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16 December 2007


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Col. Lang,

With all due respect. Hasn't the US ended up in this Iraq kettle of fish by playing 'divide and rule' in this region for far too long?


Also, I would be interested in what you think about the recent invitation to The Hajj extended to Iran's Ahmadinejad by the Saudi King?

Also, in light of the reported fixed wing aerial bombardment of reported PKK camps in northern Iraq by Turkey.....What is the liklihood of the Iraqi Kurdish government getting dragged into open war with Turkey?

Thanks Col. Lang.


LATimes article this morning points to what might be construed as
a type of "divide and rule" strategy


U.S. to keep most troops in Baghdad
In a strategy shift, forces will be cut in outlying areas. That is likely to give more power to Iraq's regional and local governments.By Peter Spiegel and Julian E. Barnes
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

The change represents the military's first attempt to confront its big challenge in 2008: how to cut the number of troops without sacrificing security.

The shift in deployment strategy, described by senior U.S. military officials in Iraq and Washington, is based on concerns that despite recent improvements, the capital could again erupt into widespread violence without an imposing American military presence.

A year ago, when U.S. patrols in Baghdad were sparse and sectarian killings were spiraling out of control, President Bush proposed a troop buildup in part to establish order in the capital. Over the last four months, violence in the capital has begun to abate.

But the most significant improvements have been in outlying areas, where the first of about 28,500 additional troops arrived in February, followed by gradual improvements in Baghdad. Military planners at first thought it would be the other way around.

"There was a sense we would focus very significantly on Baghdad and change would come from Baghdad out," said a senior military official in Washington, who like others spoke on condition of anonymity when discussing troop strategy. "What we are seeing is just the opposite, it is probably outside-in, toward Baghdad."

The withdrawals are occurring over the next eight months as the military gradually reverses the troop buildup that was completed in June.

Plans call for reducing troops that reached a peak of about 170,000 to pre-buildup levels of about 135,000.

The new planning is not without risk and controversy. The change in U.S. deployment strategy is likely to shift the balance of political power in Iraq by putting much greater authority over provincial affairs in the hands of local and regional officials. That will increase their influence and offset the authority of the Shiite-dominated central government in Baghdad.

In addition, some of the early troop reductions will take place in areas such as Anbar province, the site of raging insurgency in the recent past.

.......Months ago, Bush administration officials and senior military leaders largely gave up hope of meaningful political reconciliation through the Iraqi government. ........

......Those turnovers should also accelerate the shift away from a purely counterinsurgency strategy. Military leaders in Washington have been pressing generals in Baghdad to move toward what they call "tactical overwatch." Under that strategy, Iraqi troops would take the lead in most operations, and U.S. troops would be called in only when problems occur......

W. Patrick Lang


"Divide and Rule"

1-In Iraq we finally understood that you have to use one local group against another. If you do not, then you end up unifying large groupings against you in a way that you can not hope to cope with. The troop surge accoomplished little. What has radically improved the US situation in Iraq was the acceptance of the multiplicty of identities among our adversaries and the fact that what united them was potentially weaker than what could divide them.

2-As for the Greater Middle East in the mythic past discussed by social scientists, the US did not run its business on the basis of dividing its interlocutors. No, it sought to unite the "players" behind American leadership. A few "bad boys" were useful for this; the USSR, Libya, the Plestinians at one time. The Israelis were always a handicap, but one that could not be avoided. pl


How stupid is Odierno that he only now notices the trouble of his supply lines.

Iran has him by the balls.

Why has the alternative route to Aqaba not been developed? That should have started years ago. Sure the drive is a bit longer, but the route is save as long as the Saudis and Congress pay off the Anbar tribes. It also avoids the Street of Hormuz.

I doubt that the U.S. can play the "divide and rule" game in south Iraq at the same class the Persians already do this.

Maybe some tribes will take U.S. money. But at the same time they will also take Iranian money and when the shit hits the fans their primary allegiance will NOT be with the U.S.

