A Policy and Strategy of Realism

Gr2006080800394 "Oct. 5 (Bloomberg) — The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said the U.S. should consider a “change of course” in Iraq if the government there can’t stabilize the country in the next two to three months.

Senator John Warner’s comments, after returning from a one- day visit to Iraq, were the most critical assessments yet from a top congressional Republican about the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who President George W. Bush has championed as a strong leader. They also may serve notice to the president that even his strongest allies in Congress may be running out of patience.

Warner, a former Navy secretary and longtime Republican leader on defense issues, didn’t outline what changes to U.S. strategy should be made and whether that includes withdrawing or redeploying U.S. troops.

“I wouldn’t take any option off the table,” he said during a news conference today at the Capitol.  Steinman in Bloomberg News


John Warner is my senator and I have always respected him greatly.  I continue to do so. In my view he has labored mightily to keep the ship of state afloat in spite of the Utopian nonsense that has dominated the Bush Administration.  He has done so in spite of the disrespectful way that Rumsfeld and company have treated his opinions and nominations of people for important jobs, for example, Secretary of the Army.

For him to say that the Maliki government has 90 days to get control of the situation or the United States should reconsider it options is a major step.  The bomb throwers may not think it is a big deal, but it is.  He says that "no option should be off the table."

I was taught at the War College (Carlisle) that military strategy should be made in an orderly fashion based on perceived national interests.  The way this is supposed to happen is that based on such interests, a national strategy is imagined which combines ALL the civil and military tools available to the government in a plan intended to achieve the national interest under consideration. Once that is done, then military means contributory to that goal are brought into the plan in a coherent design that always keeps the end state desired in mind.

In other words, military strategy can not be made in a policy vacuum.  In my opinion, no change of deployments or new military courses of action will have a real meaning unless they are grounded in a new US foreign policy in the Middle East, and specifically a new policy intended to deal with Iraq in the context of its own geo-strategic position in the midst of the Islamic World.

So far, we have been following a policy that envisions revolutionary change in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East leading to a Utopian and Earthly Paradise of the sort fantasized by Frum and Perle in their egregious book, "The End of Evil."  The military strategy we have been following was inflicted on the armed forces by the Bush Administration in pursuit of that goal.  Large forces were not thought necessary because Iraq, like the rest of the Middle East, was thought by the Bush Administration to be a "pile of tinder" awaiting only a match in order to burst into revolutionary flames.  That did not happen. Instead the various "centrifugal" forces of tribal, and sectarian Iraq are tearing the country apart while at the same time protesting the authenticity of their "Iraqiness."

The game is actually over in Iraq.  It has been decided in the streets and its outcome is symbolized by the piles of tortured corpses "discovered" each day by the same police who may well have been complicit in the "drillings" and shootings of the previous night.

Iraq is going to be partitioned.  This may be either de facto or de jure but it will be partitioned.  The process of disintegration launched by the United States in eliminating the mechanisms of state integrity has progressed so far that effective dissolution of the old Iraq is inevitable.  The recent frustrated desperation evident in the statements of the US command in Baghdad, and the ridiculous futility of Dr. Rice’s latest trip are unmistakable signs of disintegration.  Indeed, the partition is now underway.

US forces have been pulled back into the capital for a so far unsuccessful attempt to quell the violence.  Not only has this concentration been unsuccessful but it has stripped Anbar Province of troops that were need to deal with growing Sunni insurgent and Islamist power.

What will the partitioned Iraq look like?

-A Kurdish region either completely or nearly independent with massive oil assets and the city of Kirkuk.  Will Turkey accept that?  Ah.  That should be the subject of creative diplomacy on all sides.

-A "rump" state of Iraq extending from (but not necessarily including) Baghdad to the Kuwait border.  Wealthy in oil, dominated by the Shia Arabs and friendly to Iran, it may be impossible for this state to maintain its capital in Baghdad.  So far, its security forces show no sign of being able to control the situation there.

-An insurgent "redoubt area" dominated by Sunni Arabs and international jihadis will cover all of what is now called the "Sunni Triangle" and perhaps much of Baghdad as well.  This "land of insolence" will be poverty stricken but supported by many states and individuals in the Sunni Islamic world as a bulwark against further expansion of the area of Shia triumphalism.  The idea has been "floated" of an economic compact between these three successor entities which would provide the Sunni Arabs with considerable oil revenue.  This idea underestimates the actual hatred among these groups, but, nevertheless, such an accord should also be the subject of creative diplomacy.

A recognition that this partition of Iraq has now become inevitable and beyond the ability of the United States to prevent is a pre-condition for the adoption of a "reality based" policy which can deal with the vital issue of American relations with the pieces of Iraq.   Equally important are the issues of relations among the states which surround, and influence the tri-partite Mesopotamia of the future.

James Webb, now a candidate for the US Senate, has indicated that an international conference is needed for the purpose of "launching" diplomatic efforts to stabilize the region.  That is true, but a pre-requisite for that conference would have to be an American acknowledgment that its present policy has failed and that a policy of reconciliation with and among the disputants, including Iran, must take place before anything fruitful can occur.

A sensible American military strategy would emerge from the adoption of such a policy.

Pat Lang


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66 Responses to A Policy and Strategy of Realism

  1. Richard Whitman says:

    Do you think the Iraq Study Group under James Baker/Lee Hamilton due to report after the election will recommend anything alog these lines?

  2. Michael says:

    Minister Nuri al-Maliki:
    “who President George W. Bush has championed as a strong leader”
    I guess it takes a strong leader to know a strong leader..

  3. Hannah K. O'Luthon says:

    Well, if Iraq is indeed now partitioned, at least our most faithful ally in the region will have achieved its long term objective (the Yinon plan) at a bargain basement price in (its) blood and treasure. It would be interesting to know the operational details of just how that happened.

