A Blast Hits Close to Home

baqubah.jpg
AP Photo

On Sunday, a suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest attacked a group of mostly Iraqi civilians outside the provincial Governance Center complex in downtown Baqubah, the volatile capital of Iraq's Diyala province. I know the site well -- I lived there, or 500 meters down the street at the police headquarters, for the duration of my tour in Iraq from 2005 to 2006.

Plus ca change. . . such attacks were much more common back then; they are increasingly rare now.

It is dangerous to generalize too much from one attack and impossible to discern any trends. At most, singular incidents can demonstrate a particular capability, like the use of a truck bomb to take down a bridge or the use of a female suicide bomber. In this instance, the Baquabah attack demonstrated that Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia retains a few key capabilities: a pool of recruits ready to die as suicide bombers, the ability to swim like fish among the people, and the ability to build these kinds of explosive devices. But that's not saying very much, because they've always had those capabilities.

What's more significant to me is that this suicide bomber did not detonate inside the Governance Center compound, home to key Iraqi command nodes such as the Governor's office and Provincial Joint Coordination Center. (I'm not giving away any secrets -- Iraqi leaders regularly hold press and public events there.) Had the suicide bomber broken through the outside security cordon and hit one of those things, that would have struck a major blow. But she did not. Rather, it appears she blew herself up in front of the Governance Center, on Baqubah's main street, home to many shops and small businesses. The Iraqi security cordon did its job, although, in doing so, it diverted the blast into the crowd of civilians waiting outside of the Governance Center complex, making this a mixed outcome at best.

Despite this deadly day, we can still say with certainty that security has improved in Iraq, even in its worst areas like Diyala. But towards what end? And how long must we stay? How will we know when we can hand the mission over to the Iraqi government and its security forces? And how does our perseverance connect with America's interests? Is there a tipping point at which it makes more sense to go than to stay -- and is it possible that we've already passed that point? These are some of the questions I'm struggling with today.

By Phillip Carter |  June 25, 2008; 8:38 AM ET  | Category:  Iraq
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Well, the end being striven for is one of greatest importance to Iraqis, not to Americans. To achieve that end, Americans will need to be in Iraq in large numbers for a very long time. We won't know exactly when we can leave without putting that end at risk; it is more likely we will have to leave as a matter of necessity, under the pressure of some crisis elsewhere in the world or simply because the cost of the Iraq commitment is imposing visible damage on our economy.

Our perserverance connects with America's interests in Iraq, but not with our interests anywhere else. None of the vast resources we are pouring into Iraq every month can be devoted to any other purpose, while Iraq itself has one thing of use to us -- oil, which will become available to the world market eventually anyway -- and nothing else we have any reason to value at all. Of the populated regions of the globe, only sub-Saharan Africa is less central to the great destinies of this country than the backward, unproductive and violence-prone cultures of the Arab Middle East. Yet at present, the whole of American foreign and national security policy revolves around the future of one, mid-sized Arab country.

Have we passed the tipping point? Yes. In terms of America's interests and priorities, we passed it some time ago, though to give credit where it is due Gen. Petraeus and his subordinates have given to Iraqis opportunities they did not have in the chaotic and bloody year that preceded the "surge."

The analogy to Vietnam is a difficult one; it was a different war fought at a different time. One thing it had in common with the war in Iraq, though, is that it represented an enormous drain on American resources and an equally enormous distortion of our foreign policy priorities. Both the fiscal and the opportunity costs of Vietnam were very large -- and America's margin for error was much greater then than it is now.

Posted by: Zathras | June 25, 2008 11:23 AM

I'd like to propose an alternative analogy. Maybe we should view the old relationship of the Soviet Union with Cuba as such - one that created a strategic confrontation then followed by decades of treasury drain with no apparent benefit to the Soviets. It left a model of the larger protector's self that for the present day Russian it must be a reminder of the scars from their totalitarians of the past and the folly they could create. Cuba was a place and a culture they did not understand; their model, bankrupting; and, their return, negative. Except, the Russians may be free from the Cold War and their coffers full, unlike their opponent.

