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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Picture of the Day

President Bush and French President Nicolas Sarkozy ride aboard Fidelity III driven by former President George H. W. Bush, right, Aug. 11, 2007, Kennebunkport, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

(Later, Sarkozy flipped out on some photographers.)

Ames results

Results of the Ames straw poll.

1. Mitt Romney –32 percent
2. Mike Huckabee – 18 percent
3. Sam Brownback – 15 percent
4. Tom Tancredo – 14 percent
5. Ron Paul – 9 percent
6. Tommy Thompson — 7 percent
7. Fred Thompson – 1 percent
8. Rudolph W. Giuliani – 1 percent
9. Duncan Hunter – 1 percent
10. John McCain (less than 1 percent)
11. John Cox (less than 1 percent)

The vote totals for the top three: Mr. Romney — 4,516 votes; Mr. Huckabee — 2,587; Mr. Brownback – 2,192.

(Thoughts: I figure that means Romney spent at least $440 per vote.

The "christian" vote of Huckabee and Brownback combined to beat Romney with a whole lot less spending and organization.

Their goal was 20,000 participants, but they only had 14,000. Was the lack of enthusiam from no Giuliani/McCain, or just a lack of enthusiasm?)

Picture of the Day - 3

Tommy Thompson at the Iowa straw poll.

(Joshua Lott/Reuters) (Snark removed after comments.)

Picture of the Day - 2

Sometimes the photographers editorialize by content, eh?

A lawn sign for Presidential Candidate and U.S. Representative Duncan Hunter lays on the ground during the Iowa Straw Poll in Ames, Iowa, August 11, 2007. REUTERS/John Gress

Update: Duncan came in 9th out of the "big 10."

Diwaniya governor and police chief killed by bomb

There's so much in this that speaks to the broad intraShia battles in the south.
A powerful roadside bomb has killed the governor and police chief of the southern Iraqi province of Diwaniya.

The governor was a key figure in the Badr Organisation, the military wing of the largest Shia Muslim party, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC).

Khalil Jalil Hamza and police chief Maj-Gen Khaled Hassan were returning to Diwaniya city after a funeral when a bomb exploded beside their convoy.

The governor of the province (and presumably the police chief) was a key figure not in the political SIIC, but in its Badr militia. I'll say it again. The governor was a key figure in the Badr militia.

If you want to see why Iraq doesn't work, read the last line.
The governor had recently issued instructions for other militias in the province to be disarmed.

IntraShia violence

Iraqslogger has some bits on intraShia violence in the south today. Shia tribal violence broke out in Basra as retribution for a killing. The targets were the Dawa and SIIC political offices.

A long piece on the economic underpinnings of the Shia conflicts, and, (bottom half) a cryptic look at the series of assassinations targeting Sistani's apparatus. The allegation is that the killings are reprisals for the US led "Soldiers of Heaven" bloodbath many months ago.

Picture of the Day

The NYTimes has a video on their front page right now with the guys running this grill bitching about Romney taking over. Romney stayed at the grill for 5 minutes.

(Why does the Romney campaign like pictures of him serving food? I've seen tons of them.)

(Mitt Romney flips pork chops while working in the Iowa Pork Producers tent, Friday, Aug. 10, 2007.(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall))

Politico: "Then one reporter asks him: “Is it smart for you to be a flipper?”

“It is part of the process,” Romney answers as if he doesn’t really understand what the reporter is getting at...

Pleading won't make it so.

Something about the tone of this,
Talk about whether Iraq's government will survive is taboo among U.S. officials, but experts and diplomats say the hobbled coalition is in big trouble and the betting is it won't last....

The State Department's key players responsible for Iraq policy declined interviews on the strength of Iraq's government, but U.S. officials have made it clear that Washington backs Maliki and that talk of a collapse of his government is unhelpful.

The still unanswered question is what comes next. I think the only thing that is keeping the Maliki government from being pulled under is that nobody can manage a consensus alternative.

(And Rand says, plan for failure.)

Friday, August 10, 2007

I think the Musharraf futures market just took a dive.

After all the years of troubles, the bombings, and the two nearly successful assassination attempts, I think the US getting serious about this now says alot about their assessment of Musharraf's future.
U.S. military intelligence officials are urgently assessing how secure Pakistan's nuclear weapons would be in the event President Gen. Pervez Musharraf were replaced as the nation's leader, CNN has learned.....

The United States has full knowledge about the location of Pakistan's nuclear weapons, according to the U.S. assessment.

But the key questions, officials say, are what would happen and who would control the weapons in the hours after any change in government in case Musharraf were killed or overthrown.