  4. Wombat says:

    A US military presence in the Kurdish area of a partitioned Iraq would go a long way toward keeping the Turks relatively quiescent. It would also protect an area that comes closest to the proclaimed “ideal” so badly mishandled by the Bush administration.

  5. jonst says:

    I’ve thought, from the moment I watched him bring it up the first time, that Warner’s mention of going back and reexamining the Sept 2001 “Authorization for Use of Military Force” to see if it supported “intervention” in a civil war in Iraq got their attention. To the extent that anything the Congress does ultimately gets their attention. It was shortly after that, a week or so, that the first stories appeared implying, via anonymous sources in the military, that AQ, or “foreign fighters” were ‘in control’ of Anbar Province.
    Warner must know what Baker is going to propose after the election. Essentially, the race for the GOP nomination in 08 officially begins about 10 seconds after Baker makes his ‘recommendations’. Who will be the fastest to embrace them? Who will resist them the most?
    If the de facto partition of Iraq is formalize….no matter what else happens, it will be seen as the main goal of the Iraq invasion. We will be burdened with the legacy of having done Israel’s bidding and destroyed the largest and most technologically advanced oil producing Arab state. And it will be viewed as a great victory for Israel. Accurate perception of reality, as a necessary perquisite, will have little to do with this view. (although I am not sure how off base such assumptions are) It is just the way the end result will be viewed.
    All and all…not a very helpful legacy for the US nation. Good for the Kurds…good for the oil companies. Good for Iran. Perhaps. Good, in the short run, for Israel. Probably good for Syria. Very bad for Saudis…..which, in turn, might be seen as good for the oil companies. Very good for the US military to the limited extent there are those among it who seek to maintain a presence on the ground in the ME. As I wrote, all and all…very bad for the American people.
    My take anyway…..

  6. zanzibar says:

    I have always believed that Sen. Warner is a good man. But the cynic in me wonders if his new thinking on realism in Iraq policy will be like his “compromise” on legalizing indefinite detention and abrogation of habeas corpus and due process for anyone labeled as an “enemy combatant”. In any case better late than never. Its good to have real debate with facts on the best way forward with our Iraq project.

  7. Charles Degutis says:

    Re: Will Turkey accept a Kirkuk-based Kurdistan? Well, Turkey has long, loudly and violently opposed Kurdish nationalism on both sides of the border, and has been reported as having troops operating 6-7 km inside Iraq. Israeli’s have been reported training Kurds. Debkafile posted a detailed report September 24, 2006 about Turkish and Iranian co-ordinated preparations for war in Iraqui Kurdistan and the seizure of their desired bits. Turkey in its present composition would never allow the establishment of Kurdistan, aspirations to the E.U be damned.

  8. Propagandist says:

    Eventual partitioning will make the Turkish decision not to allow the 4th ID to stage from there in 2003 that much more impressive. I wonder, what were the Turks saying in private counsel with the Administration back then?
    I’m still suspicious of the Bush Administration’s reasons for invading. I can’t believe they ever intended to properly rebuild the Iraqi nation.

  9. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang:
    Can’t Iraq be modeled after Lebanon?

  10. Duncan Kinder says:

    The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said the U.S. should consider a “change of course” in Iraq if the government there can’t stabilize the country in the next two to three months.
    Atrios has become famous for his use of “Friedmans” to designate six month intervals as projected time periods for things to materialize in Iraq.
    I haven’t checked Atrios’ blog, but now we could have a “Warner,” equal to between one half and one third of a Friedman.
    Sooner or later, we are going to have to insist that our pundits and politicians make evaluations of Iraq based entirely on the situation as it may exist at that time and not permit them to hold open some time period for future developments.
    Otherwise, one thing would be certain about Iraq – that we shall remain in limbo there till the cows come home.

  11. zanzibar says:

    Could the Iraqi partition resemble the erstwhile British India partition on sectarian lines?
    Not happy results. Millions were killed during the partition process and several wars were fought afterward. It seems that nuclear detente has arrested the slide even if the terms of partition have not yet been fully accepted.
    With US & Israeli support Kurdistan is well on its way. Turkey could be “bribed” with EU membership and agreement with Turkish Kurds to not initiate secession. US forces will probably have to provide the DMZ control to prevent Sunnistan from fighting for Kirkuk.
    If an American policy of non-interference in return for draining of the jihadist swamp can be achieved there is a possibility that the ME could be stabilized. However, it seems the genie is out of the bottle and the ascendancy of the Islamists may not be easily thwarted. Can the regimes in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan survive for long?

  12. W. Patrick Lang says:

    You are a naughty man and a proof of my thesis that Persians are among the clever of the earth. pl

  13. pbrownlee says:

    Don’t the Persians regard themselves and the Chinese as the only “great” peoples of greater Asia? (The Chinese have a slightly narrower view.)

  14. ckrantz says:

    In a partitioning scenario who gets Baghdad and would a potential Shiastan really let the kurds keep Kirkuk? And who would lead the shiastan? Sadr or the persians. Isn’t a warlord scenario similar to afghanistan or lebanon more likely where control of territory depends on militia and tribal size. In other words total anarchy in the heart of the ME.

