.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Late night reading

Kind of a quiet blogging day unless you have some morbid fascination with every gruesome detail of the Saddam execution.

But, this NYTimes piece looking at the cable TV coverage makes some interesting reading.

Picture of the Day - 3

A perfect 10 on the baby photo op. I mean, look at that baby!!

(Former Sen. John Edwards holds up a baby during a campaign appearance Friday, Dec. 29, 2006, in Reno, Nev. (AP Photo/Chad Lundquist))

(The Bush team needs to take a lesson, the babies always cry on him. 1, 2, 3. LATER: Rawstory has another Bush/baby picture.)


Bush statement Dec 14, 2003 on the capture of Saddam.

"In the history of Iraq, a dark and painful era is over. A hopeful day has arrived. All Iraqis can now come together and reject violence and build a new Iraq."

(A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted days after Saddam's capture showed Bush's approval rating surging from 56 percent to 63 percent. - McClatchy)

This is Iraq

More than 70 people die in four car bombings today, and it's unclear whether it's related to the Saddam execution because that's such a normal day in Iraq.

I mean, Jesus. That's what we've brought these people.

Picture of the Day - 2

Iraqis stand at car bombing site in Karbala, 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday Dec. 9, 2006. A suicide car bomb exploded near a revered shrine in one of Iraq's holiest Shiite cities on Saturday, killing eight people and wounding 36, police said. (AP Photo/Emad Saadoon)

Staring across the Sea of Japan (or the East Sea)

(AP) "Japan's navy on Saturday denied a report that Japan and the United States held a drill simulating a Chinese invasion of disputed islands during recent joint naval exercises."

(WaPo) "China warned Friday that the military landscape in northeast Asia is getting "more complicated and serious" because of North Korea's nuclear weapons program and tighter defense cooperation between Japan and the United States."

Picture of the Day

Iraqi women grieve in Baghdad's Kindi hospital, Iraq, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2006, after identifying one of the bodies of the victims of a bomb explosion as their relative. Three bombs went off in Baghdad's commercial areas killing 23 persons and wounding scores, police said. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

The Iraqi government releases the two Iranians.

These were not the two diplomats. These were the two military operatives who were allegedly supplying weapons and training to the Shia militias.
Two senior Iranian operatives who were detained by U.S. forces in Iraq and were strongly suspected of planning attacks against American military forces and Iraqi targets were expelled to Iran on Friday, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials.

The decision to free the men was made by the Iraqi government and has angered U.S. military officials who say the operatives were seeking to foment instability here.....

"One of the commanders, identified by officials simply as Chizari, was the third-highest-ranking official of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' al-Quds Brigade."

(Remember that these two were captured in SCIRI leader al Hakim's compound. The same al Hakim who met with Bush two weeks ago to form a new "moderate" coalition. Their presence was inconvenient for the Iraqis.)

A few more stray thoughts

Why is it so important that America knows that Bush was asleep during the execution? (AP, NYTimes, AFP) Obviously, the White House wanted that out there.

Second, I'm not going to put the "noose" picture up because it's on the front pages everywhere. For some reason I'm finding that pervasiveness very strange.

Third, now that Saddam is dead, the secrets so successfully suppressed during the trial, are forever kept: The US's role in the Iran/Iraq war, the US and European supply of the precursors for Saddam's chemical weapons arsenal. (There's a reason the US wanted him tried and executed for Dujail before/instead of the Halabja gassing.)

(Juan Cole has a brief Saddam history, and I'd forgotten about this.)

Friday, December 29, 2006

So, Saddam's dead and it still goes on.

As I said earlier, Saddam is irrelevant to today's Iraq.

In today's Iraq,
Three more Marines were killed in battle in Iraq, the military said Friday, making December the year's deadliest month for U.S. troops with the toll reaching 106.....

Already, December was shaping up to be one of the worst months for Iraqi civilian deaths since The Associated Press began keeping track in May 2005.