(Or maybe they just want that thought out there.)

Did the "War Czar" just call for a draft?

So what has the new "war czar" done exactly, other than saying a draft should be "an option on the table?" (NPR, AP)

Picture of the Day - 4

Now that's some FoxNews journalism.

Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani, right, is introduced by conservative radio talk show host Sean Hannity, left, during the 2007 Sean Hannity Freedom Concert Tour at Kings Island amusement park Thursday, Aug. 9, 2007 in Mason, Ohio. (AP Photo/David Kohl)

Giuliani backs down

Yesterday, Rudy Giuliani made the plainly false statement that he had faced the same health risks as the recovery workers on the 9/11 pile.

Today, he backed off that statement.

Several points. 1) I find it interesting that Giuliani got so flustered that he blurted that out. (Ferrets?)

2) It's easily, provably wrong.

3) It's also a huge mistake for Giuliani to enter into a battle with the 9/11 rescue workers. (Does he really want to try to one up the working class heroes who got sick on the 9/11 pile while he went out and made tens of millions?)

4) And, again Rudy goes to friendly talk radio to try and mitigate his mistakes. (Right sided talk radio is the main protector of his "hero" status. They still gush over him.)

Like this is the battle Giuliani wants,
"He is such a liar, because the only time he was down there was for photo ops with celebrities, with politicians, with diplomats," said deputy fire chief Jimmy Riches, who spent months digging for his firefighter son.

"On 9/11 all he did was run. He got that soot on him, and I don't think he's taken a shower since."


Picture of the Day - 3

Just like serving in Iraq, eh?

Josh Romney, son of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, talks about his motor home travels to all 99 Iowa counties, in a motor home he bought on Ebay, on Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2007, in Urbandale, Iowa. (AP Photo/Steve Pope)

Dying in the right way

I'm often amazed how the media chooses which deaths are worthy of coverage. Trapped miners are always good because there's the tension of uncertainty. The bridge collapse story was good for the media because they could market "it could happen to you."

But industrial accidents or drunk driving deaths.....?

It's all about the networks and their branding. It's about creating an emotional response in the viewer and then marketing that emotion into extended viewership.

The bodies of those poor people are just props.

Picture of the Day - 2

A summary of the "Freedom Agenda" thus far from the NYTimes.

"The paradox of American policy in the Middle East — promoting democracy on the assumption it will bring countries closer to the West — is that almost everywhere there are free elections, the American-backed side tends to lose."

(Bush at Thursday's pre-vacation press conference. (AFP/Karen Bleier))


A few days ago, Hamid Karzai stood next to Bush after saying Iran was playing a constructive role in Afghanistan. Now, we have Maliki handholding with Iran. (We're losing the diplomatic war, too.)

McClatchy has a highly blogged article saying, "Vice President Dick Cheney several weeks ago proposed launching airstrikes at suspected training camps in Iraq run by the Quds force, a special unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to two U.S. officials who are involved in Iran policy." (To me, this smells more like a bit of diplomacy than a revelation. Cheney acts as the crazy "bad cop" in administration diplomacy.)

(NYTimes) Maher Arar was rendered and tortured for nothing.

Iraqslogger looks at the intra-Sunni politics in Anbar. (Is the US arming Sunni groups an effort to undermine the existing Sunni political leadership?)

(WaPo) The Bush administration is trying to use the UN to generate regional Iraq diplomacy. "The move comes as the U.N. Security Council prepares for a vote Friday on a resolution expanding the United Nations' mediation role in Iraq. The resolution would grant the global body a clearer mandate to promote such international talks and to lead diplomatic efforts aimed at uniting Iraq's rival factions."

(Reuters) Attacks are down in Fallujah because of a car ban that has lasted two months.

Last, (ABCNews) Iraq Ambassador Ryan Crocker, "I don't think you can expect instant political progress," he said, "that all of a sudden the level of violence has dropped and therefore political deals that weren't possible three weeks ago are suddenly possible."

(Son of a bitch!!! That was the whole premise of "the surge"!!! Remember? "Breathing Space?"

Hundreds of US soldiers have died based on the misformed premise that it was a lack of security that was preventing political progress, and now you want to hide that lack of progress, the loss of those lives for nothing, behind some sort of "long view?" Go to hell!!! And take the entire policy team with you!!!!)


I'm not going to link to any particular article here, but I think the stock market deserves mention. Not because of the fall in itself, but because of the tangible scent of fear.

Picture of the Day

This is from the door of the Council Bluffs Tancredo for President office.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Bad optics

I'd mentioned this awhile back, but I'd forgotten about it. At the Ames straw poll on Saturday, the Republicans who vote will dip their fingers in purple ink ala the Iraq elections.

