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12 May 2007


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The BBC story on the attack and abduction of US forces south of Baghdad. It seems from this article there is pretty sizeable force of UAVs, fixed wing aircraft, helicopters, checkpoints, etc in response to the attack on the patrol. My question is typically how many forces would be committed to such a rescue operation? What I am getting to is as forward outposts and patrols get spread out how many such rescue attempts can be maintained?

Also, I read that the Shooter in addition to threatening Iran also informed his Saudi buddies about "unleasing the Shia". As PL points out where's the beef here. I have never got this part of their game plan. On the one hand threatening Iran and on the other supporting the Iran-backed Shia parties in Iraq.


The US position continues to be wildly incoherent,self-defeating, and fated to spread more ill will everywhere.

We can't, and won't, turn anybody lose on the Sunni's unless we are determined to lose Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the Sunnis in Lebanon, et al. Undercutting the pseudo-govt in Iraq by disregarding their votes is ludicrous, but seemly part of the non-plan. In short, every thing we seem to do turns to crap.


How about that U.S. General North of Baghdad who just insisted he needs more troops IMMEDIATELY AFTER he was reinforced? Someone commented, "This indicates that their short-term 'surge' is really a long-term 'plateau.'"--until Jan. 20, 2009, of course.


Colonel Lang,

Thanks for an informative post, as usual. If you get a moment, could you also post a source on the last item, if there is one? Unleash the Shia? As you point out, it's hard to make a charitable interpretation of that statement.


Re: Unleashing the Shi'a, I thought they did this in 2005. I remember seeing several articles about the "Salvador Option" being discussed by the administration.


I mean, how much more unleashed can you get than sectarian death squads?

As for the Iraqi parliment, the cynic in me says that if Bush is determined to ignore the opinion of the American people and Congress over continuing the Iraq war, the Iraqi parliaments efforts aren't going to amount to much. I don't know how it'd play out if Iraq's parliament made such a declaration though.

It also seems to me at least that US policy in Iraq totally schizophrenic.

Unleashing the Shi'a while antagonizing Iran?

Supporting the Kurdish paramilitaries in Iraq while trying to keep a lid on the PKK? ( http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/article.php?enewsid=69878 )

I remember a French diplomat who was quoted as saying "We can live with any position America chooses to take. We just wish she'd limit herself to one position".


I trust you also saw the article re: Maj. Gen. Mixon in Diyala publicly asking for more troops? Another interesting development--the article seems to indicate that Yingling's piece on the army generals is having an effect.


John in LA

That's exactly the neocon fantasy. Five years ago, it was "unleashing" the CIA. Woooo......fat George.....that must have really browned the shorts in Anbar.

They not only envision a Shia/Kurd "unleashing", they also say that the increased tempo of Sunni bad guy operations is the result of "desperation" -- that the Sunni hardliners are "dead enders".

Downright nostalgic, don't you think?

1. The Kurds will never engage the Sunni-Shia war. They've lent a few mercs to give a veneer of local forces to the US "surge", but this is not their fight.

They took a good long look at Lebanon last year, and they will do to the Turks (following the coup/invasion) what the Hizbollah did to the Israelis. Kurdistan will be a killbox for the Turks and it will be followed by formal delcaration of indepencence and quick recoginition by China, Iran and Russia.

2. The Shia "army" of "Iraq" are a death squad rabble. They run when the Sunni shoot and they can't do anything.

3. If the US - with Air, control of the sea, a $10 billion per month budget (credit line from China) can't supress the Sunnis, what makes us think that the Shia death squadders can do it?

4. If it gets dodgy, the Saudis will invest massively in the Sunni army - as they did in the 1980s -- and happily bleed the Shia.

5. Gordon Brown is going to haul ass.

6. Lose, lose lose for the Americans I'm afraid.

W. Patrick Lang


You get it! You and Cochise must have studied at the same staff college.. (movie reference)


No. It probably means that Petraeus is not muzzling these guys as much.


Done. pl

Happy Jack

The neocons and their allies are making noises about "unleashing" the Shia and the Kurds against the Sunni Arabs.

I believe the majority of government revenues are derived from oil. I wonder how long this 80% government could last if the Sunnis thought they faced an existential threat.

Oil Infrastructure Attacks


"Unleashing the Shia's" is disinformation. It is an intelligence ploy.

There is no way on God's green earth that the U.S. is going to do anything further to advance the Shia cause in Iraq.

