Friday, September 10, 2010

So, Who Won the War in Iraq? Iran

By Mohamad Bazzi

BEIRUT, Lebanon - In February 2003, as he marshaled the United States for war, President George W. Bush declared: "A new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region."

Now, as the U.S. military concludes its combat role - which President Barack Obama will formally announce from the Oval Office on Tuesday - Iraq is indeed a dramatic example for the Middle East, but not in the ways that Bush and his administration envisioned. Iraq did not become a beacon of democracy, nor did it create a domino effect that toppled other dictatorial regimes in the Arab world. Instead, the Iraq war has unleashed a new wave of sectarian hatred and upset the Persian Gulf's strategic balance, helping Iran consolidate its role as the dominant regional power.

The Bush administration argued that its goal was to protect U.S. interests and security in the long run. But the region is far more unstable and combustible than it was when U.S. forces began their march to Baghdad seven years ago. Throughout the Middle East, relations between Sunnis and Shiites are badly strained by the sectarian bloodletting in Iraq. Sunnis are worried about the regional ascendance of the Shiite-led regime in Iran; its nuclear program; its growing influence on the Iraqi leadership; and its meddling in other countries with large Shiite communities, especially Lebanon.

Iran is the biggest beneficiary of the American misadventure in Iraq. The U.S. ousted Tehran's sworn enemy, Saddam Hussein, from power. Then Washington helped install a Shiite government for the first time in Iraq's modern history. As U.S. troops became mired in fighting an insurgency and containing a civil war, Iran extended its influence over all of Iraq's Shiite factions.

Today's Middle East has been shaped by several proxy wars. In Iraq, neighboring Sunni regimes backed Sunni militants, while Iran supported Shiite militias. In Lebanon, an alliance between Washington and authoritarian Sunni Arab regimes - Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries - backed a Sunni-led government against Hezbollah, a Shiite militia funded by Iran. And in the Palestinian territories, Iran and Syria supported the militant Hamas, while the U.S. and its Arab allies backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah movement.

In 2007, at the height of the insurgency and sectarian conflict in Iraq, I went to see Marwan Kabalan, a political scientist at Damascus University. He explained the regional dynamics better than anyone else. "Everyone is fighting battles through local proxies. It's like the Cold War," he told me. "All regimes in the Middle East recognize that America has lost the war in Iraq. They're all maneuvering to protect their interests and to gain something out of the American defeat."

With U.S. influence waning and Iran ascendant, Iraq's other neighbors are still jockeying to gain a foothold with the new government in Baghdad. For example, Saudi Arabia's ruling Al-Saud dynasty views itself as the rightful leader of the Muslim world, but Iran is challenging that leadership right now. Although Saudi Arabia has a Sunni majority, its rulers fear Iran's potential influence over a sizable and sometimes-restive Shiite population concentrated in the kingdom's oil-rich Eastern Province. In Bahrain (another American ally in the Persian Gulf), the Shiite majority is chafing under Sunni rulers who also fear Iran's reach.

Even worse, the brutal war between Iraq's Shiite majority and Sunni minority unleashed sectarian hatreds that are difficult to contain. This blowback has been most keenly felt in Lebanon, a small country with a history of religious strife. During Lebanon's 15-year civil war, which ended in 1990, the sectarian divide was between Muslims and Christians. This time, the conflict is mainly between Sunnis and Shiites - and it is fueled, in part, by the bloodbath in Iraq.

After Saddam was executed in December 2006, Sunnis saw the U.S. and the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government as killing off the last vestiges of Arab nationalism. Although Saddam was once a dependable ally of the West, by the 1990s he was among the few Arab leaders who defied the United States and European powers. In the Sunni view, America and its allies eradicated the idea of a glorious Arab past without offering any replacement for it - other than sectarianism.

