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I mentioned yesterday that Turkish withdrawal from Iraqi Kurdistan might be as blurry as what’s actually going on in the Qandil Mountains. Here’s what the Turkish general staff thinks it will look like: The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) will create temporary security bases in northern Iraq after troops wrap up an ongoing ground offensive in the region against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), security sources told Today’s Zaman. The army plans to establish 11 temporary bases south of the border with Iraq to prevent the PKK ever again using this territory to launch attacks on Turkey, after pulling out […]

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In comments over at Headline Junky, reader GS flagged this sentence from Sam Brannen’s WPR piece about the Surge: “The United States is now the thread that binds Iraq, and it is clear that a serious unraveling of the situation would occur were this thread suddenly to be pulled away.” GS wondered: If this be the case, we are in a situation from which there is no exit. Does this make McCain right for saying he’d stay there for another hundred years? Does it make Obama wrong for saying we need to remove ourselves ASAP (and who knows what ASAP […]

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Eye-opening report from Steve Clemons, who’s travelling in Israel and the West Bank, regarding the “antipathy” felt at high levels of the Israeli government to Condoleeza Rice’s upcoming visit: I’ve been told that she comes with no plan, no ideas, no pressure to move in any direction whatsoever. According to a source very close to Prime Minister Ehud Ohlmert, she doesn’t even ask questions about the basic positions on each side so as to understand the “gaps” and then to offer ideas — or even pressure on the Israelis and Palestinians — to close the gaps. Those engaged credibly in […]

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Laura Rozen reads the tea leaves and comes up gloomy: Ha’aretz: Israel ground operation in Gaza becomes inevitable. One would guess that is part of what the US warship off the coast of Lebanon is about – to deter Hezbollah if Israel moves against Hamas in Gaza. Heard earlier today such operations would be in March-April, with desire for stabiliity to be restored by time of Bush’s visit to Israel in May for Israel’s 60th anniversary. Then again, March is next week. So is a planned Rice visit to Israel. Jordan’s King Abdullah II is here this week and next, […]

Last week, the U.S.-led Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-I) had nothing but praise for Shiite theocrat-wannabe Moqtada al-Sadr. Prefacing his name with “al-Sayyid” (the Honorable), the United States acknowledged al-Sadr’s legitimacy in the Iraqi political scene as U.S. commanders warmly embraced his decision to maintain a ceasefire between his roughly 60,000-strong illegal militia (Jaish al-Mahdi or JAM) and Iraqi government and coalition forces. With a tenuous domestic political situation in Iraq, the United States had no choice but to shake hands with the devil. Without question, the short-term effects of the U.S. surge strategy have been highly positive: significant reductions of violence […]

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I’ve got a hunch that we’re on the cusp of a popular Surge backlash, more widespread than what critics have suggested for the past few months. And when it does gather force, it will probably sound pretty much like what Sam Brannen, of the CSIS, says here. It’s already clear that the improved security environment in Iraq has not led to increased Iraqi investment in the political process in Baghdad. Brannen points out, though, what I’ve yet to see mentioned, namely that it has instead led to increased American investment in the political process in Baghdad. Increasingly, the United States […]

A debate is raging in Israel over what to do to stop the relentless attacks on Israeli civilians launched from Hamas-controlled Gaza. On Wednesday, 30 rockets slammed into Israel, killing a college student and injuring several others. Just a few days earlier, another barrage into the beleaguered town of Sderot injured a mother, her baby and her 10-year-old son, whose arm was partially severed by the blast. A couple of weeks before that, an 8-year-old Israeli boy lost his leg to a rocket attack from Gaza. The urgency of the problem is clear, but the search for a solution poses […]

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Kevin Drum and Matthew Yglesias speculate about what the Turkish incursion into Iraqi Kurdistan means for the central government in Baghdad. Matthew argues that American approval of the incursion demonstrates once again Baghdad’s de facto powerlessness, thereby reinforcing its dependence on American military support. Kevin wonders if the central government in Baghdad actually has a dog in this fight: As near as I can tell, the central government in Iraq doesn’t actually care all that much about the Turkish incursion. They object in a pro forma way, of course, but that’s about it. Iraqi Kurdistan has been de facto independent […]

