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    14 September 2007

    By Bush's definition, the "surge" has failed

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    In George Bush's prime time address to the nation Thursday night he laid out the basic premise of of his escalation strategy in Iraq.
    The premise of our strategy is that securing the Iraqi population is the foundation for all other progress. For Iraqis to bridge sectarian divides, they need to feel safe in their homes and neighborhoods. For lasting reconciliation to take root, Iraqis must feel confident that they do not need sectarian gangs for security. The goal of the surge is to provide that security and to help prepare Iraqi forces to maintain it.

    So that's it, the Iraqis need to feel safe. And he's right. But he misses the point that the escalation has not made people feel safer. A recent poll points this out, Marc Lynch summarizes the findings:
    ...The BBC/ABC/NHK survey, conducted in all 19 provinces during August, finds that 70% of Iraqis believe that security has deteriorated in the areas covered by the US "surge", and 11% say it has had no effect. Only 11% say that security in the country as a whole has improved in the last six months.
    95% of Sunnis say that the presence of US troops makes security worse.
    56% described the "security situation" in the neighborhood in which they live as bad, up slightly from 53% in February, while only 24% say that the security situation in this neighborhood has improved in the past six months. 79% of Sunnis say that security in their neighborhood is bad - despite all those American walking tours of happy, safe markets. Only 7% of Sunnis say that security in their neighborhood has improved in the last 6 months, and only 6% feel safe in their neighborhood.
    Don't get too excited that 43% say that the neighborhood in which they currently live is relatively safe, because it's probably because this is where they fled to escape from ethnic cleansing: 74% describe their "freedom of movement - the ability to go where you wish safely" as bad, and 77% say that "freedom to live where you wish without persecution" is bad. An astonishing 98% say that the separation of people along sectarian lines is a bad thing.
    65% say that the current national government is doing a bad job...

    The Iraqis don't feel safe in the neighborhoods. The Iraqis haven't answered, in this poll, whether or not they want/need sectarian gangs for security. But, our plan in Anbar is facilitating just that. Meanwhile the Iraqi security forces are rife with Shiite sectarianism. All-in-all, by Bush's "premise" the 'surge' has failed. Furthermore, hope that this will change much in the next 6 to 12 months when the surge is forced to end do to the stress it has put on our military is just hope. And a slim hope at that. By this time next year we'll be back at the troop level we started at, with no end in sight.

    Posted by Geoff

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    13 September 2007

    Architect of "Anbar Awakening" killed in Ramadi

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    The big international news this morning was the murder of Sheik Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, leader of the Anbar Salvation Council (a.k.a. the Anbar Awakening) and a very shady figure (one I wouldn't have placed as much hope as President Bush did in saving Western Iraq and salvaging his Middle East fiasco). This is a obvious inconvenience for the progress made in al Anbar province by Iraqis but hopefully not a death blow. Sure, some will say that this will unite Sunnis against al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) just like the mass killing of hundreds of Yazidi Kurds was to do back in August. It probably wont. Some, led by General Petraeus, will insist that this was AQI. But there is no evidence yet. Similarly, although the culprit of the mass killing of the Yazidis is said to have been killed and was claimed to be a member of AQI, the complexities of Iraq play host to numerous other scenarios. The same goes for todays news. As unpopular as AQI is currently in al Anbar, so is cooperation with the occupation (US) forces. This could very well have been the work of Iraqi nationalists (most likely Sunni).

    Writes Marc Lynch:
    ...there's no reason to assume that al-Qaeda killed him - I'd guess that one of the nationalist insurgency groups, the ones which current American rhetoric pretends don't exist - is a more likely suspect. Other tribes deeply resented him. The major nationalist insurgency groups had recently issued a series of statements denouncing people who would illegitimately seize the fruits of their victorious jihad - of whom he was the prime example. All those photographs which swamped the Arab media showing him shaking hands with President Bush made him even more a marked man than before.

    In other news from Iraq, the reconciliation process appears to be on the verge of taking another step backwards as the much anticipated oil law compromise faces more hurdles.

    I'm sure the White House spin machine will make this all sound like good news in the Presidents speech to the nation tonight.