Is that really the association the Republicans want?

Also: The WaPo has an article on Romney spending way too much money to buy the straw poll pretty much undercutting the whole point of winning it.

Struggling to recruit

War supporters often cite enlistment/reenlistment rates to bolster their viewpoint. Funny thing, they almost always leave out the circumstances which make those numbers occur.
Under a new proposal, men and women who enlist could pick from a "buffet" of incentives, including up to $45,000 tax-free....

An Associated Press review of the increasingly aggressive recruiting offerings found the Army is not only dangling more sign-up rewards — it's loosening rules on age and weight limits, education and drug and criminal records.....

As part of a push to make its 2007 goals, the Army is boosting the size of its 8,000-member recruiting force with 1,000 to 2,000 assistants — including some former recruiters.

We're not talking insignificant numbers in the loosening rules,
Increasing to more than 15 percent the number of Army and Army Reserve troops given waivers for medical and moral reasons or for positive drug and alcohol screen tests.

(And, how can you write a huge article on declining interest and recruitment without even mentioning that Iraq war disapproval among the youth target group is now over 70%.

Ya think that might have something to do with it? Maybe? Maybe?

Picture of the Day

Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wave to journalists as they attend an official meeting in Tehran August 8, 2007. (Fars News/Reuters)

It's not Petraeus' report that matters. It's Crocker's.

Listen, Petraeus' report doesn't matter except in relation to the politics of the US. Any security gains related to "the surge" are temporary and will dissolve as soon as the US is forced to pull back its combat troop compliment in spring of 2008.

The important part, the element that is fuelling the long term sectarian violence in Iraq, is the political leg of the operation, and success there is actually getting further and further away.

On Charlie Rose last night, the top ABC reporter in Iraq said something along the lines of, "the lack of political progress shows the underlying conceit of the surge, the idea that a temporary improvement in security would lead to political progress."

It's not Petraeus' report that matters come September. It's Crocker's report on the political progress.

But that result is complicated, foreign, and not very going well. America wants a nice, easily definable, USAToday style upward pointing graph, not a complex presentation of the political issues and factions that have made "the surge" moot.

I mean, really, in all the mentions of Moqtada al Sadr on your newscasts, how many times have you ever heard the political disputes that led him out of the government? Have you ever heard why the Mahdi and SIIC are so politically divided that they are fighting open street battles in Basra?

Did you know that Maliki's own Dawa party is the main opponent of deBaathification and political reconciliation with the Sunnis?

But we're all being told to watch for Petraeus' military report, a nice little line graph that will fit cleanly on the front pages.

The Iraqis don't care how many US soldiers die. It has nothing to do with their war.

On EFP's, Iran, Diplomacy, and undermining Maliki's government

This is lifted second hand (the link to the original doesn't work) but I thought it was interesting enough to post.

"The US military took advantage of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's absence from the country to settle some scores with the Mahdi Army in Sadr City (East Baghad), attacking units there and mounting air strikes on them.... When al-Maliki is in Baghdad, he tends to run interference for the Sadr Movement, which elected him to office, and to attempt to convince the US military to put off attacking these Shiite forces until after the Sunni Arab guerrillas are dealt with decisively.

Not only did the US military attack these Shiite forces unilaterally, but its spokesmen attempted to link the Mahdi Army cell attacked to the importation of explosively formed projectiles from Iran.

It cannot be an accident that both the attack and the attempt to implicate Iran (with no evidence for the allegations against Tehran provided) came while al-Maliki was in Tehran for high level consultations with the Iranian government.

In other words, the US military is playing a dangerous political game of attempting to undermine al-Maliki's diplomacy with Iran and to alienate the Sadr Movement from him altogether (it has already suspended membership in his government). For more on the timing of (surely overstated) US military announcements implicating Iran so as to undermine talks with Tehran by US and Iraqi diplomats, see Bill Beeman's comments below."

And, Here's a clip from Beeman's letter to the NYTimes,
It is increasingly suspicious that every time the United States has begun a diplomatic initiative with Iran--the latest on August 6, some United States military official in Iraq comes forward to accuse Iran of supplying weapons to attack U.S. troops. Perhaps it is coincidence, but the reporter rendering these accusations for the public seems always to be Michael R. Gordon. These military reports and the Times reportage seem timed to undermine these diplomatic talks.

I find the first point more interesting than the critique of the NYTimes, but they do go together.

(Footnote: Here's the most recent Michael Gordon piece that Beeman was responding to.)

What the hell is this?

