Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sy Hersh's latest: "Shifting Targets- The Administration's Plan For Iran"

In The New Yorker, here
"...The shift in targeting reflects three developments. First, the President and his senior advisers have concluded that their campaign to convince the American public that Iran poses an imminent nuclear threat has failed (unlike a similar campaign before the Iraq war), and that as a result there is not enough popular support for a major bombing campaign. The second development is that the White House has come to terms, in private, with the general consensus of the American intelligence community that Iran is at least five years away from obtaining a bomb. And, finally, there has been a growing recognition in Washington and throughout the Middle East that Iran is emerging as the geopolitical winner of the war in Iraq.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Hadley blocked access on Syria photos.

From Col. Pat Lang, here
"I missed this when it first appeared. So, the imagery primarily came from Israel and Hadley blocked access to it from US Intelligence Community analysts and imagery interpreters? Why would that be? How about this? The Israelis wanted it to be that way and it was their information.
I will let that thought hang in the air for comment. Remember UHTTFY! pl "

Greenspan: Oil Was an Important Factor in Iraq War

From Steve Clemons, here
"... But I was merely raising the issue that why there's such a fundamental issue around the Iraq war is that there is oil under the sands. And I'm just saying, without getting into the other issues you raised, which I frankly don't exactly disagree with you on. If oil did not happen to exist in Iraq, the issues of Iraq and the Iraq war would have come about wholly differently. And I don't think there would be a war, frankly. I think that Saddam would not be a crucial player in the world..."

Podhoretz (and Rove) secretly urged Bush to bomb Iran

From Politico, here
Podhoretz walked out of the meeting neither deterred nor assured the president would attack the Persian state.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Bush insider to CNN :"Look, Sy Hersh is the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist, frankly"

Sy Hersh, here, in a recent interview with JewishJournal says " I can tell you right now that there are many Shia right now in the south of Iraq, in the Maliki party, that believe to the core that America is no longer interested in Iraq, but that everything they are doing now is aimed at the Shia and Iran."

"...The bottom line is nobody in this government talks to me. I've been around for 40 years -- in Bush I, in the Reagan years, certainly in Democratic regimes, but even in Republican regimes where I am more of a pain -- I've always had tremendous relationships with people. This is the first government in which in order to get my stories checked out to make sure I'm not going to kill some American, I have to go to peoples' mailboxes at night, people I talk to and know, and put it in their mailbox before turning it into The New Yorker..."

Friday, September 21, 2007

"CIA analysts: Syrian-North Korean connection was based entirely on chemical and missile supply and was in the process of being wound down"

Excerpts from the Middle East Policy Survey:
"key members of the US intelligence community, often skeptical of Israeli fears of their neighbors' military
prowess, down played the possibility that North Korea was engaged in a serious effort to help Syria develop a nuclear capability. According to reliable sources, as recently as the beginning of September, CIA analysts were arguing that the Syrian-North Korean connection was based entirely on chemical and missile supply and, in fact, was in the process of being wound down. "We were told that there had been a falling out between North Korea and Syria just days before the Israeli raid," said one well-informed source..."

"...There have been reports that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had to be talked out of attempting to retaliate militarily. And earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minster Olmert pointedly talked about his willingness once again to begin peace negotiations with Syria..."
"...However, among those who deal with a wide range of issues, there is wide spread agreement that Israel's military operation was designed to accomplish more than merely undermining any nascent Syrian nuclear program. Since its spotty performance in the conflict last summer with Hezbollah, top Israeli military and civilian officials have been concerned about damage suffered to its deterrent image. They believe that the Syrians have concluded that they, too, could wage a successful "low intensity" conflict with Israel. "This was a much needed demonstration of strength," concluded one sympathetic US official..."

".. While the Israeli concern about Syria's role in Lebanon hasbeen mostly confined to its support of Hezbollah, senior Israeli officials fear that, as one expert put it this week, "We willwake up one morning and find [the current pro-western LebanesePrime Minister Fouad) Siniora gone." It is a fear also shared in Washington, as this week yet another pro-government legislatorwas assassinated in Beirut..."

"... President Bush, together with French President Sarkozy, is expected to issue a statement next week calling on all parties involved to allow free and fair elections, without intimidation and foreign interference, the latter, a code word for Syrian intervention.."