In 2007 and 2008, Lebanese Sunnis felt besieged as they watched news from Iraq of Shiite death squads executing Sunnis and driving them out of Baghdad neighborhoods. At the same time, Hezbollah was trying to topple the Sunni-led Lebanese government by staging street protests and a massive sit-in that paralyzed downtown Beirut. In January 2007, as they confronted Hezbollah supporters during a nationwide strike, groups of Sunnis waved posters of Saddam and chanted his name in front of TV cameras.

It was a rich contradiction: American-allied Sunnis in Lebanon carrying posters of Saddam, a dictator the U.S. had spent billions of dollars and lost thousands of lives to depose. But it was also a declaration of war. Saddam, after all, killed hundreds of thousands of Shiites in Iraq. Many Lebanese Shiites have relatives in Iraq, and the two communities have had close ties for centuries. Lebanon's political factions eventually compromised on a new government, but the underlying sectarian tensions are still in place, with everyone keeping a wary eye on Iraq.

As Iraq's Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds argue over sharing power and the country's oil wealth, violence is on the rise yet again. The latest elections produced a deadlocked parliament in Baghdad that has not been able to agree on a new government. Far from becoming a model of freedom and religious coexistence, Iraq remains a powder keg that could ignite sectarian conflict across the Middle East.

Mohamad Bazzi is a journalism professor at New York University and an adjunct senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Douglas Macgregor, PhD

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Future U.S. Geostrategic Focus

There will be plenty spirits of Iraq policy past, present and future crowding the dais tonight as the President announces a “successful” transition and “a promise kept” for the drawdown of American troops from Iraq.

There’s George W. and Dick Cheney and their ghoulish courtiers – Donald Rumsfeld and his number two Paul Wolfowitz, not to mention coalition provisional authority viceroy L. Paul Bremer and Douglas Feith, all who dragged the country into Iraq and then botched it irreparably.

Hovering close by are our military demigods, Gens. David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno, gently plucking and pulling the strings of the president who is trying to convince the American people that Iraq is all but over, despite leaving 50,000 soldiers and a civilian force of at least 10,000 staff and heavily armed security contractors behind.

But the real phantasm casting a pall over the proceedings is an Iraqi one and he represents it all – the past, present and more importantly, the future of Iraq .Muqtada al Sadr, once dismissed by Washington neoconservatives as a desperate, washed-up five-cent firebrand, is now an Iranian-supported kingmaker who will not only help determine the next government and prime minister, but has threatened to activate the armed wing of his low-lying Mahdi Army, the Promised Day Brigade, if the American “occupier” doesn’t pack up and leave entirely.

The “Promised Day Brigade” will “prepare quietly to launch qualitative attacks against the occupiers ( U.S. forces) if they stay beyond 2011,” said Sadr spokesman Salah al-Obeidi, to the Associated Press, in May. “It will have a big role to play to drive them out of Iraq .”

Sadr is of course, an awkward subject for an administration attempting to project the best, most optimistic image in the rear-view. This was Bush’s war, and Obama seems eager to keep it that way, more so, to move on and to focus on his mess in Afghanistan. But he is having a hard time fully extricating – Odierno has already suggested scenarios in which the U.S combat mission might have to resume – and the fact that there is no government, and may not be any government without Sadr’s say-so, must be very difficult to stomach back in Washington.

Says writer Babak Dehghanpisheh, in his August Foreign Policy piece, “The King of Iraq“:

“The Sadrists … aren’t going anywhere – which puts Washington , among others, in a bind. Sadr’s supporters are more than just a political party. The cleric is clearly following the Hezbollah model, creating populist political movement backed by a battle-hardened militia. The language Sadr uses when discussing the U.S. presence in Iraq – resistance, occupation, martyrdom – could easily have been taken from a speech by Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah. All this has discouraged U.S. officials from holding talks with Sadr – something they’ve never done since 2003. It’s not exactly like Sadr has gone out of his way to open up a dialogue, either. In fact, Sadr and many of his top aides have made it clear that the Mahdi Army won’t disarm as long as there are American troops on Iraqi soil.”