What I believe is infinitely more likely to happen is the Sunni's being unleashed.

Sunni Arabia is the United States' and Israel's ally. This whole adventure on the side of Shias in Iraq, and thus in Iran, makes no sense whatsoever.

The question is whether Cheney gets to bomb Iran. I say he does.


What appears to be changing is that the fig leaf on our military operations seems to be losing its grip.

We're losing militarily.

The local population increasingly appears to have nearly perfect intelligence on our operations.

I think it would be wise to ask Bill Belichick what the value of precise knowledge of the other team's game plan would be worth.

It's not going to matter how brave our soldiers are. It is tragic.


There is a lot of confusion in the current U.S. foreign policy.

I try to decipher some of it here:
(yes, that's a plug)

The US so far has not taken sides. It could do and the result would be devastating for the Sunni and for Saudi Arabia's position.

The threat of banding with Iran is not just imaginative and it could be very helpful for the US if followed through.

Still the general FP-position is confused for various strategic and tactical reasons.

Unless there is a decisive break with these positions, that confusion will put the US in a losing position.

The neo-cons have offered such a break (very! risky!) with the Kondracke piece linked by Pat.

What is the "realist" answer?


the guardian UK adds some details to the ambushed partol story


pre-dawn attack

Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad, a Sunni insurgent stronghold dubbed the Triangle of Death,

nearby units heard explosions and a drone plane later observed two burning vehicles

joint U.S.-Iraqi forces were conducting house-to-house searches in the area and all roads had been closed to Mahmoudiya.

Five U.S. soldiers have been charged in the rape of a 14-year-old Mahmoudiya girl and the killing of her and her entire family, and three have pleaded guilty in the March 12, 2006, attack

On June 16, 2006, two American soldiers who went missing in the same area were later found dead, tied together with a bomb between one victim's legs


"In fact, America's credibility would suffer because it abandoned its mission." - Kondracke

Credibility with whom? Sure, condoning "cleansing" the Sunnis is going to help with that. And "unleash the Shia" - who have just been waiting around for our instructions. You already admitted it was a civil war, Mort ... exactly what degree of paralogic thinking does it take to become a neoconservative pundit these days? Non-acceptance of reality and thirst for blood doesn't make the cut any more; you have to be unable to remain consistent within the short framework of your own op-ed piece.

"The Iraqi parliament is threatening to pass a piece of legislation that would "cap" US forces in Iraq and request the departure of foreign forces." PL

Polls indicate that this would be popular with Iraqi citizens too. Yet Shooter drops into the Green Zone for some extortion sessions and a photo-op, and the US media splashes the headlines with:

WASHINGTON (AP) - Worried Congress' support for Iraq is deteriorating rapidly, Baghdad dispatched senior officials to Capitol Hill this week to warn members one-on-one that pulling out U.S. troops would have disastrous consequences ... On Thursday, hours before the House voted to limit funds for the war, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh met with more than 30 House Republicans and more than a half-dozen senators ..."

Is Saleh acting for the Kurd faction here?


Bomb Iran? I guess Dubya is determined to strategically lose three wars on his watch. And even SMU in the heart of Evil-gelical land is starting to wobble on hosting his Preidential Library. It's Hoover-time, folks.


Pat, RE:

"What are the neocons suggesting? Mass violence against Sunni Arab civilians?"

Given the original neocon dreams of liberty for all, power projection, fortifying Israeli intransigence, er, defending the only democracy in the ME, maybe alittle frre trade in oil, whta's left/

Mass violence period, as a reason why the U.S cannot withdraw, why social spending must be gutted, defense grow exponentially, profits all around - big Saudi airforce upgrade coming to deal w/ Iran at the expense of your youth.
Plus, keep your eye on that exploding birdie while we build out little national security state up on the rubble of yor constitution. If they can't win abroad, by god lets stay in power and rich at home.


"The withdrawal policy advocated by most Democrats virtually guarantees catastrophic ethnic cleansing" So Kondracke would then have the USA instead take sides in an alternative program of ethnic cleansing. Our ethnic cleansing is better than your ethnic cleansing. The old "he may be a son of a bitch but at least he's our son of a bitch" philosophy dragged ahead 40 years.

The moral vacuum these guys exist in never fails to astound me.


"What are the neocons suggesting? Mass violence against Sunni Arab civilians?"

