Iraq is going to work itself out

The first problem has already been resolved, as the Turks won’t do a damn thing while EU membership is in limbo. Later, after Kurdistan is up and running, they wouldn’t dare go in and violate another internationally recognized nation. Your second questions have already been answered, too, because Iran and Syria are already heavily involved.

It was insane not to go the three-nation route from the very beginning. Iraq doesn’t work. It’s a false state cobbled together with no rhyme or reason. No surprise that it’s exploding now.

My fault, and I don’t say that sarcastically, for believing the major media.


What happens to the ‘three states’ of Iraq?

  • Shi’ite Iraq joins Iran, or no?
  • Turkish Kurds try to join Iraqi Kurdish state, or no?
  • Sunni Iraqis in independent state? Modern or theocratic/tribal like the Gulf states?

And whose side will the US fall upon? If Shi’ite Iraq tries to join Iran, will we try to overthrow the Shi’ite government? If the Kurdish Turks try to join the Iraqi Turks, will we militarily and politically oppose the formation of a Kurdish state? Will we push for a democratic, relatively secular Sunni state or just be glad that they have a Kinglet that keeps the rabble from rousing?

So what does Turkey do if their EU membership is on the line vs. oppressing seperatist Kurds in their own country? If it’s Kurdish state vs. EU -imo- they’ll choose to crush the Kurds and flunk out of the EU.

Ooo, ooh! I can answer that one!

We fall on the side that controls the oil. I’ve never been a “no blood for oil!” placard type, but let’s face facts: the quickest way to become our friend is to have the black stuff. Otherwise, we’d be doing something about Darfur, Syria, Jordan, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and Libya, Eritrea, and Nigeria just to name some notable human-rights zeroes in the region.



Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani was shown on Iraqiyah television meeting with the other 3 grand ayatollahs in Najaf, among whom he is first among equals. They include Bashir Najafi, Muhammad Ishaq Fayyad and Muhammad Sa`id al-Hakim. Sistani called for self-discipline and for peaceful demonstrations. He said Shiites must not attack Sunni mosques, but called for them to demonstrate peacefully. He laid responsibility for security on the Iraqi government, saying that it “is called today more than at any time in the past to shoulder its full responsibilities in stopping the series of criminal actions that have targeted holy spaces. If the security apparatuses are unable to safeguard against this crisis, the believers are able to do so, by the aid of God.”

Astonishingly, Sistani seems to be threatening to deploy his own militia, Ansar Sistani, if the Iraqi government doesn’t do a better job of protecting Shiites and their holy sites. One lesson Sistani will have taken from the bombing of the Askariyah shrine in Samarra is that he is not very secure in Najaf, either. But all we need in Iraq is yet another powerful private sectarian militia!

This is the best possible worst outcome.

Critics of the U.S. invasion write as if a deathless Saddam was going to be holding his Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds together in happy amity for all times. Iraq was a rotting country doomed to implode the instant Saddam suffered a stroke or simply died contentedly in a dungeon orgy. The very best chance for a semi-peaceful transition to a post-Saddam reality was under the guidance of U.S. troops. Granted, that chance has been blown in spades, but you’ve still got to ask yourself some tough questions about the price of U.S. inaction for the Iraqi people – another decade or two of withering sanctions for starters, followed by the exact same strife we see now, only in worse circumstances.

No matter how things shake out in Iraq, the invasion will have been a strategic setback for the United States. Even the rosiest scenario will leave us morally exhausted in the wake of Abu Ghraib and the Zarqawi insurgency. My support for the war was and remains based on enforcing the NPT and, more generally, the strategy of “rogue-state rollback.” I wanted Saddam’s regime smashed, and was hopeful we could leave the country a better place than we found it. Speaking as someone more interested in preventing carnage in New York City than in Samarra, at the end of the day I’d prefer a fratricidal Iraq to an unaccountable Saddamstan.

Regardless, this occupation has been a shambles and will be a stain on the U.S. for at least a generation. We’ve got 135,000 troops over there and we can’t defend Shiism’s two holiest shrines?

Well, there is the related case of a deathless Fidel Castro…

Those 135000 are a little more concerned with their own security. We can’t even guarantee our own protection in an asymmetrical environment such as this one. It was only a matter of time until an instigating force that prioritizes American discontent over Sunni survival hit a major Shiite target.

In the particular case of the mosques, especially a holy site, I guarantee you that the coaltion forces in the area were expressly forbidden access to them of the sort you would need to protect them effectively, even if they had wanted to. You know why? Because having infidel troops stomping all over the site is at least as bad as blowing it up, the difference being that if we had done that it would be against us that Sistani was launching his jihad.