Posted by: Bill Keller | June 25, 2008 12:26 PM

Do we go or do we stay?

It is not as if American policy reflects a consensus of American values or goals. If we stay, it is to benefit American oil companies. If we go, it is because indifference has triumphed over impotent guilt among the vast majority with no stock in Exxon/Mobil.

The American policy of indefinite Occupation, as pursued by Bush and now McCain, must pivot strategically on the weakness of Iraq, politically and economically. Only a sufficiently weak Iraq "wants" the Americans to stay indefinitely.

But, the defense in American politics, of the Bush policy for Iraq, required both some kind of threat that prevents leaving, and some kind of "success" to justify staying. Bush has pursued this defense along a narrow path, never daring to do much to actually strengthen Iraq. God forbid that the electricity generation for which American taxpayers paid Bechtel could come on-line!

Arming Sunnis in the Great Awakening combined rhetoric that appealled to Bush's religious base at home with a policy that weakened the Iraqi central government, aiding the strategic cause of long-term American Occupation.

But, Maliki and his allies have been walking a narrow path as well, aided by the high price of oil. Banking the cash, carrying out ethnic cleansing, and consolidating Shiite control of oil production and export and of the capital, in anticipation of civil war breaking out, if and when the Americans leave.

There really is nothing to wrestle with, here, except your conscience. If you want to sacrifice your country's honor, wealth and the lives of her best young men to fortify the fortunes of her corporate plutocracy, then long-term Occupation is definitely the way to go, no matter how weak and battered Iraq must be, to make it work.

Otherwise, the U.S. could and should get out, expecting that the Iraqis will settle their civil war in due course, and move on to producing their oil for their own benefit, or the benefit of an Iraqi kleptocracy.

The U.S. could move on from promoting the dubious interests of American oil companies to saving the planet from the scourge of environment collapse. Not that the problems of peak oil or global warming should be allowed to trump the threat of islamofascism, or anything.

Posted by: Bruce Wilder | June 25, 2008 2:35 PM

Phillip, thanks for the first hand perspective...always gratifying.

Zathras good thoughts--however, I'm unconvinced our margin for error was greater then than it is now. 'Interesting times' always have a way of looking gloomier when you're in the middle of them. In 1968 many of us thought times were way gloomier than I would perceive today. The western world was in chaos and we had an enemy that was egging it on with the army to back it up and economy that could support the final push...for awhile anyway.

Now...with a $13 trillion GDP and an interconnected economic world...it is hard to see how this slow leak on our resources can have any lasting impact. Objectively, we have more petroleum reserves than all of the mid-east combined...and if we ever need to tap oil shale here and tar sands in Canada...we can always do it. Besides we don't get that much of our oil from the Persian Gulf anyway.

We have no near peer that threatens our existence or way of life. The rest of the developed world, even if they don't see eye to eye with us on Iraq, agree with us on most issues of importance and can't really envision a world without us. We have decent relations with the major powers on earth and the growing economies too. We keep the big brush fires in check. All in all...from a grand historical perspective...Iraq is a blip. I don 't mean to denigrate the sacrifices made. I've been in the 'sandbox' twice. My nephew has been there twice in the last two years and since he lives just down the street...his absences are a daily topic.

Bill--good analogy...but again Iraq is not a major drain on the totality of American resources. I will agree though that it is a drain on what else could be done with tax receipts. Bridges come to mind immediately. The drain on American prestige is transitory at best...and we look better all the time as we're making headway.

Bruce...you start out ok...but come on...you just waded into bumper sticker land and lost me. If you want even less consensus on policy for Iraq...start talking about America 'saving the planet from blah, blah, blah....' Managing growth and scarcity of resources is an endless challenge...met with science and commerce. Islamofascism is a no kidding threat...one that is being handled pretty well right now.