And there's no reason to think that Saddam alive or Saddam dead will make a bit of difference to the trendline.

Picture of the Day - 4

The family of Sgt. Jose M. Velez watches over his casket during the funeral, in this June 19, 2006, file photo, in New York. Sgt. Velez, originally from Bronx, New York, was killed during combat operations near Kirkuk in Iraq. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig/FILE)

Saddam execution at 10PM Eastern?

The AP is reporting that this will take place tonight, but for some reason, I found this section of the article more interesting.
Al-Nueimi said U.S. authorities were maintaining physical custody of Saddam to prevent him from being humiliated before his execution. He said the Americans also want to prevent the mutilation of his corpse, as has happened to other deposed Iraqi leaders.

"The Americans want him to be hanged respectfully," al-Nueimi said. If Saddam is humiliated publicly or his corpse ill-treated "that could cause an uprising and the Americans would be blamed," he said.

Also, the hanging will be in the Green Zone. Not surprising, but how does this "Iraqi justice" look to the Iraqis and the Muslim world?

He's handed over to the Iraqis practically at the gallows, an Iraqi pulls the lever, then his body is immediately retaken by the Americans, all inside the US fortified Green Zone.

Pope calls for "ethical limits" in the war against terrorism

You know, when an ex-Nazi rebukes you for abusing human rights.....

"We need to look forward, not back"

For about two and a half years the Bush administration has been repeatedly emphasizing that on Iraq we need to look forward, not back, that attention should be focused not on the mistakes that have been made, but on "the way forward."

Look, Saddam is history. He has had no relevance in Iraq from the day the US brought him in. Certainly, Saddam was a bad man, but his execution will have no impact on the civil war currently overflowing the Iraqi cup, and his execution will not solve a single problem facing the US in Iraq.

America needs a meaningful strategy for Iraq, but it's being told to wait, and wait again.

First we must hang Mussolini in the square.

Picture of the Day - 3

General view showing muslim pilgrims praying at the Grand Mosque in the Saudi holy city of Mecca. Around two million Muslims will Thursday begin the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca amid increased safety measures aimed at preventing stampedes which each year claim scores of lives.(AFP/Mohammed Abed)

Jihadis and Indians

Riverbend has a new post up. The frustration is evident. What caught me,
Our children now play games of 'sniper' and 'jihadi', pretending that one hit an American soldier between the eyes and this one overturned a Humvee.

Also: The other quote of the day? Frances Fragos Townsend saying that the capture of Bin Laden isn't a failure; "it's a success that hasn't occurred yet."

Picture of the Day - 2

President George W. Bush holds his dog Barney and salutes while departing Air Force One at TSTC in Waco, Texas before spending a week at his Central Texas ranch in Crawford December 26, 2006. REUTERS/Larry Downing

If you have a few minutes

The NYTimes has a series Flash presentations from CJ Chivers and Joao Silva who are embedded with the Marines stationed in Karma, a small town outside Fallujah.

I watched the last two and then skipped back to the first. If you want to know about life in Anbar, just check the difference in the reporter's tone from the first to the last. His voice goes flat. The facts become increasingly small.

Also: Another reporter returns to Baghdad and tells of the change.

Picture of the Day

President George Bush meets Sgt. Duane Dreasky, who was injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq, when the president toured the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio Jan. 1, 2006. Dreasky died from his injuries in July 2006. (AP Photo/White House Photo via the Flint Journal)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Forward Together II (Treading water in Iraq)

No more trainers, no change in tactics, no effort to turn security over to the Iraqis. Just triple the number of US combat troops in Baghdad and hope for the best.
The Bush administration is considering an increase in troop levels in Iraq of 17,000 to 20,000,......

Most of the additional troops would probably be employed in and around Baghdad, the officials said.

With the continuing high levels of violence there, senior officials increasingly say additional American forces will be needed as soon as possible to clear neighborhoods and to conduct other combat operations to regain control of the capital, rather than primarily to train Iraqi forces.

