Saturday, December 02, 2006

Saturday Early Morning Miscellany

Al Jazeera English - Middle East:
Ahmadinejad wants US out of Iraq

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, has again called on the US to get out of Iraq.

In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera's Darren Jordon on Friday, Ahmadinejad said that Iraqis should govern themselves without any interference and blamed the US for stirring up divisions between Iraq's Shia, Sunnis and Kurds.

His comments came a day after the US president met with Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, urging him to crack down on Shia militias blamed for sectarian violence.

Ahmadinejad was in Doha, Qatar, where he was attending the opening ceremony for the Asian Games.

Rising tensions
When asked if he ever envisioned himself discussing Iraq with the US and if there was anything he wanted from the Americans, Ahmadinejad said: "We don’t want anything from America, just leave the Iraqis alone."

"They know how to govern themselves and provide their own security. The problem is with the presence of the US. Let them leave and the Iraqis will be fine."

He accused Washington of exacerbating tensions between Iraq's deeply divided communities, saying it is "afraid of an independent Iraq".

"The problem is with the presence of the US. Let them leave and the Iraqis will be fine."

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
"We know that the Americans and the Britons want to leave Iraq ... But they want to leave a scorched earth for the Iraqi people," he said.

"They have started doing things like creating sedition among Iraqis - Sunnis and Shia, Kurds and Shia."

Ahmadinejad also said supporters of the Lebanese opposition led by Hezbollah, which is believed to have links with Iran, had a right to demonstrate against the government.

"In a land of democracy it is natural for people to voice their opinions, after all the government has to serve their people," he said.

[snip]
Al Jazeera English - Middle East:
Why the West needs Ahmadinejad
By Rageh Omaar in Tehran

A year is a long time in Iranian politics.
Twelve months ago, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, was branded a hardliner by Washington - a religious zealot, and a direct threat to Israel.

Now he is seen as essential to helping George Bush and Tony Blair out of the policy disaster in Iraq.

What is it about him and his government that the American president and British prime minister got so wrong?

Austere leader

Ahmedinejad lectured at a prestigious university in Tehran, teaching civil engineering.

He is still technically a member of the faculty. His office remains untouched, should he wish to return.

You would know that it was Dr Ahmadinejad's office only by its austerity and religious symbols.

Students and colleagues, even those who do not agree with his politics, say they respect him.

Ahmadinejad represents a crucial break in Iranian politics – he is the first post-revolutionary who is not a cleric, he fought in the Iran-Iraq war, and crucially he is seen as not being corrupt.

If the West has underestimated his government's influence in Iraq and the region, they have also exaggerated his vulnerability here in Iran.

So it is hardly surprising that most ordinary Iranians are not hugely interested in Tony Blair's comments on Iraq, especially as he has said Iran would have to give up its nuclear enrichment programme before any talks – something every Iranian leader has said will not happen.

People here feel that when it comes to Iraq and even Lebanon and Afghanistan, Britain and the US need them, not the other way round.

What they want to know is what benefits does Iran get for such assistance?

Full text of President Ahmadinejad's message to American people (FULL TEXT - I) - Irna:
Full text of President Ahmadinejad's message to American people (FULL TEXT - II) - Irna:
Full text of President Ahmadinejad's message to American people (FULL TEXT - III) - Irna:
Full text of President Ahmadinejad's message to American people (FULL TEXT - IV) - Irna:
Ayat. Khatami says US should get out of Iraq - Irna:
Ayat. Khatami says US should get out of Iraq Tehran, Dec 1, IRNA Iran-US-Khatami
Substitute Friday prayers leader of Tehran Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said here Friday that Americans have no other option but leaving Iraq.

"It would be more to your interest to leave Iraq today than tomorrow; Iraq's occupation is not an easy-to-swallow loaf," said Ayatollah Khatami in his second sermon to this week's Friday prayers congregation.

Ayatollah Khatami also held the US responsible for insecurity in Iraq.

"We are unfortunately witnessing very painful days in Iraq; there is growing insecurity (in Iraq) due to the wrong policies of the US in the region; they (the occupiers) want to win bread through insecurity."
He said insecurity has gone to such an extent that the US President George W. Bush failed to visit Iraq and chose Jordan as venue of his meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

The cleric also ruled out rumors that Iran has a role in insecurity in Iraq.