Posted by: Panhandle Willy | June 25, 2008 6:52 PM

Zathras, thank you for you thoughtful, informed, and wise post. I hope to hear more from you.

Posted by: cms@cablespeed.com | June 25, 2008 8:01 PM

It is not the job of military personnel to consider the costs of military operations. So they don't. It will naturally be harder to see what a "slow leak" will lead to if one is not looking for it.

The costs of the American commitment in Iraq must be considered in the context of an economy still growing at the top end (and now, for the moment, in the export sector) and under serious stress otherwise; of their contribution to America's enormous foreign debt, which scarcely existed 40 years ago; of a backlog of domestic infrastructure needs considerably larger than what we had 40 years ago; of an enormous and substantially unfunded liability produced by the ongoing retirement of the baby boom generation, still in its youth 40 years ago; of a smaller but similarly unfunded liability produced by the impending retirement of major defense weapons platforms and the need to replace equipment lost to Iraq; of petroleum costs that have more than quadrupled in less than a decade, and now factor in America's trade deficit as they did not 40 years ago; and of all our other commitments in the world, and all the things we cannot do because of the commitment in Iraq -- beginning, of course, with fighting the war in Afghanistan with an adequate force.

America's geopolitical position must also reckon with the greatly reduced relative stength of the American economy compared to 40 years ago, as well as the absence of the Soviet threat that simplified our relations with allies in Europe and elsewhere. It is regrettably also true that we must reckon with political leadership of markedly inferior quality at the highest levels in Washington. At the beginning of 1969 the manifold problems America faced were the responsibility of the ethically challenged but undoubtedly competent Richard Nixon; the second term of the least competent President since Harding is now slowly coming to an end now, and his likely replacement is a man whose most notable accomplishment in public life is the authorship of books about himself.

An attitude of bovine complacency with respect to the costs of the Iraq war is therefore inappropriate. We cannot expect to navigate the future in blissful disregard of the amount of ballast we are hauling around. American commitments must be brought into line with American resources; Iraq, as the least valuable current use of American resources, has got to be thrown over the side.

Posted by: Zathras | June 25, 2008 11:27 PM

C'mon, Phil, none of the 'questions' you ask can be answered with anything approaching certainty - therefore you asking them is merely for effect. Not that the questions aren't valid, but all one can do regarding them is to stack the supposed 'good' up against the supposed 'bad' resulting from the various scenarios and make a decision: and from what we know now staying quite obviously has more upside than leaving - but of course as a an Obama man you can't admit to that, and therefore the rhetorical questions of yours.

Posted by: Orson | June 25, 2008 11:30 PM

Again...good thoughts but:

>>>It will naturally be harder to see what a "slow leak" will lead to if one is not looking for it.

Looking for its impacts is not the same as starting with the presumption that the impact is catastrophic and then looking for a disparate and perhaps unrelated suppositions to fit your conclusion.

>>>under serious stress otherwise

Supposition: lots of sectors of the economy are doing just fine...agriculture, IT, health to name a few. Some others aren't...what's new about that?

>>>contribution to America's enormous foreign debt, which scarcely existed 40 years ago

Who's to say this is all bad? If America helps raise the standards of living of vast areas of the world, that also raises the numbers of potential customers for American products. Not to mention raising the expectation of citizens of foreign countries who want more of a voice in their own governments and possess the economic clout that make it a reality--see European history and the decline of Feudalism, Protestant Reformation and decline of Vatican power, American Revolution...and so on.

I also think we need to spend better on infrastructure...I think I remember somewhere something about 'promote the general welfare' somewhere.

>>>of an enormous and substantially unfunded liability produced by the ongoing retirement of the baby boom generation

In 40 years the baby boom generation (me)will be a paragragh in the history books. Let's see some studies on what THAT means for future SS/MC revenue streams.

>>>all the things we cannot do because of the commitment in Iraq -- beginning, of course, with fighting the war in Afghanistan with an adequate force.

