Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, March 12th, 2008
Nir Rosen: I think it's absolutely a failure, the surge. I think that less violence is actually a sign of the failure of the surge.
The violence during a civil war was very logical. It was an attempt to remove Sunnis from Shia areas and Shia from Sunnis areas, and it's been incredibly successful. There are virtually no mixed areas left in Iraq.
You have what Americans call gated communities, effectively a Somalia-alike situation, where you have different neighborhoods surrounded by walls, controlled by a militia or a warlord. And they're sectarianally pure, all Shia, all Sunni. There's no reconciliation between the two communities.
FREDERICK KAGAN: Well, there's a magnificent myth out there that Mr. Rosen just reiterated for us that there are no mixed areas in Iraq anymore and that the cleansing is completed.
And it's astonishing to me that someone who's been in Baghdad for as long and as much as Mr. Rosen has been could say something like that. There are still Shia areas in western Baghdad, not only in Kadamiyah, around the Kadamiyah shrine, in which there will always be Shia, but also in west Rashid…..
You have to remember that, when the surge went in, the purpose actually was just to get Baghdad under control. It was initially called the Baghdad security plan.
A variety of developments, including the turning of the Sunni Arabs against al-Qaida and the insurgency, have allowed us to be playing for much more than that. And so we've actually managed to stabilize a large swath of central Iraq.
And there has also been remarkable political progress. There's been progress on almost every one of the major pieces of benchmark legislation.
And so — and the Iraqis are — there's a new fluidity. When you look at the Iraqi political dynamic in Baghdad now, at the senior levels and throughout, there's a new fluidity in the equation, which comes from the fact that the Iraqis certainly feel that violence has dropped to levels where what they are starting to care about is less security and more moving forward with their country.
No-Man's Land: Palestinian Refugees Trapped on the Syrian Border by James Denselow
… For these vulnerable refugees, it was a case of leaving the frying pan of Baghdad only to find the fire of the barren desert camps. The refugees in the Al-Waleed camp in particular are subject to fluctuating politics of local and regional sheikhs in the lawless Anbar province. These local authorities try to secure a share of the aid business and intervene according to their own interests. This makes the work of the international aid organisations extremely difficult as they are regularly hindered in carrying out their jobs effectively. Security is so poor that overnight visits are not possible. Other players interfering in the running of the camp include the border police, local police and the Iraqi army.
Both camps are characterised by tented accommodation due to the fear that more solid structures would encourage permanent settlement in what constitutes the most peripheral and unforgiving of locations. Given the harsh weather conditions — the freezing cold in winter, the unbearable desert heat in summer — and the regular threats from fires, snakes and scorpions, long-term dwelling in a tented settlement is simply not a viable solution…
Syria will not invite Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to attend the Arab league summit, which is probably why the Saudi Kingdom is Ready to Attend Arab Summit in Syria: Prince Sultan
Memri has an interesting article on Iran's initiative to improve relations with Egypt: "Iran's Aim in Rapprochement with Egypt: Undermining U.S. Power, Gaining Regional Dominance."
According to a BBC World Service poll, global support for economic sanctions or military strikes against Iran is dropping. In thirteen of twenty-one countries polled, stern measures were increasingly unpopular. Only in three countries – Turkey, Israel and South Korea – was a tough stance towards Iran more popular.
BEIRUT: Lebanese Forces (LF) boss Samir Geagea, who left for the United States on Saturday, met on Tuesday with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as part of a tour of America.
US National Security Advisor Steven Hadley has told the LF chief that America was strongly committed to helping the Lebanese build an independent state, the An-Nahar daily quoted a White House source as saying on Tuesday.
"The US is still strongly committed to help the Lebanese people fulfill their dream of building a free, independent and prosperous state," Hadley told Geagea in Washington on Monday, according to the source.
Bush Moves to Bolster Support for U.S. War Effort
He Says Politics Won't Sway Him
(By Michael Abramowitz, The Washington Post)
Here is how Ray Close (ex-CIA) explains the Fallon dismissal.
I believe that the Bush people have long since given up (privately) on the thought of actually launching a preemptive attack on Iran (with or without Israeli collaboration), for many very obvious military and political reasons of which the whole world is well aware. However, I believe they (especially the Cheney crew) are too stubborn and arrogant to acknowledge that the so-called military option is a practical impossibility, despite their constant sinister reminders that it is still "on the table".
The Bush administration is, unfortunately, at a complete loss to devise any workable alternative strategy, and that is making them more sensitive and prickly than ever.
The White House therefore recognized (as did we all) that Fallon's openly contrarian views on the subject were undermining the credibility of their hollow bluff. It was acutely embarrassing when this controversy was exposed to friends and foes alike all over the world (especially in a barbershop journal like Esquire), and controversial and divisive within the inner offices of the Washington policy establishment — hence unacceptably insubordinate. This is not an Administration that tolerates criticism on any level, and especially when its own insiders expose once again their most precious but worst kept secret — that the Iraq quagmire has left the world's greatest superpower, the United States of America, effectively incapable of employing its awesome military might to back up its publicly proclaimed strategic objectives. Someone once neatly reversed Teddy Roosevelt's famous dictum in describing this as "Walking stickly but carrying a big soft."
Dissenting Views Made Fallon's Fall Inevitable
By Gareth Porter*
WASHINGTON, Mar 11 (IPS) – Admiral William Fallon's request to quit his position as head of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and to retire from the military was apparently the result of a George W. Bush administration decision to pressure him to resign.
Announcing the resignation, Defence Secretary Robert M. Gates said he believed it was "the right thing to do", thus indicating the administration wanted it.
