What exactly is the German foreign intelligence service, the BND, doing in Iraq? Although the public has had occasion to be aware of the BND presence, up until now most will have been led to believe that the BND has been “quietly” cooperating with American and coalition authorities. Even more skeptical observers will have assumed that it is at least not cooperating with America’s enemies in the country. But a photograph published earlier this month in the German weekly Stern provides disturbing evidence that it is doing precisely that. (See here on the Stern website.) The photo depicts a middle-aged […]

With most of Congress in an uproar over new White House plan for the war in Iraq, one could be forgiven for thinking that the new strategy is diametrically opposed to last month’s report of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. To be sure, the harsh tone towards Iran and Syria was not something that James Baker and Lee Hamilton recommended, but in several respects the ISG and the White House are actually singing in tune. First, sending reinforcements to Baghdad was not opposed by the Iraq Study Group. The ISG report clearly states that it could “support a short-term redeployment […]

On a cool evening in March, 2006, I toured a makeshift prison on an Iraqi army base in northwestern Baghdad, not far from the dim chamber where Saddam Hussein would later be executed. The jail was crude, a few rooms guarded by men in track suits who casually balanced rifles over their shoulders like golf clubs. The cells were unbarred, unclean, and unlocked; nothing more than rooms in a large building that might once have been a school. The prison was run by the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior, a shambling bureaucracy that had by then already been accused of […]

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FOREIGN REACTION TO BUSH SPEECH GLOOMY — If domestic reaction to President Bush’s new Iraq strategy has been largely negative, foreign comments have been no better. From Paris to Riyadh, media comment has been critical of the administration’s approach and skeptical of its success. An editorial in the leading French newspaper Le Monde began: “Anyone who expected the American president to learn a lesson from the Democratic victory in Congress and from the current chaos in Iraq and overhaul his strategy is disappointed.” But the paper said Bush has at least “abandoned his triumphalist tones.” In addition, “gone are the […]

WASHINGTON — As “civil war” rages in Iraq, so does the increasingly furious fight between Democrats and the Bush administration over what to do now that the holidays — and with them the season of election-year posturing — are finally over. The rhetorical salvos could not have been more piercing across Washington yesterday as the new Democratic leadership of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee convened the first in a series of hearings on how to change the current course of action in Iraq — just hours before President George W. Bush appeared on national television in an apparent attempt to […]

In advance of President Bush’s speech Wednesday evening, the sound and shape of his new strategy for Iraq unfolded in Baghdad’s Haifa Street district Tuesday, when over 1,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops supported by helicopter gunships and F-15 fighter jets engaged Sunni Muslim insurgents in one of their strongholds. The Iraqi authorities said about 50 militants were killed in one of the biggest operations in the capital since the 2003 invasion. The offensive effectively launched of the Battle for Baghdad, one of the key elements of the new U.S. strategy to pull Iraq back from the brink of chaos. Iraqi […]

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WILL SHIITE CHURCHMAN OPPOSE SURGE? — Aside from Democratic opposition at home, President Bush’s troop increase for Baghdad is “greatly vulnerable” to rejection by a powerful figure in Iraq itself — the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, whose charisma and towering influence over the majority of Shiite Muslims remains as undisputable as ever. A well-informed Western source in Iraq says the chances are that the aged, reclusive cleric could come out against the surge unless the Bush administration has privately prepared the ground with him in advance, which doesn’t seem to have happened. He is said to feel that the military […]