Letter from Lebanon Where Justice Seems Very Far Away

Via AngryArab, this essay in CounterPunch, here
"Yesterday's events cannot be taken out of the larger regional context. Just as prospects for Lebanon's unity was taking a beating-and Iraq continues its violent spiral towards partition-Palestine was being further divided with Israel officially declaring Gaza, now a huge prison with 1.5 million people living in atrocious conditions, a "hostile territory"

Saber rattling from the Cheney-Store:"Someone is serious about planting some disinformation about a Syria-North Korea nuclear connection in the press"

Kevin Drum on the Syria-North Korea "disinformation" campaign and the WaPo story, here

Sarkozy on Iran: Against a full military intervention, BUT NOT against "a swift air campaign"

Opinion in Le Monde, here
"... Et si cela ne marchait pas ? Dans son discours de politique étrangère, le 27 août, M. Sarkozy déclarait que "l'Iran doté de l'arme nucléaire est (pour lui) inacceptable". Il n'a pas précisé si, pour la France, des frappes militaires seraient inacceptables. Mais il a signifié que ce serait, à ses yeux, une catastrophe. Le 26 avril, alors en campagne électorale, M. Sarkozy avait affirmé "ne pas pouvoir envisager" que les Etats-Unis commettent "l'erreur" d'intervenir militairement en Iran. Il était interrogé à propos d'un scénario d'invasion au sol, et non de frappes aériennes ciblées..."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Speculation from WINEP: Syria's Strategic Weapons Programs

From WINEP, here

Welch: "Any Israeli operations (unless covert) may bolster Siniora's rivals"

Haaretz, here.
"... In his meetings, Welch told his counterparts that efforts must be made to bolster the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, suggesting that any Israeli operations may bolster Siniora's rivals, the pro-Syrian factions in Lebanon..."

Gates: "We have made human rights the centerpiece of our national strategy even as we did business with some of the worst violators of human rights"

Speech (here) Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Williamsburg, VA, Monday, September 17, 2007. (tell me if anything changed!?)
"... We have at times made human rights the centerpiece of our national strategy even as we did business with some of the worst violators of human rights.آ We have worked with authoritarian governments to advance our own security interests even while urging them to reform..."

Iran- Whose "existential" threat?

Galbraith's article (here) on Iran was originally published in the New York Review of Books and then here in the Asia Times. It is so important that it is worth reproducing here for discussion.

There is much that could be argued with in the aricle, but, in the main it seems to capture the situation well.

IMO, the US has refused to accept the idea of sharing power in the Middle East with the Iranians. That lies at the heart of our problem with them. All other issues are more sympton than anything else. As Galbraith observes we have ignored efforts on their part to draw us into a serious discussion of what are really bi-lateral issues.

We talk about Iran being a strategic threat (life-threatening to the nation) to the United States. This is nonsense. Unless the Shihab series of guided missile developments results in an ICBM with a six-thousand mile range fitted with warheads of city destroying yields, Iran will never be an existential threat to the US.

If it were not for the undeniable fact that an Iran equipped with their present Shihab 3 and nuclear warheads would be an existential threat to Israel, our concern over their future nuclear weapons would be no greater than our present concern over Pakistan's weapons. Pat Lang


Estimated Range of Shihab3 Missile

... and "Why Bush Could attack Iran?!"

Via Sic Semper Tyrannis, a comment by Col. Lang, here
"...We seem to have returned to 2002. In that year, it was fashionable and easy to decry the idea that the Bush Administration could be so foolish as to invade Iraq. Those who said the we would invade Iraq were thought to be a little daft. A radio station in Boise, Idaho that had asked my opinion about this began to ridicule the idea on the air after I insisted that an invasion was likely. Now we have Steve Clemons doing much the same thing..."

"...Clemons' discussion of the ongoing argument within policy circles over whether or not Bush will give that order is reasonably accurate... It is also irrelevant. Only the decider will decide. He will decide with the help and advice of his pal, "just plain Dick," and after the "Italian Letter" crowd have done their worst..."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

"Why Bush won't attack Iran"

Steve Clemons in Salon, here
"...One of the reasons so many believe action is near is the well-known neoconservative preference that it be so. There is still a strong neoconservative faction within the Bush team, and their movement allies outside the administration, such as Michael Ledeen, John Bolton and Norman Podhoretz, have openly advocated striking Iran before it can develop nuclear weapons. The neoconservatives believe that in the end, Bush's team will indeed launch a military strike against Iran, or will nudge Israel to do so..."

