The New Iraq, Five Years and Counting: Current Discussion Thread

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Mr44, Jan 1, 2007.

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  1. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    LtNOWIS, you're actually wrong on your casualty statistic. Source I have lists deaths for this past May was 19 US, 2 other for 21 total. February 2004 was 20 US, 1 UK, 2 other, for a total of 23 killed in action. So this wasn't the losest since Feb 2004, this was the lowest, period.
  2. LtNOWIS Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 19, 2005
    star 4
    Huh. Looks like you're right. I stand corrected.

    Anyways, the Washington Post editorial board has the same conclusions as me. It wasn't online when I wrote my post; we just thought the same, apparently.
  3. Darth Geist Force Ghost

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    Oct 23, 1999
    star 5
    Definitely good news. And this is encouraging too.
  4. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    "The surge is working."

    We've seen the reports. Violence is down. Fewer Iraqis are becoming internally or externally displaced each months. There are now more than 70 Joint Security Stations and Combat Outposts established by U.S. and Iraqi forces in Baghdad. This is up from 10 in early 2007.

    Clearly, these kinds of initiatives have made a lot of difference, as have the payments the U.S. military has made to more than 85,000 Sunnis to participate in security improvements as part of the "Sunni Awakening" (despite concerns that Sunnis are using these payments in part to rearm themselves).

    One thing we have to understand is that a better military strategy in Iraq will not result in Iraq becoming a workable politically and economically viable integrated state.

    The Bush administration, unfortunately, has not coupled its military success with a new diplomatic strategy aiming toward political reconciliation and economic rebirth. The consequence: none of the current progress may be sustainable.

    From an April 08 Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing I think is a good summary of the situation.

    Despite military successes in the "surge," the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq will most likely result in an internal conflagration that could spill over borders, increase the threat of trans-national terrorism, send oil prices soaring further, and add to the number and anguish of 4.5 million Iraqi refugees and displaced people. Yet, keeping American troops in Iraq is an unsustainable stopgap in the absence of major progress toward a political settlement among Iraq?s competing and warring factions.

    This is a critical moment for Congress to give the Administration the strongest possible impetus to undertake a focused diplomatic initiative with the United Nations and key international partners to seek a brokered political settlement in Iraq. Such an initiative must go beyond well-worn platitudes about the Administration?s commitment to diplomacy. It must focus on building a sustainable compromise among key Iraqi parties. It must recognize that the U.S. would benefit from a strong UN political role ? if that role and its leadership are well structured. It must reflect the need to coordinate diplomatic activity and American military assets.

    We must also be realistic. Although the chances for a diplomatic initiative producing a brokered political settlement are not high, it is still worth trying. The cost of trying is low.




    The bad news is that any real political progress for Iraq will have to await the end of the Bush administration, but I think this is a good summary of the first order of business for the next president. Re-engage the UN on achieving a brokered political settlement for Iraq that will also transition the U.S. role in Iraq to a UN peacekeeping role.

    I don't think McCain is the man for this job.
  5. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
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    But in this regard, how would he be any different than Obama? First and foremost, Congress is going to have to get involved at least internally. But I also see a couple of other major reasons why Obama would be less effective than McCain:

    1)The first reason is that Obama has A LOT, almost too much, to prove. He spent the opening 2/3 of his campaign promising that he would immediately (within 6 months) start removing the troops from Iraq. After just about everyone pointed out that this would be a horrible idea on its own, Obama has backed off on those claims, but he's painted himself into a corner. I'm not sure anyone really believed that he would immediately remove the troops anyway.

    The result is that he's left himself to make weird leaps of logic like claiming that he'll remove only "combat troops" from Iraq, without stopping to realize that hostile action is a fickle mistress, and doesn't stop to wait and see what Obama labels as combat troops or not.

    2)Point 2 relates back to point 1, in that defaulting too much to the UN is a bad, bad, place to be. Iraq wouldn't even have had to be invaded in 2003 if the entire situation wasn't poisoned by 12 years of UN inefficiency and bureaucracy to the point of outright corruption.

    You need someone to keep the US troops on course in Iraq while the ultimate situation is debated within the UN. McCain is certainly more capable than Obama in the first regard, and he's also less one sided than Bush in the other regard.
  6. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Re point 1), I don't think Obama will suffer much from, as you say, advocating the wrong policy in Iraq. Even though he has clearly advocated the wrong policy in Iraq. A new diplomatic initiative that involves Congress, the Iraq geopolitical region and the UN is easily the smartest way to split the difference between those who are demanding change on the hopes of a quick U.S. pullout, and those who worry that a quick U.S. pullout is a recipe for disaster.

