Iraq: still shaken all up; Retired generals try to smoke Rummy; insurgents try mannequins; Plame tidbits

iraq unstable provincesFew parts of Iraq are stable, report finds

By Eric Schmitt and Edward Wong

The New York Times (April 9)

WASHINGTON — An internal staff report by the U.S. Embassy and military command in Baghdad provides a snapshot of Iraq's political, economic and security situation in each of the 18 provinces, rating overall stability of six provinces "serious," one as "critical" and only three as "stable."

As everyone knows there has been a burst of rebellion among the retired generals' ranks, as lots of them have suddenly spilled out to criticize the staggering incompetence of dear Rummy. NY Times: As Policy Decisions Loom, a Code of Silence is Broken. While this seems to be a good airing of serious grievances that could finally kill the old snake, one DKos contributor suggests that a more outspoken military officer corps could, in the end, jeopardize civilian control.

Retired CIA dude (and Valerie Plame/Joe Wilson ally) Larry Johnson says on his blog No Quarter: Throwing Rummy from the Train:

Don Rumsfeld may want to stick it out, but stick a fork in him. His goose is cooked and his reign will soon be over.

Valerie PlameJohnson also offers A) a fresh timeline of the Valerie Plame scandal; B) Tommy Franks apparently no longer believes Douglas Feith is the "fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth", but that's not too relevant right now.

Patrick Cockburn bravely reports from Iraq that the "Situation in Iraq could not be worse". The ugly predictions of a Saudi minister on how Iraq would spin apart have grimly come true, BBC reports.

Insurgents in Ramadi are clever. Huge surprise:

ramadi troopsRamadi Insurgents Develop Clever Tactics

By TODD PITMAN - The Associated Press

Sunday, April 9, 2006; 4:34 PM

RAMADI, Iraq -- On an eerie, battle-scarred street in this blown-out urban war zone, a mannequin with painted black hair stares silently at U.S. Marines hunkered down in sandbagged observation posts atop buildings a few blocks away.

....Insurgents in Ramadi recently have flown kites over U.S. troops to align mortar-fire, released pigeons to give away U.S. troop movements and staged attacks at fake funeral processions complete with rocket-stuffed coffins, U.S. forces deployed here say.

That apparently bore true one day last week, when an assault on Government Center - two mortars, two RPG rounds and some small arms fire - was preceded by a funeral announcement broadcast from minarets.

Goetz said insurgents in Ramadi have held full-blown funeral processions carrying a coffin through the streets. They set the coffin down behind a wall, whipped out assault rifles and rocket-launchers and began attacking U.S. positions, Goetz said.

Associated Press points out that perhaps American arms for Iraqi security orgs implicated in human rights violations might be illegal:

U.S. officials are doling out millions of dollars of arms and ammunition to Iraqi police units without safeguards required to ensure they are complying with American laws that ban taxpayer-financed assistance for foreign security forces engaged in human-rights violations, according to an internal State Department review.

The previously undisclosed review shows that officials failed to take steps to comply with the laws over the past two years, amid mounting reports of torture and murder by Shiite-dominated Iraqi security forces. The review comes at a time when the U.S. military emphasis in Iraq has switched to training and equipping Iraqi forces to replace U.S. troops.

As Iraq slides deeper into sectarian violence, the performance of U.S.-supported Iraqi units could be crucial, because some are infiltrated by militias believed responsible for much of the current strife.

The laws in question are called the Leahy Amendments for their author, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. Unless the administration reports to Congress that "effective measures" are being taken to bring abusers to justice, it is supposed to cut off support for any unit in a foreign security force whose members commit serious human-rights violations. Units also are supposed to be vetted before receiving assistance.

Nir Rosen is an extremely brave independent reporter who has been kicking around Iraq for a while. "On the Ground in Iraq: The roots of sectarian violence" is a very lengthy article that describes as well as anyone could the degenerating sectarian violence, the various political leaders that don't trust each other, a civilization shaking itself to pieces. I had trouble finding a quote to pull out, but this letter he got from a friend sums it pretty well:

I’m living here in the middle of shit, a civil war will happen I’m sure of it. People became more aggressive, in the way they talk, before they would care a little bit about Shia or Sunni, but now it is like you can’t be comfortable talking with a man until you know if he was Shia or Sunni, the situation is like this, and beside what do you need to start a civil war? Religious difference (Shia, Sunni), Weapons, Militias, Politicians don’t trust each other, People don’t trust each other, Seeking Revenge, Weak government, Separate regions for the opponents, some mixed regions from both with a lot of problems inside, Tribal feelings and loyalty. To be clear, now Shia are Iranians for the Sunni, and Sunni are Salafi terrorists for the Shia. We have a civil war here; it is only a matter of time, and some peppers to provoke it.

LibbyAs always, Prof. Juan Cole's Informed Comment is the essential source for what is happening with the fucked-up attempts to generate a new Iraqi government. His stuff on the Valerie Plame scandal, including the recent Bush-classified-leak-thing is also helpful. Cole's little picture-based explanation of the flow of Niger forgeries is also really pretty nice. Cole advises that Muqtada al-Sadr is a "key to success in Iraq" and I would generally agree. Cole also had some sweet insights on the Zarqawi Pentagon propaganda scheme - I have to admit that my thinking on this has long been colored by his:

The over-emphasis on the role of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in the US and even Iraqi press is the direct result of a concerted Department of Defense propaganda campaign, according to the Washington Post. Military correspondent Thomas Ricks writes, "Some senior intelligence officers believe Zarqawi's role may have been overemphasized by the propaganda campaign, which has included leaflets, radio and television broadcasts, Internet postings and at least one leak to an American journalist."

Long-time readers know that I have long railed against the "Zarqawi myth." (Click on the Billmon link for more). Mostly the US has been fighting Iraqi guerrillas, especially those with a background in the Fedayee Saddam, military intelligence, and the officer corps. Contrary to the fevered fantasies of VP Richard Bruce Cheney, the Baath regime was afraid of Zarqawi and once put out an APB on him when they thought he might have come into Iraq. Another piece of proof that propaganda usually betrays itself.

Ex-CIA analyst Mike Scheuer says Pakistan is being pushed to the brink: Don’t push Islamabad too far, ex-CIA official tells govt:

WASHINGTON, April 7: A former head of CIA’s Al Qaeda unit, and now a political analyst, has warned the Bush administration not to push Pakistan too much to do things that are against its national interests as it can lead to the collapse of a major US ally in South Asia.

In a hard-hitting opinion piece published in the Washington Times on Friday, Michael F. Scheuer, a 22-year CIA veteran, describes Pakistan as an ally that did far more and took more lethal risks to accomplish America’s ‘dirty work’ than any other of its allies, including all of Nato, in the war against al Qaedaism.

Mr Scheuer, who created and served as CIA’s Osama bin Laden unit head, says that while Pakistan’s internal political contradictions, economic problems and the Homeric venality of its politicians have (also) long caused a steady downward spiral, America’s shabby treatment of this close ally also had done a great harm. “US officials believe they can add untold pressures to the Pakistani leader’s burden and still find him eager to do America’s most important dirty work: Killing Osama bin Laden. Well, think again,” warns Mr Scheuer.

....“To date, Pakistan has lost more soldiers killed and wounded than the US-led coalition in Afghanistan. More dangerously, the offensives … are stoking the fires of a potential civil war between Islamabad and the Pashtun tribes that dominate much of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.”

That's all for now. Coming soon, a Big Lebowski-tinted explanation of what the fuck is happening with Iran. Walter is definitely agitated.


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