From the start, the 37-year-old cleric, politician and militia leader has openly denounced the security agreement allowing for the gradual drawdown of troops by 2011. When the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) was signed in 2008 by Bush and Sadr’s political rival, Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, Sadr promised blood in the streets unless the U.S left sooner.

“I repeat my call on the occupier to get out from the land of our beloved Iraq , without retaining bases or signing agreements,” said Sadr, who has been in religious training, and managing his political affairs from a safe perch in Iran for the last three years. “If they do stay, I urge the honorable resistance fighters … to direct their weapons exclusively against the occupier.” His words came a month after tens of thousands of his supporters took to the streets in Baghdad against the SOFA.

In a piece called “The Bad Boy of Iraqi Politics Returns,” Mohamad Bazzi points out how “Sadr’s political ascendance threatens to stoke sectarian tensions in Iraq,” which are particularly acute as a wave of violence, reportedly sparked by remaining al Qaeda factions in Iraq, have killed hundreds in the country over the last several weeks. While American leaders appear to downplay it, the fact that an anti-American Shia who once tested U.S military resolve in Najaf, Karbala , Basra and Baghdad , is gathering himself up for a big political victory and possibly, a future Shia revival, seems to be the silent ugly truth of Obama’s “successful” troop drawdown.

“Under the circumstances, (Sadr’s) power and influence inside Iraq ’s Shia community is both permanent and growing,” noted retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor. “He is unlikely to lead the country, but he and his supporters will wield decisive influence.”

But We Thought He Was Dead!

Maybe not dead, but certainly defeated. A number of times – or at least it always seemed so. But he always comes back. Sadr is the son-in-law of a Shia martyr and the fourth son of the beloved Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr, who was murdered in 1989 along with two of Sadr’s brothers, allegedly by Ba’athists working for dictator Saddam Hussein. Because Sadr’s father had sacrificed his life by remaining in Iraq rather than fleeing to Iran during Saddam’s dictatorship, his family name invokes great respect and authority among the Iraqi Shia to this day. Baghdad ’s Sadr City was later named for his martyrdom.

Muqtada al Sadr has only enhanced this influence and legitimacy among Sadrist Shia followers during the U.S war, for rebelling against and not consorting with “the occupier,” nor bending to the wills of Maliki or even Iran . Just last week, Sadr told his hosts in Iran that he will leave them and set up shop in Lebanon if they continue to exert pressure on him to join Maliki in a coalition government. The political situation has been in a stalemate since March when parties backed by Sadr and former prime minister Iyad Allawi won enough seats to break Maliki’s grip over the formation of the future government.

Sadr does not support, nor trust Maliki, after the Iraqi prime minister took up common cause with the Americans and helped lead a series of crackdowns on Sadrist strongholds, particularly Sadr City , in 2007 and 2008 as part of the infamous “Surge.” At the time, throughout several wobbly ceasefires and Sadr’s exile to Iran , his movement appeared doomed to the dustbin. Since then, Maliki’s forces have fully penetrated Sadr City , the remaining loyalist fighters seemingly melted away.

According to the Washington Post, Sadr froze the Mahdi Army’s activities in 2008 and “has since divided most of his men into two unarmed civic organizations called Mumahidoon, ‘those who pave the way,’ and Munasiroon, ‘the supporters,’ to provide services to the poor, protect mosques and study religion. The aforementioned Promised Day Brigade is the Mahdi’s only armed wing. Offshoots of the old army, referred to by the U.S military as “special groups,” operate independently, and often contrary, to Sadr’s leadership and goals.

But Muqtada’s influence among the Shia has always been second-guessed by American analysts. During a wave of Mahdi Army uprisings in 2004 in which Sadr’s forces briefly gained control of key Shia cities over American forces, neoconservative Michael Rubin at the American Enterprise Institute called Sadr “a desperate man,” who wanted to “cash in on his family’s name,” and whose “support has hemorrhaged over the past several months.” A month later, Charles Krauthammer declared that Sadr’s militia, was “systematically taken down by the U.S military.”

