (see timeline below). As the Pax Americana recedes in the 21st century, to be replaced by "empire" de elsewhere (to borrow Nail Ferguson's analytic notion of empire), one wonders if their opening is flourish or accurate:

We stand at the brink of a second nuclear age. Not since the first atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki has the world faced such perilous choices. North Korea’s recent test of a nuclear weapon, Iran’s nuclear ambitions, a renewed U.S. emphasis on the military utility of nuclear weapons, the failure to adequately secure nuclear materials, and the continued presence of some 26,000 nuclear weapons in the United States and Russia are symptomatic of a larger failure to solve the problems posed by the most destructive technology on Earth.

As in past deliberations, we have examined other human-made threats to civilization. We have concluded that the dangers posed by climate change are nearly as dire as those posed by nuclear weapons. The effects may be less dramatic in the short term than the destruction that could be wrought by nuclear explosions, but over the next three to four decades climate change could cause drastic harm to the habitats upon which human societies depend for survival.

Meanwhile, Jan Feeman, writing in the Boston Globe, takes on the collqialism, "existentional threat", that seems to have made its way into the GOP tallking points or the Administration's policy wonkers, and asks whether people are going to 'buy it' in our age of inflated everything:
But will the American people buy it? I'm doubtful. Phrases like existential conflict and existential threat may sound grave and gloomy when our leaders wield them, but nothing can protect them, in this land of free speech, from casual or jokey or ironic use. "Being born is an existential threat, because it means you're gonna die," noted one blogger, in response to the doomsday rhetoric. "Did existential just become a fancy word for big?" demanded another.
I've always thought that terrorisism can be conceptualized in an everyday way as a moral challenge. For me, "existential" cuts it, only insofar as the logically implied invitation of terrorism is for everyone to come and do wanton battle outside the gates of Hell. Unfortunately, the term "existential" has too many other overtones to make it useful, in that regard.

It's Budget Monday

Yesterday was budget Monday. I'll be parsing the numbers over the upcoming month.

Department of Homeland Security gets an 8% increase, including a billion dollars for ... a fence in ... where else, Texas. I've started to wonder how much the DHS is turning into the Department of Whitehouse Pork, ever since Houston, TEXAS, made it to the Tier 1 of cities with critical infrastructure that international terrorists are after (I thought al-qa'ida were mostly after symbolic targets?).

Anyway, a new category in the GWOT, "dangerous people".

DHS Budget history.

(photo: Reuters/Jason Reed)

Mecca Summit, a Special Stop on the "Roadmap"

A view of the world. A rare picture of security forces - these are Hammas (I noticed what looked like brand new weapons).

Hammas and Fatah head to Mecca for summit designed to forestall escalating struggle. It's hard to see how their current impass will get worked out. My guess is that Hammas will come out with a uniquely worded or "refined" set of objectives that may go just far enough to put the ball back in Israel's court ...

(photo: Members of the Hamas security forces wait for Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh next to his home in Beach Camp in Gaza February 6, 2007 as he leaves for a meeting with President Mahmoud Abbas in Mecca in Saudi Arabia. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)

Update 2/20/07:
Mecca Accord, courtesy of Int'l Herald Tribune.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Update: Iraqi Police Readiness

Adding this to General Eaton's testimony (I don't recall him shining a spotlight on government contractors).

I was always one for spending money, even without the ordinary controls/oversight, in the hope that the tradeoff would be effectiveness or speed-on-the-ground.

However, some parts seem to have been just plain old fraud and incompetence, the till too tempting:

Reports Fault Oversight of Iraq Police Program
Millions Paid to Contractors Squandered on Unauthorized Work, Shoddy Facilities, U.S. Auditors Say

Democracy, Form Not Substance

In his latest, Fareed Zakaria shows how the debate has changed from whether Democracy is compatible with Islam to whether Democracy, broadly put, can combat "old-world hatreds", as I call 'em. He also throws in corruption.

