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Low-level discussions that could eventually lead to formal peace negotiations between Israel and Syria are being mediated by. . . Turkey. And a closed-door conference of Iraqi sectarian factions, mentored by advisors from Northern Ireland and South Africa, and designed to promote conflict resolution is being hosted by. . . Finland. Seriously, I think America’s still got a solid run of relative dominance ahead. And the Oslo Accords are an obvious example of how tough negotiations sometimes benefit from being shielded from the glare of the American-sponsored spotlight. But whereas the Oslo talks took place while America was arguably at […]

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It looks like I’m the only one who’s underwhelmed by the Petraeus appointment to CENTCOM commander, but what the heck. In for a penny, in for pound. So here’s another thorny question that I’ve yet to see directly addressed. (Hampton, make sure you’ve had your morning cup of Joe before reading any further.) I mentioned that by using his direct lines of communication with the Oval Office to leapfrog Adm. Fallon, Petraeus had already been serving as de facto CENTCOM commander. But in thinking about it, the leapfrog actually went much further than that, because President Bush made it clear […]

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There’s obviously going to be a lot of snarky commentary about the Army’s decision to sell its most sophisticated counter-IED technology to the Iraqi government. The immediate objection is that the sale to Iraq is tantamount to a technology transfer to Iran, given the latter’s infiltration of the Iraqi government with sympathizers and loyalists. Of course, it wouldn’t be the first time that weapons destined for Iraqi use wound up in the hands of insurgents or worse. But regardless of whether or not it’s handed over or captured, battlefield technology is always at risk of falling into enemy hands. And […]

A German interior ministry proposal to grant Iraqi Christians asylum in Germany as a persecuted minority drew criticism last week from the chair of the Bundestag’s Human Rights Committee, who insisted that the program should be open to other Iraqis as well. “We should also accept Christians, because they are under particular pressure,” Herta Däubler-Gmelin said in remarks reported in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, “but not only Christians.” “An appropriately large number of Iraqis should be taken in,” she added, “commensurate to Germany’s capacity and economic power.” Herta Däubler-Gmelin? If the name sounds familiar, that is because this is the […]

The U.S. military’s decision last week to release Bilal Hussein, an Associated Press photographer who has been held by U.S. military forces since April 2006 on accusations of links to terrorism, was not just a blow to the U.S. military’s case against one prisoner. The announcement by the U.S. military, which followed the rulings of an Iraqi judicial panel granting Hussein amnesty, also raised a question war proponents may not want to answer. Namely, if the sovereign institutions and political processes that the U.S. troop surge was supposed to help foster actually take hold, will the United States respect them? […]

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A study written by Joseph Collins, a former Pentagon official whohelped plan for post-invasion humanitarian operations in Iraq, has beengetting a lot of attention for its conclusion that the war is adebacle. The gang over at Small Wars Journal was a bit skeptical abouthow the report was being cited and spun, and decided to contact Collinshimself. Turns out that, according to the author, his work is being taken out of context to make points that aren’t his own. The points he is making (.pdf), mind you, are pretty damning. But just not in the way people are saying they are.

Over the course of the Iraq war, a principal mission of the U.S. military effort has been to build, arm, and train Iraqi security forces capable of quelling internal violence and protecting Iraq from external threats. As with other elements of the Iraq war, this mission has not proceeded smoothly. A number of governmental and media sources have recently highlighted the haphazard procedures and inadequate accountability standards the United States utilized to equip Iraqi soldiers and police officers with lethal firepower, shedding light on the often chaotic nature of the train-and-equip program. While most evidence remains uncorroborated or anecdotal, U.S.-supplied […]

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Thanks to Kevin Drum, I doubled back and caught the rest of this post by Intel Dump’s Phil Carter the second time around. (I missed it the first time due to the WaPo’s “Read more” function, which seems to be the new space-saving, content-masking trend in blogs.) By admitting to putting a veneer of victory on what amounted to a disastrous situation on the ground in Iraq throughout 2006, President Bush is basically confirming what Michael Feaver revealed in his Commentary article earlier this month. Namely, that the administration’s internal discussions bore no resemblance to its public declarations. Of course, […]

NEW YORK — The evidence of Gen. Ahmed Ibrahim’s service to the United States is scattered throughout his apartment, which overlooks the East River in Manhattan near his office at the United Nations. Ornate certificates attesting to his counterterrorism training adorn the walls. Pictures of him shaking hands with Donald Rumsfeld and chatting with Bernard Kerrick and Paul Bremer are clear reminders of Ibrahim’s close relationship to the United States. It is a relationship that he is afraid soon will lead to his death. Ahmed Ibrahim was born and grew up in Baghdad, and in 1973 graduated from the Baghdad […]