Yes. In fact some of them have been dropping broad hints to that effect for some time. See, for example, Shelby Steele, White Guilt and the Western Past, Wall Street Journal op-ed page, May 2, 2006:

"No one -- including, very likely, the insurgents themselves -- believes that America lacks the raw power to defeat this insurgency if it wants to. So clearly it is America that determines the scale of this war. It is America, in fact, that fights so as to make a little room for an insurgency."

Unfortunately (unfortunate for the neocons, I mean, thank God for the rest of us) the U.S. Army, for all its love of high explosives, isn't quite ready to embrace mass genocide as a military strategy. Unlike the German Wermacht, it isn't even willing to look the other way while someone else does it.

Or at least, so I hope.

Chris Marlowe

Can someone please explain to me what the Bush administration is trying to do in the ME in three sentences?

It just seems so contradictory and confused that my mind just can't make sense of it. Or is it just going for increasingly short-term solutions to situations it has no medium-and long-term answers for? Does this mean that the state of Israel is doomed?

I must say that Americans are awfully good-natured people to be able to put up with this kind of government. Maybe _too good_.

Cold War Zoomie

I've given up trying to figure out what the Hell we're doing.

Maybe I should just check out for awhile, buy cable TV (no I don't have cable) and OD on mindless pop culture reality shows.

Gorging on TV-induced Alpha Waves sounds pretty good right now.




BTW, Jonst, I ain't no zombie.

cynic librarian

Isn't this neocon strategy just a code word for "ethnic cleansing"? But since that's already underway in Baghdad, perhaps this is a way for the neocons to lay the groundwork for a preemptive justification of a fait accompli.


The Bush Admin is not limited to having one consistent position. Following a lead from Debka.com, I have now confirmed from other sources its following reassememnt of the Lebanon 2006 War

"However by April, 2007, the Bush administration had re-characterized Israel’s experience in the War. This was revealed in an effort to dissuade Turkey not to attack Kurdish separatists based in Iraqi Kurdistan. They described the Summer War as a “strategic defeat” that failed to meet military goals, heaped widespread condemnation upon it, and punctured the “myth of the invincibility of the Israeli army. "

Now, there is another interesting tidbit in debka. The Shooter's Gulf trip is not at as portrayed in the MSM media. It is to prepare the Gulf for 1) the beginning of the withdrawl of US troops in the fall, 2) the doubling of the Saudi Air Force with advanced aircraft sufficient to meet Iran's, and (3) an accomodation w/ Iran on enrichment.

Apparently the bombing as predicted by notre colonel is "off," for a while anyway.
"seeking coordination with the Saudis .. the approaching winding-down of US military forces in Iraq. ..clinch the .. offer to double the Saudi air force in size,

"bidding for strategic understandings to hold in check Iran’s nuclear weapons plans, on the lines of the accommodation with North Korea, while conditionally allowing enrichment of uranium to go forward."

Clifford Kiracofe

So we have the Neocon Iraq-Afghan War, the Neocon Kagan Surge, and now the Neocon Kondracke Plan B (or is it C, the first two being A and B)in Roll Call. Roll Call is owned by the UK based Economist Group (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roll_Call).

Some time back, Neocons liked to compare the post-invasion situation to Germany and Japan post WWII. Then critics focused on Vietnam and then on Algeria. Although I think looking at the Iraq 1920s case is useful and logical, an SST regular posted a reference to the 1857 situation in India not long ago. Given the 150th celebrtion, it does bear scrutiny.

Seems a Brit author, William Dalrymple, has looked into this in a new book:
"There is much about British imperial adventures in the east at this time, and the massive insurgency it provoked, which is uneasily familiar to us today....The Forward Policy soon developed an evangelical flavour. The new conservatives wished to impose not only British laws but also western values on India. The country would be not only ruled but redeemed...."

If I were an area specialist, I suppose I would dust off a copy of Barbara Daly Metcalf's, Islamic Revival in British India: Deoband, 1860-1900 (Princeton University Press, 1982). For the interrelated situation the US faces in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan today, a broader perspective in historical and LOCAL CONTEXT of radical Islamic movements would seem appropriate.

Then one could consider Maulana Maududi's role as a jihadi icon, the US-Pak-Saudi Taliban project, and the role of the Tablighi Jamaat and the mischief they have been up to, say in the region or perhaps in the Caucasus in the late 1970s and early 80s (Chechnya and Dagestan).