Israel declares Gaza an "enemy entity" while Rice remains vague on Peace Summit's agenda

From the Huffington Post, here

U.S. intensifies pressure on Iran

From McClatchy's, here
"... In Washington, the drive for financial sanctions has proved a boon to Bush administration aides seeking to head off military operations against Iran, which Vice President Dick Cheney favors. Whether it will succeed in thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions remains to be seen... But Russia and China worry that sanctions are a slippery slope that will lead to war... in some cases, when Western companies and banks move out of Iran, Chinese or other Asian firms simply move in and take the business"

Alexis Debat's Pentagon Links: Did the Discredited ABC Consultant Get DoD Money Too?

Laura Rosen in Mother Jones, here
"...Here's the story. On September 17, Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Karen Finn, a spokeswoman for the policy office, told me that the Defense Department did not have a direct contract with Debat, but "DoD does have a contract with the company [Debat] works for … I suggest you contact his employer for additional information." The employer she referred me to was the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), a think tank headed by defense analyst Andrew Krepinevich (Debat also, until last week, had a relationship with the Nixon Center, a think tank that describes itself as "America's realist voice")..."

"The Victor": Peter Galbraith, The Iranian Conundrum

Via TomDispatch, This article appears in the October 11, 2007 issue of the New York Review of Books.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Abizaid: World could abide nuclear Iran

from the Boston Globe, here
"There are ways to live with a nuclear Iran," Abizaid said in remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank. "Let's face it, we lived with a nuclear Soviet Union, we've lived with a nuclear China, and we're living with (other) nuclear powers as well."

How Alexis Debat managed to cheat everyone in Washington

Via SicSemperTyrannis here, and Laura Rosen has extensive coverage of the Debat Debacle, here

Raid on Syria: Information came from "current and former American and Israeli officials"

It's not wizardry to figure out "who" these "former" officials were. From the NYTimes, Via TPM, here
"The New York Times has now ventured into the discussion of what happened in that Israeli air force raid inside Syria. The piece is so hedged about that it doesn't really add much to what we already know, or rather what has already been widely, even promiscuously, speculated -- namely, that the Israelis believed they were attacking some sort of incipient nuclear installation, put together with equipment from North Korea. But it does give a touch more information about sourcing -- saying the information came from "current and former American and Israeli officials."

Monday, September 17, 2007

Avoiding the Emergence of Two Lebanons

Hadi Amr, Via Brookings, here
"... Imagine the public outcry that would occur in the United States if after Hurricane Katrina, George W. Bush undertook highly visible development projects in Republican strongholds that were left untouched by Katrina - that's how the situation looks to Lebanon's large Shiite community, the key source of support for Hizbullah..."

Saturday, September 15, 2007

"Missed Opportunities: Cooperation Confrontation in the U.S. – Syrian Relationship"

From the Century Foundation, a paper by David Lesch, (.pdf)here
Lesch "concludes that there have been a number of missed opportunities—spurned opportunities, in the case of the Bush administration—for dialogue and cooperation with Syria on suppressing Islamic terrorism, making peace with Israel, and creating political space in Lebanon. He blames neoconservative ideological hardliners in the administration and their allies in Congress for the sharp turn from constructive engagement to a complete disengagement. He says that while there have been hints of a possible softening of this policy in recent months, there is little evidence for thinking that there will be dramatic change in policy under the current administration"

North Korea-Syria nuclear ties: déjà vu all over again?

Via SyriaComment from FP here
Joseph Cirincione, senior fellow and director for nuclear policy at the Center for American Progress, author of "Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons", weighs in. Here's his take:

"...This story is nonsense. The Washington Post story should have been headlined "White House Officials Try to Push North Korea-Syria Connection." This is a political story, not a threat story. The mainstream media seems to have learned nothing from the run-up to war in Iraq. It is a sad commentary on how selective leaks from administration officials who have repeatedly misled the press are still treated as if they were absolute truth..."

Friday, September 14, 2007

Clinton vs. Clinton on Israel

Daniel Levy at TPM Cafe, here
"... Hillary Clinton defends Israel's right to exist with "... an undivided Jerusalem as its capital." Oddly enough, this places her in direct contradiction with the plan put forward by a certain President Bill Clinton in December 2000..."

“ISRAEL/SYRIA: Rumours of war reflect tensions” by Oxford Analytica

Via Syria Comment, the full text, here
"... Israeli concerns. After the 2006 war, Israel's initial assessment was that Syria might try to replicate Hizbollah's successful combat techniques in an attack on the Golan Heights, to secure enough territorial gains and inflict enough losses on Israel to force a later diplomatic agreement to Syria's advantage. Israel's concerns are now worsened by the arms deals. The return of Russian influence in the region — made most manifest by its establishing a naval base in northern Syria — has given Syria access to the kind of sophisticated weaponry its military was lacking since 1991. Thus the developments of the last year have improved Syria's choices, making it possible for Damascus to pressure Israel through both conventional and asymmetric means..."

