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    18 April 2007

    Larry Korb on Iraq and the surge

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    OK, OK... One man's account is just that. One man's account. But an authoritative one... His resume includes:
    Senior Fellow and Director of National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations...Senior Fellow in the Foreign Policy Studies Program at the Brookings Institution, Dean of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh, and Vice President of Corporate Operations at the Raytheon Company...Assistant Secretary of Defense (Manpower, Reserve Affairs, Installations and Logistics) from 1981 through 1985...

    Larry Korb of the Center for American Progress and the Center for Defense Information recently returned from Iraq. He visited for 10-days. He stayed outside the Green Zone (now called the International Zone since it is not, as they say, green). He kept a diary it's published at the CAP website. ThinkProgress has a snippet... and another...

    This is my 'summary', I highly recommend you read this in order to extract your own 'interesting points'. 'Cause I surely missed a tonn...

    On the surge:
    "The long wait did allow me to speak to some of the contractors about the situation on the ground. When I assured them I was not a member of the press, they were unanimous that the surge was not working. One of them said that members of Muqtada Al-Sadr’s militia have sold their guns and melted back into the population in Sadr City and will buy back their guns at the appropriate time (our own security guard said something similar)."

    This was the 7th. It is unfortunate but I believe what I've been reading indicates that the Sadrists have been in line at the gun shop. I heard or read somewhere that 40 bodies indicative of Mahdi Army death squads appeared in Baghdad over the past couple days.

    :::

    Here's the big quote picked up by the bloggers at TP.org describing Korb's conversation with an official close to al-Maliki:
    That evening at dinner, I had an interesting discussion with an Iraqi official who is close to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. He made several intriguing observations. First, in their video conferences, Maliki and Bush do not really communicate. The official also noted that in his discussions with visiting members of Congress there is really not much dialogue, with both sides giving canned presentations. Second, the U.S. military and State Department do not really work well together and General George Casey would complain to Iraqis about the former U.S. Ambassador to iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad. Third, the insurgency got started when the Americans failed to take control after the overthrow and the Iraqis realized that the American military was not invincible—that is, its soldiers were human beings who displayed the full range of emotions, including fear. Fourth, do not believe anyone who tells you that the situation is getting better.

    On #2... Interagency isn't working? Better question, has the interagency ever worked in this administration?

    I can't wait to read the scholarly work that comes out of this administration. Anyone really buy the idea that another bubble (War Czar) in chain of command will help this? Especially when the Czar will be there to "deal directly with heavyweight administration figures such as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates." Yea, Cheney's fine... right.

    :::

    The international community really doesn't like Maliki?
    The meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister in his residence was fascinating. The meeting room resembled the Corcoran Gallery and Saleh, a Kurd who speaks English fluently, is quite articulate and charismatic, just the opposite of Maliki. In fact it dawned on me that he would go over much better with the media than Maliki. From what I was told every foreign government and international organization wants to deal with him.


    But Korb was suspicious of Deputy Prime Minister Saleh, he seemed to speak to his audience:
    My impression was confirmed by an American official who told me that you never know what to believe about him—one day he is an ardent Iraqi nationalist, the next day he is a Kurdish separatist.


    :::

    The Fourth Anniversary of the Fall of Saddam - April 9th
    [note: Not mentioned by the WH]

    :::

    Korb:
    "It is hard to believe that four years after our “victory,” the only way to provide safety is to lock down the capital city."
    ...
    "The city was in lockdown, 10 American soldiers had died the day before, and the citizens of Najaf and the Sunni Scholars were calling for an end to the occupation. Yet we had a seven-course meal and the American officials and the Iraqis were exchanging diplomatic pleasantries about the progress they were making."


    :::

    Sadr's ministries?
    I had the good fortune to sit next to the Deputy Minister of Interior (the ministry responsible for the national police). He told me that the problem with the police is not training but loyalty and motivation—he cannot get enough officers to come to Baghdad, even though controlling Baghdad is critical to the establishment of a unified Iraq. He also said that Muqtada Al-Sadr still controls six ministries, including his own.

    not anymore...

    :::

    Progress:
    As might be expected, [Ambassador Joseph] Saloom was upbeat about Iraq’s progress, citing such positive indicators as the number of satellite dishes and the amount of goods in the stores. But the dishes have been there since 2003 (in fact, in my meeting with Bremer in November 2003 he said the same thing), and while the shops may be full, it does not appear that many people are out shopping.

    [I think this is Ambassador Joseph Saloom who is the director of the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office]

    Saloom added:
    Saloom also dismissed the concerns expressed in the Special Inspector General’s report about the lack of coordination between the U.S. military and civilians and attributed the dust-up between Secretaries Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates about the small number of State Department civilians being assigned to the Provincial Reconstruction Teams as a communication problem.


    Korb wasn't buying it:
    In light of the new White House plan to create a powerful czar to oversee Iraq and Afghanistan, Saloom’s comments seem unreal.


    :::

    Interesting tidbit: Iraqis call the liquor store the Christian pharmacy.

    And another: "I was surprised and saddened that the servicemen and women pay the same prices for goods in Iraq as they do in the states."

    :::

    A shocker:
    The other thing that struck me was the lack of American soldiers patrolling the neighborhoods. In fact, in my whole time here I did not see one American soldier outside the Green Zone.

    From his account he was well traveled in Baghdad. not one US soldier? What does that mean?

    :::

    Conclusions:
    To say that Iraq in general and Baghdad in particular are much worse than on my last visit would be an understatement. It is hard to believe that after about 3,300 deaths, about 25,000 wounded, an expenditure of $500 billion, and two national elections things could be this bad.
    ...
    The real issue is if the latest surge will work. The most optimistic projection was “maybe temporarily.” But most people speaking off the record believe that the insurgents will shift to other areas and lay low for a while in Baghdad.

    I knew that the Iraqi government was not very effective, but I had no idea it was so bad.
    ...
    No one in or out of the American or Iraqi government seemed to have a good answer to my question: “how does it end?” On the back of this visit, I am more and more convinced that we must take control of our own destiny by setting a specific timetable for withdrawal. Currently, our fate is in the hands of an Iraqi government that does not have any real incentive to get its act together and does not even seem to understand the gravity of the situation or the declining level of support in the United States.

    While I did not see as many soldiers as on my last visit, the ones I spoke to were clearly dispirited about the repeated deployments and the three-month extension.

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