News Round Up (12 March 2008)

Measuring Success of the Surge: Nir Rosen Debates Fred Kagan at PBS

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

Also, See this short video: excellent

… 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. 

Geagea gets pledge of support from officials in Washington

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.

Comments (107)

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101. Akbar Palace said:

My ability to criticize our country much more than others does not mean I’m blind to what’s going on around us. But I’d much rather focus on what I need to do in my home first, than to shoot in all directions, hoping that soothes my conscience when I go to bed each night.


Thanks for the response. I will try to focus in on your criticisms of the other parties to the conflict (other than the usual whipping boy, Israel), but at least you admit that the brunt of your criticism IS focused on Israel “first”.

I have discussed the Arab-Israel conflict much in the past, and you certainly wouldn’t be the first Israeli or Jew to hold that attitude. I just find it interesting that I have never met anyone from the opposing, pro-Palestinian side who was able to do the same.

I am fighting for our long term existence by on the one hand being ready to put on my uniform should Israel face another war, while on the other, doing everything I can to try to bridge the gaps between us and the Arabs around us.

I find that very commendable, and I congratulate you on this. Hopefully you won’t have to put on your uniform.

But you will need to do that, if you want him to respect you.

Sadat bravely fought wars against Israel, and he also bravely made accomodation and peace with her as well. The only difference between Sadat and King Hussein, is that they never took their people down the road to never-ending martyrdom just to spite Israel.

…I can’t imagine how you’re truly open to understanding someone else.

I can truly understand someone else when they stop hurting and terrorizing me. Anything else is equivalent to “battered-wife sydrome”.

Abbas cannot prepare his people for peace, because half of them don’t listen to him, they listen to Hanniyeh. So when he works out his differences with Hamas, maybe his people will listen. Until that happens, we cannot sign an agreement with the Palestinians.

What the people want has never stopped a Palestinian president. So really, I do not buy this. However, if what you say is true, and if Abbas can’t move away from “resistance”, than it is the Palestinians who are not ready for peace and there is little the Israelis can do.

Abbas is not my friend, he is Israel’s friend. And that is PRECISELY our problem. We cannot, should not, MUST NOT, make peace with our friends.

I think this is an exaggeration on your part. I don’t think he’s a friend, I think he’s a difficult negotiating partner. An “enemy” with a tie.

We can only make peace with the “bad guys”.

I disagree. The GOI will NEVER make peace with Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and scores of other rejectionist organizations. Their “raison d’etre” is tied to Israel’s destruction.

While it is true that you cannot force the other side to make peace with you, you can do everything possible on your end first.

Again, I disagree. Israel should never unilaterally withdraw from land “hoping” peaceful overtures will result. Israel already has several data point proving this “pipe-dream” patently false. Unfortunately, land-for-peace has to be negotiated assuming someone is interested in the land.

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March 14th, 2008, 4:22 pm


102. Alex said:

Enlightened said:

Alex: Habibi (you are bereft of humour sometimes) re read Karfan about the Jolan thats with a J not G;

“that Arabs like to associate with a winner?” is that because we are the biggest losers??? I dont get it!

I am starting to think that you actually believe in this “culture” of resistance philosophy?


Let’s just say that you are not able to understand me at all here … or that I failed miserably in explaining what I am trying to say.

It’s ok … we’ll move to other topics.

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March 14th, 2008, 5:09 pm


103. Enlightened said:


Ya maskeen:

Maybe I misread it, I just dont think that resistance will get the Jolan back, we tried and failed, it is better to use other means mainly negotiations.

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March 14th, 2008, 11:43 pm


104. Zenobia said:

Offended, don’t be offended.
but you are misinterpreting me or misrepresenting me.

I am not taking issue with anyone identifying as Arab. I am happy and proud to identify myself with this heritage.

the issue started with Norman’s support for the idea of the “Arab Nation”… and that was where I took issue.