Agree 100%. That's what elections are for.

>>>America's geopolitical position must also reckon with the greatly reduced relative stength of the American economy compared to 40 years ago

Again...who's to say this is such a bad thing...maybe even the long term goal...starting with the Marshall Plan.

>>>It is regrettably also true that we must reckon with political leadership of markedly inferior quality at the highest levels in Washington.

You get the government you deserve...and you got to play the hand you're dealt.

>>>the second term of the least competent President since Harding is now slowly coming to an end now, and his likely replacement is a man whose most notable accomplishment in public life is the authorship of books about himself.

I think the country did ok in the ensuing decades after Harding...we're still here. We're still the richest, most powerful nation in the history of the world. We still have the best form of government on the planet. We still have a populace that is heavily invested in liberty and the American dream and the ethnicity of that populace is changing rapidly...and yet the ideals remain the same...further proof of the rightness of the dream.

>>>An attitude of bovine complacency with respect to the costs of the Iraq war is therefore inappropriate.

It's not bovine complacency to take a longer view events...it is however counterproductive to flail about wailing and gnashing teeth over every historical hiccup in the conceited notion that your lifetime is somehow the most significant event in history and all world problems must be solved to your satisfaction within your period of existence...like a neat 30 minute sitcom. That leads to knee-jerk reactions and decisions that are usually equally as counter-productive.

>>>We cannot expect to navigate the future in blissful disregard of the amount of ballast we are hauling around.

You're right...and I don't mean to sound Panglossian about the current situation. We need to wrap up Iraq sooner rather than later. Senior leadership misjudged the timetable for Iraq...that kind of schedule is never concrete. But the goal of leaving Iraq in better hands and position than we found is in sight and it would be foolish to leave before we can say we got the job done.

Posted by: Panhandle Willy | June 26, 2008 10:58 AM

Wow - "and from what we know now staying quite obviously has more upside than leaving".

And - "But the goal of leaving Iraq in better hands and position than we found is in sight and it would be foolish to leave before we can say we got the job done."

Really? What does this upside consist of? What makes it obvious? And what "better hands and position"?

Oh yeah - how many Friedman units, lives, and additional billions of dollars is "in sight". And what kind of sick mind is willing to pay that so "we can say we got the job done"? Why should I care about being able to say that I completed "a job" that should never have been started in the first place?

Posted by: Butch | June 26, 2008 12:55 PM

Time to declare victory (excuse me, success) and leave.

This war has been, and is, being egregiously mismanaged. The lack of specific, measurable goals has been obviated by Gen. Petreaus, who last told Congress "I'll know victory when I see it", and refusing to define what metrics or conditions he'd use in determining when we could finally leave. A refined twist on "We can't leave because we're ".

But we can leave. We can recognize that it's up to the Iraqi's. Suppose they don't want democracy? By "they" I mean a majority, or a large enough minority to make democracy unsustainable? Suppose Iraq is a violent, mysognistic society who has slipped below the feudal level and is operating as a loose confederation of tribes? Where's the basis for democracy in that?

I don't agree that it is in our national interest to be in Iraq indefinitely -- or even for more than a year. It costs too much. Not a drain? You have to be kidding, just the measurable costs of the war far outweigh the benefits.

Panhandle, a reductio ad absurdum applied to your argument shows we'll all be dead someday, so why worry?

And Iraqi's will buy our goods? Nice try, all we really export these days are debt, popular culture and financial products that cause occasional implosions in the world market.

Gotta come up with more than that.

Posted by: Daniel Patrick | June 26, 2008 1:05 PM

>>>Time to declare victory (excuse me, success) and leave.

I'd say we're not far apart on this. I want our kids home too, like I said, sooner rather than later. I think we're closer to this point than you obviously do. But to just up and leave because a big, but still a, minority just want to...is foolish.

>>>We can recognize that it's up to the Iraqi's.

