View Full Version : 'Dramatic Change of Direction' Coming for Iraq

10-19-2006, 07:20 AM
19 October Washington Times - 'Dramatic Change of Direction' Coming for Iraq (http://www.washtimes.com/world/20061019-120324-9846r.htm) by Sharon Behn.

The escalating violence raking Baghdad and other Iraqi cities is pushing that nation's leaders, neighboring Arab countries and U.S. advisers to consider a dramatic change of direction in the conduct of the war.

Leaks from a U.S. task force headed by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III are contributing to the widespread sense that the Bush administration is preparing for a "course correction" in the coming months.

The options cited most frequently in Washington include the partition of Iraq into three ethnic- or faith-based regions, and a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops, with some remaining in neighboring countries to deal with major threats.

Another scenario is being discussed -- and taken seriously in Iraq -- by many of Iraq's leading political players, under which the U.S.-trained army would overthrow struggling Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and replace him with a strongman who would restore order while Washington looks the other way...

On Monday, The Washington Times reported that Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, was "more sober" and "more concerned" about the ability of the Iraqi security forces when he privately briefed senior military and civilian leaders in Washington last week. Defense sources said he had appeared more upbeat over the winter about the Iraqi security force's progress.

The sources said, however, Gen. Casey was not pessimistic and still thinks the U.S. will win in Iraq. Gen. Casey's spokesman said the general thinks the Iraqi security forces have made great progress and are on track to take over more counterinsurgency missions...

The most talked-about scenarios for a "Plan B" include:

Phased withdrawal: Under this plan, U.S. troops would be gradually withdrawn over a period of months and a reserve force would be redeployed elsewhere in the region.

Partition: Under this plan, notably advocated by Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, Iraq would be divided into Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish regions, each enjoying a high degree of autonomy.

Coup in Baghdad: While given little credence in Washington, this scenario is being widely talked about in Iraq and in neighboring countries, both on the streets and among senior political and military officials...

10-19-2006, 12:43 PM
19 October Washington Times - 'Dramatic Change of Direction' Coming for Iraq (http://www.washtimes.com/world/20061019-120324-9846r.htm) by Sharon Behn.

Even a whisper of a "Coup in Baghdad" is a disaster just waiting to happen. On the other side of the coin, and as much as I like the idea of partition as solution, we must be equally careful there.

Two critical questions must be answered before the government of Iraq proceeds with any partition/regional autonomy plan:

First, are the regional players (provincal, tribal, religious) going to be included in discussions? This matter goes well beyond, in my opinion, those legislators who have installed themselves in the government via the elections. It is something on the scale of another referendum, because it cannot be decided and administered from Baghdad alone. The balance of representation in the government is not 30% Sunni, 30% Kurd, and 30% Shia, but the Sunnis will certainly expect decisionmaking to come about only if they have an equal voice. I've seen such an "equal voice" dynamic at play many times. This cannot be ignored.

Second, is the idea of partition based on the observation or assumption that the insurgents will adopt the view that partition is best for the country and meets their goals? Unless we have developed more intelligence on, and understanding of, the insurgent movement, the last thing I knew was that no one really knew what they wanted. Is it coalition removal, as many dead coalition members as possible, safe havens for their Sunni or Shia neighbors? Are the powers-that-be even considering what the reaction will be when partition starts to take place and troops leave? What if the insurgency swells against what little power the central government has left? Will partition drive those localised insurgents towards open civil war?

These are dark, treacherous waters to navigate, and I hope someone is pausing to consider all these issues. If we fail to get this "new course" right, we'll have two lost years in Iraq. The first under the CPA and Bremer. The second will be when we've miscalculated again and the Army dissolves (or becomes composed of 100% Shia) because the Sunni soldiers have deserted to take up arms in defense of their homes and neighborhoods.

We fought the Cold War in part due to perceptions. Bullet-ridden bodies dumped in canals and back alleys of Baghdad are not perceptions, but a harsh reality that civil war looms ahead. I would not blame a single man-on-the-street if he thought that civil war was coming. It is not about what any of us in this forum, or any think tank fellows, believe.

Who is going to help the IZ government with the IO campaign to support the notion of partition?