So really it’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. The only thing that could have helped is if we’d begun immersing our forces in the cities and population centers from the get go, then at this point we’d have some leverage in civilian security. As it stands now, the bulk of those 135000 do absolutely no good concentrated as they are on bases and isolated fortified areas. I’m not even sure a change of policy now would help, since what Iraqis would tolerate as far as our meddling has been greatly reduced during the course of our occupation.

And a valid civilian security force to leverage…

Is this insightful analysis of the long-run stability of Iraq cribbed from the same source as “they obviously have WMD?”

Does Bush have any connection to reality anymore?

Bush says Iraq faces “moment of choosing”

This is a moment of choosing for the Iraqi people," said Bush, who spoke after attending a National Security Council meeting at the White House devoted to Iraq.

He said the Iraqi government was taking steps to determine how the attack happened and the necessary steps to move the political process forward.

"We can expect the coming days will be intense. Iraq remains a serious situation, but I’m optimistic, because the Iraqi people have spoken" their desire for democracy through elections, he said.

Because elections are magical pixie dust that make everything alright for ever and ever.

Baghdad’s main morgue reports 1,300 dead bodies, three times higher than previous US military and press reports. Lots and lots of people being knifed to death.

To elaborate:

BAGHDAD, Feb. 27 – Grisly attacks and other sectarian violence unleashed by last week’s bombing of a Shiite Muslim shrine have killed more than 1,300 Iraqis, making the past few days the deadliest of the war outside of major U.S. offensives, according to Baghdad’s main morgue. The toll was more than three times higher than the figure previously reported by the U.S. military and the news media.

Hundreds of unclaimed dead lay at the morgue at midday Monday – blood-caked men who had been shot, knifed, garroted or apparently suffocated by the plastic bags still over their heads. Many of the bodies were sprawled with their hands still bound – and many of them had wound up at the morgue after what their families said was their abduction by the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

The disclosure of the death tolls followed accusations by the U.S. military and later Iraqi officials that the news media had exaggerated the violence between Shiites and Sunnis over the past few days.

More momentously, Khamenei’s rival, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani of Najaf in Iraq, also appears to be losing confidence in the Iraq situation. Sistani’s restraint until now has been the key factor in keeping sectarian strife from boiling out of control. But he responded to the destruction of the golden-domed Askariyah Shrine at Samarra by calling for peaceful demonstrations – a reckless move from a man known as cautious and moderate. Sistani had to know that there was little chance in the emotionally overwrought atmosphere of those days that any big demonstrations would remain peaceful. He appears to have been under enormous pressure to authorize the rallies, risking being seen as soft on Sunni terrorism if he had stuck to his previous pattern of asking believers to refrain from any reaction at all.

Worse, Sistani signaled his loss of confidence in the Iraqi government and in U.S. troops by calling for tribal levies to guard Shiite shrines and personalities. The clans of the Middle Euphrates are devoted to Sistani, and rural young men who know how to use a gun are eager to obey the grand ayatollah and to risk their lives for their faith. Iraq already suffers from a surfeit of religious militias, however, and the addition of a new one is hardly a good sign.

Another Shiite clerical leader, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, blamed U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad for the bombing of the shrine and its sanguinary aftermath. Al-Hakim’s SCIRI controls the Ministry of the Interior, which has charge of Iraq’s police force. Many feel that the SCIRI militia, the Badr Corps, trained in exile by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, has infiltrated the special police commandos fielded by Interior against the Sunni Arab guerrillas. The force has been found to keep secret jails and to engage in torture. The Sunni Arabs have been demanding that the hard-line Shiite party give up control of Interior, to no avail. Khalilzad was attempting to convince the Sunni Arabs to join the government, and understandably sided with them on the undesirability of the Badr Corps paramilitary providing so much of the manpower. Now, after the explosion at the beloved shrine of Samarra, no Shiite politician could agree to give up a key cabinet post concerned with security.

Yet another Shiite clergyman, the fiery young nationalist Muqtada al-Sadr, called for Sunni-Shiite unity and forbade his followers from wearing their usual provocative black costumes. His followers were thought to be responsible for many of the attacks against Sunnis and Sunni mosques, but Muqtada avoided the blame for these excesses. He had been abroad when the violence began, and immediately called for joint Sunni-Shiite marches and worship ceremonies to underline Iraqi unity. Along with the Sunni Arabs, he also called on the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq on a short timetable, and urged that this call be a key theme of the joint worship sessions.