It's not a goddamned term paper

This, I think, says it all.
President Bush worked nearly three hours at his Texas ranch on Thursday to design a new U.S. policy in Iraq, then emerged to say that he and his advisers need more time to craft the plan he'll announce in the new year.

Wow. "Nearly three hours."

It's alright Mr. Bush, no hurry. It's not like this is a matter of life and death. Oh, wait! It is.
The U.S. military announced five more American troop deaths: four soldiers hit by roadside bombs on patrol and a Marine killed in combat in volatile western Iraq. That raises U.S. troop deaths this month to 100, second only to the 105 service members who died in October.

(AP) Bush plans to return to Washington on Jan. 1.

4 out of 5 presidents agree.....

I don't know why this just occurred to me, but from the public evidence, circumstantial in the case of Bush Sr, we know that Ford, Carter, Bush Sr., and Clinton all have said in one way or another that they thought Iraq was a mistake. 4 of 4. Wow.

(It should be added that all of these judgements have come well after the invasion so they have the advantage of hindsight, but still.... Wow.)

Picture of the Day - 3 - Kremlin Watching

So, who looks like they got what they wanted out of today's meeting? Looks to me like Condi and Peter Pace took the beating. (Pace out of uniform?)

Gates' PR exercise last week

Last week I asked, "Just how much of a show was Gates' meeting with the soldiers?" when 15 of 15 the supported the administration's position. Well, something of an answer.
Many of the American soldiers trying to quell sectarian killings in Baghdad don't appear to be looking for reinforcements. They say the temporary surge in troop levels some people are calling for is a bad idea.

Perhaps the next question should be, why did it take a week for somebody to do this relatively simple story?

The numbers are consistant

By now, I'm sure you've seen the year end AP poll naming heroes and villains of 2006, Bush was named as the top villian.

But, I want to point this out. In a poll of Americans, Bush outpolled the "Axis of Evil" leaders, Osama bin Laden, and Satan COMBINED as the year's top villain.

Bush 25, Osama 8, Saddam 6, Ahmadinejad 5, Kim Jong Il 2, Satan 1.

Picture of the Day - 2

Openly in the streets of Baquba.

Armed militants raise their weapons while driving in a car on the outskirts of Baqouba, 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2006. Dozens of masked gunmen paraded in the Gatoun district of Baqouba, a mixed Sunni-Shiite town that often has considerable amounts of insurgent activity. (AP Photo)

(The Sunnis are consolidating in Baquba as part of their larger strategy.)


(Reuters) After "huddling with his advisors" Bush will make a (probably empty) statement today at 12:30 Eastern.

(NYPost) Saddam is to be hanged on a US made gallows inside Camp Cropper. (undermining the message of "Iraqi justice.")

(Later: (AP) "An official close to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said Saddam would remain in a U.S. military prison until he is handed over to Iraqi authorities on the day of his execution.")

(McClatchy) Four US contractors captured from a convoy on Nov. 16 are seen in a month old video tape.

(Reuters) 3 more US soldiers killed by roadside bombs.

(Stars and Stripes) A "day in the life" from Forward Operating Base Loyalty near Sadr City as it undergoes a mortar attack.

(LATimes) A new tactic in Anbar. Set a fake IED to draw US Engineers, then attack them with a sniper.

Read this

This article is getting lots of play from the lefty blogs because of the statement that Iraq is a civil war, but read the whole thing.

I think the discussion of the conduct of Iraqi forces is far more important than the (justified) frustration voiced by the American advisor.
The soldiers who came upon the car in a Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad were part of a joint American and Iraqi patrol, and the Americans were ready to take action. The Iraqi commander, however, taking orders by cellphone from the office of a top Sunni politician, said to back off: the car’s owner was known and protected at a high level.....

“I have personally witnessed about a half-dozen of these incidents of what I would call political pressure, where a minister or someone from a minister’s office contacts one of these Iraqi commanders,” said Lt. Col. Steven Miska,

Do you want to tell me how more "trainers" or more troops solves this? They're doing it under the current trainers' noses.