On some network gameshow, the prize question was,
"If you and Vice President Dick Cheney were dueling with pistols at a distance of 50 feet, which of the following do you think is more likely to be the outcome -- you would successfully shoot Dick Cheney or Dick Cheney would successfully shoot you?"

Rawstory's got the video.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Is Musharraf with us or against us?

Reading about Musharraf's decisions today, I find myself wondering if he's working with the US wishes, or beginning to strike out on his own?
Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, may decide to impose emergency rule because of deteriorating security conditions and the growing threat of violence by Islamic extremists, a senior government official in Islamabad said Wednesday.

Musharraf, meanwhile, abruptly canceled a long-planned visit to the Afghan capital, where he and Afghan President Hamid Karzai were to launch a four-day peace conference aimed at improving bilateral cooperation in the fight against Islamic extremism.

So, is emergency rule to fight terrorism or to put off elections? Is dodging the Taleban conference something, or is he just working domestic politics?

At this point, he can do pretty much anything he wants without US interference, so are these moves away?

Later: Musharraf backs down.
Embattled President Pervez Musharraf on Thursday decided against imposing a state of emergency in Pakistan...

Other sources close to the president said Musharraf's decision to reject the advice of political allies was based on his commitment to elections that are slated for early next year.

Because if Musharraf is committed to anything, it's elections.

Also, Reuters reported that the backdown came after a phone call from Condi Rice. Maybe this was an excercise by Musharraf to create political space by threatening a hard move to the right.

Picture of the Day - 2

Something is fishy here.

Lindsay Graham is photographed with a similar, but not identical sign in South Carolina as Romney was.

In both cases, "momma" is mispelled.

The lettering is the same, but the signs are different. Do you really think the woman who did this wouldn't fix the spelling of "momma" after her picture and sign were featured on the cable networks? Do you think someone she knows wouldn't have mentioned that to her?

So, why did she misspell again?

Political bits

Let's start with the Romney quote. When asked about his son's not serving in the military at a forum in Iowa, Mitt Romney ended up here,
"And one of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected because they think I'd be a great president."

The AP story on this incident is quickly climbing up the charts. (Romney claims it's out of context, but watch the video.)

(ABC) Romney blasts Giuliani over NYC "sanctuary" for immigrants.

(Swamp) With all the effort and money Romney is putting in, he'd better win the Iowa Ames straw poll convincingly on Saturday. (Especially with no Giuliani, McCain, or Thompson.) Is the Romney effort defensive, or are they reacting to internal polling?

(Also: Whose the Ames darkhorse? Ron Paul? Brownback?)

(DesMoinesRegister) Giuliani is trying hard to draw strict lines around his weaknesses, like his religion,
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani drew a line Tuesday on public discussion of his religion, telling a Bettendorf audience that it is between him and his priest as to whether he's a "good or not-so-good Catholic."

and his personal life,
"I believe that things about my personal life should be discussed personally and privately," he said. "It's just sort of gossip. I've never been big on gossip."

That may work in Iowa in August, but not in the real campaign.

(CNN) Early, early polling, and it's Quinnepac, but Clinton inching ahead in battleground states is significant. As is this quote,
“Not only does she lead by a nose in two of the most important swing states in the Electoral College, but she is turning around independent and Republican voters who previously viewed her negatively.”

This is beneath me.

This is beneath me, but it made me laugh.

Picture of the Day

This is the enemy.

A detained Iraqi man is handcuffed and blindfolded after items for making improvised explosive devices were found in his house by U.S. soldiers, August 8, 2007. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

The British may be burning our boats

I've been talking alot about the collapse in Basra, now there's concern that the British might pull out completely.
The Bush administration is becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of an imminent British withdrawal from southern Iraq and would prefer UK troops to remain for another year or two.

There are two aspects of this, 1) There's a serious implication for the intraShia national politics. As Basra becomes hotter, the hopes of a unified Shia front collapses meaning that the politics in Iraq becomes even more impossible.

But, as troubling to me, 2) Think about the complications an unoccupied Basra would provide for a US Army trying to extract itself through Kuwait (and there's not another option.)

(The Telegraph has a rehash of a yesterday's WaPo story on the collapse in Basra, and the Danish are now fully out.)

Petraeus' defense

You know those 190,000 US supplied weapons that went missing in Iraq? Well, that happened under Petraeus' watch while he was responsible for training Iraqi forces. Here's his response,
From a practical standpoint, Petraeus added, it was more important to get the weapons to the Iraqis as they started to enter the fight against a strong insurgency than it was to keep meticulous records.

"We occasionally likened it to building the world's largest aircraft while in flight and while being shot at," the general said. "But we gradually started putting those procedures into place."

