Daily Archives: April 2, 2007

Top Shiite cleric in Iraq rejects RE-Baathification

Looks like we aren’t gonna have to wait til June 30  to see if the Decider can get the Shiites to give up Iraq and its oil.

NY Times:

The most powerful Shiite cleric in Iraq has rejected an American-backed proposal to allow thousands of former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party to return to government service, an aide to the cleric said on Monday.

The rejection is certain to fuel sectarian hostility between Sunni Arabs and Shiites, since many Sunni Arabs say they were unfairly purged from the government in the clampdown on the Baath Party.

The Americans say a partial reversal of the draconian “de-Baathfication” process is one of the most crucial steps the Iraqi government can take in wooing back disenfranchised Sunni Arabs and draining the Sunni-led insurgency of its fervor.

The latest proposal was announced by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani on March 26 at the strong urging of Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, the senior American envoy to Iraq, who left his job last week. American officials were instrumental in drafting the proposal.

This may be a devastating blow to chances for peace in Iraq.  The Iraq oil exploitation law, which is probably more important to Bush than peace,  apparently still has a chance; but failure there would probably tempt Bush to attempt a coup.  His best pal, Allawi, however, seems to oppose the oil law.  Gee, that puts us right back with Chalabi.

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Filed under Iraq, John McCain for president of Del Boca Vista, Middle East

100,000 US mercenaries in Iraq in addition to the troops

The term “contractors” in Iraq doesn’t mean guys who build things.

Mostly, it means armed men like those employed by Blackwater. “Security” guys. Out of any real control of the military, no real oversight, paid four times what our soldiers get. 100,000 of these guys.

I look forward to Congressional hearings on this disturbing aspect of American militarism.

Jeremy Scahill at The Nation:

Contractors have provided the Bush Administration with political cover, allowing the government to deploy private forces in a war zone free of public scrutiny, with the deaths, injuries and crimes of those forces shrouded in secrecy. The Administration and the GOP-controlled Congress in turn have shielded the contractors from accountability, oversight and legal constraints. Despite the presence of more than 100,000 private contractors on the ground in Iraq, only one has been indicted for crimes or violations. “We have over 200,000 troops in Iraq and half of them aren’t being counted, and the danger is that there’s zero accountability,” says Democrat Dennis Kucinich, one of the leading Congressional critics of war contracting.

While the past years of Republican monopoly on government have marked a golden era for the industry, those days appear to be ending. Just a month into the new Congressional term, leading Democrats were announcing investigations of runaway war contractors. Representative John Murtha, chair of the Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Defense, after returning from a trip to Iraq in late January, said, “We’re going to have extensive hearings to find out exactly what’s going on with contractors. They don’t have a clear mission and they’re falling all over each other.” Two days later, during confirmation hearings for Gen. George Casey as Army chief of staff, Senator Jim Webb declared, “This is a rent-an-army out there.” Webb asked Casey, “Wouldn’t it be better for this country if those tasks, particularly the quasi-military gunfighting tasks, were being performed by active-duty military soldiers in terms of cost and accountability?” Casey defended the contracting system but said armed contractors “are the ones that we have to watch very carefully.” Blackwater has secured a position of remarkable power and protection within the US war apparatus. This company’s success represents the realization of the life’s work of the conservative officials who formed the core of the Bush Administration’s war team, for whom radical privatization has long been a cherished ideological mission. Blackwater has repeatedly cited Rumsfeld’s statement that contractors are part of the “Total Force” as evidence that it is a legitimate part of the nation’s “warfighting capability and capacity.” Invoking Rumsfeld’s designation, the company has in effect declared its forces above the law–entitled to the immunity from civilian lawsuits enjoyed by the military, but also not bound by the military’s court martial system. While the initial inquiries into Blackwater have focused on the complex labyrinth of secretive subcontracts under which it operates in Iraq, a thorough investigation into the company reveals a frightening picture of a politically connected private army that has become the Bush Administration’s Praetorian Guard.

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UPDATED. The US and Iran: Elliot Abrams’ sandbox. Part 2.