Picture of the Day

US troops evacuating an injured comrade in Ramadi, Iraq. For every servicemember who has died in Iraq, more than seven others have been wounded in action, according to statistics compiled by the Pentagon.(AFP/Ahmad al-Rubaye)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Hmmmm.... I wonder if these are connected....

(BBC) "The UN Security Council has failed for a second time to agree on a statement calling for the withdrawal of Ethiopian and other foreign forces from Somalia."

(NYTimes) U.S. Signals Backing for Ethiopian Incursion Into Somalia

This replay of US conduct during the Israel assault on Lebanon will not be missed.

In the last six months, the US has backed the Israelis(Jews) against Lebanon, the Hindus (India's nuclear deal) against Pakistan, and now the Christians(Ethiopia) against Somalia.

Why do the people of Islam think we hate their religion....?

Later: The NYTimes is reporting that the Islamists have fractured and disappeared in Mogadishu. Something tells me it's not that easy.

Later Still: I take my skepticism back. A "senior Islamist leader" Janaqow confirmed to the AP that they had pulled out of Mogadishu. Incredible.

Once again, Woodward reports too late

One of my main beefs with Bob Woodward is his desire to preserve his relationships and special position over reporting and the truth.
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 had 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 but also of Vice President Cheney -- Ford's White House chief of staff -- and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who served as Ford's chief of staff and then his Pentagon chief.

Do you think that maybe if this had actually been reported in July 2004, Bush's reelection year, this might have meant something?

Woodward is self-promoting, self-preserving slime.

"The Ford interview -- and a subsequent lengthy conversation in 2005 -- took place for a future book project."

Picture of the Day - 3

PKK female guerillas fire a rifle during military exercises in the mountains of northern Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region. In a part of the world known for the subordination of women, nowhere do females play a greater role than in the ranks of this Kurdish movement.(AFP/File/David Furst)


(Reuters) The Pentagon says it will send 3,500 troops from the 82nd Airborne into Kuwait to act as a strategic reserve. (The previous reserve in Kuwait was deployed to Forward Together and there hasn't been one since.)

(Reuters) Big protests in Najaf after a US soldier killed a senior Sadr aide.

(Insight) An interestingly timed disclosure about an alleged James Baker business deal with Iraq in '99. (An effort to derail the ISG by discrediting Baker? If you read the article carefully, the only actual tie to Baker is the allegation by the "Israeli security veteran.")

(WaPo) Andrea Bruce has a report from the Marines in Ramadi. There's also a good "in their own words" flash presentation.

And while I'm on exploitation

Giuliani's people are trying to line up 9/11 families as props in his campaign. (NYPost)

Picture of the Day - 2

In this file photo, reviewed by a U.S. Dept of Defense official, a detainee shields his face as he peers out through the so-called 'bean hole' which is used to pass food and other items passed into detainee cells, at Camp Delta detention center, Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba, Dec. 4, 2006. At the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba's southeast, the U.S. military still holds about 430 men on suspicion of links to al-Qaida or the Taliban five years after the first detainees arrived Jan. 11, 2002.(AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

A sham on the families of the fallen

This is really disgusting. A group is flying the families of the fallen to Iraq to show them that their children didn't die in vain.

BUT, they're flying them to Arbil in Kurdistan which is peaceful and completely free of sectarian violence, trying to show the families that Iraq is so much better than the news reports. A crafted lie.

The group, Move America Forward is more or less run by a Sacramento PR firm which works for the more extreme elements of the Republican party, and now they're manipulating the parents of the fallen for stories and quotes.

She broke down crying.

"I needed to make that trip," said Bastian, who traveled with her husband, Todd. "All of us were very, very disappointed in the media coverage over the war. I had so many avenues that were telling me different, that there were good things happening in Iraq, that they were just reporting the bomb of the day."

(A quick Google on MAF will tell you all you need to know.)