Right, because the long term impact of having 190,000 AK's and auto pistols floating around was so minor.

The grand gamble that is alienating the Shia government.

The arming of the Sunnis seems to be coming with little thought of what might come after.
The US military is conducting “accelerated” operations to arm Sunni tribes in the areas surrounding Baghdad, according to a report in an Arabic-language news source.....

According to the report, the leadership of the tribal forces have been granted military ranks without the involvement of the Iraqi interior ministry.

The authorities of Babil province have expressed their objection to the arming of the tribes in the northern areas of the province, on the outskirts of the capital, but the plan to arm the tribes continues, and security officials say that the number of tribes armed by the US forces has rapidly increased.

The Shia dominated government of Iraq hates this policy and I think it's notable that the US is trying to force military rank and order among these Sunni groups. The idea seems to be to work around the Shia government to create preestablished Sunni military groups that can later be absorbed whole, disallowing the previous Shia practice of dismantling the power of Sunni units as they come in.

And, just as a broader note, I still believe that the US is arming the Sunni groups as part of an effort to assuage the Saudis and keep the Saudis, as much as possible, out of Iraq.

As Saudi involvement in Iraq's Sunni groups is rarely discussed it's difficult to get a real sense of all the moving parts, but it's my sense that through this current "arming the Sunnis to defeat Al Qaeda" strategy, the US is trying to reshape the current Sunni resistance into a more mainline form.

The thing we don't know, if my assumption is true, is what Saudi mechanisms this is intended to replace. How deeply were the Saudis involved with the "foreign fighters" in Iraq?

No one's talking about the Shia militias

Thinking about the recent Generals' claims (Odierno said that 73% of all attacks last month were from Shia militias, and Petraeus' claim that Iranian supplied, Shia militia fired EFP's accounted for a third of US combat deaths last month,) I got to wondering just what is being done about the Shia militias.

There have been several raids that have targeted particular cells, like the one earlier today that killed 30 in Sadr City, but if Shia militias do account for 73% of the attacks on US troops, we're not talking about just one or two targeted cells.

All of the focus right now is on foreign Sunni fighters. The theory seems to be that if the US can lower the number of "spectacular" bombings (I hate that name,) then the overall number of Shia reprisal attacks might be lowered.

But, if Shia militias are, in fact, conducting this level of violence against US troops, I think there's an issue beyond Al Qaeda, and it's an issue not being addressed in the current "surge" strategy.


(WaPo) The UN is talking about taking a larger role in Iraq. (Increasing from 65 people to 95, so not a huge footprint and no increase in responsibilities. I guess this political cover is what the US gets for getting Ban Ki Moon instead of Kofi Annan.)

(Reuters) The surge has peaked at a transitional 162,000 troops in Iraq.

USAToday has an article on the diminishing search for the two US soldiers captured in May.

(USAToday) The US now plans to airlift the MRAP vehicles to Iraq after dithering so long in procurement.

(AFP) The giant Shia pilgrimmage in Karballa is set to begin tomorrow. (This is the event with the bloody self flagellation, and also the event where almost 1,000 people died in an attack and stampede in 2005.)

(Iraqslogger) Militant groups are using the deprivation of the refugee camps, offering clean water for money or "favors."

And, Jesus Christ, what next?
As world attention focuses on the daily slaughter in Iraq, a devastating disaster is impending in the north of the country, where the wall of a dam holding back the Tigris river north of Mosul city is in danger of imminent collapse.

"It could go at any minute," says a senior aid worker who has knowledge of the struggle by US and Iraqi engineers to save the dam. "The potential for disaster is very great."

If the dam does fail, a wall of water will sweep into Mosul, Iraq's third largest city with a population of 1.7 million, 20 miles to the south. Experts say the flood waters could destroy 70 per cent of Mosul and inflict heavy damage 190 miles downstream along the Tigris.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Chinese threaten hardball on foreign reserves

I'm skeptical that China would do this as their general present policy is to seek stability during their ascension, but the fact that it's even talked about from their side shows a China filling with confidence against an overstretched US.
The Chinese government has begun a concerted campaign of economic threats against the United States, hinting that it may liquidate its vast holding of US treasuries if Washington imposes trade sanctions to force a yuan revaluation.

Picture of the Day - 2

Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., smiles after firing an M1 carbine rifle, Tuesday, July 31, 2007, at the Izaak Walton League shooting range in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The Brownback/Romney dustups

Sen. Brownback has recently upped the attacks on Mitt Romney and his pro life credentials, and there's a reason for that.

