War News for Sunday, November 13, 2005
Bring 'em on: Two US soldiers killed by roadside bomb in Al Amiriyah
Bring 'em on: One US soldier killed non-hostile incident in Rawah
Bring 'em on: Three Iraqi police officers killed in ambush in Baqubah
Bring 'em on: Two tankers destroyed in insurgency attack on a US convoy north of Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Two people killed in attack on Omani embassy in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: No casualties reported in two car bomb attacks in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Five Iraqi soldiers injured by roadside bomb in Kirkuk
Bring 'em on: Explosions reported in Green Zone
Bring 'em on: Ten bodies discovered near Badra
Bring 'em on: Iraqi police colonel executed in Mosul
Bring 'em on: Fifty bodies found in rubble of near the Syrian border
Daniel Ellsberg, 74, became famous for his release of the Pentagon Papers, which indicated the government had deceived the public about whether the war could be won and the extent of casualties. He spoke to a crowd of more than 400 people at a New Jersey high school, telling them that the Vietnam War and the war in Iraq were both based on lies, referring to the such as the claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
: Nonetheless, doubts about the intelligence persist among some foreign analysts. In part, that is because American officials, citing the need to protect their source, have largely refused to provide details of the origins of the laptop computer beyond saying that they obtained it in mid-2004 from a longtime contact in Iran. Moreover, this chapter in the confrontation with Iran is infused with the memory of the faulty intelligence on Iraq's unconventional arms. In this atmosphere, though few countries are willing to believe Iran's denials about nuclear arms, few are willing to accept the United States' weapons intelligence without question.
: Former officials of the Baath Party confirmed Saturday on their Web site the death of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, the last of Saddam Hussein's inner circle still at large in Iraq and a man long sought by the American military command as the effective leader of the Baathist insurgent underground here.
: The city is now surrounded by a tight network of checkpoints controlled by U.S. forces and Shi'a members of the Iraqi Army. No one is allowed in without an identification card issued by the U.S. Marines, or other permission. Even with such permission it took 75 minutes for us to enter. These checkpoints are choking economic life in the city, doubling prices for basic foodstuffs, and cutting off surrounding villages from Falluja's markets, services, and hospital. The people say that they are living in a prison.
Litany of Failures
: Tony Blair repeatedly passed up opportunities to put a brake on the rush to war in Iraq, a failure that may have contributed to the country's present anarchy, according to Sir Christopher Meyer, Britain's ambassador to Washington at the time, in his book DC Confidential, serialised in the Guardian from today.
Fuck off Blair
: Speaking to ITV1's Jonathan Dimbleby programme, Mr Talabani said: "We don't want British forces forever in Iraq. "Within one year - I think at the end of 2006 - Iraqi troops will be ready to replace British forces in the South."
: An attempt to impeach British Prime Minister Tony Blair is expected in the next two weeks. The Sunday Herald reports that a previous attempt last year ended when only 23 members of Parliament signed on -- but the recent defeat of Blair's anti-terrorism legislation with 49 Labor members voting against their leader has spurred a renewed effort.
: The Observer can also reveal that, while in Washington, Meyer was accused by a senior woman civil servant of sex discrimination for having a picture of a topless page three girl displayed in the British embassy. The photograph was deemed 'obscene' and potentially intimidating to female colleagues, as well as giving a 'very bad impression' to diplomatic visitors.
: Cherie Blair's recent book The Goldfish Bowl recounts similar incidents, describing Major as sitting on the end of the bed 'in a towelling dressing robe'. Her source? Meyer.
Blair the Wimp
: A central point of Meyer's is that Blair was reluctant to challenge Bush — not always the relationship between the White House and Downing Street, not even in such generally sunny moments as the tenure of soul mates Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.
"Thatcher had no hesitation on the phone, or surging into the Oval office to blaze away if she thought Reagan was doing something stupid," Meyer said. "And she did on a number of occasions, and sometimes it was extremely effective and certainly did not damage the relationship at all. I think Tony Blair and Downing Street were reluctant to perform in that way."Straw Man
: Straw’s hatchet job might not have been purely professional: in his book Meyer had averred that Straw did not always carry the authority of the prime minister and was variously tongue-tied and terrified of Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary. But the straw that might have broken Jack’s back was Meyer trampling over him as “someone more to be liked than admired”. Ouch.