"The claim that Iran has a role in insecurity in Iraq is a sort of blame game. After having a bad dream, Americans bring to power another dictator like Saddam in Iraq.

"If Americans want their wish to come true, they should immediately leave Iraq; the Americans are trapped in a quagmire in Iraq, having no way to return or proceed."
Ayatollah Khatami also blamed Americans for fanning the Sunni-Shiite conflict.

"Americans are playing blame games to provoke the Shiite-Sunni war and they have hidden themselves behind. Unfortunately some press in the region, too, add fuels to the flame, trying to fan insecurity." The cleric then cautioned those caring for Islam that the US is the main enemy of Islam.

"The US is siding neither Shiites nor Sunnis and these people want to remain in the region through such mischiefs," announced Ayatollah Khatami.
Cleric hails president's "praiseworthy" letter to Americans - Irna:
Cleric hails president's "praiseworthy" letter to Americans Tehran, Dec 1, IRNA Iran-US-Khatami

Substitute Friday prayers leader of Tehran Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said on Friday that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's letter to the American people is "praiseworthy and valuable."
"The letter is in principle and spirit referring to the fact that we have never been at odds with the American people, rather with the US dictators," said Ayatollah Khatami in his second sermon to large groups of worshipers in this week's Friday prayers congregation at Tehran University campus.

He noted, "Wherever we step in, we see traces of ambitions and adventurism of (the US President George W.) Bush and of genocide in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan and Lebanon."
He said fair individuals are subjects of President Ahmadinejad's letter to the American people.

"The letter addresses conscience of the fair individuals who live in the US; the letter tells the people how long they wish to tolerate injustice and tyranny; this letter carries this message to the US people: that's a shame for you to be ruled by a government that is supporting the worst kind of terrorism, i.e. the
state-terrorism of Zionists; it is a shame for the US people whose president receives protests and slogans, chanted against him, wherever he goes to; how long the US people are willing to tolerate such a humiliation?" he questioned.

Quoting a segment of president Ahmadinejad's letter, in which the chief executive had said, "Governments come to power to serve nations," Ayatollah Khatami said no nation would be ready to let its government support tyrants.

The US government has been forerunner of support for violators of Palestinians' rights in defiance of the US public opinion, announced Ayatollah Khatami.

He also referred to Israel's agreement to Gaza truce, saying, This shows resistance of nations."
He hoped that Hizbollah would peacefully contribute to coming to power of a national unity government in Lebanon.
Al Jazeera English - Middle East:
Sharp rise in Iraq civilian deaths
Civilian casualties in Iraq have gone up by 44 per cent in November compared with October, official data from the Iraqi interior ministry has shown.

The revelation came amid a gun battle between Iraqi troops backed by US attack helicopters and fighters for several hours in central Baghdad on Friday.

Iraqi interior ministry data showed 1,850 civilian deaths in Iraq in the month of November, matching a a 45 per cent rise in the number of civilian deaths tallied by Reuters.

The violence has its epicentre in Baghdad, despite thousands of US troops being poured into the Iraqi capital.

Gun battle

Iraqi troops backed by US attack helicopters fought fighters for several hours in central Baghdad on Friday.

Two Apache helicopters firing anti-missile flares swooped over Fadhil neighbourhood, a Sunni stronghold in one of the oldest parts of the capital, amid the slow thump of heavy machinegun fire, witnesses said.

On the ground, US and Iraqi troops, raiding the area's narrow alleyways clashed with armed men who killed one Iraqi soldier and wounded five, an interior ministry official said.

The defence ministry said 43 people were detained and a house was found that appeared to be a field hospital of those fighting US and Iraqi forces.

The US military said Friday's operation in Fadhil by the 9th Iraqi Army Division and US soldiers was aimed at "capturing and denying a safe haven to terrorist forces".

"The targets of these raids are believed to be regularly killing innocent Iraqis and have an active campaign designed to disrupt the peace and stability of the region," it said.

A resident, Abu Omar al-Qaisi, said Iraqi troops and armed men in civilian clothes entered the area at dawn, causing clashes in which several people were killed. He said he helped carry eight bodies into a local mosque.

