Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Morning copy 12.13.2005

The war over the war in Iraq

The Times of London has an important, must read story that hints at substantial troop withdrawals in 2006:
A senior Western diplomat in Baghdad said yesterday: “One of the first things we will talk about (with the new Iraqi government) is the phased transfer of security, particularly in cities and provinces. It will happen progressively over the next year.”

America has more than 160,000 troops in central and northern Iraq, and Britain about 8,000 based in four southern provinces. Contingency plans are already in place for the small British contingents in the two provinces of Dhiqar and Muthana to go as early as the spring.

The third to go will be Misan province, a far more restive region. A senior British officer said that Iraqi security forces might be able to “keep a lid on the violence” by the end of this year.
The Technorati for the London Times link, which will show the latest comments in the blogosphere.

This story reminded me, to a degree, of Robert Baer on Hardball last week:
BAER: I think, Chris, we are going to see worse problems after the election, because the Shia are going to say we are the legitimate rulers, we are taking the oil, we‘re taking the power and oh, by the way, you Americans, thanks a lot, now leave. And it‘s—you‘re going to have a radical government ...

MATTHEWS: Well, that would be interesting. Do you really believe that the Shia would feel themselves confident enough to hold the place once we leave?

BAER: With Iran‘s backing, why not? Muqtada al-Sadr was put in by Hezbollah. He‘s been told to back off until after the 15th. I think pretty well the best prediction after the 15th, he is going to say all right, thank you very much.

MATTHEWS: I‘ve never heard this before. You believe, Bob Baer, based upon your knowledge, that the government they elect in Iraq and we supervise next Thursday will have enough self confidence to say we can leave?

BAER: I think they will. And I think their plan will be—is to go into Ramadi and Fallujah and take care of business.
Rep. John Murtha has also insisted, several times, that substantial withdrawal will happen within a year.

The Iraqi Interior Ministry has denied recent claims of torturing detainees, New York Times. The Washington Times has a major scoop as well today:
Gen. al-Samarrai said the Iranian intelligence officer, Tahseer Nasr Lawandi, works directly under the Kurdish deputy minister, Gen. Hussein Kamel, and is known throughout the ministry as "The Engineer."

"The Engineer was behind the torturing and killing in the ministry and was also in charge of Jadriya prison," said Gen. al-Samarrai, who left the ministry after a dispute with superiors and is now living in Jordan.
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has an opinion piece in the San Diego Union Trbune:
A responsible exit strategy can only emerge from a subtle interplay of political and security elements – above all, the consolidation of a national government. Real progress requires that the Iraqi armed forces view themselves – and are seen by the population – as defenders of the national interests, not sectarian or regional ones.
Bloomberg News on sectarian paramilitary formations:
Bush insisted yesterday that Iraq was moving steadily toward political unity even amid violence and turmoil. Fears ``that Iraq could break apart and fall into civil war'' are unjustified, he said during a speech in Philadelphia.

Some analysts don't share his optimism. ``The situation continues to deteriorate,'' said Anthony Cordesman of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. ``It's a matter of the militias, new political organizations, Shiite groups'' and Iraqi security forces becoming ``forces for revenge or reprisal.''
The Christian Science Monitor:
Marine Capt. Clinton Culp doesn't waver. "I know sir. I've lost men, too. But if we beat [up] the enemy, then we are no better than him." The two detainees in question are clearly insurgents and deserved the beating he gave them, Captain Hussein argues. But he begrudgingly agrees to let Captain Culp take them into Marine custody.

In encampments like this one, established after a US operation last month near Iraq's border with Syria, US marines and Iraqi soldiers are working side by side. And it's here where the fundamental differences - on such issues as treatment of detainees - between Iraqis and US commanders illustrate the difficulty of training Iraqi forces to take over US operations.
The Washington Post profiles a unit's tour in Iraq. There is also the most touching photo I have seen in this conflict.

Joe Klein, in TIME, assails both the right and the left on Iraq. "These are not clever times in Washington," he writes. Howard Dean and John Kerry are put in their proper place by Klein.

The latest poll, USA Today, has Bush at 42 percent. Gas prices. Acting like a president (instead of a rancher). Holiday season bounce (just like the stock market -- well, historically).

Tookie Williams

Stanley "Tookie" Williams was executed about half passed midnight, Los Angeles Times.

Henry Weinstein and Peter Nicholas, also in the Los Angeles Times, write that "Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger did not just reject Stanley Tookie Williams' request for clemency, he aggressively attacked the central element of the former gang leader's case: Williams, he said, had never really reformed."

Don't mess with Texas

Jonathan Weisman is placed on page 01 of the Washington Post with his story on the Supreme Court's review of Tom DeLay's redistricting:
Justice Department lawyers initially recommended rejecting Texas's plan, saying it would harm black and Hispanic voters, but were overruled by senior Justice officials. A special three-judge panel has upheld the redistricting map in two rulings.
The Houston Chronicle:
After taking an unusually long time to decide what to do with the appeals, discussing the issue in private over the past six weeks, the justices have put the cases on the fast track, scheduling two hours of arguments for March 1. A decision is expected by July.

That time frame means the outcome of the cases could affect the 2006 elections — if the plaintiffs are successful in getting the new map thrown out. Next year, every seat in the U.S. House is on the ballot, and Democrats will be seeking to cut into the Republican majority.
The torture amendment

President Bush says he is confident an agreement will be reached on the amendment advanced by Senator John McCain to prevent inhumane treatment of all detainees in U.S. custody, New York Times.


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