I think that the new plans announced in today's LAT mean that the U.S. military will now retreat to the big 'non-permanent' bases and wait for regime change.

Regime change in DC that is.

W. Patrick Lang


"Maybe some tribes will take U.S. money. But at the same time they will also take Iranian money and when the shit hits the fans their primary allegiance will NOT be with the U.S."

b- You are supposed to be more sophisticated than this kind of simple minded anti-American crap. The tribes have no real allegiance to anyone except themselves.

All - several of you have smugly suggested that I have experienced some sort of conversion. What crap. I am the same as always. you just don't get it. I am and always was for rational, reality based policy and I don't like big government. Don't "mirror-image." That is what all the fantasists on the left and right do.


Colonel Lang:

All - several of you have smugly suggested that I have experienced some sort of conversion. What crap. I am the same as always. you just don't get it. I am and always was for rational, reality based policy and I don't like big government.

Conversion? I was thinking exactly the opposite, namely that the events that motivate and inform these recent threads of discussion provide ample validation of your recent (and not-so-recent) predictions about US/Iranian relations, Iraq, the role of Israel in ME affairs, and the pressing need for the concert of nations.

The only conversion I can see is that it looks like the world is coming around to pretty much exactly where you predicted it would end up, which means you're one of the few public figures out there with an ever-increasing supply of credibility.

Of course, that's just my pragmatic scientific sensibilities talking, but recent events (e.g., the reaction against the NIE, and the possibility of a wider war despite the new U.S. official policy viewpoint) have certainly validated your assertions as to how things will play out in this all-important corner of the world.

So no suggestions of conversions here -- just an "attaboy, Colonel!"



For many months we heard that the surge was unsustainable and that it must end--regardless of the facts on the ground--by April 2008. Colin Powell said it six months ago. The military high command has spoken of it, including most notably General Casey. I have always believed that this deadline was the main schedule to which most of the Iraq players were adhering. We heard stories a year ago of clans and tribes fighting for dominance, positioning their assets and conserving their forces for the day the occupiers had to leave.

Has anything changed in the lst month or so, or is it just the rhetoric? I am unaware of any changes in military terms that can move those deadlines about our troops. Yet we never hear about the oncoming storm any more. We hear instead that the surge is a success, that violence is drawing down, but (oh) the footnote is that the political situation is still irretrievably broken. Isn't it this ongoing political crisis that is allowing the surge to work in the short-term? Isn't it allowing the Sunni tribes to accept arms from the US to fight Al 'Qaeda but in reality re-arming themselves for the time when the occupiers must go? Isn't this the reason the political process is broken, because all that can be accomplished is only preparation for that new phase of the civil war which we'd been told to expect come April?

Or did I miss something?

I understand that nations and theaters of battle are fluid places, and things can change in the interim. But have they changed enough during this year of relative calm so as to head off the calamity to follow?

I cannot find any current analysis of this issue. Your thoughts and those of your contributors would be most welcome.

anna missed

I don't understand the need to expand the Anbar project to the Shiite areas. Whats the purpose? Who's the analogous enemy the tribes are suppose to turn on? Certainly the Shiite tribes have always been against AQinM, so I guess it must be Iranian influence or Muqtada they're suppose to turn on.

That seems like a pretty tall order, in that Iranian influence, as you say PL, is ubiquitous all over Southern Iraq, and as far as I can gather, is contributing (unlike AQinM) far more social and economic assistance than it is demanding in return. I see little (unlike AQinM) or no resistance or rebellion toward Iran in the South. This is on top of the likely fact that most tribes have already established interdependent affinities with Iran and the local militias, with kids probably serving in the latter. I know the U.S. would like to paint Iran and Sadr with the same terrorist brush it did with the Sunnis, but this is really something quite different, because I see no "enemy within" the tribes could be convinced to turn on, unless its themselves or the sitting government. Why would they do that?


Col. Lang: "Is a diagram necessary?"