The Romney strategy was always to be to the right of Giuliani on abortion (not too hard,) but he was waiting, somewhat vaguely suspending his abortion stance, to see if any candidates came in to the right of him. With the McCain campaign left for dead, the Thompson campaign quickly fizzling, and no Newt likely on the horizon, suddenly Romney has an opportunity for all of those currently uncertain pro-life voters to the right of Giuliani. (ie. most of the Republican party.)

So, over the last month, Romney has become much more vocally pro-life, and that's why Brownback is going after him. Brownback saw that as his voter pool which has led to the current flareup between the two.

(That's also why Giuliani is suddenly pushing his 8th "commitment" regarding abortion and adoption, and why Huckabee is now positioning himself as the pro-life counterbalance VP choice. The pro-life voters are the ones up for grabs right now.)

A breakdown of the known suicide bombers in Iraq

Take a look at this Newsweek breakdown of the nationalities of the identified suicide bombers in Iraq.

The majority are definitely foreign, and notice that three times as many are from "our ally" Saudi Arabia as from any other country (including Iraq!!!!)

Oh, and not one from Iran.

Picture of the Day

(President George W. Bush and Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai attend a news conference at Camp David, August 6, 2007. REUTERS/Larry Downing)


(AP) 4 US soldiers die in Iraq bombings.

(CBS) 26 U.S. Troops Killed In 1 Week In Iraq

(WaPo) A big story outlining the failure and intraShia chaos in Basra. (Don't shortchange this. The British are being chased out of Basra.

I find it interesting that they can write this article with only passing mention that "An airport base outside the city.... has been attacked with mortars or rockets nearly 600 times over the past four months."

(Question: What are the implications of this intraShia violence for the politics in the Green Zone? Is Basra a reflection of broad splits, or do the events in Basra fuel splits?)

(AP) Maliki is visiting Turkey today and Iran tomorrow. (The Turks are expected to deliver an ultimatum on the PKK.)

And, as a look to the US's future, (TimesOnline) "Britain was accused yesterday of abandoning 91 Iraqi interpreters and their families to face persecution and possible death when British forces withdraw." (or from the Guardian.)

Monday, August 06, 2007

Allawi partially withdraws

I'm not really too sure what to make of Allawi's boycott of cabinet meetings, but it's not good, and it doesn't send a signal of strength and confidence in Maliki's government. Allawi is not withdrawing his 5 ministers from their posts, but they are going to boycott the cabinet meetings.

By my count, 17 of the 37 cabinet chairs now sit empty, and there are no Sunnis participating in the "unity government."

Of some interest, the administration's stance towards Maliki seems to be shifting a little.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who has been trying to broker the Sunni bloc's return in a bid to hold the government together, met Monday with Crocker and a White House envoy.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States was working well with the al-Maliki government, but he did not give the kind of enthusiastic endorsement that President Bush and his aides once did.

"There's a very healthy political debate that is going on in Iraq, and that is good," McCormack said. "It's going to be for them (the Iraqi people) to make the judgments about whether or not that government is performing."

The US has wasted alot of legitimacy and effort propping up the Maliki government long after the Iraqis had given up on it. The Iraqis have been preparing for months for what comes next, while the US has not participated in this because of the US political ramifications regarding "the surge" and public sentiment.

Now, we're outside and behind the process.

Meanwhile, Dick Cheney continued to argue today that America's enemy in Iraq is predominantly al Qaeda.

(And who is the White House envoy trying to broker the Sunni deal? Hadley? With the internal policy divisions in this White House, it makes a big difference.)

Picture of the Day - 2

John Edwards stands with striking workers of Teamsters Local Union 554 who have been on a work stoppage from Standard Ready Mix since October 2006 in Sioux City, Iowa.

The owner of Standard Ready Mix put up the Hillary for President sign.

Notice this picture emerges the day before the Dem AFL-CIO debate in Chicago. What a coincidence, eh?

Dear surge supporters

To Mssrs Kagan, Keane, Kristol, O'Hanlon, Pollack, et al.

I heard that the Iraqi stock market is opening to foreign investors starting today. If your assessments about the current state of Iraq are true, you stand to make quite a bit of money investing against the broader skepticism.

I would recommend you put your whole retirement fund in.

What? No takers?

Picture of the Day

A woman prays in the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima August 6, 2007, on the 62nd anniversary of the world's first atomic bombing on the city. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

Iraq and "The Other War"

(WaPo) The 60,000 missing US supplied weapons finally made the front pages. (This story is based on a report that came out last Tuesday!!)

(BBC) "The US-led coalition in Iraq has failed to deliver nearly two-thirds of the equipment it promised to Iraq's army."

