Iraqi civil war talk; Syria and Iran involved in Iraq violence?; The CIA can't see

I have to find some birthday presents for the Chunkies this afternoon, and I'm still struggling to get HongPong.com's photo album software I want. The Edwards slideshow is coming along nicely so far, though. Hopefully later today, and I'll send out some notifications to all who might be interested...

One of the big questions around the war is whether or not the "terror states" of Iran and Syria might be impelled to help Iraqis strike US forces, thusly proving QED for the neo-cons that they are all EvilDoers Waiting to Strike Against Us. TIME reports that it's really a locally-based thing, not foreigners pulling strings. But now comes a Guardian report that Syria and Iran have been helping some groups. (WiC again)

Senior Iraqi intelligence officers believe an Islamic militant group which has claimed responsibility for two suicide bombings in Irbil and a spate of deadly attacks in Baghdad, Falluja and Mosul is receiving significant help from Syria and Iran.

The officers, who have been tracking the activities of domestic and foreign jihadists in northern Iraq, claim that members of Jaish Ansar al-Sunna (the army of the supporters of the sayings of the prophet) have been "given shelter by Syrian and Iranian security agencies and have been able to enter Iraq with ease".

The group is suspected of training suicide bombers and deploying them against US forces in Iraq and Iraqis considered to be collaborating with the US-led authorities.

Meanwhile the magic words "CIVIL WAR" are drifting around.

For Iraqis already in, or thinking about joining, one of the Iraqi security forces -- such as the Iraqi Civil Defence Corp (ICDC), the border guards or the police -- the dangers were made all too clear last week. Instead of being viewed by insurgents as people protecting their country, or simply needing a job, Iraqi police or corps members are simply labelled "collaborators", aiding and abetting the US occupation. Over 100 people were killed in Iskanderiya and Baghdad in two car bombings over two days, both targeting Iraqis signing up to join security forces.
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Standard operating procedures for troops stationed in Iraq have changed in such a way as to avoid lethal engagements. US soldiers in Iraq have told Al-Ahram Weekly that, for example, if a patrol comes under fire, the usual response is to leave the area rather than counterattack, unless absolutely necessary. As the US makes plans to pull troops out of cities to bases on the edges of urban centres, Iraqi security forces are being trained and deployed at a break-neck pace, often without proper vehicles or communications and security equipment. The goal is to hand over all security positions to the Iraqis, and damn the consequences.

Existing resistance activities, like the prison raid in Fallujah, could be an example of the chaos that may erupt this summer. Take the already volatile tensions between the Sunni, Shi'ites and Kurds, and the fact that some of these groups have their own militias -- like the Kurdish peshmergas or the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq's Badr Brigade and Muqtada Al-Sadr's Mahdi Army -- then add some foreign fighters intent on inflaming those tensions and an elections showdown sure to make either Shi'ites or Sunnis very upset: we have the perfect ingredients for a civil war. If that happens, the US seems to be the only force in the country with the capability to keep the peace, but ironically they have not accomplished that even without widespread sectarian violence.

Evidently the CIA is having problems managing intelligence in both Afghanistan and Iraq. It is pretty damned alarming that this grand intelligence service is apparently choking on the pressures of the War on Terra.

Confronting problems on critical fronts, the CIA recently removed its top officer in Baghdad because of questions about his ability to lead the massive station there, and has closed a number of satellite bases in Afghanistan amid concerns about that country's deteriorating security situation, according to U.S. intelligence sources.

The previously undisclosed moves underscore the problems affecting the agency's clandestine service at a time when it is confronting insurgencies and the U.S.-declared war on terrorism, current and former CIA officers say. They said a series of stumbles and operational constraints have hampered the agency's ability to penetrate the insurgency in Iraq, find Osama bin Laden and gain traction against terrorism in the Middle East.

One former officer who maintains close ties to the agency said it was stretched to the limit. "With Afghanistan, the war on terrorism, with Iraq, I think they're just sucking wind," he said.

But the officers also said the latest problems point to a deeper problem with the CIA leadership and culture. Some lamented that an agency once vaunted for its daring and reach now finds itself overstretched and hunkered down in secure zones.
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Since Sept. 11, 2001, the agency has brought back hundreds of retirees, dubbed "green-badgers" for the color of the identification cards issued to those who return to the fold under contract. The agency has also turned to young officers without any overseas experience.

New agency recruits with military backgrounds are being sent to Iraq as soon as they emerge from the CIA training academy in Virginia, said one former agency official. "They don't speak the language, don't know how to recruit," the official said. "It's on-the-job training."
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The problems [with turnover] also extend to Afghanistan, sources said. One CIA veteran said he recently spoke with an officer who had served as a base chief in Kandahar for 60 days, an unusually brief tenure for such an important assignment.

The base in Kandahar is one of five or six the CIA established in Afghanistan after the U.S. invaded the country in 2001, all reporting to the agency's primary station in Kabul, the capital. But a number of those remote bases have been closed in recent months, according to current and former CIA officials.
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The CIA has struggled to fill high-ranking posts in other countries, sources said. Four former CIA officers with close ties to headquarters said in separate interviews that the agency struggled to fill its top post in Pakistan last year, that at least five candidates turned down the job of station chief in Islamabad before the agency found an officer willing to take it.

The always creative naomi Klein reports on the war as therapy.

It was Mary Vargas, a 44-year-old engineer in Renton, Wash., who carried U.S. therapy culture to its new zenith. Explaining why the war in Iraq was no longer her top election issue, she told the Internet magazine Salon that, "when they didn't find the weapons of mass destruction, I felt I could also focus on other things. I got validated."

Yes, that's right: war opposition as self-help. The end goal is not to seek justice for the victims, or punishment for the aggressors, but rather "validation" for the war's critics. Once validated, it is of course time to reach for the talisman of self-help: "closure." In this mindscape, Howard Dean's wild scream was not so much a gaffe as the second of the five stages of grieving: anger. The scream was a moment of uncontrolled release, a catharsis, allowing U.S. liberals to externalize their rage and then move on, transferring their affections to more appropriate candidates.

That's hilarious!
What does terrorism mean? I kind of like the IHT's writers. They are more often based in sanity than the stuff on cable these days.
Oh good: we are hiring evil white guys who used to beat down the black population in South Africa to beat down Iraqis.
Digby says that such a grand strategic blunder as this one can only encourage wily generals and naughty states to cause trouble, since it proves the U.S. is not as omnipotent and intelligent as Generally Believed.(last two via Eschaton)

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