US flies escaped Iraqi prisoner out of Iraq

The former Iraqi minister who escaped from Iraqi custody turns out to have been a US expat brought into Iraq by Bremer and has donated to the Republican party in his home state of Michigan. Now we find out,
A fugitive former Iraqi minister, with dual U.S. citizenship, flew to Jordan in an American plane after escaping from a Baghdad jail earlier this month, Jordanian Prime Minister Marouf Bakheet said on Tuesday......

A Western diplomatic source familiar with the case and who requested anonymity said: "American secret service officials put him on board a U.S. military plane from Baghdad airport on Friday and brought him to Jordan".

The US is officially denying this. (Here's two Reuters pieces on the escape.) There's so much more to this story than we're getting.

Picture of the Day

So, is the White House going to go bitchcakes about Specter's visit to Syria the way they did about Dem. Sen. Nelson's?

Leading Republican Senator Arlen Specter arrives in Damascus, Syria, on Monday, Dec. 25, 2006 for talks with Syrian leadership on Iraqi issue and the U.S. policy in the Middle East. Specter's visit comes a few days after U.S. Democratic Senators, Bill Nelson, John Kerry and Christopher Dodd held talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad on Syrian-U.S. relations.
(AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi)

Staking out ground for '08

I'm finding it interesting to watch the '08 candidates trying to stake out their ground. The issues they attach themselves to will define their early campaigns. This decision is really quite critical because it is through the manipulation of this top line issue that they will gain airtime on the talkshows and early definition as candidates.

Biden has quite obviously decided that his "issue" will be opposing the Bush troop surge to Iraq, just as McCain has chosen to promote his candidacy on the pro-surge side.

Edwards has apparently decided to recraft his "Two Americas" message to run against the backdrop of Katrina.

Giuliani will very likely run in front of the smoldering WTC.

Obama appears to be positioning his very flexible "hope" message with no clear indication of what backdrop he will choose.

Hillary Clinton....?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

How did I miss this?

In the midst of a pretty long, pretty good article on the Iranian's effort to exert some influence in Afghanistan, this was buried.
[On Dec. 20 in London, British officials charged the interpreter for NATO’s commanding general in Afghanistan with passing secrets to Iran.]

How was this not big news?

Maybe there's more story than this shocking line, but I find it hard to believe this was not on the front pages.

(Later: Articles: AFP, a brief AP, and an A25 WaPo.)

Unrelated, but in the same story:
“U.S. policies, particularly under the current administration, have created a huge amount of resentment around the world,” said a senior Iranian official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly. “I’m not saying Iran is gaining power all over the world. I’m saying the U.S. is losing it fast.”

Picture of the Day - 3

A man rinses soot from his face at the scene of a gas pipeline explosion near Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos December 26, 2006. Up to 500 people were burned alive on Tuesday when fuel from a vandalised pipeline exploded in Nigeria's largest city. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

Al Qaeda is back in business in Afganistan/Pakistan and training for more attacks.

I don't know about the level of immediate threat faced by the British and French, but what caught me in this Blotter piece, was this.
ABC News was told by a French foreign intelligence official today that indeed Pakistan and Afghanistan are re-emerging as al Qaeda's main training ground and that there is increasing "chatter" and intelligence coming out of those areas.

The official said "dozens" of Westerners have been trained in North Waziristan and Afghanistan in the past eight months alone and that some have already returned to the West. Most of them were British citizens, said the official, but he added there were some Americans and even a few Frenchmen who, he said, are still being trained.

I haven't seen anything I would classify as "concrete" that these statements are true, but we're hearing them from more and more sources.

Baquba under Al Qaeda/Sunni control

In this NBC blog post about the risks the local Iraqi stringers take.....
The stringer reports that large parts of the city of Baqouba have “fallen” under the control of al-Qaida-inspired Sunni militants. They attack American troops, Iraqi security forces and force Shiites from their homes. Many parents have stopped sending their children to school. Few state institutions function. The city is paralyzed.....

(The stringer is captured while filming.)