I suspect this could and will occupy political science PhDs and sociologist for a long while.

How does it come to pass that democratically elected governments do not trend away from corruption of the public interest?

How does it come to pass that a populace fails to elect a government that is responsible to the whole people, not just a portion of it?

Tracking Oil: Federalism, Revisited

Since the first days of the OIF, so many have had ideas about how Iraq should manage its oil revenues, to avoid the curse of oil in relation to economic and social development. It would be a hoot to re-read old WSJ articles, with the best economic thinking on the topic, now so hopelessly ... dated.

These days, everyone is simply hoping that the third in a line of governments will have some agreement - any agreement - in order to stop violent disagreement.

Condi Rice testfied recently that the 'oil agreement' was completed and just needed to be finalized. Here are the outline details of the draft law, reported to date:

  1. Revenue will be "shared" on a per capita basis. (for more on ambiguity of "sharing", see below)
  2. Contracts (for development/operation) may be signed regionally, but will reviewed centrally (this looks like an almost unworkable set-up to me).
Outstanding issues include
  1. how much oil revenue will go to the central government (a.k.a. the revenue sharing law);
  2. a charter for the new national oil company;
  3. the role of the oil ministry;
  4. the principles upon which the new commission could reject regionally negotiated contracts.
  5. whether the commission will require a simple majority vote or a two-thirds vote to reject a contract's terms.
KRG Statement
WaPo Analysis

And the politics is more vexing than ever:
For now, however, the oil sector is a mess. Since the first attack on a pipeline on June 1, 2003, it has been a struggle to keep oil flowing. Basic production equipment has been looted or destroyed. Many wells still are not working properly. And last year, the U.S. special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction complained that Iraq's oil ministry was not reporting on its budget and had spent "only a fraction" of money set aside for capital costs.


Placke, who was part of the Iraq Study Group, estimated that 200,000 barrels a day is siphoned from the main export line through southern Iraq, put on barges, and loaded onto tankers waiting in the Persian Gulf. What's left after discounts and bribes goes to militias or insurgent groups, he said.

In the south, some local Shia militia, clan or clerical groups are trying to claim the rights to some Iraqi fields and a voice in negotiating access for foreign companies. A stake in a billion-barrel field could be more important than a stake in the parliament or cabinet. Some experts worry that, as in Sudan, oil could contribute more to tearing the country apart than to uniting it.


While the debate continues, the Kurdistan Regional Government is pushing ahead.

Journalistic melange: Three sides to the same story

I cobbled together these three accounts of the joint effort on Haifa street, Baghdad, on January 24th.

The contrast between them was stark enough to illustrate the difficulty of getting decision quality information, I thought. And, in other ways, taken together, they are a microcosm of reporting and analysis challenges.

From the USG, the official recap:

Iraqis, Coalition reestablish security on Haifa
Saturday, 27 January 2007
Story and photo by Spc. Shea Butler
7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Jan.24.BAGHDAD — The company of Soldiers starts the day before the sun, knowing in the back of their minds that it is going to be a long day full of fire fights with the enemy. As grenades detonate around them and bullets fly by, they target the enemy and engage immediately, proving that “courage is the absence of fear.

For the second time in the past several weeks, Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division teamed up with Iraqi Army troops to take on insurgents on Haifa Street, in Baghdad’s Karkh district Jan. 24.

The Haifa Street operation, dubbed Operation Tomahawk Strike 11, aimed to disrupt insurgents in order to establish security, said Capt. Isaac Torres, commander, Company C, 1-23 Inf.

The Soldiers started the operation at 3 a.m. when they gathered for pre-combat inspections, received the updated status of the area of operation and piled in their Strykers. They were prepared for a long day. They expected enemy fire
While the NCOs were vigilant, the junior enlisted troops didn’t need much guidance. They have been in similar dangerous fire fights.

“They have all been in enough fire fights to know what is going on,” McCallum said. “They know all the rules of engagement.”

Training is part of what helped these Soldiers through the long day, but adrenaline helped too.