With this group in the White House, you betcha'. Of course, they probably can't read a diagram either.

Ken Hoop

maybe Col. Lang is too subtle for me, but I'm betting he won't be voting for Ron Paul. Too bad.
American Imperialism, hard, soft
neocon or neolib needs to end.

Paul or Kucinich, right or left,
or both together-end it. A Republic, Not an un-American Empire, as Buchanan titled it.

W. Patrick Lang


Please put up with the present peoblem created by "typepad" improving their program. If they put your comment in the soam folder, I will retrieve it.

On the subject of my supposed subtlety, there isn't any. My point about playing a better game with the Shia is;

1- Safeguard the interest of the peple in funny clothes wearing US Flag patches as we withdraw.

2- The US will still have to play a role in that part of the world when our forces have left. We need to have friends. You don't achieve that by trying to be a friend to everyone. pl

W. Patrick Lang


Thank You



My question would be: are we (the U.S. politcomilitary leadership in theatre) well-informed enough, cunning enough and patient enough to figure out who our best choices for "friends" (and by friends, of course, I mean "tribal gangs willing to roll you for a nickel and stab you for the extra dime") and "enemies" should be? And subtle enough to move and change with shifting alliances and enmities to keep these "friends" (and by "friends", of course, I mean "irascible sectarian and/or political groups blessed with a floating pool of unemployed, violent youths willing to shoot anything moving for a crisp, new, fifty-dollar bill") friendly AND successful in foiling our Iranian enemies?

Not saying it isn't worth trying - anything that helps us make a sandwich out of this shit soup is worth trying - just wondering if anyone more familiar with the players has any idea or confidence level of MNF-I's ability to actually DO this?


Safeguard the interest of the peple in funny clothes wearing US Flag patches as we withdraw.


The French, as they have at almost every turn, gave us an example of how not to do this in Algeria.

I would say that what is needed in US Middle East policy right now is "an opening to Iran". Wouldn't it solve a ton of problems if we could establish a dialogue with Iran?

Just in the very first place, wouldn't it give us leverage with the Sunni dictatorships that we don't currently have?

And wouldn't an opening to Iran be, at the international level, just the kind of playing the field strategy that you are suggesting, Colonel Lang?

Yes, the President of Iran says extremely ill-advised things. But, he is not guilty of war crimes in Lebanon and Gaza, so I would say it all evens out.

Sidney O. Smith III

All evidence continues to indicate that the GOI intends to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran

No evidence indicates the GOI would consider how such an attack would affect US military operations in Iraq. And certainly no evidence indicates that the GOI would takes steps to safeguard US troops in Iraq if a pre-emptive strike took place. To the contrary, the Wurmser option -- endorsed by Cheney -- suggests that the GOI, along with the support of the VP's offce, would take affirmative steps to place US troops at greater risks so as to carry out the intentions of the GOI.

Ergo…the USM should safeguard the Baghdad-Basra supply line by whatever means necessary.


Actually, I thought the Gen's statement was one of the more hopeful, and enlightened statements I've heard coming from the Bush Admin. The general, assuming he was quoted accurately, and, assuming he stands by it, notes that the Iranians have a right to "influence" in the region. Just not "undue" influence. In Bush world...this is a dramatic admission. Almost as if someone has discovered that the world is round or something.


Actually, I thought the Gen's statement was one of the more hopeful, and enlightened statements I've heard coming from the Bush Admin. The general, assuming he was quoted accurately, and, assuming he stands by it, notes that the Iranians have a right to "influence" in the region. Just not "undue" influence. In Bush world...this is a dramatic admission. Almost as if someone has discovered that the world is round or something.


"What we have to watch is undue Iranian influence," Odierno told a small gathering of reporters in Baghdad."

That is exactly right.

The US **has** to watch until someone decides that it is not worth spilling another drop of blood and treasure for the sake of a country that is NOT and will never be an ally of the USA.

What is sickening is that what we see in Iraq is what the Bush admin did (inadvertently) in response to the horrific attacks of 9/11.