Please name me one person who thinks Iraq's future isn't up the Iraqis. We all know that it is. However, we are trying to help them create the conditions that preclude falling back into the same tyranny they were under, with an open rule of law and stable government. What business is that of ours? Too frigging late. For good or bad we made it our business in 2003. Like Sec. Powell said...you break it you own it.

>>>Suppose....

We're trying to suppose differently.

>>>I don't agree that it is in our national interest to be in Iraq indefinitely.

Me neither.

>>>It costs too much. Not a drain? You have to be kidding, just the measurable costs of the war far outweigh the benefits.

Again...I agree it is a drain...but I don't agree that it will be in the long term or that it is statistically significant (in dollars anyway) when put into perspective with the size of our GDP. Heck maybe Iraq will be a net gain if we can pull off putting a major oil producer on an even keel and get their 2 million bbls a day into the oil market where it hasn't been for almost 20 years.

>>>operating as a loose confederation of tribes

Pretty much how most of the mid-east already operates isn't it? One tribe or another seems to be in the ascendency in every arab country. So if Iraq goes that way...maybe its ok. I think it looks pretty close to that now. If they will just continue to work together as they seem to be now..they might forge something they can live with. Loose federation of tribes sounds a little like political parties anyway.

>>>a reductio ad absurdum

Yeah and I thought I would just be accused of glibly saying 'everything is exactly how it should be.' I've already accused Zathras of being a short-sighted, knee-jerker so I guess turn about is fair play.

>>>And Iraqi's will buy our goods?

I made no attempt to focus on Iraqis buying our products. It was the world-wide markets I was talking about. 6 billion people is a lot of potential customers. Raising their standard of living to be able to afford your products seems like good long term business. Fits squarely into 'promote the general welfare' to me. But no that you mention it, I don't see why Iraqis would be excluded from that pool.

Posted by: Panhandle Willy | June 26, 2008 6:49 PM

World A'Hoy Y'All from Central West Jerusalem @8:53 AM Friday June 27,2008.

Folks;I too appreciate Phil's personal,being there,recollecion;but nowhere,including my seen too previous comments above,titled;

Time to declare victory (excuse me, success) and leave.

Do I see,any mention of that key DARK SIDE reason,our America has been sticking cherished serving US post children in Death,Lifelong Brain Impairment & Capture Harm's way,for this neverending Call;

OIL!

First seen on the W.w.w.;Top Story of the new Al-Ahram Weekly;from Cairo;

Return of the seven sisters Rising oil prices lie behind the decision to crackdown on Iraq's southern rebellion, writes Salah Hemeid

Visiting Al-Amarah to boost the morale of troops fighting Shia rebels on Monday, Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki vowed that forces loyal to the government would continue their offensive in the southern province until anti-government armed groups are uprooted. The onslaught is an extension of military operations that began in Basra in March to end rebel control of Iraq's second largest city.

Al-Maliki has repeatedly said that the onslaught, also taking place in Mosul which lies on a strategic pipeline linking the Kirkuk oilfields in the north to Turkey, is part of his plan to build on recent security gains and restore government authority over Iraq's troublesome provinces. Since the 2003 war that toppled Saddam Hussein's regime, Mosul has been under control of Al-Qaeda and other Sunni armed groups, while Al-Amarah and Basra are dominated by the Mahdi militia of the anti-American Shia cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr. The government's decision to end rebel domination of these key provinces has raised questions about the timing of Al-Maliki's move.

The answer seems to lie in oil. The two southern provinces sit on a lake of 150 billion barrels, i.e. 95 per cent of Iraq's oil reserves. The northern province provides Iraq with its only oil export outlet to the Mediterranean. With oil prices nudging $140 per barrel and the US economy on the verge of freefall, Washington seems to have decided that it cannot wait any longer to use Iraq's huge reserve to increase output and lower the prices.

http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2008/903/fr2.htm

On 19 June, The New York Times reported that Shell, BP and Exxon Mobil, Total and Chevron, heirs to the infamous seven sisters cartel that dominated world energy production in the latter half of the 20th century, were close to signing deals with Iraq to develop its oil and gas fields. The report came after Baghdad said it is about to sign agreements with international oil firms to revamp Iraq's oil fields, ravaged by the war and sabotaged by armed groups.