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Nabih Berri’s plan would have the Hezbollah-led faction drop its demand for a unity government

Nabih Berri interviewed by the NYTimes, on his initiative, here
"...Mr. Berri’s proposal would have the opposition drop its demand for a unity government if all political factions agreed by Sept. 25 to negotiate to select a new president by consensus..."

Bush's Anbar ally murdered today

From the WashingtonMonthly, here
"...Sattar Abu Risha, the Sunni shaykh most closely associated with the Anbar Awakening, was murdered today by a bomb planted near his home..."
Sunni tribal leader Abdul Sattar Abu Risha shakes hands with U.S. President George W. Bush (L) during a meeting in Anbar province, Iraq, in this September 3, 2007 file photo. Abu Risha, who was instrumental in driving al Qaeda out of Iraq's Anbar province, was killed by a bomb attack on Thursday, less than two weeks after he met Bush. REUTERS/Jason Reed/Files
Reuters - Thu Sep 13, 11:25 AM

"Pathway to strategic and political exhaustion in the United States by late 2008..."

IraqObserver comments the following on WarAndPiece:

"... There are now two scenarios unfolding in Washington. The most likely one is that Bush will go full-steam ahead until the end of his term, keeping the maximum sustainable military presence on the ground in Iraq while portraying incremental reductions forced by structural constraints as “conditions-based withdrawals rooted in success.” However, in the absence of a political breakthrough at the national level in Iraq, which seems unlikely, this is a pathway to strategic and political exhaustion in the United States by late 2008, increasing the odds that the next President will pull the plug altogether. A second scenario would be a real bipartisan middle way emanating from Congress and forced on the administration that would reconceptualize and narrow American interests in Iraq, and begin a transition to a new approach intended to advance these more limited objectives. This is strategically and politically wise, but, to succeed, it would require substantial planning and preparation by the administration and the military now. This isn’t happening and isn’t likely to happen. Given the administration’s twisted interpretation of “middle way” and the organized attacks by surge cheerleaders on realistic bipartisan positions, the administration is on course to leave the next President a mess and no viable plan for smoothly transitioning out of Iraq. Well, at least they will help “end” the war the way it began!"

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Embattled Aipac Lobbyists Take Divergent Paths

From the Forward, here
"... Rosen, the group’s former policy director, continues to take a front-row seat at major foreign policy events and has positioned himself as a continuing presence in the ongoing debates about the Middle East. Weissman, on the other hand, has put a distance between himself and his former identity as a pre-eminent pro-Israel lobbyist.
Weissman has told friends that, free of the constraints posed by his employment by Aipac, he now sees himself as returning to his roots as a peace activist.
“I decided not to suppress my political views any longer,” Weissman, age 55, told a friend, according to sources close to the situation..."

"Baghdad's Never Looked So Good"

From the HuffingtonPost, here

CROCKER: It's all part of American democracy, but Baghdad's never looked so good.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Joe Lieberman:"How about another war?"

From TPM, You tube it here
"Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) doesn't think Gen. Petraeus has enough war on his hands. The senator (changing the subject from Iraq with "I want to go to Iran...") asked Petraeus if he wanted "the authority" from Congress to "pursue the Qods forces into Iranian territory." Petraeus, for some reason, politely declined to start a third contemporaneous U.S. war."

Iranian Intelligence Minister meets with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah

From Laura Rosen at War and Piece, this comment by Meir Javedanfar from a his private list, here
"...Gholam Hussein Ejehi, Iran's Minister of Intelligence met with both King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Moghren Ben Aabol Aziz... This goes to show how much emphasis and importance the Saudis attach to his position..."
" ...A fall in level of violence would also suit Iran. The current mayhem in Iraq has allowed PEJAK to use the vacuum to attack Iran's territory and its armed forces; a threat which Iran takes seriously. So serious that it has resorted to bombarding PEJAK positions inside Iraqi territory..."

Dave Petraeus and Iraq Kabuki

Larry Johnson in the TPM Cafe, here
"...One thing is certain–American soldiers will continue to die in Iraq and sometime next year, we will still be wrestling with the same basic question. Who lost Iraq?"