10-19-2006, 02:57 PM
Forgive me for making a comparison, but this sounds eerily like our backing of the Diem coup in 1963. If I'm not mistaken, the Kennedy Administration supported the ARVN when they had Diem assasinated and his gov't overthrown because Diem wasn't playing ball.

10-20-2006, 03:36 AM
20 October Washington Post - Major Change Expected In Strategy for Iraq War (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/19/AR2006101901907.html) by Michael Abramowitz and Thomas Ricks.

The growing doubts among GOP lawmakers about the administration's Iraq strategy, coupled with the prospect of Democratic wins in next month's midterm elections, will soon force the Bush administration to abandon its open-ended commitment to the war, according to lawmakers in both parties, foreign policy experts and others involved in policymaking.

Senior figures in both parties are coming to the conclusion that the Bush administration will be unable to achieve its goal of a stable, democratic Iraq within a politically feasible time frame. Agitation is growing in Congress for alternatives to the administration's strategy of keeping Iraq in one piece and getting its security forces up and running while 140,000 U.S. troops try to keep a lid on rapidly spreading sectarian violence...

Few officials in either party are talking about an immediate pullout of U.S. combat troops. But interest appears to be growing in several broad ideas. One would be some kind of effort to divide the country along regional lines. Another, favored by many Democrats, is a gradual withdrawal of troops over a set period of time. A third would be a dramatic scaling-back of U.S. ambitions in Iraq, giving up on democracy and focusing only on stability.

Many senior Republicans with close ties to the administration also believe that essential to a successful strategy in Iraq are an aggressive new diplomatic initiative to secure a Middle East peace settlement and a new effort to engage Iraq's neighbors, such as Syria and Iran, in helping stabilize the country -- perhaps through an international conference...

Like many who have met with the president in recent months to discuss Iraq policy, author and military expert Robert Kaplan said he detected clear limits to Bush's flexibility. "He seemed genuinely to enjoy the challenges to his policy that we threw at him," Kaplan said, describing a session Bush held with several outside strategists at Camp David in June. "He wasn't at all defensive. He appeared open to any new direction or tactic, except withdrawal, and yet that is what he might be faced with after November."

Along with the political debate, there also is growing frustration inside the U.S. military over Iraq, with some officers debating privately whether the situation there is salvageable. In recent weeks, senior military officers have offered a torrent of negative comments, a sharp contrast to the official optimism of the past three years.

"We're obviously very concerned about what we're seeing" in Baghdad, Army Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said yesterday. He indicated that changes to a plan to restore security to the capital are being considered. "We find the insurgent elements, the extremists, are in fact punching back hard," Caldwell said...

10-20-2006, 09:46 AM
20 October Washington Times - White House Rejects Iraq Partition Plan (http://www.washtimes.com/national/20061019-115632-5191r.htm) by Joseph Curl.

The White House yesterday rejected partitioning Iraq into three sections based on ethnicity and religion and took issue with reports that President Bush now views the 3-1/2-year-old Iraq war as similar to the war in Vietnam.

With leaks from the Iraq Study Group (ISG), headed by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, swirling around Washington, press secretary Tony Snow moved to distance Mr. Bush from a few alternative proposals.

"We've thought about partition, for a series of reasons," but Mr. Bush has categorically rejected the idea of breaking Iraq into regions, Mr. Snow said in reply to questions about an article in The Washington Times.

Under such a plan, the nation would be divided into Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish regions, each enjoying near autonomy, with a central government handling defense, foreign policy and oil production.

Still, the spokesman left some wiggle room.

"Ideas like partition had been studied. What you're talking now about are tactical adjustments that may be made along the way. And I'm not saying yes and I'm not saying no because I don't know. What you end up doing, again, is you respond to the people on the ground," he said.

While the ISG's report on recommendations is not expected until after the Nov. 7 elections, leaks show that several proposals have been discussed, including partitioning and a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops...

10-20-2006, 04:58 PM
Bush to Hear About Changing Iraq Tactics (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/20/AR2006102000512.html) by Kevin Freking.

President Bush acknowledged Friday that the situation in Iraq was tough and said he would consult with American generals to see if a change in tactics was necessary to combat the escalating violence...

He said he planned consultations in the next day with Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, and Gen. George Casey, who leads the U.S.-led Multinational Forces in Iraq.