  15. Will says:

    w/ regard to Webb, the latest poll shows Maccaca ahead again with a double digit lead. DAMN
    I think that Doug Feith’s Likudnik objective all along was the breakup of Irak when he directed Bremer to instigate the dissolution of the Iraki Army, Police, and the deep deBaathication contrary to Jay Garner’s plans. This is just the end game now.
    Kirkuk, the Turks can say is an Iraki Turkoman city before all these population changes and they could in their own eyes make a legitimate claim to it. A third of the Turkish population in Turkey proper is Kurdish. The so-called mountain “Turks” had long been supressed and until recently forbidden to speak their native language. Would Turkey allow a wealthy Kurdistan controllilng oil-rich Kirkuk to exist?
    Meanwhile the elephant in the room. What happens when Israel nukes/bombs Iran? The Kurds are Sunni. But the Kurds are still Muslims and the Kurdish language is very close to Farsi. Are they going to give a shxt?
    Probably not, they are self-absorbed. Will they share the oil-wealth to make a deal? Probably not, they feel they are at their zenith. What was that Latin phrase we were talking about a few days ago. Look behind you, remmeber you are a man. The Kurds act like there is no tomorrow. The Americans and Israelis will be there to hold their hands forever.
    “The Kurdish language is an Indo-Iranian language spoken in the region called Kurdistan, including Kurdish populations in parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.[1] Kurdish is an official language in Iraq while it is banned in Syria where it is forbidden to publish material in Kurdish [2]. Before August 2002, the Turkish government placed severe restrictions on the use of Kurdish, prohibiting the language in education and broadcast media.[3] The Kurdish alphabet is still not recognized in Turkey, and use of the Kurdish letters X, W, Q which do not exist in the Turkish alphabet have led to judicial persecution in 2000 and 2003 [4] [5]. In Iran, though it is used in the local media and newspapers, it is not allowed to be taught in schools [6] [7]. As a result many Iranian Kurds have left for Iraq where they can study in their native language.[8]
    The Kurdish language belongs to the western sub-group of the Iranian languages which belong to the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages family. The most closely related languages to Kurdish are Balochi, Gileki and Talysh, all of which belong to the north-western branch of Iranian languages. Persian which belongs to the south-western branch, is also considered a related language.”
    Best Wishes

  16. Will says:

    “Eventual partitioning will make the Turkish decision not to allow the 4th ID to stage from there in 2003 that much more impressive. I wonder, what were the Turks saying in private counsel with the Administration back then?”
    sorry, I missed that.
    the Turks turned down billions in bribe money. What they wanted was simple. To accompany the American invasion force into Irak. I believe they wanted a 3:1 Turkish ratio to the Americans entering from Turkey. Bush actually turned down an offer of more coalition troops.
    That’s because the Kurds said they would fight the Turks.
    Best Wishes

  17. MarcLord says:

    Col. Lang,
    I don’t see how a de jure partition could be accomplished with the present US government. And that brings a smooth de facto one into question, too. Both would fall under the heading of “Dictators never know when they’re beaten.” They prefer to upend the chess table rather than concede.
    Yes, the LRRPs are on the case and the fixer was in Tehran (Baker). I just can’t see junior, much less his father/grandfather surrogates, rolling over on this one. Their graceful exits do not compute for me. What odds would you give on de facto vs. de jure, and when?
    Fate has such a bitter sense of irony. It was Bush Sr.’s task to write the letter to Nixon asking him to resign. What he must feel when he thinks of his son. Maybe it comes out as “Babs, pass me the Halcion.”

  18. kevin says:

    “A map prepared by a retired U.S. military officer that sketches Turkey as a partitioned country was presented at the NATO’s Defense College in Rome, where Turkish officers attend. The use of the map at a conference meeting by a colonel from the U.S. National War Academy angered Turkish military officers………..Turkish officers also briefed Ankara about the developments relevant to the incident.”

  19. Duncan Kinder says:

    In the interests of full disclosure, I have finally hecked Atrios’ blog, and my statement, “I haven’t checked Atrios’ blog, but now we could have a “Warner,” equal to between one half and one third of a Friedman,” turned out to be imprecise.
    Instead, according to Atrios, a “Warner” instead equals precisely one half of a Friedman.
    Explaining his use of the Friedman, Atrios states:
    I know regulars understand this, but for those coming in late and wondering what all the discussion of Friedman Units of time is about, it began with FAIR pointing out that Friedman was forever labeling the next six months in Iraq as a critical, decisive time. But the real issue isn’t about prognostication, but about the perpetual punting of The Iraq Question to a future date. It allows the pundit, or politician, to seem Real Concerned About The War without actually bothering to take it seriously.

  20. James Pratt says:

    Peter Galbraith is a Democrat for one thing, a partition would outrage the Saudis and the Turks for another. The Shi`a part would have a major problem with the Sadrists, both of the Sadr factions oppose partition. Fourth, exchanging the many enclaves would create at least two million refugees in a part of the world notorious for arming refugees. Does Galbraith speak Arabic?

  21. Glen says:

    You are correct. Iraq as a whole is lost. We may be able to save the pieces. I do suspect you are too optimistic with the phrase “sensible American military strategy”. This assumes that Rumsfeld and Cheney will cease micromanaging and allow the military and intelligence communities to do their jobs. It also assumes Bush will actually step up to the plate as a President enacting policy based on reality. I see no signs that these necessary steps are about to happen. I strongly suspect that Iraq is now a pawn in a much more “serious” Republican campaign to retain control of the US Congress all being run by that master of US foreign policy – Karl Rove.
    Just my two cents,

  22. Altoid says:

    I guess you’re right, Pat, and I have to agree that this kind of chaos was at the very least an acceptable alternative to that wondrous pie-in-the-sky regional democratic transformation shite they were peddling.
    But just who does anyone suppose will control the oil pipelines out of there?
    The easy, extant pipeline routes go through Syria and Jordan, and they have the added advantage of not going through the Arabian Sea. Semi-autonomous Kurdistan can’t exist without oil revenue.
    Bolstering this Kurdish region could well mean “regime change” in Syria, especially considering that controlling the pipeline would also provide leverage against the Iranians. Then there’s always the old Haifa line, which would mean “regime change” in Jordan too.
    As long as the big geo-political resource game is controlling oil flows, this federationist solution doesn’t remove a single US uniform from the region. Which bush has pretty much said already– we’re there as long as he’s in the White House.
    Boggles the mind.