The British sailors continue to attract attention, more so than the Brits want. But there seems to be some progress:

TEHRAN, Iran – Iranian state radio reported that all 15 British sailors and marines held captive by Iran have confessed to illegally entering Iranian waters but, in an apparent softening in the dispute, said their statements would not air because of “positive changes” from Britain.

link

Apparently the bilateral negotiations between Iran and Britain weren’t generating enough hate, so two famous American big mouths have been flapping their gums in an attempt to push Mr. Abrams’ ISOG agenda:

LONDON — The Iranian prisoner crisis revealed a widening schism between Britain and the United States Sunday as U.S. leaders called for tough action and British officials confirmed that they are trying to free their 15 imprisoned sailors by quietly reaching a compromise with Tehran.

British officials believe that Iran is not seeking a prisoner exchange or other further bounty in exchange for the sailors, who have been imprisoned for 10 days, and they are hoping the crisis can be resolved peacefully in the next few days.

“We are anxious that this matter be resolved as quickly as possible, and that it be resolved by diplomatic means, and we are bending every single effort to that. … We are in direct bilateral communication with the Iranians,” British Defence Minister Des Browne told reporters Sunday.

But Britain’s delicate diplomatic efforts were set back by U.S. President George W. Bush, who made a statement Saturday in which he characterized the imprisoned sailors as “hostages” — a phrase that Britain has been carefully avoiding to prevent the crisis from becoming a broader political or military conflict.

“The British hostages issue is a serious issue because the Iranians took these people out of Iraqi waters, and it’s inexcusable behaviour,” Mr. Bush said in response to a reporter’s question during a press conference at the Camp David retreat.

He had reportedly promised not to raise the issue of the sailors, as British officials worry that the entry of the United States into this crisis could cause it to escalate into an irreconcilable confrontation.

Other U.S. officials have been even less amenable to the British approach. John Bolton, who until recently was Mr. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations, has appeared on British TV describing the British approach as “pathetic.”

Mr. Bush stressed that the United States would not turn over Iranian officials it had arrested in Iraq earlier this year on accusations that they were supporting insurgents, saying he supported Prime Minister Tony Blair’s view that “there were no quid pro quos. The Iranians must give back the hostages. They’re innocent, they were doing nothing, and they were summarily plucked out of water.”

But British officials say that a prisoner exchange has never been offered or suggested by Iran, and that Mr. Bush’s words could cause harm by putting the Iranians in a position from which they cannot back down if it becomes a major confrontation with their long-time enemy, the United States.

British negotiators believe the Iranians have already won all the rewards they have been seeking — mainly by using several of the hostages for propaganda purposes by broadcasting videos and letters in which they admit, possibly under duress, to trespassing on Iranian territory and demand that their government withdraw from Iraq.

link

Meanwhile, the only person whose opinion matters has yet to tell us what will really happen:

Ayatollah Khamenei has not yet spoken publicly on this crisis, and there are some observers in Iran who believe that he has abandoned his support for Mr. Ahmadinejad over the way the President’s radically anti-Western gestures have distanced Iran from the rest of the world and damaged the economy.

link

Gold and oil prices are dropping. No further word on the story that the US violated Iranian airspace.

UPDATE: To choose the lucky man to shovel out today’s dose of Iran-hate, Abrams spun the big wheel and it landed on the vapid Kit Bond, who duly went forth and recited to Wolf Blitzer what came to him on his fax machine from ISOG:

Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) appears on CNN’s ‘Late Edition’ advocating a change of leadership in Iran, suggesting that the use of military force may be the only way to bring about the fall of Iran’s ruling class.

“Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like there is any other option other than regime change,” says Bond. “I would hope that other nations would be willing to join with the [United Nations] Security Council and start employing escalating sanctions on Iran to force them to change their way with nuclear weapons, or even to bring about a regime change in Iran.”

Another guest, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), criticizes hints of military force during a time of sensitive diplomatic negations for the safe return of 15 British sailors that have been detained by Iran. “Cooler heads have to prevail,” she says. link

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