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Funny how for months we’ve been picking apart the Anbar Awakening from a tactical point of view, all the while failing to take into account its single most significant strategic implication. Namely, that al-Qaida’s blueprint for Islamic revolution does not work. The Military Review article I wrote up in an earlier post offered more evidence of what’s become the consensus explanation for the turning of the Sunni tribes: their disgust with al-Qaida Iraq’s murderous tactics and their resentment at the AQI “foreigners” trying to impose an internationalist jihadi ideology on what was essentially a nationalist insurgency. But al-Qaida, as a […]

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If you’re interested in the actual operational details of how Anbar was Awakened, this Military Review article (.pdf) (via Phil Carter) is worth a read. It’s an account by Col. Sean MacFarland, commander of the Army brigade credited with implementing the tactical approach that culminated in the Awakening, and Maj. Niel Smith, one of his company commanders, and to my mind it demonstrates how resourcefulness and initiative remain fundamental American assets. Significantly, Col. MacFarland’s approach pre-dates the Surge, and seems to confirm Lt. Col. Gian Gentile’s assertion in a WPR interview that COIN tactics had been applied as early as […]

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Yesterday’s post about recent U.S. and Iranian restraint opening the door to possible engagement might have been premature to the extent that it downplayed the rhetoric now coming out of Washington about Iran’s involvement with Iraqi militias. In particular, the events in Basra are now being used to demonstrate the amount of material and training Iran has supplied to the Sadrist militia, both “special” (ie. rogue) factions and those loyal to Moqtada. Future conflicts will certainly bring to light the operational links that Iran has established with other Shiite militias as well, including those that are integrated into Iraq’s national […]

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I’ve been meaning to mention Steve Simon’s treatment of tribalism in his Foreign Affairs article on the Surge for the past couple days, but Patrick Barry over at Democracy Arsenal just did it for me. Which means that all I have to do now is contrast Simon’s severe critique of the Sunni Awakening’s re-tribalizating effect on Iraqi civil society with page nine from Carole O’Leary’s Congressional testimony which I flagged last week. O’Leary makes a very strong case in favor of tribal society as a means of strengthening the fabric of Iraqi society, since Iraq’s tribes straddle ethnic, sectarian and […]

Gian P. Gentile is an active duty Army lieutenant colonel who has served two tours in Iraq, most recently as a combat battalion commander in west Baghdad in 2006. Last month, his World Politics Review article, “Misreading the Surge,” brought a fierce internal debate over the Army’s new emphasis on counterinsurgency operations and its potential impact on conventional capabilities to the attention of the general public. In the context of this week’s congressional hearings on the Surge, WPR asked Gentile for a follow up email interview, to which he graciously agreed.Describe the kinds of “classical” counterinsurgency methods you were applying […]

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The Petraeus and Crocker show moved to the House yesterday, where it continued to get the spotlight. But the real action to my mind was the testimony over at the Senate Armed Services committee, where Andrew Bacevich (here in .pdf) and Robert Malley (here in .pdf) really filled in the blanks on the asessment of the Surge, but more importantly on the strategic context that should inform our discussion of where we go from here. Malley’s discussion, in particular, of al-Sadr’s ceasefire adds more depth to the simplistic explanation that his decision was taken solely in response to pressure from […]

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Since the Senate Foreign Relations committee seems to be giving Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker a pretty tough time regarding Iran’s influence in Iraq and how reasonable it is to believe we can eliminate it, now might be a good time to point out that former Iraqi Prime Minister and head of PM Noori Miliki’s Dawa Party, Ibrahim Jafari, was in Tehran on Sunday, where he met with Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani: Jafari. . .highlighted the Islamic Republic of Iran’s role in solving his country’s problems and said, “Iran seeks to establish peace, security and stability in the region.” Maybe the […]

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I’m not able to watch the hearings here in Paris, so I’ve only been able to read their prepared statements which are up now on the Senate Armed Services Committee website (Amb. Crocker here, Gen. Petraeus here). But based on that, I’ve got to agree with Andrew Sullivan: both Gen. Petraeus’ and Ambassador Crocker’s testimony seem to reflect an effort at intellectual honesty that surpasses that of most of the shrill din surrounding them. There’s still the possibility that a few days of high-pressure questioning might produce the kind of political theater that definitively shifts public opinion, but besides that, […]

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