  23. zanzibar says:

    The purpose of Condoleezza Rice’s visit to the Middle East is becoming clear – to encourage Arab states to form an alliance against Iran.
    The idea is to form a “moderate” alliance in which Israel and some of the Arab countries (principally Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states) would join forces to combat Iranian influence, and Shia influence more generally.
    This is partly motivated by American/Israeli desires to “get” Iran but also an attempt to repair damage from the 34-day war in which Israel accidentally bolstered the regional standing of Iran and its Lebanese ally, Hizbullah.

    How credible is this? A Israeli-Sunni Arab-US alliance against Iran?

  24. Carroll says:

    We are still in Iraq because the plan always was to divide Iraq. The more violence, the more civil war, the better for Isrmerica and the midget masters of the universe.
    The chaos, the incompetence plea, the Israelis working with the Kurds.. does anyone seriously think there was “no plan” for after the invasion..THIS was the plan.
    Iraq had to descend into chaos in order for the
    division of Iraq to “be” the “only” alternative.
    Maybe not quite the entire Hashemite plan Cheney and Wolfowitz hatched up prior to the war but close enough.
    Every dead American and Iraqi has been for the purpose of a seperate Kurd state and the benefits that would flow to
    Israel and Uncle Sam.
    And the “realignment” won’t end until it is done…or someone puts a silver bullet and wooden stakes thru the neos chest cavity.

  25. Will says:

    Another Yom
    Speaking of “Muslim coalition troops”
    Moscow continues to “think outside of the box. According to today’s debka.com which is a Mossad site or is wired into it and where i get a lot of my disinformation
    ” DEBKA Exclusive: Moscow posts two Chechen platoons in S. Lebanon, one headed by an ex-rebel commander, “to improve Russia’s image in the Arab world”
    October 7, 2006, 10:04 AM (GMT+02:00)
    The Muslim commandoes of the Vostok (East) and Zapad (West) battalions of the Russian Army’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) (picture) are being sent to guard the 150 Russian military engineers. They arrived in Beirut this week to restore the roads in Lebanon damaged by Israeli bombing.
    DEBKAfile reports: Moscow did not consult Israel before stationing Muslim Chechen troops on its border for the first time. ”
    very interesting
    Best Wishes

  26. McGee says:

    My understanding (which is derived largely from reading the European press on this) is that Rice’s attempt to forge an alliance of “moderate” ME states against Iran (moderate here being a wide-ranging term which includes kingdoms, sheikdoms, dictatorships and a pretend democracy in Egypt) was largely still-born. Most of Rice’s potential allies demanded, as always, a solution first to the Israeli-Palestinian situation and real action on the long-promised two-state solution before any serious consideration of the Iran question. We’ll undoubtedly hear more happy-talk from Condi on the Sunday talk shows – her favorite playpen cause none of the other kids there ever question her fabrications (watching Rice with Russert/Stepanapolis et al brings to mind Lucy explaining the world to Linus and Charlie Brown). She’ll pontificate to her eager charges about “positive dialogue” leading to “potential agreement” with our “MidEast allies” regarding the “threats” and “dangers” to “regional stability” (i.e., the status quo) posed by the “Iranian Theocracy”. Ergo zero substantive change.

  27. John says:

    “The purpose of Condoleezza Rice’s visit to the Middle East is becoming clear – to encourage Arab states to form an alliance against Iran.” As part and parcel, could her visits also be laying the last minute ground work for Rove’s October surprise. Sam Gardiner and others note an uncharacteristic deployment and build-up of naval air and minesweepers in the AOR.

  28. Will says:

    “Realism” as used in foreign policy is a term of art. Apparently there are two types. Offensive and Defensive.
    What made the team of Walt and Mearsheimer that wrote the “Israeli Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” paper interesting is that Walt was a “defensive” realist and Measrsheimer was an “offensive” realist.
    ” Given the difficulty of determining how much power is enough for today and tomorrow, great powers recognize that the best way to ensure their security is to achieve hegemony now, thus eliminating any possibility of a challenge by another great power. Only a misguided state would pass up an opportunity to become hegemon in the system because it thought it already had sufficient power to survive.”
    Also a hegemon will interfere with other states becoming hegemons in the role of offshore balancers as we interfere with China.
    Our role in Gulf War I was that of an offshore balancer to prevent SH from becoming a hegemon. Presently Rice is working to prevent Iran from becoming a hegemon.
    Defensive realism is sometimes called Balance of Threat. It modifies the Balance of Power Theory
    “According to balance of threat theory, states’ alliance behavior is determined by the threat they perceive from other states. Walt contends that states will generally balance by allying against a perceived threat, although very weak states are more likely to bandwagon with the rising threat in order to protect their own security. He points to the example the alliance patterns of European states before and during World War I and World War II, when nations with a significantly greater combined power allied against the recognized threat of German expansionism.
    Walt identifies four criteria states use to evaluate the threat posed by another state: its aggregate strength (size, population, and economic capabilities), its geographical proximity, its offensive capabilities, and its offensive intentions. Walt argues that the more other states view a rising state as possessing these qualities, the more likely they are to view it as a threat and balance against it. ”
    for those that understand the bid :ask option system of odds tradesports has the handicap for bombing iran for various dates (as well as other politcal events)
    Best Wishes

  29. FB says:

    It is very doubtful that the administration had an agreed set of goals for the Iraq invasion. Different principals had their own aims:
    Cheney and the oil barons : Getting control of the oil (the Chalabi spin). Their fallback position: at least the price of oil will go up.
    The Likudniks : Installing an Israel-friendly government (the Chalabi spin, part 2). Their fallback position : a smashed-up Iraq.
    Rumsfeld : Proving to the generals his new military doctrine (lots of airpower, small, hard-hitting ground forces). That’s why he wasn’t interested in post-war planning. His fallback : a place in history.
    Bush : Who knows? Maybe, besting Pappy.
    As for the future, al Anbar is not going to be the only jihadist base-cum-training ground (targetting the Middle East with occasional forays into Europe). The other one will be the Pashtun belt in Afghanistan and Pakistan (targetting Central Asia with forays into Russia)
    It’s going to be an interesting century. In a way I’m glad I’m not going to be around to watch it unfold.