Under the deals, worth around $500 million, the five firms will help overhaul Iraq's oil fields to boost the current production by 600,000 barrels a day, an increase of nearly 20 per cent.

Mid segment:

After five gruelling years of war US and other Western oil companies, shunned following Saddam's nationalisation of the oil industry in 1972, are returning to some of the world's biggest oil fields. The move is intended to give these mammoth corporations a long-term access to proven reserves that are second only to Saudi Arabia's. With some analysts predicting that oil prices could reach $300 by 2015, the motives behind increasing production in the Iraqi oil fields are crystal clear.

American oil companies have been busy over the last five years analysing Iraq's oil wealth and offering technical expertise in relentless efforts to secure the favour of the Iraqi government and, by extension, contracts and huge profits at a later date. Representatives of the companies and American officials played a leading role in discussions to write a new Iraqi oil law to give foreign investment a larger share in the industry. As a result the five oil companies have been successful against major competitors from China, Russia and India, raising the question of whether this was the ultimate goal of the US-led invasion of Iraq after all.

The Bush administration always promised that Saddam's downfall would open the way for American oil companies to return to Iraq. It was only because of insurgent attacks that American firms stayed away for five years. So great is the demand for oil today, and the concern over rising prices, that now is the perfect time for their project. It will allow the US administration to justify its invasion to an American public opposed to the war but eager for cheaper oil, and to force deals on an Iraqi public debilitated by five years of violence and destruction.

Nevertheless, the deals have rekindled suspicions among Iraqis that oil, not freedom and democracy, lay behind Washington's determination to invade their country. Those suspicions have been fanned by the refusal to allow parliament to discuss the terms of contracts, and by the non- competitive bidding process. Deals are being concluded even though Iraq's parliament has yet to adopt the oil and revenue sharing law widely viewed as a critical political benchmark for national reconciliation.

The agreements, expected to be signed later this month, also have put the Bush administration at odds with some Democratic legislators who have warned that the deals could fan the perception that US involvement in Iraq was motivated by oil. The Democrats feel that by speeding up the signing of the deals the Bush administration is creating further mess in a crisis-ridden Iraq ahead of the presidential election in order to hamper Barack Obama's way to the White House.

Then; Ending:

But if Al-Maliki believes that clearing the streets of Al-Amarah and Basra from the militias, particularly those of the Mahdi army who have been engaged in massive smuggling operations that siphon off hundreds of thousands of barrels a day, in order to allow American companies to resume operations peacefully and at a lower cost, is going to be easy he is wrong. It could well act to pull the country further apart. There are already deep divisions in Iraq over whether oil should be controlled by central or regional government, whether international oil companies should be involved in development and how the profits should be distributed. A hasty solution like the one envisaged by Al-Maliki could trigger even more distrust and resentment among rival religious and ethnic factions, entrenching the kind of problems that he and his rickety government have been unable to solve by simply sending troops to fight militias in rebellious provinces.

For these next couple of Jerusalem Friday morning hours,while E@World for Humanity 'jour gems',freely here,

If more appears to Intel Dump interest;You'll see of me;Back.

But if not;I take this opprtunity here,now;

to Wish All;שבת שלום=Sabbath Peace;from Jerusalem.

To Life!=לחיים.Pronounced Le Chaim.

PRIORITY 1 LIFE

Posted by: Michael of up West.Orig.Manhattan.Now Jerusalem. | June 27, 2008 2:08 AM

Dramatic pause
While the relief of eased regional tensions is welcome, signs point to an unprecedented upheaval and possible catastrophe ahead, writes Hassan Nafaa* (U.S. Geo-Strategic Intelligence Interest;analysis.)