Internal Pentagon report is expected to "differ substantially" from Petraeus' recommendations on withdrawal from Iraq

From NEWSWEEK, here
"...NEWSWEEK has learned that a separate internal report being prepared by a Pentagon working group will “differ substantially” from Petraeus’s recommendations, according to an official who is privy to the ongoing discussions but would speak about them only on condition of anonymity. An early version of the report, which is currently being drafted and is expected to be completed by the beginning of next year, will “recommend a very rapid reduction in American forces: as much as two-thirds of the existing force very quickly, while keeping the remainder there.” The strategy will involve unwinding the still large U.S. presence in big forward operation bases and putting smaller teams in outposts. “There is interest at senior levels [of the Pentagon] in getting alternative views” to Petraeus, the official said. Among others, Centcom commander Admiral William Fallon is known to want to draw down faster than Petraeus..."

Syria and Israel flirt with war

From AsiaTimes, here.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Mazen Kerbaj on September 11

Petraeus & Crocker: Lang's perspective

From SicSemperTyrannis, here
Petraeus said that Iranian "Quds" force cadres and Hizbullah trainers "borrowed" by Iran have left Iraq
[Crocker] showed little taste for negotiating with the Iranians... has always liked to talk tough about negotiating with anyone. He seems to fear the "diplomatie au petit fours" image. Perhaps that is why Petraeus mentioned the Quds Force withdrawal

Petraeus' "chart": Basically, in 9 months we'll be back to square one"

... and afterwards, it all "depends"!


OFF the record with Rumsfeld: "I don't miss George Bush"

Via War & Piece, from CQ, here

Do you think your old buddy W. hopes he's Harry Truman in fifty years?

"I. Don't. Know."

Do you miss him?

"Um, no."

Securing Lebanon from the Threat of Salafist Jihadism

Via The Brookings Inst., here

US to build base near Iraq-Iran border

From War & Piece, here

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Petraeus says US surge has 'not worked out'

From South Africa's Mail&Guardian, here
"...The acknowledgement by Petraeus that the situation in Iraq is "exceedingly complex" and that progress had been "uneven" came on the eve of his testimony to Congress on the state of the war... The expressions of disappointment were a departure for Petraeus, who has been forceful in conveying what he sees are the success stories of the Bush administration's strategy in Iraq..."

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Lebanon's tensions rise as siege ends

Ominous? From the Guardian, here

(DOD) The Iraq Tribal Study: Al Anbar Governorate

Excellent study, here

ElBaradei under US pressure as efforts to "crank up" the Iran file are in full swing

From FORBES via Sic Semper Tyrannis, here and here.
"... The occupation of Iraq and a persistent search of the country by literally thousands of US government people failed to find anything of "WMD" except a few corroded gas shells from the Iraq-Iran War. So - Baradei was right all along. He was completely correct...
Where are they? The story I keep getting from these "believers" is that the materials are in the bottom of a lake, in Syria, etc. The complete lack of evidence has no effect whatever on the quality and intensity of belief...
Much the same propaganda campaign is "cranking up" now. I see no reason to think that this iteration of the same effort will not be equally successful..."

Friday, September 7, 2007

Planning for Defeat: How should we withdraw from Iraq?

George Packer in the New Yorker, here
"...The Petraeus-Crocker testimony is the kind of short-lived event on which the Administration has relied to shore up support for the war: the “Mission Accomplished” declaration, the deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein, Saddam’s capture, the transfer of sovereignty, the three rounds of voting, the Plan for Victory, the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Every new milestone, however illusory, allows the Administration to avoid thinking ahead, to the years when the mistakes of Iraq will continue to haunt the U.S."

"...Preparing a judicious withdrawal from Iraq will demand the integrated effort of the whole government, not just under this President but under the next one as well. “You just cannot pretend that the Iraq war never happened and everything can go back to how it was before,” the former Embassy official told me. “The status quo before 2003 no longer exists. We have introduced fundamental new disequilibriums into one of the most sensitive parts of the globe. How do you contain it?” He added, “People have to start thinking about these things—small study groups with military, State, and intelligence people sketching out what are the core interests on a regional level, and working back from that to discuss some options. If that’s been done, I don’t know about it.”"

Q&A with General David Petraeus

The Boston Globe with a defiant Petraeus, here

Thursday, September 6, 2007

A September rollout for Iran war? Two "hawkish" priorities: Sustain "surge" well into next year and rally American behind an attack on Iran

From UPI, here
"...The chronological juxtaposition of the Surge panel Sept. 6 and the rollout of Ledeen’s book Sept. 10 underlines the balance that AEI and other hawks (including the vice president’s office) are trying to achieve between their two top priorities at the moment -- sustaining the surge well into next year and rallying Congress and the public behind an attack on Iran before the end of Bush’s term..."