(AP) Suicide truck bomb kills 28 in Tal Afar.

(NYTimes) Jalal Talabani is acting as go between in an effort to bring the Sunnis back into Maliki's government.

(Reuters) "Iraqi police said on Sunday they had found 60 decomposed bodies dumped in thick grass in Baquba."

(AP) Lt. Gen Odierno said that Shia militias were responsible for 73% of all attacks on US forces last month. He blames it on success against Al Qaeda and meddling Iran. (I might point out that US working with Sunnis who kill Shia civilians might have something to do with the hostility.)

(Newsweek) "The Iraq war has turned into a veritable 'martyr' factory, unlike any seen in previous conflicts."

(Reuters) "The bodies of 18 people, including two women, were found dumped across Baghdad in the past 24 hours....A barrage of mortar rounds at a petrol station killed 11 people....Two U.S. soldiers were killed in combat in Baghdad on Sunday...."

And, (Reuters) I'm really surprised this hasn't gotten more play with the US now supporting Sunni fighters and the Sunnis dominating parts of the army.
Hazim al-Araji, a leader of the Sadrist movement, escaped an assassination attempt when gunmen in army uniforms attacked him as he left a Sadr office in the northwestern Kadhimiya district of Baghdad, a Sadr official said.

In "The Other War"

(AFP) "Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a key US ally, contradicted US assessments of the threat posed by Iran and insisted in an interview aired Sunday that Tehran played a beneficial role in his region."

(AP) "In the hunt for Osama bin Laden, the United States and its allies have essentially gotten nowhere lately, says Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

"We are not closer, we are not further away from it," Karzai said ahead of his two-day summit with President Bush at Camp David, Md. "We are where we were a few years ago."

(AP) "Afghanistan will produce another record poppy harvest this year....Afghanistan's poppy production has risen up to 15 percent since 2006 and that the country now accounts for 95 percent of the world's crop."

(And don't miss the big Turk/Kurd article from last night.)

The Dems didn't grant full wiretapping amnesty?

In the end, the Dems pretty much gave away the farm on the NSA warrantless wiretapping, although they did put in a 6 month sunset provision, but what I was watching was the very undiscussed issue of retroactive amnesty for illegal acts already committed in relation to this program.

On Friday, I had the understanding that like the "prisoner treatement" legislation, the amnesty was primarily targeted to government employees who broke the law following Bush's orders. I still haven't figured out if this was in the bill, but a second class of amnesty apparently wasn't.

Reading the White House's official statement, they were also seeking (and were not given) liability protection for the telecoms that also violated the law in cooperation with this illegal program.
When Congress returns in September the Intelligence committees and leaders in both parties will need to complete work on the comprehensive reforms requested by Director McConnell, including the important issue of providing meaningful liability protection to those who are alleged to have assisted our Nation following the attacks of September 11, 2001.

These telecom civil cases don't carry the same "chain of orders" risk of criminal liability to the president and staff, and right now, the civil cases are mostly stalling because it's nearly impossible to prove individual harm and standing when the targets are unknown, but still, I find it interesting the White House was willing to let telecom liability go in the negotiations.

I wonder how the telecoms feel about that?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Is it time for the Turks to attack the Kurds in N. Iraq?

Tell me this didn't get my attention,
Turkish leaders this week will give visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki what Turkish military commanders and analysts said could be a final warning to act against anti-Turkey Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq -- or to stand by while Turkish forces go after the rebels themselves, risking a new front in Iraq's war.

Leaders of Turkey's governing Justice and Development Party appear to be in agreement with Turkey's generals that the time has come to move against the Kurdistan Workers' Party....

Definitely worth a read if you're watching that situation.

It is an interesting question of the timing, though. Are the Turks better off striking now while the Kurds are still beholden to the Shia majority over the dispensation of Kirkuk, or would they be better off waiting for a more independent and isolated Kurdish region?

Or are the recent threats more related to the recent Edelman revelation?
Baran and some others expect U.S. forces to join in if Turkey does act against the rebels in northern Iraq. The scenario most often cited is an operation involving U.S. and Turkish special forces already in northern Iraq.....

Eric S. Edelman, a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey and now an undersecretary of defense policy, had secretly briefed U.S. lawmakers that the United States was planning a covert action with the Turkish army against the PKK in northern Iraq. Edelman added that "the U.S. role could be concealed and always would be denied," according to Novak.

The leak of the alleged plans for a U.S.-Turkish operation makes a fully covert mission now impossible, noted Strategic Forecasting, a private intelligence-analysis agency based in Austin.