One might suggest the US is now reaping what it has sowed in the Clinton/Bush43 Neocon, neo-Mackinder, neo-"Great Game", neo-Cold War project and is stuck in the mud, or is it sand. Remember the 1990s? Jim Woolsey as Neocon mouthpiece, Neocon Albright at State, bombs away in Iraq, Congress voting for regime change in Iraq as official US policy??? It is not just Bush43 by a long shot...it is a certain faction within the Establishment, the imperial faction.

Here is a refresher:

"Today I am signing into law H.R. 4655, the "Iraq Liberation Act of 1998." This Act makes clear that it is the sense of the Congress that the United States should support those elements of the Iraqi opposition that advocate a very different future for Iraq than the bitter reality of internal repression and external aggression that the current regime in Baghdad now offers.
Let me be clear on what the U.S. objectives are: The United States wants Iraq to rejoin the family of nations as a freedom-loving and law-abiding member. This is in our interest and that of our allies within the region." [President Clinton]

The Russians...well Putin is talking about pipelines this week in Central Asia:

About a decade ago, a close friend of mine with broad responsibilities asked me whether I had seen Brzezinski's neo-Mackinder "Chessboard" book. I replied I had not been impressed as it read more like a Walter Mitty fantasy than a realistic national strategy. That was also my friend's sense having operated in the relevant areas for nearly 4 decades.



I agree with aspects of your 'devil theory' of strategic implications of an emergent Shiite Iraq.

I wonder how much of all of this to do lately on attacking Iran isn't really an intelligence fake, designed specifically for the benefit of our erstwhile Sunni allies.

Seems as if the middle east has been effectively split into three balanced spheres of influence- perhaps this was the real(ist) strategy all along. The Sunni/Saudi sphere to the south, the Shiites to the east and the Israeli sphere to the west.

This is great power (not super power) politics classically applied. the United States will be able to manage the balance of power with this tripartite split in a way it would not have been able to had Saddam remained in Baghdad. Furthermore it has been clear for some time that the united states and Iran have some convergent interests in constraining Sunni Arab power in the mid east. just because they aren't talking (and I'm not sure they aren't, somehow) doesn't mean they don't understand what the other is doing.

Consider further the recent history of the Levant. Last year, as Hizbollah rockets rained down on northern Israel, IDF jets flew over HA positions and began to dismantle the Sunni led governments hold on its territory. The result of the summer war, whatever its political effects in Israel, is that it left Hizbollah's ability to compete for power in the Lebanon is greatly enhanced.

This result, in light of the assassination of Hariri, means that in the time since 9/11, Sunnis as well as Syrians have lost power in Lebanon.

This is simply the same regional strategy writ small- creating a balance of power in the Levant that allows Israel a much freer hand in playing the local actors against each other and ensuring that one faction can never exert decisive control over the other.

Finally, in order to not constrain Iranian claims to an at-large Muslim leadership role in the Mid East, it is essential that Iran maintain an outwardly hostile posture vis-a-vis Israel and the us. this is where the colorful Ahmadi Nejad is so useful, and why the u.s. and Iran will continue to play diplomatic footsie with each every chance they get.

In any event, this is likely to be the state of affairs in the middle east for a generation. I don't see how Shiite gains in Iraq will be reversible no matter what the insurgency does, nor do i see the a breakthrough in the Levant that will favor one power over another. In the gulf states we see a new emphasis being placed by the U.S. on the city-states of the U.A.E., Qatar and Kuwait- to the detriment of the Saudi's, but its not like the Sunnis are being abandoned- far from it.


The NYT article US Forces Sweep Area provides the answer I was looking for in my question earlier on this thread.

"About 4,000 American ground troops, supported by surveillance aircraft, attack helicopters and spy satellites," are looking to rescue the 3 abducted soldiers. So that would mean around 37 such rescue missions could theoretically take place simultaneously if all the 150,000 combat troops were on rescue missions. Practically its probably a third or less. So the Mahdi, AQ, Baathists, etc could apply this strategy to take the "surge" out of the fight by abducting patrols with inadequate force protection in different parts of Iraq simultaneously.

As PL has pointed out the forward outposts are at risk of coordinated attack. Now we see the risk of small patrols on their own and the first intelligence being a drone observing flaming vehicles. Hanging out with the "natives" without adequate forces may not be such a good gameplan.

Those discussions with Iran and Syria better happen fast as the trajectory of insurgent attacks and sophistication is going in the wrong direction.

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