"We are constantly adjusting tactics so we can achieve our objectives and right now, it's tough," the president said.

He declined to say whether he thought such a change was necessary.

The president has often said that U.S. goals in Iraq remain the same: to have a country that can sustain itself, govern itself and help in the war on terror.

The White House said that while Bush might change tactics in Iraq, he would not change his overall strategy despite growing opposition...

10-22-2006, 01:49 AM
22 October New York Times - U.S. to Hand Iraq a New Timetable on Security Role (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/22/world/middleeast/22policy.html?hp&ex=1161489600&en=28960a97f284e791&ei=5094&partner=homepage) by David Cloud.

The Bush administration is drafting a timetable for the Iraqi government to address sectarian divisions and assume a larger role in securing the country, senior American officials said.

Details of the blueprint, which is to be presented to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki before the end of the year and would be carried out over the next year and beyond, are still being devised. But the officials said that for the first time Iraq was likely to be asked to agree to a schedule of specific milestones, like disarming sectarian militias, and to a broad set of other political, economic and military benchmarks intended to stabilize the country.

Although the plan would not threaten Mr. Maliki with a withdrawal of American troops, several officials said the Bush administration would consider changes in military strategy and other penalties if Iraq balked at adopting it or failed to meet critical benchmarks within it.

A senior Pentagon official involved in drafting the blueprint said that Iraqi officials were being consulted as the plan evolved and would be invited to sign off on the milestones before the end of the year. But he added, “If the Iraqis fail to come back to us on this, we would have to conduct a reassessment” of the American strategy in Iraq.

The plan is being formulated by General George W. Casey Jr. and Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, the top military and civilian officials in Iraq, as well as by Pentagon officials. General Casey has been in close consultations with the White House as the debate over the way forward in Iraq has intensified in recent weeks. And he took part by videoconference on Saturday in a strategy meeting with President Bush and senior administration officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top American commander in the Middle East, and Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff...

10-22-2006, 09:14 AM
22 October London Times - U.S. in Secret Truce Talks with Insurgency Chiefs (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-2415692,00.html) by Marie Colvin.

American officials held secret talks with leaders of the Iraqi insurgency last week after admitting that their two-month clampdown on violence in Baghdad had failed.

Few details of the discussions in the Jordanian capital Amman have emerged but an Iraqi source close to the negotiations said the participants had met for at least two days.

They included members of the Islamic Army in Iraq, one of the main Sunni militias behind the insurgency, and American government representatives. The talks were described as “feeler” discussions. The US officials were exploring ways of persuading the Sunni groups to stop attacks on allied forces and to end a cycle of increasingly bloody sectarian clashes with members of the majority Shi’ite groups.

According to the source, the key demand of the Islamic Army was the release of American-held prisoners in allied jails.

The Islamic Army has been held responsible for the killing of Enzo Baldoni, an Italian journalist kidnapped in Baghdad in August 2004, and the execution of three Macedonian engineers working for the American army two months later.

The talks with Sunni insurgents, a further sign that US forces in Iraq are rethinking their tactics, came amid parallel efforts to persuade Shi’ite militias to quell their own violence...

10-22-2006, 01:01 PM
Posted on CBC.ca (http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2006/10/21/iraq-bush.html)

U.S. arrogant, stupid in Iraq: American diplomat
Last Updated: Saturday, October 21, 2006 | 10:59 PM ET
CBC News

A senior U.S. diplomat has criticized his country's role in Iraq as President George W. Bush said the United States is still expecting to win the war, but is changing its tactics.

"We tried to do our best but I think there is much room for criticism because, undoubtedly, there was arrogance and there was stupidity from the United States in Iraq," Alberto Fernandez, an Arabic-speaking diplomat in the State Department's bureau of Near Eastern affairs, said on Al-Jazeera television on Saturday.

U.S. open to talks

Fernandez also said that the solution in Iraq requires national reconciliation, and the U.S. is ready to talk with any group except al-Qaeda in Iraq. That suggests that the the U.S. will talk with the Sunni and Shia factions that have reduced the country to a state akin to civil war.