  30. b says:

    It is always interesting to view some Amerikans discussing the fate of some people far from their own country. “Should we kill the green ones first or the blues ones?” – Should we “allow” Iraq to fall apart or not.
    WTF is this an Amerikan decision. Why can´t you you just leave it to the Iraqis?
    Ok, predator habit – you never lose that.

  31. arbogast says:

    The tough thing about losing is that you lose.
    Iraq was supposed to be a walk-over leading to an invasion of Iran by a loyal satrapy. Am I wrong?
    What has happened is the opposite. Iran has a permanent presence in Iraq. And the US has been terribly weakened militarily. We lost.
    And we now see that the Republicans’ interest in government has been pecuniary at best. Perverted at worst.
    If this is the best the US can do, then the world needs to look elsewhere for leadership.

  32. zanzibar says:

    It looks like ME policy change is in the air. James Baker and his Iraq Study Group are to meet with Iran and Syria. Does this mean that the Cheney era is over?
    “I’m fairly confident that we will meet with a high representative of the (Iranian) government,”
    Such a meeting would no doubt feed speculation here that Baker, a consummate “realist” who reportedly has been privately critical of the administration’s Middle East policies, could help tilt the balance of power within the administration in favour of fellow-realists, centred in the State Department. They generally support greater flexibility in dealing with perceived U.S. foes in the region, and against right-wing hawks led by Vice President Dick Cheney who have steadfastly opposed engagement with both Iran and Syria.
    Indeed, Baker also announced Tuesday that his task force will meet later this week with the foreign minister of Syria, against which the administration has mounted a diplomatic boycott for almost two years. The task force has already met with Damascus’ ambassador here, as part of a series of meetings with Washington-based envoys from Iraq’s Arab neighbours.

  33. kevin says:

    If Iraq divides into three states- Iran will splinter too. No ground war needed.

  34. jonst says:

    Yeah, I’m disgusted and embarrassed by our country’s performance in Iraq. And else where, as well. And I think it is leading our nation to no good. There will be, and has been, a substantial price to pay for our self-deceit, and incomprehensible, and at times, illegal and immoral, behavior. Predator nation? At times? Sure, you bet. Sadly, for us and others.
    But all that said b, and acknowledging from a moral and practical perspective we have to step back from Iraq (even though I know we won’t)…….I have to write: I would not be optimistic leaving shit to ‘the Iraqis’. They have not exactly bathed themselves in glory the past 100 years or so. Or left this world even a slightly better place. Leave it to THEM? Sure….why not. Some might say they deserve it. I don’t if I would go that far…..but I would go close to it.

  35. W. Patrick Lang says:

    What is your logic in the statement about Iran falling apart?
    Also. So far as I know there is no “National War Academy” in the US.
    Thirdly – At the Rome meeting the map showed Turkey partitioned or Iraq? pl

  36. confusedponderer says:

    Without being able to read his mind, the ‘logic’ probably revolves around Iran being multi-ethnic, and that multi-ethnic rivalries will tear the country apart.
    Hmm. Already the US are trying to destabilise Iran by encouraging the MEK kooks, and if I’m not very much mistaken by encouraging Beluchis, too.
    I doubt it will work. My impression when I met (without exception exile) Iranians was: Wether they like the ayatollahs or not, they are patriotic. Now clearly, exiles mostly are. Still, I doubt Iran will fall apart easily. I’m pretty sure Iran will be able to quell any Kurdish uprising, probably in cooperation with Turkey (they did that already only recently). Iran will be able to repeat that in Beluchistan if neccessary. And all that not because they are so evil, but for a very palpable reason: Raison d’etat (don’t know a better english term). They will not accept secession.
    The Iranians have managed to absorb 1 million plus refugees from Afghanistan in their society, without the obligatory camps as in Lebanon or Pakistan. That’s quite a feat for a country in wartime. IMO Kevin underestimates Iranian cohesion and resolve.
    I think that Kevin’s primary logic is hope.

  37. Will says:

    Nur-al-cubicle blog reads the french and italian press. (She also has a blog on the new Pope) As far as I know Le Monde does not have an english edition so Nur (Light) must be translating.
    She has a LeMonde article that says gasoline prices have quintupled in Iraki Kurdistan as Ankara retaliates. Iraki crude goes to turkey and some returns as gas. Turkey has stopped the trucks and what little returns now is on the back of donkeys.
    Turkey is refusing to deal with the Kurds directly and insisting they go thru Baghdad.
    It’s often stated that Kirkuk has the oil. Negative for the city itself. But the province of which it’s the capital does. hmmm
    Best Wishes

  38. b says:

    Is this not the real “Mission Accompished” moment for the neocons?
    Partitioning Iraq is an old dream:
    “In Iraq, a division into provinces along ethnic/religious lines as in Syria during Ottoman times is possible. So, three (or more) states will exist around the three major cities: Basra, Baghdad and Mosul, and Shi’ite areas in the south will separate from the Sunni and Kurdish north.”
    cited from Oded Yinon, “A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties”, published in 1982.
    Interesting further plans in there…