    [UPDATE 5:02 PM]
    It didn't take the central Iraqi government long. The attack was al Qaeda and it will solidify the "awakening". Wishful thinking, but as this weeks testimony has made clear: all we really have is hope.

    On a side note, Sheik Abu Risha's Anbar Salvation Council is blaming the Iraqi government for the murder... Aside from pointing out how complex the situation is in Iraq and even in the homogeneous al Anbar province as discussed above, it says a lot about the likelihood of the "awakening" becoming friend to the current Baghdad government.

    Posted by Geoff

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    12 September 2007

    Ignoring bin Laden equals ignoring a "dangerous terrorist threat"

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    On Sunday President Bush's homeland security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend claimed that Osama bin Laden was "virtually impotent," on the run and in a cave. Similar conclusions have been made by Ann Coulter and president Bush.

    Despite these assertions, highly placed government officials reaffirmed Monday that "Osama bin Laden remained the most dangerous terrorist threat to the United States." Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell told a Senate committee that eliminating the threat of bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders as well as their sanctuary on the Afghan-Pakistan border the United States "number one priority."

    Furthermore, the US focus on Iraq and the inability of Pakistan to confront al Qaeda and its allies has given bin Laden several advantages. According to U.S., Afghan and Pakistani officials and experts, bin Laden has been able "to secure safe harbor in the tribal area of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan, rebuild al Qaida's inner circle, train a new generation of jihadis and expand ties to Middle Eastern and North African terrorist groups." This space has allowed the propaganda wing of al Qaeda, the as-Sahab Media Institute, to increase its production output from 16 videos in 2005, to 74 so far in 2007. This rate has doubled from 1 video every 6 days in 2006 to "an average rate of one every three days or so" in 2007.

    Baselessly discounting bin Laden's importance to the 'War on Terror' ignores the sober assessments of our top intelligence officials, provides leeway for an "impotent" terrorist leader and his organization to talk to the world and marks down the significance of the man who killed so many 6 years ago today.

    Posted by Geoff

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    10 September 2007

    Republicans move the goal posts again

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    We've seen so many goals promoted in regards to the occupation of Iraq. The mission has changed constantly from when it first entered the public conscience to today as we watch the Republicans reset there Iraqi agenda to fit their domestic agenda once again. We know now that president Bush's sole goal is to maneuver into "a position where the presidential candidates will be comfortable about sustaining a presence" so that we "stay longer" in Iraq. He doesn't care about the public will or the soldiers sacrifice. As long as we don't make changes to his failed policies, well that's good enough for him.

    In order to do this some reality--just enough really and selected conveniently--must be injected at opportune times. This is a long-standing trend with this administration. It began as the disarmament of Iraq. Then when they accepted the--once stated by the opposition--fact that there was nothing to disarm, it was expanded to regime change and freedom. Sensing that this wasn't enough to move the American populous towards another invasion, they added in the mythical connections between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Then, of course the mission was accomplished... but that only lasted a few months. The occupation of Iraq, again, became a mission of freedom as "has been our mission all along" claimed the White House disingenuously. Soon after, it became clear that the 'freedom agenda' was 'hard work' and the goal was shifted to training Iraqis (this is where General Petraeus entered the political realm, conveniently right before the 2004 election. Nothing he wrote then bore fruit.). When that didn't go as planned the Administration shifted again towards promoting democracy. Months later they added that we were there to protect the "homeland" from the terrorists that were being created in Iraq. Nearly a year later the mission shifted again towards security for Iraqis. Early this year the Administrations line became the provision of security for centralized reconciliation while undermining it by embracing former terrorists in the fight against Al Qaeda in Iraq, a plan initiate by the Iraqis long before Bush's escalation. There is no guarantee that this aid wont--in one form or another--be used against US forces or more likely the fledging central government in Baghdad. Most recently, the Administration--sensing lack of real progress on the reconciliation gambit--are now working in the back rooms toward a partition of Iraq.

    This plan for partition was once promoted by a group of academics and Senator Joe Biden. It was rejected by the White House and criticized right-wing pundits then, but now it's the 'new way forward.'

    (h/t ThinkProgress)

    Posted by Geoff

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