Re: Iran, remember:

1) Dawa and SCIRI are not just promoting an Iranian-style political system —they are also directly promoting Iranian interests.

Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, the SCIRI leader, has advocated paying Iran billions in reparations for damage done in the Iran–Iraq war, even as the Bush administration has been working to win forgiveness for Iraq's Saddam-era debt.

Iraq's Shiite oil minister is promoting construction of an export pipeline for petroleum from Basra to the Iranian port city of Abadan, creating an economic and strategic link between the two historic adversaries that would have been unthinkable until now. Iraq's Shiite government has acknowledged Iraq's responsibility for starting the Iran–Iraq war, and apologized.

It is an acknowledgment probably justified by the historical record, but one that has infuriated Iraq's Sunni Arabs.

(Iraq: Bush's Islamic Republic
By Peter W. Galbraith Volume 52, Number 13 · August 11, 2005)

2) Iran's role in Iraq is pervasive, but also subtle. When Iraq drafted its permanent constitution in 2005, the American ambassador energetically engaged in all parts of the process.

But behind the scenes, the Iranian ambassador intervened to block provisions that Tehran did not like.

As it happened, both the Americans and the Iranians wanted to strengthen Iraq's central government.

While the Bush administration clung to the mirage of a single Iraqi people, Tehran worked to give its proxies, the pro-Iranian Iraqis it supported—by then established as the government of Iraq—as much power as possible. (Thanks to Kurdish obstinacy, neither the US nor Iran succeeded in its goal, but even now both the US and Iran want to see the central government strengthened.)

Since 2005, Iraq's Shiite-led government has concluded numerous economic, political, and military agreements with Iran.

The most important would link the two countries' strategic oil reserves by building a pipeline from southern Iraq to Iran, while another commits Iran to providing extensive military assistance to the Iraqi government.

According to a senior official in Iraq's Oil Ministry, smugglers divert at least 150,000 barrels of Iraq's daily oil exports through Iran, a figure that approaches 10 percent of Iraq's production. Iran has yet to provide the military support it promised to the Iraqi army. With the US supplying 160,000 troops and hundreds of billions of dollars to support a pro-Iranian Iraqi government, Iran has no reason to invest its own resources.

Of all the unintended consequences of the Iraq war, Iran's strategic victory is the most far-reaching.

In establishing the border between the Ottoman Empire and the Persian Empire in 1639, the Treaty of Qasr-i-Shirin demarcated the boundary between Sunni-ruled lands and Shiite-ruled lands.

For eight years of brutal warfare in the 1980s, Iran tried to breach that line but could not. (At the time, the Reagan administration supported Saddam Hussein precisely because it feared the strategic consequences of an Iraq dominated by Iran's allies.) The 2003 US invasion of Iraq accomplished what Khomeini's army could not.

Today, the Shiite-controlled lands extend to the borders of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Bahrain, a Persian Gulf kingdom with a Shiite majority and a Sunni monarch, is most affected by these developments; but so is Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, which is home to most of the kingdom's Shiites. (They may even be a majority in the province but this is unknown as Saudi Arabia has not dared to conduct a census.)

The US Navy has its most important Persian Gulf base in Bahrain while most of Saudi Arabia's oil is under the Eastern Province.

(The Victor? By Peter W. Galbraith, Volume 54, Number 15 · October 11, 2007)


All -

Perhaps the interesting question here is given that the US has not to date had a considerable on-the- ground presence in Southern Iraq, with troop levels drawing down establishing such a presence - which may be important/useful to a more targeted "ally" strategy - may be challenging, the apparently complex tribal, sectarian and secular situation in the Basra region and finally the apparent Iranian success to date in "working" at least the Basra region Shia groups to Iran's benefit - can US forces effectively compete with Iran in such an effort?