Not quite – it turned out they had a few good fights left in them. Sadr, meanwhile, was not so disregarded by the Shia that he wasn’t able to influence the 2006 elections. Sadr-backed candidates won an impressive 30 seats in the election and helped to propel Maliki to the head of the government. Sadr’s political sway was only matched – and surpassed – in this way in March, when his candidates won 40 seats and a coveted place at the bargaining table.

“Sadr has once again shown greater political skill than the United States and his Iraqi rivals usually give him credit for,” wrote Mohamed Bazzi in July. Patrick Cockburn, author of Muqtada, told Antiwar Radio’s Scott Horton recently that Sadr represented “the only grassroots movement in Iraq .”

As Cockburn explained in his book, while U.S media and government “demonizes and belittles” Sadr, his political – and physical – survival belies a strength that Americans may not be fully prepared to understand or ultimately overcome. “Muqtada and his followers are intensely religious and see themselves as following in the tradition of martyrdom in opposition to the tyranny established when Hussein and Abbas were killed by the Umayyads on the plains of Karbala fourteen hundred years ago,” writes Cockburn.

In other words, while the American lens might see Sadr as just another ambitious man seeking political control of Iraq, it may be missing the bigger picture, that Sadr is studying in Iran to become an ayatollah in the tradition of his family, perhaps seeking to become an authoritative, supreme religious leader who commands the politics and steers Iraq into a more purist Shia vision – one that has no place for the America’s own strategic vision for the Middle East.

The prospect for this should be what tickles the back of Obama’s neck as he takes to the podium this evening.

“The key point,” says Macgregor, “is we spent a trillion dollars, sacrificed and destroyed thousands of US lives and millions of Arab lives with the result that we changed nothing of significance inside Iraq .”

Douglas Macgregor, PhD

Response received from H. Mark R.

Dear Colonel Macgregor,

I am not a writer but your views on the HDNet show coincided so much with my deep down gut feelings that I decide to write my views.


I heard a speech by Colonel Douglas Macgregor, US Army retired, where he said “ America’s first concern should be prosperity because economic prosperity is the foundation of military power. We are not a great military power because we had genius generals. We are not a great military power because God necessarily selected us for this role. We are a great military power because of this economic engine that was constructed between the Civil War and World War I and then expanded as a result of World War II. That engine is in trouble.” Our number one concern, as taxpayers, should be economic prosperity.

Ask yourself the really tough question, was (is) Iraq worth it? Economists today say that the total cost of the Iraq war will total three (3) trillion dollars from the United States taxpayers. A number that is hard to comprehend. Was Iraq and taking down its leaders really worth 3 trillion dollars? Oh! I remember now; it was about those questionable weapons of mass destruction. How many problems of the United States could we have resolved with that amount of money? Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, securing our borders, not increasing our national debt, education, roads and bridges, just to mention a few. I am talking about issues within our United States borders.

I support our Military; however, our leaders (the President, Congress, and Department of Defense) have let spending get out of hand. They are not asking the right questions. Today, the United States is spending 250 million A DAY in Afghanistan. According to experts, we could be there another 10 years. You do the math. How much is Afghanistan going to cost American taxpayers? What will we, the taxpayers, benefit from this Afghanistan expenditure? Will this help our economic prosperity?

What was the cost of Vietnam? What did that war cost in lives and dollars? Oh! I remember now, it was about that questionable Gulf of Tonkin issue. Did Vietnam help our economic prosperity?

Can anyone tell me how we get economic prosperity by spending trillions of dollars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan? What is the benefit to the taxpayer? I understand the benefit to the military contractors like Halliburton and its subsidiaries, but what about main-street, the people like you and me?

The United States spends more on its military budget than the next 48 largest military budgets combined! Our military budget is about half of all the world's military budgets combined. Is this helping us achieve economic prosperity here in the United States? What is the benefit to the taxpayer? Opposition will say “safety.” Is spending trillions being “over there” really making the United States safer “over here?”

