Friday, March 10, 2006

News roundup 03.10.2006

Civil war in Iraq

The past few weeks have been quite significant in Iraq, and per usual the administration is a little behind the times on what is actually happening in the world. First, a few quick links from the major dailies.

The Washington Post: "U.S. Sets Plans to Aid Iraq in Civil War"

The New York Times: "Iraqi Forces Would Handle Any Civil War, Rumsfeld Says"

The Los Angeles Times has had the best Iraq coverage this week, at least for an American daily:
Asked by Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) how the U.S. would respond to an Iraqi civil war, Rumsfeld said: "The plan is to prevent a civil war, and, to the extent one were to occur … from a security standpoint, have the Iraqi security forces deal with it to the extent they're able to."

An increase in kidnappings and killings by Shiite and Sunni Muslim groups has moved the conflict in Iraq, now entering its fourth year, into a new phase in which U.S. forces face attack on multiple fronts.

U.S. officials have been careful in recent assessments, expressing optimism that Iraq can unite its factions in a new civilian government and avoid civil war. But Rumsfeld and Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, the commander responsible for U.S. military operations throughout the Middle East, acknowledged Thursday that sectarian tensions in Iraq were dangerously high.

"As you correctly suggested, there is a high level of tension in the country — sectarian tension and conflict," Rumsfeld said in response to Byrd's questioning. "As you also correctly said, it is not in a civil war at the present time by most experts' calculation."

Said Abizaid: "There's no doubt that the sectarian tensions are higher than we've seen, and it is of great concern to all of us. On the other hand, the role played by Iraqi security forces after the Samarra bombing was quite professional."

In an interview with The Times this week, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003 had opened a "Pandora's box" of volatile ethnic and sectarian tensions. Speaking more bluntly about the violence than other U.S. officials generally have, he said the "potential is there" for sectarian divisions to evolve into a full-blown civil war.
So, Rumsfeld said, "As you also correctly said, it is not in a civil war at the present time by most experts' calculation."

The Los Angeles Times juxtaposes that "assessment" with General Abizaid and Ambassador Khalizad. Here is something else General Abizaid said yesterday:
Gen. John Abizaid, head of the U.S. Central Command, suggested separately that Iraq has been moving in the direction of civil war and described the situation in Iraq as "changing in its nature from insurgency toward sectarian violence."
I wonder which experts Rumsfeld references? An official said that there was a great deal more violence after the shrine attack than was reported. Senator Harkin said that it was a civil war.

If the commanding general says that the conflict is changing in its "nature" away from "insurgency", he is sending an important signal that the situation is very dire.

But, this administration has missed, or miss-applied, signals in the past. They will do it once again.

Janes also has this report. I wonder how the administration would view this:
Despite a relentless insurgency that has paralysed Iraq's reconstruction after decades of war and sanctions, work is forging ahead on an ambitious project to construct an international airport at Najaf, the heart of the Shia Muslim-dominated region in southern Iraq, financed largely by a low-interest loan from Iran.
The GOP revolt

Bloomberg News:
March 10 (Bloomberg) -- The collapse of a plan to let a Dubai company manage U.S. ports marks another setback for President George W. Bush, exposing deteriorating relations with fellow Republicans and underscoring a perception of incompetence stemming from the government's response to Hurricane Katrina.
The New York Daily News (yeah, it's a bit much):
WASHINGTON - Not since Watergate, when GOP congressional leaders told Richard Nixon they would vote him from office if he didn't resign, have Capitol Hill Republicans challenged their President like this.
The Washington Post:
"He has no political capital," said Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster. "Slowly but surely it's been unraveling. There's been a direct correlation between the trajectory of his approval numbers and the -- I don't want to call it disloyalty -- the independence on the part of the Republicans in Congress."


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