With the alleged planning made public, "the United States is betting that the Iraqi Kurdish leadership will succumb to pressure to act against the PKK itself, and thus preclude the need for a major Turkish incursion

There's also the interesting comment that the Kurds want to use the PKK as barter for Kirkuk, that the Kurds will crack down if they get their oil city.

If that's the case, why would the US be orchestrating the dismantling of that PKK leverage before Kirkuk's dispensation is agreed? To appease the Turks? To appease the Sunnis/Saudis?

Again, worth the read if you're watching.

Picture of the Day - 2

U.S. military vehicles rendered useless by improvised explosive devices litter a military scrap yard at Camp Al Asad in Iraq's anbar province. (M. Scott Mahaskey, Army Times)

Allawi has all the leverage

One more bit on Iraqi politics, the defections from Maliki's "unity" government may not be over. Ayad Allawi, who has improbable hopes of taking Maliki's job, still controls four ministerial posts under the United Iraqi List and has been making noises over the last few months that he too might withdraw from the government.

I don't think this detail should be lost

I came across this article again on the provenance of "the surge," and I really don't think this point should be lost.
A group of military experts at the American Enterprise Institute, concerned that the U.S. was on the verge of a calamitous failure in Iraq, almost single handedly convinced the White House to change its strategy.

They banded together at AEI headquarters in downtown Washington early last December and hammered out the surge plan during a weekend session. It called for two major initiatives to defeat the insurgency: reinforcing the troops and restoring security to Iraqi neighborhoods. Then came trips to the White House by AEI military historian Frederick Kagan, retired Army Gen. John Keane and other surge proponents.

More and more officials began attending the sessions. Even Vice President Dick Cheney came. "We took the results of our planning session immediately to people in the administration," said AEI analyst Thomas Donnelly, a surge planner. "It became sort of a magnet for movers and shakers in the White House."
Donnelly said the AEI approach won out over plans from the Pentagon and U.S. Central Command. The two Army generals then in charge of Iraq had opposed a troop increase.

The AEI wrote and marketed "the surge," not "the commanders on the ground."

Looked into his soul.

I'd forgotten this moment.
Last September, when Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf visited the White House to tout a controversial plan for driving al-Qaeda from his country, President Bush responded at a joint news conference with a trademark profession of faith. When Musharraf "looks me in the eye" and says there "won't be a Taliban and there won't be an al-Qaeda, I believe him," Bush said.

(This is the lead paragraph of a WaPo piece trying to paint a narrative as to why the administration hasn't done more about Al Qaeda reconstituting itself in Pakistan. The subtext the article is meant to pass is "we're working on it."

I'd be curious who sourced the narrative.)

Picture of the Day

Is this really the poster boy for the Dem brochure?

U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken speaks during a picnic for Democrats in Edina, Minn., Saturday, July 21, 2007. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

Desperate (Republican) Housewives

As a general rule, I would say that candidates wives are largely off limits, but once a candidate tries to claim a superiority of character and morality by invoking the "family values" mantle, their personal morals and conduct become campaign issues. (As they always say on the legal procedurals on TV, by his own statements, the defendant opened the door to this line of questioning.)

So, over the last two days, we have two spouse articles.

First, and more simply, the WaPo looks at Jeri Thompson. Her years before her marriage to Thompson (described vaguely on page 2) sound pretty wild, and her mother describes the marriage, hoping the 59 year old Thompson will be a "calming influence" on her 35 year old daughter.

It sounds like there's alot more story here, and if Thompson does become competitive as the "family values candidate," we may hear alot more lurid details (especially as she seems to be rubbing people the wrong way, inserting herself so deeply into the campaign.)

Second, we have yesterday's NYTimes story on Judith Giuliani. This is the first time that either of the Giuliani's have tried to describe their meeting and early relationship.

I'm sorry, but they're going to have to spin much harder than this to convince me that Giuliani cheating on his wife in the Mayor's mansion is a storybook love affair. This is going to come back again and again if candidate Giuliani becomes the Republican nominee.

(And, let me say that I'm far more troubled by Giuliani's estrangement with his kids than the relationship with Judith Giuliani.)

Last, of course we have to mention Hillary Clinton's extremely well explored exposure in this area. I'm sure it will be played up in whispers and allegations, and we'll have to go through all that again. Of course, at this point, how many new revelations are left unknown?

All of this is not a huge issue to me, but it does contain a certain"ick factor," and I'm certain that will play a role in defining any of these candidates if they do win their primaries. These will be stories that help shape perceptions of these candidates, and that will affect the election.

For instance, Republicans might be want to look past Giuliani's pro-life stance for his "leadership," but I would think that something like the Judith Nathan affair would be another brick in the wall making that harder.