    It really is the only path toward reconciling U.S. domestic political needs and the reality on the ground in Iraq. I believe Obama will be smart enough to see it, and I think most Americans will recognize the need for flexibility in letting Obama chart a course for our Iraq policy. The sacrifice for all of us will be surrendering U.S. control over the outcome, which in any case was already surrendered at the moment of the invasion.

    Re point 2) My position is that Iraq didn't have to be invaded in 2003, so I don't have much sympathy for blaming the UN for our current predicament. The UN did a horrible job managing its role in the economic sanctions in part because the overall policy of economic sanctions was so horrible and unworkable. There's no getting around the corruption, but still. The sanction regime was wrongheaded from the beginning.

    You need someone to keep the US troops on course in Iraq while the ultimate situation is debated within the UN. McCain is certainly more capable than Obama in the first regard, and he's also less one sided than Bush in the other regard.

    One thing that I think would be reasonable for either Obama or McCain to do is keep Gates on as secretary of defense. Is there any precedent for this? You have a successful wartime secretary of defense with a new president coming in.
  7. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    Well, point 1 is the all important one though, re:

    A new diplomatic initiative that involves Congress, the Iraq geopolitical region and the UN is easily the smartest way to split the difference between those who are demanding change on the hopes of a quick U.S. pullout, and those who worry that a quick U.S. pullout is a recipe for disaster.

    But to me, this is where my "backed himself into a corner" statement came from. What would "split the difference" entail? Since Obama has backtracked on his pull-out-immediately claims, what exactly would his plan be- in relation to his superhuman Change You Can Believe In perception? Keep the status quo while it meanders through the UN? Remove the troops, but send them back when the situation worsens?

    In short perception could work for Obama, but at the same time, its his worst enemy. I'm not sure he knows how to reconcile the two. I think a McCain administration would be much more capable in terms of looking at what is working, while at the same time jettisoning what the Bush administration did incorrectly.

    One thing that I think would be reasonable for either Obama or McCain to do is keep Gates on as secretary of defense.

    We're in complete agreement here. I don't think there is precedent for such action though. Even during wartime in the past- Korea or Vietnam- the longest any SecDef's lasted between changes of administrations was a couple of weeks.
  8. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    Just to clear the air here, I think we all understand that Obama is just another politician. However, he might be particularly well suited to a few presidential roles. And one of those I think will be as statesman. I just don't see McCain in that role. George Bush was a horrible statesman - almost pathetically uncomfortable and out of place on the world stage. McCain? Not much of an improvement. His Iraq messaging seems to be entirely a George Bushian message, delivered in an eerily George Bushian way: "let's just keep doing the surge, no matter how long it takes, until the Iraq ship of state rights itself and sails off into peace and prosperity."

    Well, that isn't going to happen. What's needed at this point is a U.S. president with the ability to take on the role of global statesman in an open, transparent-looking, UN-heavy initiative to find a brokered diplomatic solution in Iraq.

    The real success of the surge is that the lull in violence creates a short-term window of opportunity for a diplomatic initiative. But someone has to launch the diplomatic initiative. George Bush won't do it because the risk of failure is high and he won't risk adding one last failure to his legacy.
  9. Mr44 VIP

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    May 21, 2002
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    His Iraq messaging seems to be entirely a George Bushian message, delivered in an eerily George Bushian way: "let's just keep doing the surge, no matter how long it takes, until the Iraq ship of state rights itself and sails off into peace and prosperity."

    But that's not accurate. McCain supports Petraeus's plan of using US troops to support Iraqi operations. Now, the success of that has been mixed, but it has also been steadily improving. On the US side, the surge just isn't about sending masses of troops into Iraq who then proceed to run around like headless chickens, it's about using the additional troops as targeted reinforcements for Iraqi missions. That's why the surge has been successful, because even though there are more US troops in Iraq, they have an Iraqi face.

    It is all important that many former insurgent groups are now acting against groups like al Qaeda in Iraq, because the extra-national organizations are forced to attack Iraqi citizens. Petraeus understands the difference, and that's why he was tapped to command US CENTCOM. It's what CENTCOM does.

    There are two more upcoming elections that are important. The Iraqi provincial election is taking place in just about 4-5 months. After that, the next national election is going to happen in 2009.