I dont’ think it wise to identify a Nation along ethnic terms. this is about words that are highly symbolic and weighted. And overdetermined.
Have you heard of the Aryan Nation???? Helloooooo….
It automatically comes out with connotation of DNA more than culture.

so let me just ditto Nour.. who got it right again. A nation should be based on culture, ok. but the entire Middle East cannot be lumped into one culture at all….

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March 15th, 2008, 7:56 pm


105. wizart said:


Could peace not finally emerge in our lifetime through appreciating cultural similarities between various Mid-Eastern countries? After all isn’t the U.S and Europe both made up of various sub cultures?

A quote from NY times article about how to prove you’re a jew..

“The traditional willingness to trust a person who said he was Jewish, Ehrentreu asserts, presumed that no one had anything to gain by it. Today, he told me, there are ulterior motives — to be able to leave another country and come to Israel, “to be recognized here as Jewish, to be able to get married.” That is, Israel’s prosperity, its attractiveness to immigrants, is now a reason for doubt.

Friedman, the reigning academic expert on ultra-Orthodox society in Israel, suggests that the deeper reasons for doubt are difficult for the rabbis to articulate. In contrast to Orthodox Jews like Farber, the ultra-Orthodox have little sense of risk that by raising doubts they might exclude a person who is really Jewish. “If you don’t keep the Torah and the commandments, O.K., so I excluded you. In any case you weren’t a complete Jew,” is how Friedman explains the attitude.

The policy of suspicion is applied to all immigrants. Rabbi Rasson Arussi, chairman of the Chief Rabbinate’s committee on marriage, told me that “populations where there is doubt about Jewishness” include those from Western countries, specifically “the sectors connected to Reform Jews.” The rabbinate’s expectations, however, are a poor fit with the United States. American Jews generally don’t have government papers testifying to their Jewishness. While a British Jew might turn to his country’s chief rabbinate for certification that he is Jewish, the very idea of a chief rabbi sounds outlandish in the United States.”

It seems like all various refugees have to do to obtain Israeli’s citizenship is to become jewish by religious conversion! If this is possible and your nation is defined by having a common culture then it seems logical to conclude the entire Arabic Israeli conflict could be redefined in terms of religious tolerance or the lack of.

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April 4th, 2008, 10:50 am


106. wizart said:

So what’s the idea of jews migrating to Israel?

is it to establish a religion based country?

isn’t that what Binladin and the Talibans aspire to do?

The nation of Israel is like the nation of Islam with real teeth 🙂

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April 10th, 2008, 8:05 pm


107. wizart said:

“Afghanistan does not have the resources and neither does Osama have the strength or resources. He is not in contact with anyone and neither have we given permission to anyone to use the Afghan land against anyone.

We have not tried to create friction with America. We have had several talks with the present and past American governments and we are ready for more talks.

We have told America that we have taken all resources from Osama and he cannot contact the outside world. And we have told America that neither the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan or Osama are involved in the American events. But it is sad that America does not listen to our word. America always repeats threats and makes various accusations and now it is threatening military attack.

This is being done in circumstances in which we have offered alternatives on the Osama issue. We have said, if you have evidence against Osama, give it to the Afghan Supreme Court or the ulema (clerics) of three Islamic countries, or have OIC (Organisation of Islamic Countries) observers keep an eye on Osama.

But America rejected these, one by one. If America had considered these suggestions there would not have been a chance of such a great misunderstanding. We appeal to the American government to exercise complete patience, and we want America to gather complete information and find the actual culprits.

We assure the whole world that neither Osama nor anyone else can use the Afghan land against anyone else.

And if even after this, America wants to use force and wants to attack Afghanistan and our innocent and oppressed people and wants to destroy the Islamic emirate, we seek your guidance and a fatwa (ruling) on the issue in the light of Islamic Sharia.”

Speech above was given by Mullah Omar in Afganistan in 2001.

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April 11th, 2008, 9:56 am


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