Colonel Douglas Macgregor states “If you take all of the tax revenues that we create every year in the United States, collectively they will pay for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. That’s all. All other federal spending whether it is for the Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy or Department of Defense comes from printed and borrowed money. Now my question and what every American citizen should ask is, “Is this sustainable?” I don’t think it is.”

I agree with Colonel Macgregor that it is not sustainable. Unless we stop spending our tax revenue for causes that do not make sense over the long run, we can say goodbye to economic prosperity and hello to bankruptcy.

Are we interested enough in democracy and this way of life to sit down and think things through on the really tough issues, to bring about real economic prosperity?

H. Mark R.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Four More Years Of War -- Just For Starters

Four More Years Of War -- Just For Starters

First Posted: 07-30-10 09:30 AM | Updated: 07-30-10 10:33 AM

Dan Froomkin

The ever-accumulating case against the war in Afghanistan was bolstered this week by WikiLeaks's dissemination of over 70,000 previously secret reports documenting in vivid and unvarnished detail the brutality and futility of the American mission there.

But even as the public's patience with the war in Afghanistan is growing shorter, the timeline for an American troop withdrawal appears to be growing longer.

There are increasingly clear signs that President Obama's vow to start withdrawing American troops less than a year from now will be fulfilled through a technicality if at all, and that the real timeline for significant troop withdrawal -- barring a change in course -- now extends at least to 2014, if not far beyond.

One signal was Vice President Joe Biden's offhand remark to ABC News earlier this month that the promised summer withdrawal "could be as few as a couple thousand troops" although "it could be more."

This from the administration's most prominent opponent of escalation, a man who had earlier said you could "bet on" a "whole lot of people moving out" in July 2011.

The uninspiring Senate testimony in mid-July from Richard Holbrooke, Obama's special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan , also raised red flags. Holbrooke repeatedly ducked questions about what the administration's desired "end state" is, and whether things are going along on schedule. He instead pointed senators toward a list of what he called "benchmarks."

But the document to which Holbrooke referred is in fact full of vague, sometimes entirely unmeasurable "milestones" that carry no deadlines and trigger no consequences.

"All of these benchmarks are designed to pacify onlookers on the Hill, help to justify our presence in the country, and set unrealistic goals that everyone knows are not going to be met," said retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor, a respected military strategist and author. "You're never going to achieve them. None of this is aimed at extricating American power and forces from anywhere."

So, asked for an exit strategy, the administration instead offered up guidelines for an endless occupation.

And then last week, in a nearly unnoticed development at an international conference in Kabul, world leaders including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed their "support for the President of Afghanistan's objective that the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) should lead and conduct military operations in all provinces by the end of 2014."

That's right: The end of 2014.

"I was kind of struck that the 2014 didn't get more critical attention than it did," said Paul R. Pillar, formerly the CIA's top Middle East analysis and now a Georgetown University professor. "The war will have gone on 13 years at that point."

Pillar said he expected a strong public reaction along the lines of "Wait, what does that imply in terms of our troop presence? In terms of how fast or how slowly our withdrawal next year is going to go?" And: "Whoa, you mean it's going to be another four years from now... and even that's not total victory?"

And keep in mind that 2014 is the corrupt, ineffective Afghan President Hamid Karzai's best-case scenario. That's if all goes according to plan. And nothing in Afghanistan ever goes according to plan.

Indeed, the Guardian recently reported that plans made not so long ago to begin handing control of some provinces to Afghan security forces by the end of this year "have been quietly dropped."

The British paper also noted: "Gen. David Petraeus is said to be planning a campaign measured in years, not months."

The uselessness of the so-called "benchmarks" the administration is now citing, in a document entitled Afghanistan and Pakistan Regional Stabilization Strategy, are particularly telling.

Some are specific -- but meaningless in the absence of a target date:

"That means you're going to create a national system in a place that has never been a nation-state?" asked Macgregor, the military strategist. "If you wait for that one, you will be in Afghanistan for about 200 years."