    If one must use the term, those are going to be the next 2 benchmarks. At least until then, US policy can't unfold independently of the situation in Iraq, and that's what I'd say Obama doesn't get at the moment.
  10. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
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    That's a difference of opinion then. I don't think those two benchmarks are going to be particularly meaningful for the long-term viability of an Iraqi state any more than previous benchmarks have been. Previous political benchmarks did not fall short merely because of the failure of securing Iraq from high levels of violence but also because the process itself was marred from the beginning. All the earlier mistakes in the political process are accumulated into these benchmarks in much the same way that the economic catastrophe of the first three years of the war carries on despite the security improvements.
  11. Mr44 VIP

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    May 21, 2002
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    I'd say though that the previous benchmarks have been distorted as to what they should be, and I mean how they've been portrayed by the press. I'm not commenting on the specific success or failure of any of the benchmarks, but rather how the term (and resulting expectation) has come to be defined in all or nothing terms. It's also why I was loathe to use it in the first place.

    A while back in this thread, someone mentioned how the benchmarks were always changing. The topic at the time was how the US declared that some local Sunni groups were no longer being characterized as "the enemy." But that's the idea...The fact that someone would look at the situation like this really shocked me. These groups were never actually the enemy, and when they stopped hostile action against the US, they were folded into the political process. This doesn't mean that these groups have to agree with or support the US presence in Iraq, the snapshots were never meant to be unchanging, ironclad checkmarks.

    The above example is just but a single one. But in this case the benchmark shouldn't be looked at in terms of "the US was fighting a group and stopped short before it destroyed it." The benchmark was that "the US was fighting a group that ended up including itself in the political process and shifted its focus away from the US."

    The provincial elections will help determine how US forces are allocated within the country. The last US army unit organized as part of the surge will be rotated in July, and then the provincial elections will wrap up in Iraq. After that, we'll have the results of the US Presidential election, and the new President will be inaugurated as the national elections happen in Iraq.
  12. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Don't forget we're buying Sunni cooperation, person by person. What do you think they're doing with the money? They're buying food and clothing for themselves and their families. And they're more than likely buying guns and storing them up for a future conflict with Shiite Iraq. Hope for the best. Plan for the worst.

    But about the political process, sure, I wouldn't try to stop it from going forward, but I don't think it will bring the country any closer to solving the underlying ethnic, political and economic tensions that work against the viability of an un-partitioned Iraq. But it remains to be seen. I certainly would be wary of overselling it as progress on the road to political stability in Iraq.
  13. Mr44 VIP

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    May 21, 2002
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    I don't disagree with any of that, but along the same lines, I'm not sure how much is cause for alarm either.

    To make another comparison to the Balkans again.. Private citizens everywhere were hoarding small arms like they were going out of style. Why wouldn't they though? The country was wracked by civil war and ethnic cleansing, and just because NATO says the conflict is over, doesn't mean the people involved all become happy, and everyone sings songs and holds hands in the sunshine. The Dayton Accords regulated the instruments of war used in the conflict -tanks, artillery pieces, attack jets, etc.. but realistically, the treaty couldn't address all of the pistols, Ak's and assorted rifles that the millions of people might be hoarding, as long as they didn't use them to threaten NATO forces.

    But the difference became one of scale. The civilian authorities are able to cope with isolated revenge killings, or specific examples of neighbor on neighbor violence.. At least the circumstances (vast movements of people, mass graves, organized genocide, etc...) that lead to the complete breakdown of government and anarchy were overcome.
  14. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    Mar 19, 1999
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    It's hard for me to tell how relevant those kinds of comparisons are. For one thing. In Iraq, our occupation was the direct proximate cause of the ethnic cleansing and refugee crisis and revenge killings, etc. We unleashed all that. That might change the dynamic of our ability to reap the rewards of quelling the violence we brought about.
  15. Mr44 VIP

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    You're correct in that the comparison is being stretched, but another difference is that we definitely picked sides in the Balkans. NATO all but bombed the Yugoslav FRY forces/Serbs back to the stone age, and/or attacked the Serbs on sight until they capitulated to NATO, and eventually the UN's authority. It meant that the Balkan "conflict phase" was much more intense than a comparative peacekeeping operation would be, but it also meant that the "sides" were more readily identified.

    The Iraqi equivalent would be if the US picked the Kurds to be the heir apparent in Iraq because they had suffered at the hands of so many groups, and then continually bombed the Shiites and the Sunnis until they recognized such authority, before anything else was started.

    Of course, the political realities meant that the latter option wasn't really an option at all in Iraq, for better or worse.

  16. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    Mar 19, 1999
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    The Iraqi equivalent would be if the US picked the Kurds to be the heir apparent in Iraq because they had suffered at the hands of so many groups, and then continually bombed the Shiites and the Sunnis until they recognized such authority, before anything else was started.

