Last week I described the situation in Iraq as a goat rope tied in Gordian knots wrapped around a Mobius strip. That may have been a colossal case of understatement.
Prime Minister Nouri al Malaki has taken charge of the Iraq peace process. Part of his 24-point plan offers a halt of offensive operations against insurgent groups that want to play along and amnesty to insurgents whose only offense has been to fight against U.S. occupying forces.
Right now, U.S. troops are conducting an offensive operation against Sunni insurgents in the Iraq city of Ramadi. Iraqi forces are participating in the operation as well. Sort of. The Iraqi battalion is deployed at less than a third of its total strength because its commander left nearly 500 members of the unit back in Mosul. Why? Because those soldier don't want to fight other Iraqis for fear of creating tribal vendettas.
We've arrived at a stage where our troops are fighting Iraqis because Iraqis don't want to fight among themselves, but they're only fighting the Iraqis that Malaki will let them fight. If the Iraqis whom American troops are fighting right now sign on for Malaki's deal, our troops have to stop fighting them, and those very same Iraqis our troops are fighting right now will theoretically be eligible for Malaki's amnesty deal because they're fighting American troops.
I don't point this out as a criticism of Malaki. As of now, I think he's the most brilliant statesman on the planet, and his 24-point proposal is the only plan on the table that has a chance of resolving the Iraq fiasco. I also think it’s a smart idea to leave certain Iraqi troops out of a fight to avoid creating more internal violence. But for all practical purposes, our military is functioning as Malaki's private mercenary force.
How did the mightiest nation in human history let itself get boxed into a corner like that?
I noted back in March of this year that the Bush administration's on Iran policy is wholly irrational for reasons that Seymour Hersch recently outlined in The New Yorker.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice insists that America will only undertake direct talks with Iran on its nuclear program if it ceases all efforts at developing its own uranium enrichment program. Iran continues to insist that it will not give up its enrichment program, which is a right guaranteed to it by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) that allows signatories to pursue their own nuclear energy producing capabilities.
Ms. Rice and the rest of the Bush inner circle continue to insist that Iran seeks to develop nuclear weapons. Iran continues to insist that it has no intention of doing so.
And as Hersch points out, high rollers at the Pentagon insist that they have no evidence that Iran isn't telling the truth.
A former senior intelligence official told me that people in the Pentagon were asking, “What’s the evidence? We’ve got a million tentacles out there, overt and covert, and these guys”—the Iranians—“have been working on this for eighteen years, and we have nothing? We’re coming up with jack shit.”
Air Force planners aren't able to come up with a coherent bombing operation for Iran because they can't find anything related to nuclear weapons to bomb. They could, of course, just bomb something on general principle, but that might bring some sort of retaliation on U.S. troops in Iraq, and as we discussed, U.S. troops in Iraq already have full dance cards.
Then again, Iran might send troops into Afghanistan, which has gone from being a total success to a total train wreck. We can't put enough troops in Afghanistan to repel an all out invasion by Iran because most of our troops are you know where.
But Pentagon planners may have forgotten about Iran for the time being when North Korea celebrated America's Independence Day by popping off 7 missiles. Mister Bush told them not to do that. Maybe he shouldn't have said anything.
The Bush administration's box score shows nothing but errors. They took Afghanistan away from the Taliban and gave it back to them. Then they invaded a country to seize its nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. They're planning to bomb the nuclear weapons of a country that doesn't have any and says it has no interest in acquiring them. They've completely ignored a country that admits to having nuclear weapons and has demonstrated some ability to deliver them.
What will the Bush crowd do about it the missile tests? Talk is floating around that all they can do is try to isolate North Korea diplomatically. I wonder how they'd pull that off. North Korea's already as isolated as a country can get.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.