Some are delusional. For instance under the heading of reducing corruption:

Appointment of competent, reform-minded leaders of critical ministries... and also to key provincial and district positions in the South and East.

Macgregor grumbled to the Huffington Post: "If they find them there, they should recruit them and use them here first."

Some are naïve, delusional, unmeasurable and meaningless all at once.

Afghanistan's neighbors begin to shift their policies to reinforce increased cooperation, over time.

Macgregor sees the benchmarks not as reflecting a sincere attempt to describe a way out of Afghanistan . Rather he sees them as a witting or unwitting reflection of the neoconservative desire to keep the American military deployed in that region indefinitely. "They're designed to keep you in Afghanistan , because you're never going to achieve them," he said.

"If you wanted to pick a place that was a nightmare for every conceivable form of nation-building, Afghanistan would be it," Macgregor said. Only the people that live there can fix their problems, he said. "It's not going to happen as a result of military power."

It's worth noting that the benchmarks document itself apparently went through a pretty serious declawing process, sometime between last September, when the Foreign Policy website got hold of an early draft, and January, when the first version of the existing plan was first released.

For instance, gone from the new plan is this commitment:

By March 30, 2010 and on regular intervals thereafter, the interagency will draft an assessment of progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan . As a check and balance on the interagency, a separate assessment will also be produced by a Red Team, led by the National Intelligence Council."

In the earlier draft, but missing from the final version, are actually measurable metrics, such as "percent of population living in districts/areas under insurgent control" and "Afghan Government's institutions at the national, provincial, and local level, including ability to hold credible elections in 2009 and 2010" (already quite definitively resolved to the negative.)

The administration's aversion to real benchmarks is understandable, to a certain extent. So far, all accountability has got them is heartache.

Specifically, in audit report after audit report, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), Arnold Fields, has exposed major problems not just in accomplishing key goals, but also in the administration's attempts at measuring them.

For instance, the successful development of Afghan security forces is, of course, central to Obama's strategy. But the SIGAR reported last month that the "Capability Milestone" rating system (CM) that has been the Pentagon's primary metric for measuring the development of Aghan forces had overstated their capabilities.

Among other problems the SIGAR found, top-rated Afghan units were not capable of what the Pentagon said they were, and the rating system didn't sufficiently account for such endemic problems as attrition, corruption, poor leadership, drug abuse, and illiteracy.

And then there's the single biggest problem with benchmarks: Their fundamental misuse by this administration, just like the last one. Benchmarks only really mean something if meeting them -- or failing to meet them -- has consequences.

But Obama, just like George W. Bush did with Iraq, refuses to say what message he will take from these assessments. If we meet the benchmarks, does that mean mission accomplished and we can leave? And more realistically, if we fail to meet the benchmarks, does that mean we have to try harder? Or does it mean that we finally acknowledge the futility of the enterprise and withdraw?

Ironically, it was then-senator Obama who, back in 2007, asked then-secretary of state Condoleezza Rice the exact questions he won't answer today, namely: What if things don't go according to plan? What if the occupied country's government remains in shambles? What exactly are the benchmarks for success? And what are the consequences if they are not met? Is the United States really willing to walk away? (See my December column, Obama's Questions for Obama.)

But when it comes to the "or else" part of the benchmarks, Obama, just like Bush, is boxed in because he has declared this to be a war that we must win.

Meanwhile, however, Obama remains on the record as saying that his commitment to Afghanistan is not open-ended. "There's gotta be an exit strategy," he told CBS News last April. "There's gotta be a sense that this is not perpetual drift."

But perpetual drift is as good a description of what we're seeing today as any. And the longer the drift continues, the louder the voices of concern and dissent will get.

Already, there are signs that the political dynamic that has fueled our war efforts may be shifting. Since 9/11, continuing the war has generally been seen by politicians as synonymous with supporting the troops and keeping our nation secure. (It's the ultimate victory of the Neocons.) In reality, of course, they are not synonymous at all -- if anything, they are inimical. But with the Republican Party in lockstep behind the war effort, the Democratic leadership -- terrified of appearing weak -- has gone along enthusiastically.