Recent weeks have brought a series of unexpected and exciting developments that may just form a turning point in the mode of interactions this region has experienced for so long. Suddenly, after sharp and intensifying polarisations that seemed at times to be propelling the region towards an immanent inferno, the blackened skies have begun to clear, the roar of thunder and flashes of lightening have receded, and one can sniff a freshness in the air as though a new dawn were at hand. Since Lebanon has always served as the riverbed in which regional parties have poured their tensions and refuse, it has naturally become a kind of finely tuned meteorological testing station capable of detecting subtle shifts in regional temperatures, shifts in the direction of winds and even seismological vibrations indicative of benign tremors or impending quakes and volcanic eruptions.

It was no coincidence that the dormant Lebanese volcano should awake again within a few months of the American invasion and occupation of Iraq. After the US accomplished its immediate aim of toppling the regime and when it became clear to all that it had come to Iraq to stay and that it was not so much interested in Iraq per se but in Iraq as a staging post for executing its plans for redrawing the regional map to suit its post-11 September global enterprise, other world powers, including those that had previously opposed the American invasion and occupation, soon caved in to Washington's will and ambitions and signalled their readiness to cooperate. No observer of events at the time could escape the conclusion that Washington would soon turn its sights on other regimes and forces hostile to its Middle Eastern policies and that the next phase would naturally require: first, the disarmament of Hizbullah, which could not be accomplished until Syria was ousted from Lebanon; second, giving Israel the go-ahead to destroy Palestinian resistance factions and, if necessary, to eliminate Yasser Arafat; and third and most importantly, slaying the regional serpent, Iran.

http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2008/903/op2.htm

Late segment:
Regretfully, I tend towards the second reading for several reasons. First, concrete factors in favour of acceptable compromise solutions are not sufficiently available on any of the said fronts. While some factors may propel towards temporary calm in order to forestall escalation, the motives and positions of adversaries remain too far apart. Second, although none of the regional and international parties, apart from the US and Israel, have an interest in escalating situations, these parties do not possess sufficient leverage to alter balances of power in a manner conducive to mutually acceptable settlements. Third, while it is true that the US and Israel have previously tried to impose compromises or settlements by force, especially in Palestine and Lebanon, and that these attempts have failed miserably, there is no evidence that they have reconciled themselves to the need for real compromise. Both continue to regard Iran as a major threat to their security and their interests in the region and both realise that if the Iranian nuclear programme is not destroyed or totally contained before autumn it will be difficult to accomplish that objective in the near future.

For the foregoing reasons we can not rule out the possibility that current attempts to calm down tensions along the arc of Middle Eastern crises is, in fact, only prelude to a blanket offensive that has been on the drawing boards for some time. This conclusion is supported by several serious political analyses that I have come across recently and that concur on two essential points. The first is that Israel no longer trusts in the ability of diplomatic means to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions and, therefore, insists that other means -- principally military -- be brought to bear before the end of Bush's term in office. Bush, of course, is totally sympathetic and ready to be of service, as Chris Hedges warns in his article "The Iran Trap" appearing on Truthdig.org 8 June. Among other evidence pointing in that direction, Hedges cites the letter by House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers to President Bush threatening to open impeachment proceedings if Bush attacked Iran. Conyers, in that letter, points to the resignation of Admiral William J Fallon -- reportedly the only person who could have forestalled a US "pre- emptive" strike -- from the head of US Central Command as an indication that the Bush administration was unilaterally planning for military action against that country.

Then,Ending:
The second point of agreement is that Iran possesses many powerful deterrents that would make a military attack against it a stroke of madness. But then, who is to say Bush is not mad? I personally fear that Bush could be driven by his megalomania and his fundamentalist creed to bring on Armageddon.

* The writer is a professor of political science at Cairo University.