For those interested, there is much useful information on Basra regional politics at Reidar Visser's website http://historiae.org and there have been a couple of recent related reports by the International Crisis Group - "Where is Iraq Heading: Lessons from Basra " http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4914&l=1 and "Shiite Politics in Iraq: The Role of the Supreme Council" http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5158&l=1

My reading of these materials suggest that the US may already have backed the wrong horse in this race (to meet the objectives described by Col. Lang).



I have a strange feeling, call it a hunch, that if we aren't running for the exits from Iraq right now, we will be very shortly.

Can't put my finger on it, except to say that I suspect the U.S. economy may soon implode, and the Bush Administration is realising what the real threats to the Bush legacy are.

I also get the distinct impression from our new Defence Minister, that he is less than happy with whats happening in Afghanistan at the moment. We seem to be winning battles, but losing that war because of a lack of political and economic follow up.

But then Afghanistan always was pretty much ungovernable.

Green Zone Cafe

After a long absence out of discretion, I return. I am in Iraq again now and have been for awhile, though not much longer.

Homer speaks the truth. The degree of Iranian influence, economic power and outright thuggish muscle in the south almost can't be overstated.

The main mystery to me is how the Iranians manage "to play these Shia militias off against each other to their own benefit," as the Colonel says, without prompting some "Awakening," as it were, among the Shia themselves, against Iranian influence.

How does (the likely suspect) Iranian-trained and equipped Mahdi Army get away with killing the governors of Diwaniya and Muthanna, along with the police chief of Diwaniya, when these officials were from the slavishly pro-Iranian ISCI?

The motive for the murder of the Babel police chief last week is easy enough to discern. He was an old-style secular Iraqi nationalist and a former Iraqi Air Force pilot who bombed Iran during that war. He also did a lot of work on reconciling with the Sunni tribes in north Babel.

The reports are that you hear as much Farsi as Arabic in the centers of Karbala, Najaf and Basra.

There is no real political alternative in the south to the "religious parties." Allawi's list? Please.

The Iran plan for Iraq looks clear enough: maintain influence through the Shia religious parties and militias, foster the establishment of a semi-independent mega-region in the south on the model of the KRG, and turn it into a Manchukuo answering more to Tehran than to Baghdad.

It almost makes sense to try to break the regime in Iran by bombing, because that is the only way, absent a draft and a massive real surge and purge in Iraq, to keep the Iranians from taking over most of Iraq.

Except that if we do bomb, the shit will hit the fan in Iraq (and Afghanistan, and elsewhere) in a way that the US military hasn't seen since Vietnam or possibly WWII.

This is the rock, and this is the hard place.


@pl - just to note

I am anti-imperialism. That is about as anti-amercian as anti-zionism is anti-semite.

Cold War Zoomie

"Is a diagram necessary?"

As long as it's a Powerpoint slide! (My Powerpoint Ranger tab is displayed proudly.)

Michael Murry

Hurling the floridly rhetorical "anti-American" epithet at Americans who rightly question America's needless and criminal blundering in other people's countries may prove emotionally cathartic, but it advances no useful purpose. In fact, it plays directly into the only "divide and rule" issue of any importance that truly confronts America: namely, the political strategy that Karl Rove designed for Sheriff Dick and Deputy Dubya to use against the American people in the interest of gaining power and access to the U. S. Treasury for themselves and their corrupt cronies.

As a matter of fact, the already lost debacles in Afghanistan and Iraq have served -- for six years now -- as nothing more than the primary vehicle through which the American military's "commander in chief" "in a time of war" browbeats and threatens the American people into sullen "support the troops" subservience. Neither Afghans nor Iraqis had, or have, anything to do with this domestic American political farce. The politics of Orwellian Fascism in America don't "stop at the water's edge." They begin there.

So, for Americans to suppose that we can "use" one group of foreign people against other groups of foreign people -- when we can't even keep our own government from dividing and ruling us -- seems the only truly quintessential "anti-American" quality observable in Americans today. No one does "anti-Americanism" like Americans who know how to divide themselves and unite others only too well, but who have little demonstrated capacity for "governing," let alone "ruling."