  39. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Smug (b)
    What you assert may be true, but you do not know that it is true.
    sloppy thinking. pl

  40. Jerry Thompson says:

    I really think we are past the point “we” can direct any particular outcome in Iraq (partition, not-partition or whatever). Regime change in Iraq was always an uncontrollable event. This administration’s fundamental error was to believe they could control the outcome (hubris, self-righteousness, bigotry?). The only thing we have under our control from this point forward is what we may do with our own assets — to influence events on the margins. Barring some (for me unforeseeable) new commitment of forces and finances, from this point forward, we can only “influence” outcomes, not “achieve” them (direct or ordain them to fit our own design). Bottomline: “We” aren’t going to partition Iraq, though the Iraqis might try. If they do, the more likely outcome is chaos and conditions completely unfavorable to our long-term interest. Corollary: “We” aren’t going to hold Iraq together either.

  41. Will says:

    William Safire, the NYT columnist and longtime Israel propgandist, now retired, had many many columns proposing that either the Kurds or once in a while the Turks take over the northern Iraki oil fields.
    I was sure I could go to the “Clean Break” paper authored by Perle, Wurmsers (ux et vir [latin for man and wife]), Douglas Feith, and see the smoking gun about the dismemberment of Irak.
    WRONG, it wasn’t there. Of course, Feith, No. 3 at the Pentagon after Rummy and Wolfie at one time, is the guy that overruled Jay Garner and instructed Lewis Paul Bremer to fire the Iraki Army, Police and do a deep de-Baathization thus guarantteing a vigorous insurgency.
    But, I did see a monumentous piece of ignorance i have to share. A little context for understanding the gaffe. Mohammed had two grandchildren. Hassan and Husain. The Shia mostly treasure Husain. The Sharif and Hashemite (although it’s used sometimes a different way) honoric is for Hassanite descent. The Sayyid and Hussainite honorific is for descent from Husain. During Ashura, the Shia mourn Husain. More context, the Hashemite king of Irak was murdered in 1958. Now, for the quote from “Clean Break” which was prepare for Bibi Neyatenyahu PM of Israel
    ” King Hussein [Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan] may have ideas for Israel in bringing its Lebanon problem under control. The predominantly Shia population of southern Lebanon has been tied for centuries to the Shia leadership in Najf, Iraq rather than Iran. Were the Hashemites to control Iraq, they could use their influence over Najf to help Israel wean the south Lebanese Shia away from Hizballah, Iran, and Syria. Shia retain strong ties to the Hashemites: the Shia venerate foremost the Prophet’s family, the direct descendants of which — and in whose veins the blood of the Prophet flows — is King Hussein. ”
    I could be wrong, but I don’t think the Shia thought much of Sunni King Husain now succeeded by King Abdullah II. I believe, they saw him as under American control. During Gulf War I, he was allied with SH. I just think it shows the monumental ignorance of the NeoKons.
    I could be wrong and often have been. It would be interesting to hear an expert’s opinion on Shia regarding this matter.
    Best Wishes

  42. b says:

    @Will- a copy of the Clean Break paper is available at:

  43. zanzibar says:

    Looks like the Iraq partition strategy is going to gain some momentum after the elections.
    The Baker commission has grown increasingly interested in the idea of splitting the Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish regions of Iraq as the only alternative to what Baker calls “cutting and running” or “staying the course”.
    Baker, a leading exponent of shuttle diplomacy, has already met representatives of the Syrian government and is planning to see the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations in New York. “My view is you don’t just talk to your friends,” he said last week. “You need to talk to your enemies in order to move forward diplomatically towards peace”.
    That last comment by Jim Baker is really a slap on the current Bush/Cheney/Condi strategy. Does he come back as Secretary of State?

  44. kao_hsien_chih says:

    Makes one wonder, assuming partitioning Iraq is something that the Israelis sought, what they’d been feeding the folks in Tel Aviv. Partitioning Iraq and giving the Kurds de facto independence seem to mean that Israel would be happy to trade Turkey for Iraq as its long term enemy. Why should anybody want that?

  45. kevin says:

    -What is your logic in the statement about Iran falling apart?
    Also. So far as I know there is no “National War Academy” in the US.
    Thirdly – At the Rome meeting the map showed Turkey partitioned or Iraq? pl-
    Another news link
    The map
    The original article

  46. Will says:

    “I could be wrong, but I don’t think the Shia thought much of Sunni King Husain now succeeded by King Abdullah II. I believe, they saw him as under American control. During Gulf War I, he was allied with SH. I just think it shows the monumental ignorance of the NeoKons.
    I could be wrong and often have been. It would be interesting to hear an expert’s opinion on Shia regarding this matter. ”
    Wrote Professor Juan Cole. He said NeoCon idea was laughable.
    My words now, Feith ignoramus was No. 3 at the Pentagon!!!!!!!!!11
    Best Wishes

  47. canuck says:

    Attacks soar in Iraq’s north
    Car bombings, shootings on rise in Kirkuk, Mosul
    Hundreds flee homes to escape sectarian violence
    Oct. 9, 2006

  48. ali says:

    I wonder about a tri-partite Iraq.
    Will the land of the two rivers really host three states. Iraqi man may have been a largely mythical being but I see no similar dream that moves men to action on the horizon.
    In the North we’ll have nascent Kurdistan, a state with inbuilt extra-territorial ambitions that Turkey, Syria and Iran with their restive Kurdish populations are not likely to view kindly. Kurdish secession probably isn’t viable in the longterm unless they take the Kirkuk field with them and that will trigger war with the Turkomen and Sunni in Kirkuk itself. If they get the Kirkuk field do they have the refining capacity and secured infrastructure to exploit it? And let’s not forget Kurdish man is nearly as fabulous a creature as Iraqi man, Kurds have as a long history of internecine warfare as oppresion.
    In the center we’ll have an embittered, impoverished Sunnistan which commands much of the oil and water infrastructure that the country once relied on. This is a people with a firm belief that they have a God given right to rule. Their like-minded but more radical brethren in the Gulf Kingships may be useless soldiers fit only for suicide bombing but will surely sponsor them. The Sunni are the clear losers and have the capacity to deny their neighbors the fruits of victory.
    To the South a fractious Shiastan having nearly all of the viable oil fields and the main oil port. It is likely to rapidly become a de-facto Iranian dependency. A stepping off point for further adventures by the regions emerging large predator. A beast with blood grudges to settle by going North, much to gain by carefully infiltrating West and finally a revolutionary mission that aims at a new Jerusalem.
    And what of the large concentration of all the ethnicities in multi-ethnic Baghdad? A huge bloodbath surely.
    Are we likely to see Bush going cap in hand to not just Turkey but Iran and Syria as the situation demands? At this late stage what humiliating bargain could he strike to secure their much needed cooperation? The time to talk was after 9-11; he has squandered DC great advantage. The terrifying mystique of untested US power evaporated over Fallujah a couple of years ago.
    Is Iraqi partition realism or is it just one last gulp of the kool-aid that can be hawked as a righteous crusade for self-determination to a gullible GOP base until the 08 is safely out of the way?

  49. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Do you? pl

  50. confusedponderer says:

    I remember that map. I saw it in a Ralph Peters piece in favour of partition of the Middle East along ethnic and/ or sectarian lines.
    Indeed, I just checked the last link. The US couldn’t even handle Iraq, a single country. If it didn’t work in Iraq, it will much less work on a larger scale. Undeterred, Peters believes that America, in an entire region, has the capability to re-draw the existing borders in a new, better way. Well, to do so, the Brits and French had conquered and effectively ruled the entire place. The US do not and cannot. Nevermind.
    The map suggests the plan would rob Iran some 25+% of their oil producing areas – of course to make it ‘ethnically persian’. Handy. The Iranians will just love to hear that. It’s quite amusing that the US premier ally in the Middle East – Turkey – loses some 20 percent of their territory. Clearly, they will be most thrilled to learn what else the big schemers in D.C. have in stock for them. Maybe the US accidentally achieve the seemingly impossible: A Russo-Turkish alliance after 700 years of rivalry. Ooops.
    Peters grimly welcomes (gravitas!) ethnic cleansing of a regional scale, and that the bloodshed involved is inevitable (gravitas!) and to be welcomed because it will split the region into smaller countries that can be better dealt with than the current constellation. Divide and rule. There still is the perception among folks like Peters that the Middle East needs to be dragged kicking and screaming to it’s own salvation – Michael Ledeen’s ‘creative destruction’, or Condi’s ‘birth pangs’.
    As someone has said before: Do we first bomb the red ones or the green ones? In Peter’s article America’s omnipotence complex is manifest – with it’s sense of being entitled to mess with other people’s internal affairs – and the puzzled reaction when people from a land-far-far-away then get violently angry about it (which would then dictate retaliation, because anything else would be appeasement. By Peter’s logic, a terrorist’s cardinal sin is not to kill US citizens, it’s blasphemy: Questioning the US right to interfere anywhere anytime however).
    Probably 95% of the people in the region would be perfectly happy to be left alone by the US and their grand schemes to save them. It would also reduce their risk of getting accidentally killed.
    Peters suggests to accelerate down the path of history. To claim to know where it goes to, and to think that the US will be in the driver seat is plain and simple hubris. Prime example: Iraq today.
    The Daily Show has the perfect take on Peter’s article:
    “… we always welcome the chance to test the latest theories of your political scientists!”
    When I read Peters again I had to think of the expressionist painter Max Liebermann: “Ich kann gar nicht so viel fressen, wie ich kotzen möchte.”

  51. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I rhink the pseudo alliance between Jordan and Iraq is irrelevent. The Shia were never going to think much of the Hashemites neither does anyone with Palestinian blood in spite of the simple fact that Jordan is the only Islamic or Arab country that gave Palestinians citizenship from the beginning. pl

  52. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Am I one of the Koolaid peddlars?
    My position: Iraq will be partitioned de jure or de facto and we Americans and you British are no longer in control of the process. pl

  53. W. Patrick Lang says:

    A lot of you seem intent on misunderstanding what I am saying about this.
    LISTEN!!! This is OVER!! We no longer can determine whether or not Iraq will be partitioned. It is partitioning itself. pl

  54. Will says:

    these foreing phrases keep us hanging
    “Ich kann gar nicht so viel fressen, wie ich kotzen möchte.”
    can’t eat as much crap as I’d like?????
    it hung up systrans and google translator
    The Palestinians have mixed feelings on Jordan. The new king Abdullah II has a Palestinian wife and their children consequently are half Palestinian. And even though the Palestinians don’t run things yet, the population is predominantly Palestinian and one day they will run the country.
    The Hashemites had their eye on the greater empire of the Quds (Jerusalem), Dimashaq (Damascus), and Baghdad and they lost the prize they already had of the Hejaz ( Eastern Arabia and its Holy Cities).
    Best Wishes

  55. wtofd says:

    I’m curious as to why PL even has to write the above. As gruesome as SH’s Iraq was, at least it was in control. It was not a threat.
    While those whose lips quiver at their cause de jour, “Kurdish persecution” or “rape rooms” or chemical weapons, while they b-tch and whine about the sanctity of the “Iraqi nation” I wonder have they not read Sykes-Picot? Did they start reading ME history in 1946 or 1967 or 1990?
    The Iraq problem exists because as we support or ignore dictators worldwide we make a “principled” stand against SH. All the while waxing poetically about a “nation” that never existed except in the minds of the French and the Brits and Ba’ath party.
    Hope you enjoy the contents of the box, Pandoras.