Muqtada told a crowd in the southern port city of Basra on Sunday, “I call for a united, peaceful demonstration in the capital, Baghdad, which you will organize at a specific time, involving Shiites, Sunnis and others, in which you will demand the withdrawal of the occupying forces, and call for mutual love among you.” On Monday, such a cross-sectarian Friday prayer service was held in Tikrit, to which Sunnis and Shiites flocked from all over the province.

These three Iraqi clerics all employed their influence and authority among the Shiite rank and file to make the Samarra bombing work for them politically. Sistani expanded his militia and stayed at the forefront of the movement by encouraging peaceful rallies. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim used the explosion in Samarra to bolster his own authority. He remonstrated with the American ambassador, saying it was not reasonable to expect the religious Shiites, who won the largest bloc of seats in parliament, to give up their claim on the ministry of interior, and that, indeed, Khalilzad had helped provoke the troubles with his assertions to that effect earlier. Muqtada al-Sadr used the incident to push for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, something he has wanted since the fall of Saddam. Abroad, Supreme Jurisprudent Khamenei blamed Bush and his Israeli allies, a monstrous charge but nevertheless one widely believed.

WASHINGTON - U.S. intelligence agencies repeatedly warned the White House beginning more than two years ago that the insurgency in Iraq had deep local roots, was likely to worsen and could lead to civil war, according to former senior intelligence officials who helped craft the reports.

Among the warnings, Knight Ridder has learned, was a major study, called a National Intelligence Estimate, completed in October 2003 that concluded that the insurgency was fueled by local conditions - not foreign terrorists- and drew strength from deep grievances, including the presence of U.S. troops.

The existence of the top-secret document, which was the subject of a bitter three-month debate among U.S. intelligence agencies, has not been previously disclosed to a wide public audience.
The reports received a cool reception from Bush administration policymakers at the White House and the office of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, according to the former officials, who discussed them publicly for the first time.

President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld and others continued to describe the insurgency as a containable threat, posed mainly by former supporters of Saddam Hussein, criminals and non-Iraqi terrorists - even as the U.S. intelligence community was warning otherwise.

Robert Hutchings, the chairman of the National Intelligence Council from 2003 to 2005, said the October 2003 study was part of a “steady stream” of dozens of intelligence reports warning Bush and his top lieutenants that the insurgency was intensifying and expanding.

“Frankly, senior officials simply weren’t ready to pay attention to analysis that didn’t conform to their own optimistic scenarios,” Hutchings said in a telephone interview.

The office of Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte declined Tuesday to comment for this article.

The NIC is the intelligence community’s foremost group of senior analysts, and as its chairman, Hutchings presided over the drafting of the October 2003 report and other analyses of the insurgency.

Two highly classified intelligence reports delivered directly to President Bush before the Iraq war cast doubt on key public assertions made by the president, Vice President Cheney, and other administration officials as justifications for invading Iraq and toppling Saddam Hussein, according to records and knowledgeable sources

The first report, delivered to Bush in early October 2002, was a one-page summary of a National Intelligence Estimate that discussed whether Saddam’s procurement of high-strength aluminum tubes was for the purpose of developing a nuclear weapon.

Among other things, the report stated that the Energy Department and the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research believed that the tubes were “intended for conventional weapons,” a view disagreeing with that of other intelligence agencies, including the CIA, which believed that the tubes were intended for a nuclear bomb.

The disclosure that Bush was informed of the DOE and State dissents is the first evidence that the president himself knew of the sharp debate within the government over the aluminum tubes during the time that he, Cheney, and other members of the Cabinet were citing the tubes as clear evidence of an Iraqi nuclear program. Neither the president nor the vice president told the public about the disagreement among the agencies.

When U.S. inspectors entered Iraq after the fall of Saddam’s regime, they determined that Iraq’s nuclear program had been dormant for more than a decade and that the aluminum tubes had been used only for artillery shells.

The second classified report, delivered to Bush in early January 2003, was also a summary of a National Intelligence Estimate, this one focusing on whether Saddam would launch an unprovoked attack on the United States, either directly, or indirectly by working with terrorists.

The report stated that U.S. intelligence agencies unanimously agreed that it was unlikely that Saddam would try to attack the United States – except if “ongoing military operations risked the imminent demise of his regime” or if he intended to “extract revenge” for such an assault, according to records and sources.

The single dissent in the report again came from State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, known as INR, which believed that the Iraqi leader was “unlikely to conduct clandestine attacks against the U.S. homeland even if [his] regime’s demise is imminent” as the result of a U.S. invasion.

On at least four earlier occasions, beginning in the spring of 2002, according to the same records and sources, the president was informed during his morning intelligence briefing that U.S. intelligence agencies believed it was unlikely that Saddam was an imminent threat to the United States.