Now, however, there are signs that some Republicans are joining forces with some Democrats in opposing the war.

So far, they are short of critical mass.

In a series of votes in the House on July 1, a measure to provide funds only for a withdrawal won 100 votes. A measure to create a timetable for withdrawal drew 162 votes of support.

And on Tuesday, 102 Democrats joined a dozen Republicans to oppose Obama's war supplemental in its entirety, resulting in a 308-114 vote.

With polls showing a distinct drop in support for the war, and opposition growing in Congress, Obama's options may soon become more limited.

"I think the political pressures back here are going to push the Obama administration into something more rapid than that 2014 implies," said Pillar.

WATCH Obama questions Condoleezza Rice about the Iraq benchmarks in 2003:

Dan Froomkin is senior Washington correspondent for the Huffington Post. You can send him an e-mail, bookmark his page; subscribe to RSS feed, follow him on Twitter, friend him on Facebook, and/or become a fan and get e-mail alerts when he writes.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

News Alert: Secret Archive Gives Grim View of Afghan War

Hopefully, the revelations from these archives, especially about the inadequacy of the deployed forces, equipment, generalship and RoE in Afghanistan even with the "surge," and the perfidious duplicity of so-called "allies" and "partners" in Kabul and Islamabad, along with the acute lack of progress on most fronts, will make it clear that the US and NATO need to pack up their civilians and conventional forces and withdraw quickly, and totally shift to a punitive policy of seeking out and liquidating international Islamist terrorists and those harboring them inside and outside of the United States. The United States cannot afford to modernize, secularize, liberalize, democratize, or even enduringly stabilize Afghanistan , let alone, the Islamic World even if it was possible to do so and it is not. We should withdraw and let the centuries-old Great Game between India , Russia , and Iran play out without wasting American, British, French and other allied blood and treasure in a pointless military intervention.

A gradual pull-out will only lengthen the agony, increasing the cost in lives and resources without changing the ultimate outcome: persistent civil and cross border conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan . There is no point in delaying the inevitable withdrawal and the equally inevitable de facto division of Afghanistan along ethnic and cultural lines. The same holds true for pulling out of Iraq . Extending the time will not alter the strategic outcome.

Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Sun, July 25, 2010 -- 5:27 PM ET
Secret Archive Gives Grim View of Afghan War

A six-year archive of classified military documents to be
made public on Sunday offers an unvarnished, ground-level
picture of the war in Afghanistan that is in many respects
more grim than the official portrayal.

Read More:

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Seized sub quantum leap for narcos... and terrorists

Remember that most of the major narco-trafficantes also provide services-for-hire to Islamist extremists. A submarine like this one operated by Latino Drug Traffickers can carry many things including Chemical, Biological and Nuclear materials into American coastal waters along with the Muslim Terrorists to employ them.

The Muslim Terrorists who directly threaten the American people are not in Afghanistan or Iraq . They are operating right now from Central and South America against us, using our open borders and coastal waters to infiltrate into the US . Nothing we are doing in Afghanistan , Iraq , Somalia , Yemen or anywhere else in the Islamic World is securing the American people against the growing nexus of terrorism and criminality in the Caribbean Basin . Thanks, Doug Macgregor

DEA: Seized submarine quantum leap for narcos
From Associated Press
July 04, 2010 7:14 PM EDT

Friday, June 18, 2010

Flotilla Fallout

Flotilla Fallout
Damage Done by Israel 's Raid Echoes in Region

Published: 14 June 2010

No one predicted the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico , particularly after the largely accident-free drilling of thousands of off-shore oil wells. Neither could anyone have predicted that Israeli troops would kill Turkish civilians in Israel 's effort to block last week's humanitarian aid flotilla bound for Gaza .
Yet these recent events are creating a proverbial sea change in the Middle East , one that signals the end of Israeli-Turkish security cooperation and friendship, the keystone in the region's American-sponsored security architecture since the end of World War II.

