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More Good News...from Iraq

From The Week (link):

Since the liberal media long ago lost interest in Iraq, said Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post, we didn’t hear much about the “near miracle” of the country’s provincial elections earlier this month. So allow me to recap: There was virtually no violence, and 14,400 candidates from 400 parties competed. Parties defined by religious sectarianism were the big losers, including a pro-Iranian party that was “devastated” at the polls by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s more secular State of Law Party. The big winners? Iraqis, who, despite the “condescension” of those who thought democracy a “fool’s errand” in the Middle East, proved they’re on the way to functioning, largely secular self-government. The other winner, of course, was the U.S., which now has a nascent democratic ally in the Arab world.

but Thomas Ricks is not as optimistic:

Having spent a lot of time in Iraq recently researching a book, it’s my sad duty to report that nearly every American military leader there is very pessimistic about the country’s future. Deep sectarian rifts remain in Iraqi society, they say, and only the presence of armed troops has prevented the eruption of violent conflict. Shiite radicals such as Muqtada al-Sadr and Sunni extremists haven’t given up; they’re just biding their time until the Americans leave. The Iraqi military, meanwhile, remains a “deeply flawed” institution, with no qualms about killing Iraqis, and U.S. officials privately are warning that power-hungry generals very well might mount a takeover attempt if the U.S. does, in fact, go home. So let’s not get overly excited about a round of regional elections. “I don’t think the Iraq war is over, and I worry that there is more to come than any of us suspect.”

Baghdad High

A few months back I watched the film Baghdad High on HBO.  From Wikipedia:

It documents the lives of four Iraqi schoolboys over the course of one year in the form of a video diary. The documentary was filmed by the boys themselves, who were given video cameras for the project.

One of the more remarkable aspects of the film to me was how familiar it seemed - how similar in essence Iraqi school boys are to American school boys - how two Iraqis can look at the same event (for example, the execution of Saddam Hussein's execution) and have completely different perspectives.

Mohammad: Do you think Saddam was really killed?

His grandmother: Yes he was killed.

Mohammad: Do you think his trial was fair?

His grandmother: Yes, but he didn't need a trial anyhow.

Mohammad: Why?

His grandmother: He inflicted so much suffering on the Iraqi people.  If we hadn't executed him we would have been the weakest people on earth.

Mohammad: Do you think the situation will improve?

His grandmother: I don't care if it makes life better or not.  The main thing is we did the right thing.  Every dictator deserves the same fate.

and then another one of the boys:

The situation is very bad.  We got pretty upset after Saddam's execution.  This is not the right time.  A country's leader to be executed this way?  The people in power are not better than he was.  Dad was especially sad for Iraq.  It means that Iraq is finished.  God help us!

I give it 4 out of 5.

Preemptive Implementation

It kind of seems like Bush is trying to implement Obama's foreign policy before Obama gets a chance to do it. 

He's agreed to a "time horizon" for withdrawal from Iraq (from an article in The Washington Post by Dan Eggen and Michael Abramowitz):

President Bush and Iraq's prime minister have agreed to set a "time horizon" for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq as part of a long-term security accord they are trying to negotiate by the end of the month, White House officials said yesterday.

The decision, reached during a videoconference Thursday between Bush and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, marks the culmination of a gradual but significant shift for the president, who has adamantly fought -- and even ridiculed -- efforts by congressional Democrats to impose what he described as artificial timetables for withdrawing U.S. forces.

In recent weeks, Bush and senior officials have hinted that they would be open to "aspirational" goals for removing U.S. troops, as Maliki and other Iraqi politicians have voiced increasing discontent with the idea of an open-ended U.S. troop presence in their country.

and we're talking to the Iranians (from an article in The Wall Street Journal by Jay Solomon):

On Saturday the U.S. will hold its highest-level contacts with Iran since 1979, a marked thaw in the two countries' troubled relationship. At the same time, the U.S. is fine-tuning a package of new financial penalties against Iran that target everything from gas imports to the insurance sector.

U.S. and European officials said they will intensify efforts to impose these penalties should their diplomatic drive fail to induce Iran to freeze its nuclear program. The sanctions effort could also include measures to impede Iran's shipping operations in the Persian Gulf and its banking activities in Asia...





but it sounds like the new sanctions will be coming since Iran has preemptively said that halting enrichment is off the table.


From an article titled "Administration foiled by own Iraq goals" in the LA Times:

The Bush administration's decision to set benchmarks for measuring the progress of the Iraq mission is now seen by some U.S. officials as a costly blunder that has only aided the White House's critics in Congress and its foes in Iraq. Administration officials saw them as realistic goals that would prod the Iraqi government toward reconciliation, while helping sustain political support for the effort at home. The yardsticks include steps vital to Iraq's stability: passage of a law to divide oil revenue among the key communities, reforms to allow more members of Saddam Hussein's party back into the government, and elections to divide power in the provinces. Yet now, with the major goals still out of reach, the administration is playing down their importance. With an interim report on the U.S. effort due out today, administration officials instead are emphasizing other goals” some of which are less ambitious but have been attained. Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, recently told reporters that while the benchmarks remain important, "We have to look on a wider scale than the benchmarks themselves." In private, many officials were more scathing in their critique, saying that defining the goals in such a way galvanized resistance in Iraq and gave war critics a way to argue that the U.S. mission was falling short.

I think this is a fine illustration of one of the big problems. These guys see this as a game. Therefore, they think that defining goals was a mistake because it has aided war critics in arguing that the effort is falling short. The problem isn't how short the effort is falling. It's that people know how it is failing.

Data on Iraq

On another blog I've started a new hobby of maintaining a timeline of major news stories about Iraq with links to the articles. For example the next time someone tells you there was a significant pre-war link between Saddam and Al-Qaeda, go there (link) to find a link to the article describing the recently-released Pentagon report debunking that claim. It's also a sad summary of the constant march of death with a rare nugget of good news occasionally mixed in.


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