He said the sectarian fighting, and the insurgency — which involves both al-Qaeda and the Baath Party, which ran Iraq under deposed dictator Saddam Hussein — was not just the fault of the U.S.

"We are witnessing failure in Iraq and that's not the failure of the United States alone. But it is a disaster for the region."

An administration official wondered whether the translation was accurate, the Associated Press reported. The unidentified official said Fernandez was not repeating the administration position.

The impression I am getting from this story is that even State department officials are now, officially opposing the White House. Talk about mediaspace problems with allies...


Merv Benson
10-22-2006, 02:36 PM
I agree with Marc. The guy goes on the media mouth piece for the enemy's message and tries to get credibility by embracing a part of that message. His job is to fight back against the enemy media message. This guy is in need of a brutally frank discussion of his own arrogance and miscalculations.

10-22-2006, 03:06 PM
The guy goes on the media mouth piece for the enemy's message and tries to get credibility by embracing a part of that message. His job is to fight back against the enemy media message. This guy is in need of a brutally frank discussion of his own arrogance and miscalculations.

I totally agree, Merv. He is supposed to be representing the US to the Arab world. What bothers me equally about the story is that it is being played in the Canadian press. Not only is he going against the US in the Arab world or, at least, to al-Jezira's viewers, he is also doing so, inadvertently, in the national press of US allies.

Right now, Canadians are split on our involvement in Afghanistan and, while the polls are tending towards withdrawing, that appears, to me at least, to be "soft support" for us to withdraw. This type of message from a US ambassador will go some way to "hardening up" support for calls for us to withdraw. Given that we currently have a minority government led by a man who is being called a "Bush Clone" and that we have a leadership race in the Liberal Party where our involvement in Afghanistan is a key issue, the effect of a pronouncement like this will go far beyond the muslim world.


10-22-2006, 03:19 PM
Newsweek, 29 August 2006 - Voice of America (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14560221/site/newsweek/). BTW - his job speciality is public affairs...

Alberto Fernandez says he can't keep his mouth shut. "I'm Cuban," he says. "We can't close our big mouths. Cubans love to talk, love to argue, love to engage in repartee." His garrulousness might be a liability for an ordinary diplomat—but Fernandez is anything but ordinary. As one of the few genuinely fluent Arabic speakers at the U.S. State Department, Fernandez has become a one-man public diplomacy machine, appearing in Arabic media on almost a daily basis. Although most Americans have never heard of him, his rare linguistic skill, together with his trademark blend of compassion and sass, have made him the face of the United States in the Middle East.

On paper, at least, Fernandez's job is basically that of a high-powered booker, coordinating appearances of high-level State Department officials on Arab media. But in reality, he's the main act. According to his own conservative estimates, he has done about 200 interviews with Arabic media in the past year—with almost 60 media appearances in July alone. "As far as I am aware, he is the only Arabic speaker from the U.S. government who appears on Al-Jazeera says Abderrahim Foukara, managing editor at the network's Washington offices. "Sometimes we'll even have him on three or four days in a row."

More than being one of the few people qualified for the job, Fernandez is one of the few who are willing to take it on. After 9/11, most high-level U.S. leaders preferred not to spend time speaking directly to an Arab public they felt was hopelessly anti-American. Even among those who saw a value in public diplomacy, like Bush and Condoleezza Rice, many refused to appear on Al-Jazeera—despite it being the No. 1 satellite channel in the Arab world—in protest at what they deemed to be its biased coverage...

10-22-2006, 03:33 PM

Read the above link of what a 16 year old did on the capitol Steps yesterday in Montgomery,Al. Read the whole article and look at the planning and thought that went into this. If we had I/O people like this working for the US things might be better.

10-22-2006, 03:35 PM
At CNN.com (http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/10/22/iraq.main/index.html)

(CNN) -- A senior U.S. State Department diplomat told Arab satellite network Al Jazeera that there is a strong possibility history will show the United States displayed "arrogance" and "stupidity" in its handling of the Iraq war.

Alberto Fernandez, director of the Office of Press and Public Diplomacy in the Bureau of Near East Affairs, made his comments on Saturday to the Qatar-based network.

"History will decide what role the United States played," he told Al Jazeera in Arabic, based on CNN translations. "And God willing, we tried to do our best in Iraq."

