Monday, June 11, 2007

Middle East Odyssey

Send lawyers, guns and money. Dad, get me out of this.

-- Warren Zevon

On Monday, Iraq's Parliament voted to remove its speaker, Mahmoud Mashhadani. As Josh Partlow of the Washington Post informs us, Mashhadani (a Sunni) had his bodyguards beat up fellow parliament member Firyahd Mohammed (a Shiite), not in some back alley, but in the lobby of the parliament building itself.

No, I don't think we'll see any signs of unity in the Iraqi government by September, when General David Petraeus is scheduled to skulk up Capitol Hill and give his progress report to Congress.

The Bad Guy of My Bad Guy Is My Good Guy?

Four months into it, the surge has shown negligible success, and commanders are taking a strategic turn they know to be fraught with risk. John F. Burns and Alissa J. Rubin of the New York Times report that field commanders are authorized to arm Sunni groups that promise to fight al-Qaida in Mesopotamia. In the past, these Sunni groups have fought U.S. forces and were allied to al-Qaeda. Some of these groups have been provided arms, ammunition, cash, fuel and supplies.

There's a good chance we're merely arming both sides in a Civil War and guaranteeing that it will escalate even further. We've spent more that $15 billion building up Iraq's heavily Shiite army and police force. There's also a real possibility that both Sunni and Shiite factions will use these weapons against U.S. forces.

The program of arming Sunni groups was tested earlier this year in Anbar province. Now it's being applied throughout a broad part of Sunni dominated areas.

Americans seem to have given up on disarming Shiite militia groups as the powerful Shiite political parties refuse to give up their militias. The Sunni groups we're giving arms to show little sign of wanting to cooperate with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maki's Shiite dominated government. One leading Shiite politician says he'll rule out discussion of amnesty for Sunni militants, even for those who fight al-Qaeda.

If that's a formula for reconciliation, Pall Malls are a cure for pnuemonia.

Despite the inherent perils of arming Sunni militants, some senior officials are foursquare behind it. Major General Rick Lynch, leader of a task force fighting south of Baghdad, remarks, “When you’ve got people who say, ‘I want to protect my neighbors,’ we ought to jump like a duck on a june bug.”

Whatever you say, General. Just don't be surprised when you wind up like a duck that jumped on an oil spill.

A Master Strategist Speaks

The administration and its supporters continue to attempt to link Iran to the violence in Iraq. On Face the Nation last Sunday, Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut) told host Bob Schieffer "I think we've got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq." Lieberman said that he has seen "evidence" that the Iranians are supplying militants in Iraq, and are responsible "by some estimates" for killing "as many as 200 American soldiers."

No word from Joe about the source or reliability of the "evidence" and "estimates," but that's understandable. Joe wouldn't know his intelligence from his elbow. All Joe knows is what Dick Cheney's gang tells him to say.

Joe also seems oblivious to credible analysis that indicates militants in Iraq have a far more reliable source of arms and ammunition than Iran.

Scott Cannon of the McClatchy Newspapers reports that "U.S. military officials estimated before the war that between one million and seven million AK-47s were in private hands in Iraq… The number of Kalashnikovs only grew when the Iraqi military collapsed and many troops walked off with their AK-47s--some to defend their homes, others to fill arsenals of sectarian militias or insurgent groups."

An audit by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction released in November 2006 concluded that only two percent of serial numbers for over 500,000 weapons brought legally into the country by the U.S. were recorded.

Rachel Stohl, a senior analyst and small arms specialist for the Center for Defense Information says, "The United States has no idea what happened to the majority of weapons it brought into the country." She adds, "We do know these weapons, in conjunction with the millions already in the country left from Saddam's era, are being used to perpetuate the violence and continued instability throughout Iraq."

Even if Lieberman were aware of these analyses, they likely wouldn't register on him. They're off message. Why acknowledge that you've created your own problems when you can blame them on somebody else?

Worst, Worster, Worstest

We screwed up in Iraq all on our own. We didn't need al-Qaeda or Iran or Syria or anyone else to help us do it. Pulitzer Prize winning Pentagon correspondent Thomas E. Ricks of the Washington Post noted on Sunday that…
Officials now dismiss the 2004-06 years -- when Gen. George W. Casey Jr. was in command -- as a fruitless "rush to transition."

…Top military officials even say that Iraq's elections in December 2005 only deepened sectarian divides and contributed to the outbreak of a low-grade civil war in Baghdad last year. "We wanted an election in the worst way, and we got one in the worst way," one U.S. general here said.

We spent nearly two years after the "mission accomplished" ceremony denying an insurgency was underway, calling such claims "Henny Penny sky is falling" talk. We spent another two years clinging to a "stay the course" strategy now characterized as a fruitless "rush." Four months into the "surge" strategy, we can see that it's little more than a feckless stall for time. Now we're trying to fix our past mistakes by handing weapons to militants like we throw candy and soccer balls to Iraqi kids, and if that backfires on us, we'll blame it on the Iranians and go to war with them too.

If that's the best the nation that evolved into the world's sole super power can come up with, it's time to turn things back over to the apes.

Come to think of it, maybe we already did that, back in 2001.


  1. Roland the headless Thompson gunner...

  2. I always wanted to be able to sign out a message back to CAG that ended with that line.

    "On station ready to fly. Some of the boys went out into town last night-send lawyers, guns, and money."

    Think I'd get fired for that nowadays.............

  3. Yes, Skippy, I thing you would.

  4. Commander, I agree with you on most issues, but I am not so sure *finally* talking to the old baath cadre and giving them room to clean their own areas is such a bad idea. You should have drowned all players in money, swimmingpools and cheap DVDs (as well as keeping the looting down) from day one in my opinion, if you had really wanted to succeed...

  5. Anonymous6:36 AM

    Really trustworthy blog. Please keep updating with great posts like this one. I have booked marked your site and am about to email it

    to a few friends of mine that I know would enjoy reading..
    sesli sohbet
    sesli chat