Washington's eyes are now justifiably riveted on Ankara where the sea change is well underway. The attack on the Turkish-flagged ship and the killing of Turkish citizens was an affront to Turkish national pride. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey 's prime minister and a devout Muslim, confronts the situation with the wholehearted support of an enraged Turkish population.

Turkey is the 13th-largest economy in the world. Its military establishment, the largest among European NATO members, is also well-equipped, disciplined and aggressively nationalistic. Turkey , not Iran , is the region's true superpower, a nation-state with the power to create a new Middle East.

The big unknown for Washington is what Erdogan will do next. Will Erdogan direct the Turkish military to escort the next humanitarian flotilla into Gaza ? How will the Turkish generals, who view themselves as the guardians of secularism inside Turkish society, react?

Surely, the Turkish generals who've cooperated closely with the American and Israeli military establishments are frantically searching for a way out of the crisis. Or, perhaps this thinking is wrong; perhaps this crisis has inadvertently forged a bond between Turkey 's Islamist prime minister and Turkey 's secular military leaders?

Terrible Timing

The crisis could not come at a worse time. Washington is betting heavily on the Turks to help stabilize Iraq as U.S. forces withdraw. Erdogan has worked hard to end the Kurdish-Turkish conflict, which has claimed 40,000 lives, even sanctioning the use of the Kurdish language in all Turkish broadcast media and political campaigns.

For Turkey , which tends to view Iraq 's Kurdistan Regional Government as indistinguishable from the violently anti-Turkish Kurdistan Workers' Party, better known as the PKK, this development has been nothing short of a miracle.

Once again, events in Gaza may put these arrangements at risk. Turks, secular or Islamist, never had much incentive to allow anti-Turkish Kurds to exploit 3 percent of the world's oil reserves in northern Iraq to bankroll regional aims and terrorism against Turkey.

Ankara and Tehran have reportedly discussed spheres of influence in Iraq when the United States leaves, giving Turkey control of Iraq 's northern (Kurdish) territory, as well as its enormous oil wealth, leaving Iran to control the central and southern Iraq through its Shiite Arab surrogates in Baghdad .

Now, Turkey and Iran may form substantive agreements that are antithetical to Washington 's interests.

Meanwhile, if a confrontation with the Turks over Gaza ensued, Turkish conventional military strength might lead Israel to threaten use of nuclear weapons against Turkey . If NATO, under pressure from Washington , refused to acknowledge Turkey 's protection under Article V of the NATO Charter (NATO's nuclear umbrella), then NATO would certainly dissolve and the Turks would likely turn to Russia , Iran or even China for support.

Ankara also could go nuclear much faster than Tehran , given the assistance of the Pakistani military establishment, the Turkish military's longtime strategic partner.

For the moment, things are unlikely to go this far, but no one in the United States or Israel should miss the long-term strategic impact of the American and Israeli military occupations of Iraq and Palestine . Both created radicalized groups and embittered Muslim populations scarred by the unwanted presence of foreign troops.

Israeli occupation of Lebanon and Palestine enabled Hizbollah and Hamas to emerge as viable political forces, while U.S. military occupation of Iraq expanded Iranian strategic power and influence.

Eventually, the United States will tire of pouring billions into contractors and making payoffs to Arabs and Afghans and withdraw its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan . But the Israelis contend with an insoluble security problem at their very gates. To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson's words, in Gaza and in the rest of the Palestinian territories, " Israel has a wolf by the ear, and Israel can neither hold him, nor safely let him go."

Whatever course Israel adopts in the months ahead, it must measure carefully what it might gain from maintaining the blockade by what it might lose, not just in Gaza , but from the Nile to the Black Sea .

U.S. Army Col. Douglas Macgregor (Ret.) is a fellow at the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information, Washington. His latest of four books is "Warrior's Rage: The Great Tank Battle of 73 Easting."