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Laura Rozen’s got a write-up of Nick Burns’ address to the Council on Foreign Relations. She also points to this NYRB piece by Thomas Pickering, William Luers and Jim Walsh titled, modestly enough, “A Solution to the U.S.-Iran Nuclear Standoff.” Laura was impressed by the longer time horizon Burns gave to resolve the Iran standoff (he believes it will play out at least into 2009), as well as by the more optimistic tone he adopted when discussing possible diplomatic solutions. Among the potential outcomes he mentioned was the oft-floated idea of a multi-lateral consortium enriching uranium outside Iran, with Russia […]

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I mentioned that I spoke with a well-informed European official about the IAEA’s Iran report. On a hunch, I asked him what kind ofstrategic impact Turkey — whichhas really stayed on the sidelines of this issue — could make byactively siding with the West’s position. Without hesitation he saidit would make a huge difference. In addition to the obvious reasons(Islamic country, regional power, etc.), he explained that Turkey isone of the countries in the region he would be most worried aboutseeking a nuclear weapons capacity should Iran aquire a nuclear bomb.Although he did not explicitly connect the dots, I interpreted […]

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I spoke with a well-informed European official, who was willing to provide some background to Friday’s IAEA Iran report on condition of anonymity. Now this person is not necessarily a disinterested observer, so there’s an element of spin to his observations. But I thought they were worth passing on because I’m familiar with his thinking on the matter and I consider it both sincere and convincing. He disagreed with the suggestion that the report was significant mainly for its difference in nuance to previous reports. The section on “alleged studies” (ie. weaponization programs), he said, was “something major” and included […]

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Once you get past all the speculation about how far into Iraqi territory Turkish forces intend to go (all the way to Qandil, 65 miles in?) and how long they’ll stay (permanent FOB’s to create a buffer zone?), this piece in Today’s Zaman is revealing for what it says about how Turkish analysts are interpreting the significance of the incursion. In a nutshell, they claim that it signals the isolation of Massoud Barzani and the end, for the time being, of Kurdish aspirations for a nation-state. The tell here is the advance American approval of the incursion, which amounts to […]

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There’s been a lot of speculation about what a John McCain presidency would mean in terms of America’s military adventurism. But anyone worried about McCain’s hawkish declarations regarding a 100-year occupation of Iraq should find this video, courtesy of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry, reassuring. McCain, it seems, has accepted the limits of American military influence, and once President would focus more on “culture-building” and “velvet revolution” operations funded by his friend and co-conspirator, “Jewish tycoon” George Soros. I should note that the idea that America is trying to gather intelligence through recruiting a sympathetic network of influential and well-placed Iranian […]

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Following up some more on Richard Weitz’ article on the Army’s new stability and reconstruction doctrine, Small Wars Journal points to this link for an academic review of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. The authors studied the PRT model all the way down the line, from the countries of origin to in-theater operations, and came up with a mixed bag, predominantly favorable to the missions, but full of interesting and thought-provoking stuff. I’m going through it now and cherrypicking the highlights: Domestic political constraints and priorities in the capitals of PRT-contributing countries are often directly translated […]

The U.S. Army is slated to publish a new operations manual this month that equates achieving success in stability operations with winning offensive and defensive battles. The new Army manual is in line with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ vision for military transformation. In a speech delivered last November at Kansas State University, Secretary Gates stressed the need to balance military force with political and economic resources in order to “integrate and apply all of the elements of national power to problems and challenges abroad.” Gates added that the experience of recent years, as well as his decades of public […]

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A couple items that caught my eye from the Turkish press this morning. First, if you’re wondering why Turkey would send ground troops into the Qandil Mountains despite receiving actionable American intelligence for its aerial campaign, here’s one reason: The Zap and Avasin camps had been subject to aerial attacks since Dec. 16 but many hideouts there remained unharmed after the aerial strikes because the camps are located in a deep valley. I’ll offer two more, although they’re admittedly speculation. The PKK traditionally launches its attacks in the spring, when the mountain passes into Turkey have thawed. By pre-emptively scattering […]

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Via Laura Rozen at MoJo, who has an excellent post on the subject, comes this .pdf file of the IAEA’s Iran report. Laura has some analysis from Jacqueline Shire of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), and Arms Control Wonk has more worth reading here and here. A quick comparison of this report with the last one released just prior to the NIE indicates that while Iran has shed more light on various elements of the program, the sheer weight of the new allegations raised (thanks to American intelligence sharing) make the bottom line a net loss for […]

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