“It was a long day but there was so much adrenaline it made easier,” he said. “We took shots through some windows and adrenaline really kicked in. We immediately got on line, located the enemy and suppressed fire.”

Firing slowed down greatly towards the end of the day. When the smoke cleared, 21 insurgents had been detained and a weapons cache uncovered.

“The mission was a success,” Torres said. “The enemy was greatly disrupted and the Iraqi Army and coalition forces made an impact”

From a combo of embedded and desk reporting (apparently), from the NYT (take notice, at the end, how one Iraqi soldiers knows and apparently dislikes the accountability role of reporters):

In a New Joint U.S.-Iraqi Patrol, the Americans Go First

BAGHDAD, Jan. 24 — In the battle for Baghdad, Haifa Street has changed hands so often that it has taken on the feel of a no man’s land, the deadly space between opposing trenches. On Wednesday, as American and Iraqi troops poured in, the street showed why it is such a sensitive gauge of an urban conflict marked by front lines that melt into confusion, enemies with no clear identity and allies who disappear or do not show up at all.

In a miniature version of the troop increase that the United States hopes will secure the city, American soldiers and armored vehicles raced onto Haifa Street before dawn to dislodge Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias who have been battling for a stretch of ragged slums and mostly abandoned high rises. But as the sun rose, many of the Iraqi Army units who were supposed to do the actual searches of the buildings did not arrive on time, forcing the Americans to start the job on their own.

When the Iraqi units finally did show up, it was with the air of a class outing, cheering and laughing as the Americans blew locks off doors with shotguns
. As the morning wore on and the troops came under fire from all directions, another apparent flaw in this strategy became clear as empty apartments became lairs for gunmen who flitted from window to window and killed at least one American soldier, with a shot to the head.


“This place is a failure,” Sergeant Biletski said. “Every time we come here, we have to come back.”

He paused, then said, “Well, maybe not a total failure,” since American troops have smashed opposition on Haifa Street each time they have come in.

With that, Sergeant Biletski ran through the billowing yellow smoke and took up a new position.

In this surreal setting, about 20 American soldiers were forced at one point to pull themselves one by one up a canted tin roof by a dangling rubber hose and then shimmy along a ledge to another hut. The soldiers were stunned when a small child suddenly walked out of a darkened doorway and an old man started wheezing and crying somewhere inside.

Ultimately the group made it back to the high rises and escaped the sniper in the alley by throwing out the smoke bombs and sprinting to safety. Even though two Iraqis were struck by gunfire, many of the rest could not stop shouting and guffawing with amusement as they ran through the smoke.

One Iraqi soldier in the alley pointed his rifle at an American reporter and pulled the trigger. There was only a click: the weapon had no ammunition. The soldier laughed at his joke.


Last, a newsview reinforced by a slant (a good one, IMO), of the consequence of sectarian divisions for most (if not all) decision making inside Iraq:

We Might 'Win', But Still Lose: Lt. Col. Steven Duke says the Mahdi Army is 'sitting on the 50-yard line, eating popcorn, watching us do their work for them.'

Administration officials have pointed to last week's fighting against Sunni insurgents in and around Baghdad's Haifa Street as a textbook example of the new strategy. Iraqi forces took the lead, American troops backed them up and the government did not put up any obstacles. The Wall Street Journal's Daniel Henninger concluded that the battle "looked like a successful test of unified [American-Iraqi] effort."

But did it? NEWSWEEK's Michael Hastings, embedded with an American advisory team that took part in the fighting, reports that no more than 24 hours after the battle began on Jan. 6, the brigade's Sunni commander, Gen. Razzak Hamza, was relieved of his command. The phone call to fire him came directly from the office of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shiite. Lt. Col. Steven Duke, commander of a U.S. advisory team working with the Iraqis, and a 20-year Army veteran, describes Hamza as "a true patriot [who] would go after the bad guys on either side." Hamza was replaced by a Shiite.

Newsweek, Zakaria