Ahmadinezhad's Power Slipping in Iran

From WINEP, here
"...some Iranian leaders seem concerned that Ahmadinezhad is too confrontational. That augurs well for the current Western strategy: forcing hard choices on Tehran through various pressures..."

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Barksdale AFB: "Staging Nuke for Iran?"

From Larry Johnson at TPM Cafe here
"... So I called a old friend and retired B-52 pilot and asked him. What he told me offers one compelling case of circumstantial evidence. My buddy, let’s call him Jack D. Ripper, reminded me that the only times you put weapons on a plane is when they are on alert or if you are tasked to move the weapons to a specific site.

Then he told me something I had not heard before.

Barksdale Air Force Base is being used as a jumping off point for Middle East operations. Gee, why would we want cruise missile nukes at Barksdale Air Force Base. Can’t imagine we would need to use them in Iraq. Why would we want to preposition nuclear weapons at a base conducting Middle East operations?

His final point was to observe that someone on the inside obviously leaked the info that the planes were carrying nukes. A B-52 landing at Barksdale is a non-event. A B-52 landing with nukes. That is something else..."

Sarkozy describes the French ambassador to Lebanon as “a famous cretin”

From the Economist, here
"... Ms Reza witnesses Mr Sarkozy unadorned. In one scene, he describes the French ambassador to Lebanon as “a famous cretin”, and a previous one to Russia as “an idiot”..."

Israel’s cost to the Arabs

Le Monde Diplomatique, here
"...Israel’s alliances with non-Muslim and non-Arab minorities within the Arab states were designed to disrupt internal cohesion. Israel cultivated the Maronites in Lebanon, for example, and its constant internal interference has destabilised the country. The long occupation of the south, 1982-2000, scarred its economic and social life. The massive Israeli attack on Lebanon in 2006 was an opportunity to fragment the country further, destroy the only effective anti-Israel force, Hizbullah, and revive Israel’s aim of establishing a friendly Lebanese government..."

Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates: "the threats of money laundering and terrorism financing are particularly acute"

Nonetheless, this is from WINEP, here

On Syria Hysteria

"We believe that there have been fewer suicide bombers coming through Syria, and we are cautious about this assessment, but we do think that the Syrians may have been taking more active steps against al Qaeda, which is understandable...I mean, if al Qaeda were ever to succeed in Iraq, the next thing they'd do is turn … [to] Damascus. I can assure you." Gen. Petreaus, here, and GD in the Belgravia Dispatch, here

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Khamenei clips the wings of Ahmadinejad

Barbara Slavin the USA Today, here
"... Taken together, the steps are a setback for Ahmadinejad, said William Samii, an Iran analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses, a think tank for the U.S. Navy.
"The supreme leader has taken actions to sideline Ahmadinejad and the people associated with him," Samii said. "People are fed up with Ahmadinejad and his belligerence. The regime will try to pursue a less confrontational foreign policy."

Deadly Persian Provocations

Reuel Marc Gerecht argues that bombing Iran has nothing to do with Bush & Cheney but with Iranian "provocations", here in MSNBC.

Out of Iraq, but ‘in the neighborhood'?

From MSNBC, here
McConnell: “There's a good chance that in September we'll go in a different direction. I don't think that means an arbitrary surrender date, but I think it's entirely possible that the president will lay out a strategy that takes us into a different place, which hopefully, at the end of the day, ends up with some American troops forward deployed in the Middle East at the end of this draw down that many of us are anticipating.”

Lebanon's rising jihadi threat: Beirut routs Bin Laden's allies

CSM, here and TIME, here
"...There is a nucleus of groups here that could easily become Al Qaeda in Lebanon," says Amal Saad-Ghorayeb of the Carnegie Endowment's Middle East Center in Beirut..."

Lebanese Army reemphasizes "Fath el Islam is not directed by the Syrian intelligence apparatus"

"Very Interesting" details appearing soon in a Nir Rosen story! stay tuned

Bremer counters Bush's allegations regarding Iraqi Army dissolution

From the NYTimes, here
"... Mr. Bremer provided the letters to The New York Times on Monday after reading that Mr. Bush was quoted in a new book as saying that American policy had been “to keep the army intact” but that it “didn’t happen.”