Posted by: Michael of up West.Orig.Manhattan.Now Jerusalem. | June 27, 2008 2:59 AM

Foothold in Darfur The Editorial of this current Al-Ahram Weeky

Mid-segment:

Israel's current involvement in Darfur is particularly suspicious. During a meeting between Tzipi Livni and several African envoys in Tel Aviv, the Israeli foreign minister said that her government wanted to help find a solution to the crisis in Darfur. One would think that Israel is perhaps the last country in the world that can mediate a crisis in an Arab country, especially one like Sudan that has no ties whatsoever with Israel. The only explanation is that Israel wants to take sides with the Darfur rebels against the Sudanese government.

Reports indicate that the Sudan Liberation Movement has opened an office in Tel Aviv. Israel is also said to be arming the rebels, training them in camps in Israel, sending military experts to rebel zones in Sudan, and disguising Mossad operatives as relief workers.

http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2008/903/ed.htm

Ending:

A foothold in Darfur would establish Israel in the south Sahara and help it gain a foothold close to the Red Sea. And it's not just Darfur. Israel is encouraging Sudanese refugees from Sudan's south and Nubia to reach its borders via Egypt. Nearly 3,000 people have tried that route so far, according to Sudanese official figures. Israel wants Western Sudan to secede, for then the rebels may be persuaded to grant it a military base in their areas -- a development that would endanger Egypt, Libya, Sudan and the Red Sea. This scenario is not happening in Sudan alone, but all over Africa's many turbulent regions.

The US is currently engaged in an effort to run an oil pipeline from Iraq and the Gulf states through Darfur, Libya and Morocco, all the way to the Atlantic. Combine this with Israel's attempt to establish itself near the sources of the Nile and in south Sudan and you'll have a fair picture of what's going on. Israel is trying to encircle Egypt from the south.

We need to remain alert to Israeli and US manoeuvres in Sudan and Africa. We need to take a close look at what's happening, also, in other parts of Africa and think of the consequences for our national security and the security of the Arab world. Solidarity with our African brethren has always been a mainstay of our policy. But now we have to think beyond solidarity. We have to think of our own national security.

Posted by: Michael of up West.Orig.Manhattan.Now Jerusalem. | June 27, 2008 3:16 AM

Fine. Just Out on the W.w.w.;Our Earth's Humanity shocking UK Independent Cover Story;today;

exhibits U.S. Geo-Strategic opportunity implication.

Exclusive: No ice at the North Pole

Polar scientists reveal dramatic new evidence of climate change

By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Friday, 27 June 2008

Independent Graphics

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It seems unthinkable, but for the first time in human history, ice is on course to disappear entirely from the North Pole this year.


The disappearance of the Arctic sea ice, making it possible to reach the Pole sailing in a boat through open water, would be one of the most dramatic - and worrying - examples of the impact of global warming on the planet. Scientists say the ice at 90 degrees north may well have melted away by the summer.

"From the viewpoint of science, the North Pole is just another point on the globe, but symbolically it is hugely important. There is supposed to be ice at the North Pole, not open water," said Mark Serreze of the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado.

If it happens, it raises the prospect of the Arctic nations being able to exploit the valuable oil and mineral deposits below these a bed which have until now been impossible to extract because of the thick sea ice above.

Seasoned polar scientists believe the chances of a totally icefreeNorth Pole this summer are greater than 50:50 because the normally thick ice formed over many years at the Pole has been blown away and replaced by hugeswathes of thinner ice formed over a single year.

http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/exclusive-no-ice-at-the-north-pole-855406.html

Ending:

Inuit natives living near Baffin Bay between Canada and Greenland are also reporting thatthe sea ice there is starting to break up much earlier than normal and that they have seen wide cracks appearing in the ice where it normally remains stable. Satellite measurements collected over nearly 30 years show a significant decline in the extent of the Arctic sea ice, which has become more rapid in recent years.


Posted by: Michael of up West.Orig.Manhattan.Now Jerusalem. | June 27, 2008 3:45 AM

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