‘Positive” Iraqi Pause

March 27, 2008

A spokesman for the Baghdad security plan, Tahsin al-Sheikhly, was kidnapped from his Baghdad home by armed men on Thursday, security officials told AFP. The officials said Sheikhly, who spoke on civic matters related to the security plan launched in February last year, was abducted from his home in Baghdad’s Al-Amin neighbourhood at around 2:30 pm (1130 GMT).
“Armed men stormed his home at a time when there were clashes in his neighbourhood,” a security official with the interior ministry said.
“They burnt his home and stole two cars and weapons before fleeing with him.”

Agence France-Presse, (3/27/08)

Unfortunately, the quickening continues in Iraq.

Despite nothing but grim news out of  Baghdad since Easter Sunday morning, Decider George continues to put a living-shit spin on everything he says and does, declaring reality to be smoke-and-mirrors choked with a smell of cordite.
Especially sensitive is the situation in Basra, site of a stand-off between Shiite followers of Muqtada al-Sadr and Iraqi security forces. In a dispatch from brave, UK journalist Patrick Cockburn (and Cockburn has been right about a lot of Iraq shit a long time):

A new civil war is threatening to explode in Iraq as American-backed Iraqi government forces fight Shia militiamen for control of Basra and parts of Baghdad.
Heavy fighting engulfed Iraq’s two largest cities and spread to other towns yesterday as the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, gave fighters of the Mehdi Army, led by the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, 72 hours to surrender their weapons.
The gun battles between soldiers and militiamen, who are all Shia Muslims, show that Iraq’s majority Shia community – which replaced Saddam Hussein’s Sunni regime – is splitting apart for the first time.
independent.co.uk, (3/27/08)

Sensitive since the UK withdrew from Basra last fall and are now enclosed within protected bases outside the city. Decider George, in spin worthy of Karl Rove, hailed Maliki’s decision to “respond forcefully” to “criminal elements” in an interview with foreign reporters and declared, “It was a very positive moment in the development of a sovereign nation that is willing to take on elements that believe they are beyond the law.”

In the current run of news is revelant, then that “positive moment” could be fatal. Decider George has, of course, gone complete delusional.
On the eve of an European trip next week, where he will have a final cowboy-strut across the world stage at a NATO summit, he blubbered in that arrognant, “…cold, dead fingers” attitude the glorious war/mess he started in Iraq will last beyond him.

Mr Bush insisted yesterday that decisions would not be made by those who “scream the loudest” in calling for troops to come home.
Instead, in his interview with four international journalists, including The Times, he said: “I understand people here want us to leave, regardless of the situation, but that will not happen so long as I’m Commander-In-Chief.”

The President gave a glimpse of some of the resentment felt by Washington towards other NATO allies whom he said needed to be “encouraged” to take obligations in Afghanistan seriously. The definition of the summit’s success, he added, would be to ensure Nato stayed relevant.
But he heaped praise on President Sarkozy of France, who has announced his intention to send another 1,000 troops to the Afghan battlefields.
It was notable, perhaps, that he avoided expressing similar sentiments about Gordon Brown after a period, since Tony Blair’s departure from Downing Street, in which differences of tone, if not substance, have emerged between Britain and the US.

timesonline.co.uk, (3/27/08)

And what about those grunts on the ground?

Behind the Pentagon’s closed doors, U.S. military leaders told President Bush Wednesday they are worried about the Iraq war’s mounting strain on troops and their families. But they indicated they’d go along with a brief halt in pulling out troops this summer.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff did say senior commanders in Iraq should make more frequent assessments of security conditions, an idea that appeared aimed at increasing pressure for more rapid troop reductions.
The chiefs’ concern is that U.S. forces are being worn thin, compromising the Pentagon’s ability to handle crises elsewhere in the world.

Wednesday’s 90-minute Pentagon session, held in a secure conference room known as “the Tank,” was arranged by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to provide Bush an additional set of military views as he prepares to decide how to proceed in Iraq once his troop buildup, which began in 2007, runs its course by July.
“Armed with all that, the president must now decide the way ahead in Iraq,” said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell. The discussion covered not only Iraq but Afghanistan, where violence has spiked, and broader military matters, said Morrell, who briefed reporters without giving details of the discussion. Some specifics were provided by defense officials, commenting on condition of anonymity in order to speak more freely.

The session was led by Navy Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He presented the consensus view of the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps on Iraq strategy.
Mullen and Gates have said repeatedly that in addition to reducing troop levels in Iraq, they want to shorten tour lengths for soldiers from 15 months to 12 months as soon as possible. A decision to do that is expected, perhaps shortly after Bush reaffirms that the number brigades in Iraq will be cut to 15 by July. The Army calculates that at that point it could drop tours to 12 months and still give units at least 12 months at home to recover, retrain and rearm before deploying again.
Morrell said a decision on shortening tour lengths would be made by Gates in consultation with Bush.
“We are not there yet,” Morrell said.
Associated Press, (3/26/08)

Hey, Morrell, we thought understatement was so, so UK.
Who, by the way, have caught up with the US in at least one aspect:

Britain is at risk of losing the capability to wage major wars as it reaches a crisis point in resources, senior academics have warned MPs.
The stress of constant operations was also leading to a “massive increase” in marital breakdowns with many troops forced into resigning from the services to save their relationships, the Commons defence committee heard.
During a hearing on the recruitment and retention crises facing the Armed Forces, the committee was told by Prof Hew Strachan, Oxford University’s leading military historian, that Britain had now reached the point at which it had to make a serious choice about its future.

Most chilling and telling was found in the last graph:

The MPs also heard that the troop numbers on operations were unlikely to reduce for at least four years as the next American president was unlikely to abandon Iraq.
telegraph.co.uk, (3/26/08)

And so it goes.

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