US forces earlier carried out raids in and around Baghdad, killing two suspected al-Qaeda fighters and detaining 27, the military said in a statement.
Gulfnews: Seeking Sunni help in Iraq:
Published: 02/12/2006 12:00 AM (UAE) Seeking Sunni help in Iraq By Manal Alafrangi, Staff Writer

The US administration doesn't want any involvement from Syria or Iran but it has decided, in desperation at the ever worsening situation, that it needs to engage with Iraq's most powerful neighbours.

There is a vague attempt by the administration to sell the notion that Syria is now being drawn in but the US is being disingenuous. It wasn't long ago that America regularly accused the Syrians of not policing the border and allowing "Islamic" militants into Iraq. At the same time, Americans and Iraqis placed no soldiers on the border until the winter of 2005. In other words, all the time Donald Rumsfeld was complaining about the border, he refused to move in enough troops to even attempt to secure it.

Iraq's violence is based on home grown insurgency (a reaction to occupation) and not foreign backed fighters. The Sunni insurgency in Iraq has developed it's own momentum. It can't be switched off by Damascus. The insurgents and assorted extremists in Iraq are far beyond the control of the Syians; they're not Hezbollah.

Iran is much more complicated because it is much more involved in Iraq. There seems little doubt it sends in cash and political support with actual agents working in most major cities. That is not the same as saying the Iranians want an unstable Iraq - they just want to back the people in control, who are the Shiites. The Americans simply must engage with Iran because Iran can put some real pressure on the Shiite side to come to political agreements with their Sunni opposite numbers. But there is disingenuity here too; the most powerful Shiite faction in Iraq are the Sadrists and they are nationalists. They have contacts with Iran but are not "pro-Iranian".

What the US is doing instead is relying on Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan (which is politically weak) to carry out their future policies in the troubled region. Last week, President George W. Bush visited King Abdullah of Jordan to discuss Iraq with Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki. The week before that, Vice-President Dick Cheney met with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz. On Wednesday, security advisor to the Saudi government Nawaf Obaid said his country will intervene to prevent Iranian-backed Shiite militias from massacring Iraqi Sunnis once the US begins pulling out.

The Saudis will do this using money, weapons or oil power. So they will help "protect" the Sunnis from the Shiites and doubtless, the Iranians will continue to "protect" the Shiites from the Sunnis. Everyone will be protected, just like the innocents are protected by the Americans now, and no one will be safe. Welcome to the regional war.

These US meetings beg the question: will the US carry its future policies strictly along sectarian lines? That is, given the Iranian nuclear issue, is the US securing a strong coalition with its Sunni allies to prepare for an attack on Iran? This would be a reaction to what Jordan's King Abdullah called a Shiite crescent in the region; a term he coined more a year and a half ago.

Logic of violence

It seems the US administration is scrambling to devise some kind of a strategy to "win" in Iraq. During a press conference in Vietnam, Bush said the US needs to remain committed to the war until victory has been achieved. He added "History has a long march to it ... we tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq is going to take a while. Therefore we'll succeed ... unless we quit." His logic is the logic of violence.

What's misunderstood is the fact that there can be no victory strategy in Iraq. But indeed there was some "victory": the US succeeded in destroying Iraq, inciting sectarian and regional hatred and essentially starting a civil war. That is the US's victory, if not legacy in Iraq.

There is nothing the Americans can do to "win". As James Baker said, there are no good choices left in Iraq, only bad and less bad. What the US should do is start pulling the troops out in a timetabled fashion. The claim that these troops are there to stop a civil war from erupting is completely false with more than 100 corpses coming out of Iraq each day. According to a UN report released last week, 3,709 Iraqi civilians died in October - the highest number since the invasion began.

The violence keeps escalating and so long as the occupying troops are there, "insurgents" will keep fighting. In short, the various factions in Iraq are forming a complex web of mutual interests and disinterests which has got the Americans (and British) utterly bewildered and out of their depth. The occupiers know they have lost any semblance of control in Iraq, and that Iraq has become a very dangerous place; it could become a genuine safe haven for terrorists, as the Americans once warned.