: To America he was a celebrity, but to the White House he was a walkover. Little of this comes as a surprise to scholars of advanced Blair studies. In the face of serious power, Blair collapses. He did so over fuel tax, civil-service pensions, rating revaluation and, this week, the police heavy mob over holding terror suspects for 90 days. If he “hangs tough”, as he does occasionally with the parliamentary Labour Party, it is because some higher power has got the better of him.
: Last week the 61-year-old faced calls to resign as chairman of the Press Complaints Commission and was reportedly labelled “a complete prick” by Tony Blair for publishing his autobiography DC Confidential. It provides the most detailed account yet of the thinking inside Downing Street and the White House in the 18 months before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 — although what has really caused upset are his wicked pen portraits.
: It is, however, his portraits of UK politicians - John Prescott as a bristling "mastiff", Geoff Hoon as a frigid "panda", other ministers as "pygmies" - that have unleashed the political furies. The coalition of the outraged is broad and resolute. From Jack Straw to Sir Menzies Campbell, the tutting has grown deafening.
Opinion and Commentary
It seems to indicate that the United States is stuck in a rut in its search for future leaders of Iraq: Washington is once again favoring Ahmad Chalabi, who is currently visiting Washington, and Iyad Allawi, who was prime minister during the period of the previous administration, the Iraqi Interim Government.
It appears that Chalabi, the former golden boy of the Pentagon, a convicted embezzler in Jordan and the current deputy prime minister, is driven by the aspiration of becoming the next prime minister of Iraq.
In that quest for power, he is playing a dangerous game of acquiring Iran's support and maintaining the backing of the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the influential senior Shi'ite cleric in Iraq. Chalabi's visit to Washington is the political ritual of getting the blessing of Vice President Dick Cheney, the epitome of neo-conservativism and chief foreign policy adviser of President George W Bush.
Chalabi is a known friend of Iran, and he visited that country just before his trip to Washington. And the US and Iran are a world apart on the issue of the very nature of the future government of Iraq, ie, whether it should be Islamist or secular.
Chalabi has been accused by the US in the past of passing secret information to Iran, a charge that he vehemently denies. Equally important, he is also accused of providing fictitious intelligence to the Bush administration in his zeal to bring about the ouster of Saddam Hussein. In attaining that objective, his critics - especially from the State Department - accuse him of being driven largely by personal ambition. Needless to say, the neo-cons in the Pentagon would have had no problem with Chalabi taking over the reins of the Iraqi government immediately after the ouster of Saddam.
It follows that Chalabi seems to have only one agenda: his emergence as the next prime minister. However, given his highly tainted credentials and equally shattered reputation, why is the Bush administration currently warming to him? The answer is not that the US is in a rut but that, considering the very nature of the current corps of leaders in that country, its choices are severely limited.
Let there be no doubt that the US would like to see the creation of a secular democracy in Iraq. To achieve that objective, the Bush administration is again courting Chalabi. It knows that he, along with Allawi, are its best hopes.
The interim government headed by Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari has turned out to be a big disappointment, not only for the US but also for the Kurds and the Sunnis. The US had grave reservations about the Islamist makeup of the government, but the cumulative power of the Iraqi Shi'ites and the powerful backing of Sistani left the US with little choice but to accept it.
No one should think that the Bush administration did not experience some glee when Jaafari emerged as a mediocre and failed premier. He proved that he was no dealmaker, at least not the kind that the American interlocutors wanted to see in Iraq anyway. He is reportedly aloof, at times petty, and quite reluctant to forge political compromises.
The process of political sausage making has started anew ahead of elections in December. For now, the Bush administration is following a strategy completely different from the one it followed before the emergence of the Iraqi Interim Government.