On Monday, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell, asked whether Gates still had full confidence in Fallon, would only say that Fallon "still enjoys a working — a good working relationship with the secretary of defence", and then added, "Admiral Fallon serves at the pleasure of the president."
The resignation came a few days after the publication of an Esquire magazine article profiling Fallon in which he was described as being "in hot water" with the White House and justified public comments departing from the Bush administration's policy toward Iran. The publicity that followed the article accelerated the pressure on Fallon to resign.
But Fallon almost certainly knew that he would be fired when he agreed to cooperate with the Esquire magazine profile in late 2006.
On Tuesday, Fallon issued a statement saying, "Recent press reports suggesting a disconnect between my views and the president's policy objectives have become a distraction at a critical time and hamper efforts in the Centcom region."
The resignation brings to an end a year, during which time Fallon clashed with the White House over policy toward Iran and with Gen. David Petraeus and the White House over whether Iraq should continue to be given priority over Afghanistan and Pakistan in U.S. policy.
Fallon's greatest concern appears to have been preventing war with Iran. He was one a group of senior military officers, apparently including most of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who were alarmed in late 2006 and early 2007 by indications that Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney were contemplating a possible attack on Iran.
Gates chose Fallon to replace Gen. John P. Abizaid as CENTCOM chief shortly after a Dec. 13, 2006 meeting between Bush and the Joint Chiefs at which Bush reportedly asked their views on a possible strike against Iran.
Col. W. Patrick Lang, a former intelligence officer on the Middle East for the Defence Intelligence Agency, told the Washington Post last week that Fallon had said privately at the time of his confirmation that an attack on Iran "isn't going to happen on my watch", When asked how he could avoid such a conflict, Fallon reportedly responded, "I have options, you know." Lang said he interpreted that comment as implying Fallon would step down rather than follow orders to carry out such an attack.
As IPS reported last May, Fallon was also quoted as saying privately at that time, "There are several of us trying to put the crazies back in the box". That was an apparent reference to the opposition by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to an aggressive war against Iran.
Even before assuming his new post at CENTCOM, Fallon expressed strong opposition in mid-February to a proposal for sending a third U.S. aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf, to overlap with two other carriers, according to knowledgeable sources. The addition of a third carrier was to part of a broader strategy then being discussed at the Pentagon to intimidate Iran by making a series of military moves suggesting preparations for a military strike.
The plan for a third carrier task force in the Gulf was dropped after Fallon made his views known.
Fallon reportedly made his opposition to a strike against Iran known to the White House early on in his tenure, and his role as CENTCOM commander would have made it very difficult for the Bush administration to carry out a strike against Iran, because he controlled all ground, air and naval military access to the region.
But Fallon's role in regional diplomacy proved to be an even greater source of friction with the White House than his position on military policy toward Iran. Personal relations with military and political leaders in the Middle East had already become nearly as important as military planning under Fallon's predecessors at CENTCOM.
Fallon clearly relished his diplomatic role and did not hesitate to express views on diplomacy that were at odds with those of the administration. Last summer, as Dick Cheney was maneuvering within the administration to shift U.S. policy toward an attack on bases in Iran allegedly connected to anti-U.S. Shiite forces in Iraq, Fallon declared in an interview, "We have to figure out a way to come to an arrangement" with Iran.
When Sunni Arab regimes in the Middle East became alarmed about the possibility of a U.S. war with Iran, Fallon made statements on three occasions in September and November ruling out a U.S. attack on Iran. Those statements contradicted the Bush administration's policy of keeping the military option "on the table" and soured relations with the White House.
Fallon also antagonised administration officials by pushing for a faster exit from Iraq than the White House and Gen. Petraeus wanted. Fallon had a highly-publicised personal and policy clash with Petraeus, for whom he reportedly expressed a visceral dislike. Sources familiar with reports of his meetings with Petraeus in Baghdad last March told IPS last spring that he called him an "ass-kissing little chickens**t" in their first meeting.
Fallon later denied that he had used such language, suggesting to Esquire that the sources of the report were probably army officers who were indulging in inter-service rivalry with the navy. In fact, however, the sources of the report were supporters of Fallon.
Fallon's quarrel with Petraeus was also related to the latter's insistence on keeping U.S. troops in Iraq, even while the NATO position in Afghanistan was growing more tenuous. Fallon was strongly committed to a strategy that gave priority to Afghanistan and Pakistan as the central security challenges to the United States in the Middle East and Asia.
Fallon made his distaste for a long war in Iraq very clear from the beginning. He ordered subordinates to stop using the term "long war", which had been favoured by the Bush administration. He was reported to be concerned that the concept would alienate people across the Middle East by suggesting a U.S. intention to maintain troops indefinitely in Muslim countries.
Fallon's policy positions made him unpopular among neoconservative supporters of the administration. One neoconservative pundit, military specialist Max Boot, criticised Fallon last November for his public comment ruling out a strike against Iran and then suggested in January that Petraeus should replace the "unimpressive" Fallon at CENTCOM.
Fallon was playing a complex political game at CENTCOM by crossing the White House on the two most politically sensitive issues in Middle East policy. As a veteran bureaucratic infighter, he knew that he was politically vulnerable. Nevertheless, he chose late last year not to lower his profile but to raise it by cooperating fully with the Esquire article.
IPS has learned that Fallon agreed to sit for celebrity photographer Peter Yang at CENTCOM headquarters in Tampa Dec. 26 for the Esquire spread, despite the near-certainty that it exacerbate his relations with White House. That may have been a signal that he already knew that he would not be able to continue to play the game much longer and was ready to bring his stormy tenure at CENTCOM to an end.
*Gareth Porter is an historian and national security policy analyst. The paperback edition of his latest book, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam", was published in 2006.