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I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Look to Iran next - behind the words about Iraq

The sobering words and actions of our current president (OCP) hint at what seems to be beyond Iraq, that is Iran. Recently the U.S. Navy was ordered to the Persian Gulf, and Navy Adm. William Fallon, the top U.S. military commander in the Pacific, is to replace Gen. John Abizaid as the head of U.S. Central Command. Air strikes can easily be launched from the Gulf. I was prompted to think again about this yesterday, prompted by related comments by Chris Matthews of MSNBC following briefings of news anchors by the White House. (Hints highlighted in blue throughout this post below.) In a similar vein - during OCP's speech, see - Wonkette live blogs:
9:15: Wait, where’s he sending another carrier group? Because, you know, the
insurgents or whatever don’t have a Navy, or an Army, or any weapons.

9:16 - So he's just going to bomb Iran.

The linked New York Times story "Bush's Strategy for Iraq Faces Confrontations," is a very thorough news analysis of the entire situation by Sheryl Gay Stolberg.

Open-ended in Iraq no more - It is no longer "stay the course" with the Malaki government; it seems to be much more conditional now. Looking beyond Iraq to Iran may be the reason for the relatively modest troop escalation. (As usual, I will link to news items from foreign news sources for this post). I quote first from the London's Financial Times article headlined, "Bush pledges 21,500 more troops for Iraq."
In a statement immediately following Mr Bush’s broadcast, Democratic leaders reiterated calls for a phased withdrawal of US forces over the next six months as a way of pressuring the Iraqi government to take responsibility for the country’s future. They said the much-anticipated troop “surge” went against the verdict of congressional elections last November and would be challenged by resolutions that could be tabled as early as Friday.
. . . The new approach that Mr Bush laid out in his broadcast is built on a plan drawn up by Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister, that is aimed at stabilising the level of sectarian violence in Baghdad, which is the epicentre of Iraq’s emerging civil war.
Mr Bush said that Mr Maliki has promised to follow a series of performance “benchmarks” that were drawn up in Baghdad. Mr Bush on Wednesday declined to offer a timeline for Iraq to meet its self-imposed benchmarks. But he said America’s commitment to Iraq would not be “open-ended”.
A robust U.S. military presence will remain in the Middle East for the forseeable future. Diplomacy is not the priority. It would go completely against the nature of OCP and his neocon-dominated administration to opt for diplomatic solutions, rather than the almost completely military approach. The military will predominate, wherever they are locationed. Note the rejection by OCP of the ISG report. A David Sanger story, written for the International Herald Tribune was headlined, "Bush adds troops in bid to secure Iraq." To quote,
Bush rejected all calls to begin a withdrawal from Iraq, arguing that the strategies advocated by newly empowered Democrats, restive Republicans and the bipartisan Iraq Study Group were a formula for deepening disaster.
. . . Democrats in Congress are drawing up plans for what, at a minimum, could be a nonbinding resolution expressing opposition to the commitment of more forces to what many of them say they now believe is a losing fight. They will be joined by some Republicans, and may attempt other steps to block Bush from deepening the American commitment.
. . . Bush, one of his top aides said in an interview on Wednesday, simply concluded that "the Iraqi government was running out of time" and would collapse without additional help. Yet at the core of Bush's new strategy, his own aides said, lies a tension between two objectives: Bush's commitment to staying in Iraq until the country is a stable, self-sustaining democracy, and his vague threat to Maliki that the American presence in the country would be cut short if Americans believed that the effort was failing.

A majority of American voters rejected continuation of the Iraq war last November - "Democrats plan to fight expansion of troops," by Jeff Zeleny for the International Herald Tribune, explores early developments with the Democrats' legislative response to the "way forward" of OCP. To quote,
Democrats continued to debate how assertively to confront Bush over his plan. House Democrats said that they would seek to attach conditions to the spending request Bush will send to Congress soon and that those conditions, if not met, could lead Congress to limit or halt money for wider military operations.
. . . "The president's response to the challenge of Iraq is to send more American soldiers into the crossfire of a civil war," said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, responding for his party immediately after Bush spoke. "The escalation of this war is not the change the American people called for in the last election."
The criticism from Democrats resounded in near unison on Wednesday evening, a rare moment for a party that for more than four years has struggled to present a unified policy on Iraq.
Iraq's leading Shiite cleric's influence will soon be tested in Baghdad. Recent opinion has it that Sistani's influence has been weakened. Whether the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Malaki will take on the Shiite militias is widely seen as the pivotal question for the future success in the Iraq war. Thus, it appears that the success of OCP's "new plan" is totally dependent on the will of the leaders in Iraq rather than U.S. military strategy. Aljazeera carried the (1/10/06) headline, "Sistani 'wants militias disarmed'."
Iraq's national security adviser has said that the country's most senior Shia cleric supports a government attempt to disarm the country's sectarian militias. Mowaffaq al-Rubaie said he had secured Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's support during a meeting in the city of Najaf on Wednesday.
. . . "His eminence al-Sistani recommended an emphasis on the implementation of the law without any discrimination based on identity or background," Rubaie, a Shia, told reporters on Wednesday.
"He also asserted the need for weapons to be in the hands only of the state, and to disarm those holding weapons illegally."
Al-Sistani hardly ever makes public statements but - as the spiritual leader of Iraq's Shias - is believed to wield considerable influence behind the scenes.
No more help from Great Britain - The last significant member of the "coalition of the willing" is no longer willing to be in Iraq. They are no longer willing to rely solely on a military solution in the Middle East. OCP is alone with his new way forward. Dependent only on what the Iraqis are able to do, without the majority of the American people, without willing Democrats, OCP and his little group of supporters soldier on, oblivious. According to the BBC News "UK sticks to Iraq plan despite new Bush strategy"
Britain said on Thursday that it would not send more troops to Iraq, . . . plans are widely expected to lead to a drawdown in Britain’s 7,200 strong force in Iraq. At the weekend, Gordon Brown, British chancellor of the exchequer, who hopes to become prime minister in the next few months, said that “by the end of the year, there may be thousands less in Iraq than there are now.”
. . . There is also a growing gulf between Britain and the US at a strategic as well as an operational level.
Both before and during a recent trip to the Middle East, Mr Blair made clear he supported a diplomatic initiative to reach out to Syria, if not Iran, to stabilise Iraq, and that he believed that a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would also play a huge role in diminishing Iraqi violence. In general, Mr Blair has indicated his backing for the findings of the US’s Iraq Study Group, which emphasised a new diplomatic offensive as a means of dealing with Iraq, but many of whose findings Mr Bush has rejected.In Wednesday night’s speech, Mr Bush gave much greater emphasis to an attempt to solve Iraq’s problems militarily. “We’ll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria,” as US troops prepared to raid an Iranian consular office in Iraq. “And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.” Mr Bush made no specific reference to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Forward to Iran - Hints become much more clear based on this little-reported recent episode. BBC News headline "US forces storm Iranian consulate"
US forces have stormed an Iranian consulate in the northern Iraqi town of Irbil and seized five members of staff.
The troops raided the building . . . taking away computers and papers, according to Kurdish media and senior local officials.
. . . BBC Diplomatic Correspondent Jonathan Marcus says the raid could signal a ratcheting-up of pressure on the Iranians, in line with the rhetorical thrust of his speech.

Democrats must get out of denial about plans for Iran. They need to avoid getting totally mesmerized by the interim "new way forward" proposals. They absolutely must take the hints and head this Iranian "cowboy caper off at the pass." References for the Iran story include these two essential articles:
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