"But I think there is a big possibility ... for extreme criticism and because undoubtedly there was arrogance and stupidity from the United States in Iraq," the diplomat told Al Jazeera. (Watch Fernandez on Al-Jazeera -- :19)

"I can only assume his remarks must have been mistranslated. Those comments obviously don't reflect our policy," a senior Bush administration official said.

Fernandez told CNN that he was "not dissing U.S. policy."

"I know what the policy is and what the red lines are, and nothing I said hasn't been said before by senior officials.

"Nothing I said during this interview broke new ground," the diplomat told CNN.

Fernandez referred to a speech made by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in March in Blackburn, England.

"I am quite certain there are going to be dissertations written about the mistakes of the Bush administration," Rice said.

"I know we've made tactical errors, thousands of them, I'm sure," Rice said. "But when you look back in history, what will be judged" is whether the "right strategic decision" was made.

Fernandez's comments came as President Bush gathered his senior generals to discuss changes to strategy in Iraq, where violence has spiked in recent days.
..... More, including video links (http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/10/22/iraq.main/index.html)

Merv Benson
10-22-2006, 03:38 PM
Fernandez now says the translation (http://www.kvia.com/Global/story.asp?S=5572554&nav=AbC0) into English of his remarks in Arabic were not an accurate reflection of what he said. If that is so, why doen't he say what he meant?

10-22-2006, 03:41 PM
Alberto Fernandez says he can't keep his mouth shut...

10-22-2006, 03:44 PM

Read the above link of what a 16 year old did on the capitol Steps yesterday in Montgomery,Al. Read the whole article and look at the planning and thought that went into this. If we had I/O people like this working for the US things might be better.

*Very* well organized. Maybe Saul Alinsky should be required reading for I/O...


10-22-2006, 03:49 PM
Fernandez now says the translation (http://www.kvia.com/Global/story.asp?S=5572554&nav=AbC0) into English of his remarks in Arabic were not an accurate reflection of what he said. If that is so, why doen't he say what he meant?

Hmmm, not qute....

A senior Bush administration official says they might not have been [translated correctly]. The official says, "Those comments obviously don't reflect our position."

And a State Department spokesman says the diplomat, Alberto Fernandez, doesn't think the reports of his comments are an "accurate reflection of what he said."

Note that "the Bush administration" and "a State Department spokesman" are the ones saying the translation was inaccurate. Fernandez will probably have a press conference soon to "clarify" his remarks - after he has been called on the carpet. I'll keep an eye out on CBC to see if they print a "retraction".


10-23-2006, 06:53 AM
23 October New York Times - To Stand or Fall in Baghdad: Capital Is Key to Mission (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/23/world/middleeast/23baghdad.html?hp&ex=1161662400&en=b814165da49c5255&ei=5094&partner=homepage) by Michael Gordon.

After three years of trying to thwart a potent insurgency and tamp down the deadly violence in Iraq, the American military is playing its last hand: the Baghdad security plan.

The plan will be tweaked, adjusted and modified in the weeks ahead, as American commanders try to reverse the dismaying increase in murders, drive-by shootings and bombings.

But military commanders here see no plausible alternative to their bedrock strategy to clear violence-ridden neighborhoods of militias, insurgents and arms caches, hold them with Iraqi and American security forces, and then try to win over the population with reconstruction projects, underwritten mainly by the Iraqi government. There is no fall-back plan that the generals are holding in their hip pocket. This is it.

The Iraqi capital, as the generals like to say, is the center of gravity for the larger American mission in Iraq. Their assessment is that if Baghdad is overwhelmed by sectarian strife, the cause of fostering a more stable Iraq will be lost. Conversely, if Baghdad can be improved, the effects will eventually be felt elsewhere in Iraq. In invading Iraq, American forces started from outside the country and fought their way in. The current strategy is essentially to work from the inside out.

“As Baghdad goes, so goes Iraq,” observed Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, who commands American forces throughout Iraq.

Many ideas — new and not so new — are being discussed in Washington, like a sectarian division of Iraq (which the current government and many Iraqis oppose); and starting talks with Iraq’s neighbor, Iran (which the Iraqi government is already doing, but the United States is not). Some of these ideas look appealing simply because they have not been put to the test...