Monday, September 3, 2007

The Next Quagmire

From TruthDig, Here
"... U.S. Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns was rather blunt about the deal. He told the International Herald Tribune that the arms package “says to the Iranians and Syrians that the United States is the major power in the Middle East and will continue to be and is not going away.”
"... It is not hard to imagine what will happen. Iranian Shahab-3/Shahab-4 missiles, which cannot reach the United States, will be launched at Israel, as well as American military bases .. in Baghdad. Expect massive American casualties, especially in Iraq, where Iranian agents and their Iraqi allies will be able to call in precise coordinates. The Strait of Hormuz will be shut down.. Chinese-supplied C-801/C-802 anti-shipping missiles will target U.S. shipping, along with Saudi oil production .. Oil prices will skyrocket to well over $4 a gallon.. Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon, interpreting the war as an attack on all Shiites, will fire rockets into northern Israel. Israel, already struck by missiles from Tehran, will begin retaliatory raids on Lebanon and Iran. Pakistan will reach greater levels of instability.. Pakistan could become the first radical Islamic state to possess a nuclear weapon. The neat little war with Iran, which few Democrats oppose, has the potential to ignite a regional inferno..."

Fath el Islam's, Shaker El Abssi 103 Days later!

Conservative Military Historian V.D Hanson worries: "Don’t Bomb, Bomb Iran"

From the National Review online, here.

"War Council" travels with Bush to Al Assad airbase in Iraq

Lang points out that:
"...the president's travel party to Assad Air base (180 miles from Baghdad and 10 miles from Syrian border) includes; Gates, Rice, Pace, Fallon, Lute. There he will, of course see Petraeus and Crocker as well. Anyone else of note? Sounds like a council of war to me. Nice and isolated, minimal press interference and possibility of operational security planning breach. Well thought out. This will be a good place to get everyone "on board" and to coordinate tactics for the Petraeus/Crocker show to come..."
If I were Maliki, I would not want to plan on a long coninuance in office. He has been a great disppointment to the commander guy and "just plain Dick." Rumor has it that Crocker's on site supervisor (the comely Megan) says that the Badr/ISCI guys are the hope of the future. Since Maliki is the Secretary General of the Dawa Party, that might be inconvenient. If he has a house somewhere he ought to look to its present state of habitability. The Badr Brigades fellows were originally Iraqi Shia zealots who lived in Iran for 20+ years and who fought on the IRANIAN SIDE in the long Iran-Iraq War. That makes their relations with the Iraqis (Shia and Sunni) who fought for Iraq a problem. The Badrists have gained a large and ever growing role in the "Iraqi" (largely Shia) security forces. These guys are being handed (by the British) whatever parts of Basra that the British were in. Why? They are the government forces. They already have a side in the multi-dimensional internal Shia struggle for Basra, but, not to worry.

The Train has left the Station, but here's why it will not arrive at destination

From reader Cold War Zoomie (DoD) at SST, here

"1. The GOP congress-critters up for re-election aren't going to be happy with a "35-40%" support for a war. If some of the political analysis I'm reading is true, they are already very worried about how Bush's unpopularity and Iraq are going to hurt them in 2008.

2. The GOP rank and file is turning against Bush. They already see him as a liability. I'm watching die-hard Republicans turn against him. Sure, the neocons are still on the news channels' rolodexes, but I think that's more a sign of a broken news media that doesn't have the time to find new "experts" to fill their 24/7 schedule.

3. The Democratic Party's base will mobilize to challenge any Dem Congress-critter who does not fight Bush tooth and nail. So it just won't be the Republicans paying the price in 2008. There is a lot of talk in Lefty Blogosphere about mounting primary challenges to any Dem who does not oppose Bush's plans strong enough.

4. Finally, and probably most importantly, those old-timer GOPers from the Iraq Study Group who threw Bush a lifeline before the surge haven't gone into complete hibernation. I suspect they are exerting maximum pressure on Junior to stop the madness and get a grip on reality ..."

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Baghdad's New Owners: "Shiites now dominate the once mixed capital, and there is little chance of reversing the process"

From the September 10 issue of NEWSWEEK, here
"When Gen. David Petraeus goes before Congress next week to report on the progress of the surge, he may cite a decline in insurgent attacks in Baghdad as one marker of success. In fact, part of the reason behind the decline is how far the Shiite militias' cleansing of Baghdad has progressed: they've essentially won."

Bush was "unaware" that the Iraqi Army was being disbanded!

Via the Washington Note, a piece in the NYTimes, here & here.

Mr. Bush acknowledged one major failing of the early occupation of Iraq when he said of disbanding the Saddam Hussein-era military, “The policy was to keep the army intact; didn’t happen.”...But when Mr. Draper pointed out that Mr. Bush’s former Iraq administrator, L. Paul Bremer III, had gone ahead and forced the army’s dissolution and then asked Mr. Bush how he reacted to that, Mr. Bush said, “Yeah, I can’t remember, I’m sure I said, ‘This is the policy, what happened?’ ” But, he added, “Again, Hadley’s got notes on all of this stuff,” referring to Stephen J. Hadley, his national security adviser.