  56. confusedponderer says:

    the briefest translation would be: ‘I can’t eat as much as I wanna puke.’ Funny enough the translation didn’t come to my mind yesterday evening.

  57. confusedponderer says:

    to make that point clear, I see a profound difference between your ideas and Mr. Peter’s. I agree that Iraq will end up de facto partitioned. And I dislike it, too.
    The least thing will be that the Kurds will achieven autonomy, if not independence. By going there, they may invite their own doom through challenging their neighbours raison d’etat. Considering the Kurdish nationalists’s transnational ambition, I see a Turkish- Syrian- Iranian and perhaps Shia invasion as a genuine possibility.
    I also agree that the US politicos babbling about Iraq are mistaken when they think they are in the driver seat on the issue. The ‘Iraqis’ will decide this.
    What will happen between the Shia and the Sunni is another thing. Worst case would be that the Saudis will start supporting the Sunni against the Shia, who will be supported by Iran, and that they will continue to mince each other.
    And all inbetween there will be America as the desperate wizard’s apprentice.

  58. Alex says:

    The Liebermann quote could be nicely rendered as “I couldn’t eat as much as I’d want to puke”

  59. Will says:

    thanks for the translation. the hangup was kotzen which just came back us just “kotzen.” I tried kotz which came back as “excrement.” I, by the way, had a year of Deutsche at college but it’s all gone.
    You often hear that Irak is a creation of Sykes-Picot, that did not exist historicaly. Rubbish. It is the most ancient of nations.
    In fact, the Baath (Arabic for Renaissance) tried to echo the distant past. Baath was invented by a Lebanese Christian.
    What kind of party would a Lebanese Christian invent? It wouldn’t be an Islamist party. It wouldn’t be a racial party because the Lebanese Christians are part Greek, part Frankish from the Crusades. It would be a party celebrating the achievements, (cultural, literary, military) of the Arabs. Arabs in this context would include Salah-al-Din al Kurdi a red headed Kurd.
    The party in Irak was taken over by fascists who failed to accomodate the Kurds ands Shiites to their great detriment. But it was secular and Christians, notably Tarik Aziz, rose to hi places in the goverment and military.
    To echo the distant past of the Babylonians, NeoBabylonians, Assyrians, Abbasid Caliphate, names from the past were resurrected. Salahadin province. Haroun-al-Rashid Hotel. Hammurabi Division.
    It is heartbreaking to hear the daily sad news of civilian deaths from the fabled Land of Shinar, the storied home of Abraham of Ur, the origin of the stroy of Noah’s Ark and so much of our civilization.
    A piece of pottery broken (Colin Powell’s Pottery barn rule) by a drunken frat boy from Yale that took his dad’s Corvette (the U.S.A.) and crashed it into an oak tree.
    Best Wishes

  60. confusedponderer says:

    you got it better. The ‘*couldn’t*’ (possibly) has the right emphasis to say what Liebermann meant.

  61. confusedponderer says:

    Some gossip from me: I knew a German engineer who was building concrete production plants in Iraq in the early 1980s. He described the Iraqis self-image then as that of ‘the Prussians of the Middle East’.
    He also spoke very highly of the competence and deep technical knowledge of the Iraqi buereaucrats he dealt with. According to him they were unusual as customers in that they had studied the designs of their competitors and gave design tips to improve the performace of the plants he built.
    So, first, the Iraqis most probably didn’t need Halliburton engineer expertise to rebuild their country – they were more than up to the job themselves. They would have not allowed to be ripped off, as my engineer recalled the Iraqis being quite pedantic on specifications, construction standards and quality issues.
    Second, no matter wether the Baathist ideology is artificial or not, the Iraqi Baathist patriotism is real. The old Iraqi elite will never forgive the US the complete destruction of what was once the second best developed country in the entire region (after Israel).
    Sad sidenote: A team of American and Iraqi epidemiologists estimates that 655,000 more people have died in Iraq since coalition forces arrived in March 2003 than would have died if the invasion had not occurred. Their study can be expected to be greeted with howling, and throwing with excrement, by the usual suspects, before they dismiss it as liberally biased statistic fraud by ‘Saddamite’ doctors.
    Bush certainly thinks the price the Iraqis pay is worth being paid for his visions, and according to him the deaths in Irak are all but a comma anyway – later, in the history books.

  62. Got A Watch says:

    The 655,000 Iraqi dead would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to America for everything they have done for Iraq, and look forward to continuing to work together to build a better future in the Middle East for everyone.

  63. Kevin says:

    -In Iran, which is the big one, if you look at it, the oil of the region (that’s where most of the hydrocarbons in the world are) they are right around the gulf, the Shiite sections of Iraq, the Shiite sections of Saudi Arabia and an Arab—not Persian—region of Iran, Khuzestan, right near the Gulf, it happens to be Arab. There is talk floating around Europe (you know it’s probably planted by the CIA) of an Ahwazi Liberation Movement for this region. A feasible, I don’t know if it’s feasible or not, but I think the kind of thought that would be occurring to the Pentagon planners is to sponsor a liberation movement, so-called, in the area near the Gulf then move in to defend it.-
    Noam Chomsky

  64. Kevin says:

    -Iran is still running one of the largest refugee operations in world…..The Iraqis were largely Shia Arabs who fled after losing the fight against Saddam in 1991…Iran would like to get rid of all these refugees…The Iraqi refugees increase the number of Arabs in Iran’s oil producing region. The Iranians would prefer to have more ethnic Iranians living on top of the oil.-
    Jim Dunnigan

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