It is quietly surveying the potential political strength and popularity of Chalabi and Allawi, two expatriates with shady credentials of being the tools of US and British intelligence. Once again, the litmus test for the US is not whether either of them will prove to be an effective leader, but, long before they get to that point, whether they will prove their mettle by pushing democratic secularism into the faces of the Iraqi Shi'ites and Sunnis. Equally important, they must also demonstrate their ability to be coalition-builders for the creation of a secular democratic government.
In this regard, there is likely to be intense competition between Allawi and Chalabi. Allawi's strength is that he is viewed, especially among the Sunnis, as being above the petty, sectarian-oriented chauvinism that they frequently accuse Jaafari of practicing. In addition, Allawi has established an image as a quintessential dealmaker, a trait that is highly valued in the non-Islamist circles of Iraqi politics. His weakness is that, when he was prime minister, he was viewed as too accepting of what Sunni Iraqis depict as the American obsession with the use of excessive force in dealing with the insurgency.
As much as the Bush administration appreciated Allawi's unquestioned loyalty to the American methodology related to the use of force, it is a bit leery about how benignly the Sunnis would view a potential Allawi premiership. Washington is in no mood to unnecessarily alienate the Sunnis, having learned a tough lesson in their uphill battle with the predominantly Sunni insurgency.
Thus, the Americans want to "keep their powder dry" by also flirting with Chalabi, who has proved himself to be a survivor in the highly explosive political climate of post-Saddam Iraq. Besides, Chalabi still has the backing of Sistani, or at least the grand ayatollah has not yet changed his mind about backing him. Just that fact weighs heavily among the mandarins of American foreign policy. His ties with Iran are not envisaged as a major liability, but it may become a problem.
In America's current preoccupation with deciding to pick its own golden boy in arguably the most crucial elections in Iraq, one must not lose track of a very important question: will Iraq really become a secular democratic country after the elections, regardless of whether it is headed by Chalabi or Allawi?
Unfortunately - from the US perspective - the chances of a secular democracy even in the not-too-distant future are dim at best. Just look at the numbers. Only the Iraqi Kurds are in favor of secularism. A predominant number of Shi'ites support neither an Iran-style government nor a secular government. Even under the best possible scenario, from the point of view of the Bush administration, the next government is still likely to be Islamist, or at least clearly leaning toward giving a central role to Islam in the Iraqi political arena. The Sunnis, though they don't prefer a Shi'ite version of Islamist government, might not object to such a government if it were to take care of their chief economic grievances in the immediate future.
If such a proposition appears tenable, then both Chalabi and Allawi stand a chance to head the government, largely because of their most significant ability to forge a coalition of parties and personalities that may not like each other very much, but don't hate each other either. In the very early phase of learning the art of democratic rule, the mere capability of creating such a coalition on the part of any politicians would be nothing short of a breakthrough.
So, keeping both Chalabi and Allawi as potential golden boys is not a bad tactic for the Bush administration. The clincher in this episode will be which way Iraq's voters go in the elections. Let us not forget the role of the all-important Sistani. The wily cleric is keeping his cards close to his chest, and rightly so, for now, but is likely to play them well in the long term for the sustenance of a Shi'ite-dominated democratic Iraq. Egypt
A US-backed summit meant to promote political freedom and economic change in the Middle East ended without agreement, a blow to US President George W. Bush’s goals for the troubled region. A draft declaration on democratic and economic principle was shelved Saturday after Egypt insisted on language that would have given Arab governments greater control over which democracy groups receive money from a new fund.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also used the conference to send a message to Syrians chafing under authoritarian rule, saying Washington backs their “aspirations for liberty, democracy and justice under the rule of law.”
Bush hosted a coming-out party for the Forum for the Future last year at Sea Island, Georgia, and the US is putting up half of the US$100 million (Ð85.5 million) in a venture capital fund for economic development launched at this year’s gathering.
The White House had hoped the conference would showcase political progress in a part of the world long dominated by monarchies and single-party rule, and spread goodwill for the US
American officials seemed startled that an ally, Egypt, threw up a roadblock.