“They (the Sunni insurgents) took me in one of their cars, and drove me around the areas of Baqouba under their control. There were no police on the streets. They had just killed a policeman. His body was still in the car where they shot him.

“There are no more journalists working in Baqouba,” he told me.

For three months, or so, up through mid-November, about 40% of the pictures I put up from Iraq were from Baquoba. It was the main sectarian conflict point outside of Baghdad, and now there are no more pictures. The Sunnis have won.

This battle for Baquba is part of a larger significant strategic effort by the Sunni insurgents. While the Shia are attempting to clear neighborhoods inside Baghdad, it seems the Sunnis are attempting to control the highways and access points to the city while conducting terror bombings to tie down the Shia in protection and defense. (Longer description here.)

Balad is another example of this Sunni strategy, and there are no pictures coming out of there right now either.

Currently, the US marines in Anbar are fighting from the outside to retake Ramadi from the Sunni insurgency. Sunni insurgents are walking openly in the streets and there is no Iraqi force presence. It is rumored that Haditha has similarly fallen.

The Sunnis are consolidating in Anbar and working a very distinct strategy. I don't see how adding 10,000 - 15,000 troops outside of Baghdad will yield much result with the current tactics. The areas involved are just too big.

That line that the country is peaceful outside Baghdad is a lie.


(AP) The clock is ticking on Darfur. The Sudanese government accepted the first part of the UN deployment as "scheduled," which means any more ground the Sudanese want to claim will have to be done quickly.

(ABC Blotter) A NYTimes reporter Carlotta Gall claims she was beaten by the Pakistani ISI around her reporting on the Taleban. (Caveat - If this is as presented, why isn't this in the NYTimes?)

(Reuters) Biden is in for '08. (Choosing to make his name opposing the "surge?")

(TPM) A list of the many potential '08 candidates and their likely announcement dates.

(Still a little groggy from the holiday, so please pardon the lazy blogging.)

Pentagon considering overseas recruitment centers

Holy cow!
The armed forces, already struggling to meet recruiting goals, are considering expanding the number of noncitizens in the ranks -- including disputed proposals to open recruiting stations overseas and putting more immigrants on a faster track to US citizenship if they volunteer -- according to Pentagon officials.

This might be something that was written up as a proposal with no likelihood of implementation, but I still think it captures the larger problem of an overextended and broken military.

Picture of the Day - 2

Sue Downes lost part of both her legs in Iraq.

(President George W. Bush congratulates Army Specialist Sue Downes after presenting the Iowa City, Iowa soldier with a Purple Heart Friday, Dec. 22, 2006, at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center where she is recovering from injuries suffered in Operation Iraqi Freedom. (White House supplied photo by Eric Draper.))

(She looks "congratulated" doesn't she?)

Military deaths in Iraq exceed 9/11 toll

I understand the significance of this. I get that passing this milestone means more Americans have died in the response, the mistaken response, to the 9/11 attacks. I get the politics.

But how can you write these stories (AP, AFP) and not mention that Iraq had no connection to 9/11?

These 2,978 deaths were for a particular foreign policy, not stopping Al Qaeda.

They didn't have to happen.

I think that's the story.

(AP) Seven more American deaths announced today.


(AFP) Pakistan to mine, fence sections of Afghan border.

(AP) A car bomb goes off at the Peshawar airport, capitol of Pakistan's northwest tribal provinces. ((Reuters) "quite close to one of several military offices outside the airport.")

(BBC, AFP, Reuters) The Somali Islamists are falling back towards Mogadishu. (Do they plan on fighting there where they have strong popular support? Wage an insurgency? And how do their sponsors react, Eritrea, Sudan, Saudi, Egypt?)

(AFP) Iran works towards its sanctions response.

Picture of the Day

14 bodies don't make the news anymore.