As with the American creation of hapless South Vietnamese puppets too numerous to recount, the latest attempt by America to create some rump Sunni tribal puppets (since the Iranians have already got the oil-possessing Shiite market cornered) only leaves America with a resource-less dependent. And when the cost to America of maintaining this hapless dependent grows too enormous for America to any longer sustain (which it already has), then the illegitimate and resource-less puppet will either collapse or try to attack and seize the Shiite and/or Kurdish oil resources that Sunni Iraqis formerly owned and operated under Saddam Hussein's Baathist organization. In any event, all this "catastrophic gradualism," as George Orwell called these drawn-out, "phased," fig-leaf retreats from self-inflicted colonial disaster, amounts to nothing more than what James Carroll calls "American self exoneration" and Paul Krugman calls "a surge, and then a stab."

As Carroll says: [The]focus on imagined terms of a US exit someday over actual effects of the US occupation this day, is American self-exoneration. Why do they hate us? Perhaps an answer is embedded in this visceral insistence on innocence as the defining note of the American character. If the United States finds a way, eventually, to withdraw from Iraq without ever having reckoned the war as an expressly American evil, then the world will be at risk for its savage replay."

As Krugman says: "Mr. Bush's actions have not been those of a leader seriously trying to win a war. They have, however, been what you'd expect from a man whose plan is to keep up appearances for the next 16 months, never mind the cost in lives and money, then shift the blame for failure onto his successor. ... At this point, Mr. Bush is looking forward to replaying the political aftermath of Vietnam, in which the right wing eventually achieved a rewriting of history that would have made George Orwell proud, convincing millions of Americans that our soldiers had victory in their grasp but were stabbed in the back by the peaceniks back home. ... What all this means is that the next president, even as he or she tries to extricate us from Iraq - and prevent the country's breakup from turning into a regional war - will have to deal with constant sniping from the people who lied us into an unnecessary war, then lost the war they started, but will never, ever, take responsibility for their failures."

In summary, then: (1) America has no business "using" -- or "thinking" it can use -- anyone in Iraq for anything. Ditto for Afghanistan. (2) America has a completely illegitimate presence in Iraq as well as a long-established, certain-loser habit of creating puppet proxy dependencies that only grow weaker and less politically viable the longer and more lavishly America embraces them. Think "Mayor of Kabul City" (Hamid Karzai) here. Think "Mayor of Baghdad Green Zone Castle" (Nuri Al-Maliki) here. Squandering fourteen billion dollars a month to maintain these ludicrous figments of imaginary "governments" -- just so that Americans won't have to face (yet) the realization of how their own government has cynically employed imperial militarism to divide and abuse them -- has long-since left the quaint province of foolishness and has entered the realm of psychopathic perversion. (3) For the crony claque (both political and military) that instigated and continues to indefinitely extend this disaster, the only concern involves exonerating themselves and passing both the problem and the blame for it onto future American leaders whom they will then do everything in their power to subvert so that a disastrous replay of Iraq-Nam -- their primary strategy for dividing and ruling the American people -- remains always "on the table."

I offer this polemic analysis as an expatriate American ex-patriot no longer divided and/or ruled by naked appeals to "patriotism," what the American Civil War veteran Ambrose Beirce rightly called "combustible rubbish ready to the torch of any man ambitious to illuminate his name." I've long since-had enough of the ambitious American name-illuminators who shamelessly torch America’s combustible patriotic rubbish so as to divide and rule the American "patriot," whom they consider only a stupid and handy "dupe of statesmen and tool of conquerors." I can’t think of anyone or any thing more “anti-American” (in the sense of harmful to America) than the “neo-conservative” Republicrat Party membership -- both political and military -- and its name-illuminating, rubbish-torching imperial militarism.

Brian Hart

In Anbar Sunni Shieks were played against Sunni clerics usually with bribes and jobes. With Shiites do we play off - clerics against clerics, or Arab Shiitesv. Persian Shiites, or what?

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