    I don't mean to quibble over details, but that really is kind of what happened in Iraq.
  17. Mr44 VIP

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    May 21, 2002
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    Eh, not really. You're correct in the sense of giving the Kurds an artificial role in the political process. Maybe I didn't illustrate the scope of what I was detailing.

    In the initial phases, NATO treated the Balkans with a typical war footing, instead of in the manner one would expect a peacekeeping operation to look like.

    If there was a Serb tank in the open, it was destroyed. If there was a mass of FRY troops in an area, they were bombed. NATO removed the Serb's ability to wage any kind of conflict. I think this resulted in a smoother transition, because even if "Serb insurgents" wanted to attack NATO targets, they didn't have the ability to. In short, the old fashioned smack down sacrificed fairness to get results.

    In Iraq, the US had to treat the three groups as relative equals out of necessity. The situation there represented a more complex mixture, and accordingly, the results have been less straightforward.
  18. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    Mar 19, 1999
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    For me, questions still very much up in the air:

    1. Where and when are there going to be breakthroughs on the key questions of federal-regional distribution of political power, oil revenue sharing and minority rights?

    2. Is the Iraqi government or any Iraqi group currently able to produce a political settlement for Iraq's competing ethnic factions?

    3. What will happen with Kirkuk and Turkey - Kurdish Iraq relations?

    4. Will provincial elections in October really increase stability or will they increase ethnic strife?

    5. What are prospects for province-by-province political reconciliation when national politics are still such a mess? What are the limits of the bottom up approach?
  19. LtNOWIS Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 19, 2005
    star 4
    According to the Economist, the Surge has worked "better than even the optimists had hoped," and Iraq may be turning the corner.
  20. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    Mar 19, 1999
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    According to the NY Times,

    Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP ? the original partners in the Iraq Petroleum Company ? along with Chevron and a number of smaller oil companies - are in the final stages of negotiations this month on no-bid contracts that will return them to Iraq to service Iraq's largest oil fields, 36 years after losing their oil concession to nationalization as Saddam Hussein rose to power.

    [image=http://www.buzzflash.com/articles/files/bush-mission.jpg]
  21. Quixotic-Sith Manager Emeritus

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    http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSL1549095220080617?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews
  22. Mr44 VIP

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    Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP ? the original partners in the Iraq Petroleum Company ? along with Chevron and a number of smaller oil companies - are in the final stages of negotiations this month on no-bid contracts that will return them to Iraq to service Iraq's largest oil fields, 36 years after losing their oil concession to nationalization as Saddam Hussein rose to power.


    I read that as well. Ironically, when the agreement is finalized, it will bring Iraq full circle to the 60s'/70's. It was the monopoly that lead to the nationalization of resources- which lead to the cementing of the Baath Party- which lead to Saddam Hussein as dictator. It's a giant "reset" button for Iraq.

    Although I wonder if attacks will pick up again at Kirkuk and the other oil fields or freak the Iranians out even more.
  23. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    Mar 19, 1999
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    Improved oil infrastructure security has definitely been a tangible result of the surge. The Iraqis are going to have to find a way to strike a balance between their national pride and greed. On the one hand, the occupiers may be getting privileged access to the oil flow. On the other hand, the extra revenue from an added 500,000 barrels a day production, and that's hopefully just for starters, is going to be substantial.

    When we invaded Iraq, oil was ~ $30/barrel. Now it's trading above $130. The Iraqis have to understand the kind of influence they will wield as a nation if they stabilize enough to get their oil infrastructure rebuilt.
  24. Mr44 VIP

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    When we invaded Iraq, oil was ~ $30/barrel. Now it's trading above $130. The Iraqis have to understand the kind of influence they will wield as a nation if they stabilize enough to get their oil infrastructure rebuilt.

    That's why from a long term standpoint, the actions of Sadr and the like haven't made sense. Why tell your followers to go blow themselves up or plant roadside bombs?

    If I had a militia that was comprised of my own followers, or I wanted to cement my power within Iraq, I would be working overtime to become Minister of Oil and project my influence from behind the scenes. The Iraqi Minister of Oil is going to be the most powerful person in the country, and regionally, make decisions that sit second to Saudi Arabia.
  25. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
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    One of the reasons is that oil flows out of Iraq in a very leaky way. If you can't control the oil ministry, why not just control a chunk of the oil smuggling trade? No one is entirely sure what percentage of Iraqi oil is leaving the country through the back door on the black market.
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