An Iraqi looks at bodies in the morgue of Baghdad's Kindi hospital, Iraq, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2006, after a suicide bomber attack at a police academy in eastern Baghdad. A suicide bomber blew up among a group of police volunteers, killing at least 14 people and wounding 21 others, police said. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

Monday, December 25, 2006

Bush, advisors "weighing options" tomorrow

ABCNews reported tonight that tomorrow Bush will be "weighing his options" on Iraq in Crawford. The advisors they named who would be "weighing" with him: Cheney, Gates, and Rice.

Probably add in Hadley, and I count at least three and a half out of four advisors voting for the surge.

This whole "weighing his options," "listening tour" stuff is such a sham.

(Reuters) Three US soldiers killed in Iraq.


I don't know if I buy this thesis that Iran is going nuclear because of a long term neglect in energy infrastructure which is damaging internal production, but, it's short, thought provoking, and worth a read.

Picture of the Day - 3

The US decides to pressure SCIRI

Wow. Looking at this post and the next, it seems clear that since the Shia rejected the Hadley plan for a new "moderate" cross sectarian governing coalition, the US and British have decided, for now, to go after the SCIRI Shia.
The American military is holding at least four Iranians in Iraq, including men the Bush administration called senior military officials, who were seized in a pair of raids late last week aimed at people suspected of conducting attacks on Iraqi security forces, according to senior Iraqi and American officials in Baghdad and Washington. ....

The predawn raid on Mr. Hakim’s compound, on the east side of the Tigris, was perhaps the most startling part of the American operation. The arrests were made inside the house of Hadi al-Ameri, the chairman of the Iraqi Parliament’s security committee and leader of the Badr Organization, the armed wing of Mr. Hakim’s political party.

I don't know if this is a continuing effort, or just a series of "example" raids to show SCIRI leader Al Hakim that the US can hurt him if he doesn't play ball.

And, make sure to take a quick read of Bolani's comments.
IRAQ'S interior minister has accused an unnamed regional power of being behind a recent spate of mass kidnappings in Baghdad and has promised to reveal more details in the coming days.

Bolani, a Shia, is probably talking about the mass kidnapping of Shia. Considering this was said after some of the raids mentioned above, I would guess that he may well name Syria to counter the Iranian arrests.

The regional war is coming out of the closet.

Picture of the Day - 2

An explosion destroys the Al Jameat Police Station in Basra, south of Baghdad, December 25, 2006. British and Iraqi forces stormed and destroyed the headquarters of the serious crimes unit in Basra on Monday after learning prisoners were about to be executed, the British military said. (Crown Copyright/Cpl Russ Nolan RLC/Reuters)

A general view shows a prison cell that held around 70 prisoners at the Al Jameat Police Station in Basra, south of Baghdad, December 25, 2006. Cpl Russ Nolan RLC/Crown Copyright

An Iraqi passes by police vehicles damaged in a British army raid on on Jameat police station in Basra, 550 kilometers (340 miles) southeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Dec. 25, 2006.(AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani)

Police sift through the rubble of a building of a police station after it was destroyed by British forces in Basra, 550 km (340 miles) south of Baghdad, December 25, 2006. British forces seized a major Basra police station suspected of militia activity and transferred prisoners to another station before planting explosives and destroying the building. REUTERS/Atef Hassan

Here's an AFP article on the raid.

A little Christmas snark in the NYTimes

In the business section, this headline,

Flash! President Bush Says He Reads Papers


(Also, Bush-Watchers Wonder How He Copes With Stress.)

Picture of the Day

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Cassandra on Somalia

I looked back in the blog, and I've been talking about the coming war in Somalia and the regional implications for almost 9 months. Now, it's here.
Ethiopia officially plunged into war with Somalia’s Islamist forces on Sunday, bombing targets inside Somalia and pushing ground troops deep into Somali territory in a major escalation that could turn Somalia’s internal crisis into a violent religious conflict that engulfs the entire Horn of Africa.

Airstrikes and heavy fighting across much of the country. There are reports that the Eritreans have poured several thousand troops in, and Islamists are arriving from around the region.

"Ethiopia’s military is trained by American advisers and is supplied with millions of dollars of American aid."