Gonzales exit strategy

If there is an indicator for a war with Iran, it would be the movement of Patriot/Arrow/whatever SAMs/ABMs to the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar

"'s clearly time to check out the indicators; currently, there is one US Navy carrier group in the Middle East (Enterprise and Co)... if there is a crackerjack indicator for a war with Iran, I reckon it would be the movement of Patriot/Arrow/whatever SAMs/ABMs to the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. Not only are they allies, and extremely vulnerable, Qatar is the seat of CENTCOM and various air bases, Bahrain of the US 5th Fleet's Middle Eastern logistic support, and Dubai is both the general political-economic centre, a hugely important port, and the seat of the only shipyard in the region with the hope of taking in a major warship (and, as in the Iran-Iraq war, making a fortune patching up tankers). Saudi oil installations need no introduction, but they (like Israel and Kuwait) have their own..."
Read more here

Patriarch Sfeir: "The matter of the incarcerated 4 Generals has to be addressed promptly"

Speaking at Sunday mass, Patriarch Sfeir asked that the matter of Generals Hamdan, Assayed, Azar & Al Hajj be dealt with "justly" either by bringing charges against them or by "releasing them immediately, ... because their incarceration without looking into their matter and without charges is a travesty of Justice."

Has the train left the station?

Most old North Korea hands have been of the opinion that the country was determined to build a war fighting capability with which to intimidate and dominate its neighbors.

A minority believed that this was not so and that the Korean program was largely designed as a bargaining chip in a larger diplomatic game. Looks like the second group were correct.

This should be an lesson to those who insist that diplomatic means will not be effective in dealing with Iran.

It should be a lesson but it will not be a lesson. The reason for that is that the lesson is not wanted.

In November or December of 2002, I took part in a town meeting in Lexington, Virginia on the subject of whether or not there would be war with Iraq. General Zinni and the dean of VMI were the other panelists. In that college town the audience was overwhelmingly anti-war.

At one point a panelist remarked that the discussion of this issue was enlightening but unproductive because on the issue, "the train had left the station."

I fear that a similar train has left the same station. My estimated time of arrival is...

Pat Lang

"Test Marketing": Threat level on the possibility of war with Iran might have just gone up to "orange"

From the New Yorker, and building on Barnett Rubin's piece (scroll down below) here
"True? I don’t know. Plausible? Absolutely. It follows the pattern of the P.R. campaign that started around this time in 2002 and led to the Iraq war."

Pentagon ‘three-day blitz’ plan for Iran

From the Times, here
"Israel, which has warned it will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, has made its own preparations for airstrikes and is said to be ready to attack if the Americans back down."

Saturday, September 1, 2007

De Borchgrave: "Sarkozy convinced Bush is serious about bombing Iran's secret nuclear facilities"

From UPI, a couple of days old, here
"A ranking Swiss official, speaking privately, said, "Anyone with a modicum of experience in the Middle East knows that any bombing of Iran would touch off at the very least regional instability and what could be an unmitigated disaster for Western interests."

As Her Star Wanes, Rice Tries to Reshape Legacy

From the New York Times, this essay by Helen Cooper, here
"... Now Ms. Rice is working hard to reshape her legacy in her remaining 16 months in office. Beyond trying to influence the historical record, Ms. Rice is trying hard to rewrite her legacy to include something more than Iraqzeroing in in recent months on Arab-Israeli peace, as a possible source of redemption...
...she has used those sanctions (Iran), along with tough rhetoric, to tamp down the national-security hawks in Vice President Dick Cheney’s office who have argued for greater consideration of military strikes against Iran...
... In Pakistan, while continuing to express support for elections, she has scrambled for ways to keep Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a military dictator who took power in a 1999 coup, in office...
... Her goals now appear to be focused on a face-to-face high-level meeting between Israeli officials and their Saudi counterparts, in what could eventually bring about the type of rapprochement not seen since President Carter brokered the Camp David accord between Sadat and Begin in 1978..."

State Department Disagrees With Michael O'Hanlon, White House, Pentagon About GAO Iraq Report

From TPM, here
"...The draft has circulated within the State and Defense departments for comment before its publication.
Although the State Department proposed some changes, it did not dispute the basic conclusions, said an administration official involved in Iraq policy. The Pentagon, however, "made some factual corrections" and "offered some suggestions on a few of the actual grades," Morrell said..."