(AP) Ethiopia declares war on Somali militia

Later: (AP) The Ethiopians bomb Mogadishu airport and make gains on the ground.

A step to rein in the Iraqi FPS?

If this really happens, it would be a big step towards reining in one of the sources of a lot of the sectarian violence.
U.S. military commanders in Iraq are attempting to get under control the Facilities Protection Service, whose 150,000 members are paid to guard the 26 Iraqi ministries and serve as personal security to ministers and important government officials but also provide manpower for sectarian party militias and death squads.

I keep referring back to this foundational Newsweek article from April.
Jabr and others say the FPS began as a force to protect public buildings and facilities. But as time passed, individual units became beholden to the institutions they protected. New ministers would bring in their own loyalists to fill the ranks of their FPS contingents and fund them separately. ....

U.S. officials tell NEWSWEEK that the Ministry of Transportation, which is run by an openly anti-American ally of Moqtada al-Sadr, employs large numbers of FPS soldiers. Thousands of them have been issued AK-47s or pistols, and they wear the sky-blue shirts and blue trousers of the Iraqi police. The thousands of police vehicles that are available to the Transportation Ministry are now also available to the FPS—and perhaps to Sadr's militia.

Two notes: First, the FPS were Bremer's idea. He believed they could do the job after he disbanded the army.

Second, I keep forgetting that 2006 is "the year of the police."

Also: I should probably add this NBC blog entry of a visit to Baghdad's morgue where the reporter got caught in a firefight between the Health Ministry FPS and the Electricity Ministry FPS.

Picture of the Day - 3

President George W. Bush helps young volunteers wrap gifts for the children of wounded military personnel, on December 22, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC. President Bush made bedside visits to troops, continuing an annual pre-Christmas tradition of comforting soldiers that he began after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.(AFP/Tim Sloan)

Darfur may get worse quickly

With a UN force expansion soon in Darfur, the Sudanese government and the militias they're using for the massacres will be under increasing time pressure to finalize the situation they want to exist on the ground before the UN arrives.

So, I would expect that as the UN deployment grows closer, the violence may get much worse.


(LATimes) The Hadley plan is dead as Sistani refuses a breaking of the Shia coalition. Sistani recognized that a "moderate" governing coalition would give the Kurds and Sunnis de facto veto power over the Shia leadership. His goal is to make Iraq a Shia state.

(LATimes) December is already the second deadliest month for US personnel in Iraq this year.

(AP) 4 more deaths announced since that article.

(AP) Iraqi snipers gaining skill, techniques, tactics, and equipment.

(LATimes) The guys doing the current training of Iraqi forces are pretty hopeless about their prospects.

(BBC) Interior Minister Bolani announced that Iraqi Police deaths have "hit 12,000."

(NBC) A supervising security contractor apparently went off the deep end and started killing innocent Iraqis.

Picture of the Day - 2

Congratulations, Mr. Cheney, you've gotten us closer to war.

If Iran increases its efforts, we may not have the five to ten years that the previous intel suggested.
Iran has vowed to start work immediately on drastically expanding its capacity to enrich uranium, defying the first ever UN sanctions against the Islamic republic's nuclear programme.

Top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said work would start as early as Sunday on installing 3,000 uranium enriching centrifuges at a key nuclear plant, hours after the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution against Iran.

(AP) Ahmadinejad and the Foreign Minister claimed, more vaguely, less cooperation with the IAEA.

(I do want to add, the US position has not changed, but watching Nicholas Burns make the US statement instead of abrasive John Bolton....., there is a big difference.)


The Ethiopians have called in airstrikes against the Somali Islamists. (AP, Reuters, AFP) (I don't think they do this unless they have to, so the battle is probably tougher than they expected.)

(AP) Afghanis get into the spirit of Christmas. (Figuring out that they can make money selling the gringos trees.)

(AFP) An article on Iraq/Afghanistan amputees recovering at Walter Reed.

Picture of the Day