The US administration is still very reluctant to engage with Syria and Iran and be "blackmailed" as it would say by the latter over nuclear weapons. The meeting in Jordan was nothing but a PR exercise- with the Americans saying all options are open when, in fact, they are not.
Random House to publish Iraq group report | Reuters.com:
NEW YORK, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Random House will publish the Iraq Study Group Report in book form on Wednesday, in the hope that the bipartisan policy recommendation can repeat the success of an official report on the Sept. 11 attacks.

[as if anyone with an iota of sense believes that this group of American imperialists will come up with anything worthwhile. - mfi]
Print Story: U.S. rethinking Iraqi unification goal on Yahoo! News:
U.S. rethinking Iraqi unification goal
By ANNE GEARAN, AP Diplomatic Writer1 hour, 19 minutes ago

The Bush administration is re-evaluating its efforts to unite Iraq's fractious sectarian and political factions in an attempt to preserve U.S. options in Iraq no matter what happens, officials familiar with an internal administration review of Iraq policy said Friday.

A senior U.S. official said that as part of that examination, the administration has debated whether to abandon U.S. efforts to bring Sunni insurgents into the political process to stabilize Iraq and instead leave that outreach to the majority Shiites and Iraq's third major group, the Kurds. No decision has been made.

[snip]

The administration also does not plan to alter its strategy of isolating adversaries Iran and Syria, despite mounting pressure to enlist those influential Middle East nations in a diplomatic push to stabilize Iraq, officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the internal review is still under way.

Leaders of the internal administration review presented their incomplete conclusions to Bush on Sunday. A final report is expected in about two weeks and will reflect the views of senior officials at the State Department, White House National Security Council, Pentagon and other agencies.

The group's work parallels that of a congressionally chartered bipartisan commission whose recommendations are due next week. The commission, known as the Iraq Study Group, will recommend engaging Iran and Syria as part of a larger group and perhaps one-on-one, officials familiar with the panel's findings have said.

The Iraq Study Group, headed by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., will also recommend gradually phasing out the mission of U.S. troops in Iraq from combat to training and supporting Iraqi units. However, the report due Wednesday sets no timetable, according to officials familiar with the group's deliberations.

Expanding on previous reports that the commission would urge troop withdrawals beginning early next year, a U.S. official said the report also recommends a "conditions-based" goal of completing combat troop withdrawals by early 2008. That is short of a firm timetable, and would leave in place troops needed to train and support the Iraqis.

The commander of coalition forces in northern Iraq said Friday that four Iraqi army divisions in his area will be put under Baghdad's control by next March.

"I can certainly see great opportunity to reduce the amount of combat forces on the ground" in the north "and turn more responsibility over to Iraqi security forces," Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon told Pentagon reporters in a videoconference from his headquarters near Tikrit.

Some U.S. commanders in Iraq already are shifting some troops from combat to support roles while giving the Iraqi Defense Ministry more control over Iraq troops.

Bush repeatedly has rejected a wholesale troop withdrawal or what he calls artificial deadlines. There are about 140,000 American troops are in Iraq.

Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are to meet Monday in Washington with Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, one of Iraq's most powerful Shiite politicians, in a bid to find a new approach. One official said the president will meet in Washington in January with a Sunni leader — Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi.
Then there's this contemptible garbage from American Senator Biden Democrat (Gentler Kinder Let's Let Them Kill Each Other and Their Neighbours Too That Way We Get To Steal Everything Faction) In his own words (or maybe not in his own words he's got something of a record of plagiarism) - mfi

Senator Joe Biden's Unite Our States:
OP-ED: The Minimum Necessary

By Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Or maybe not he's stolen other people's stuff and tried to pass it off as his own before) November 19, 2006

As the Baker-Hamilton commission deliberates recommendations for Iraq, it faces a tremendous opportunity and responsibility. The opportunity is to help generate for the president and Congress a bipartisan way forward. The responsibility is to make the hard choices that are required to turn our Iraq policy around. If it fails to make those choices, its efforts will be in vain.

Our current policy in Iraq is a failure. We are past the point of an open-ended commitment. We are past the point of adding more troops. We are past the point of vague policy prescriptions. It is not an answer just to stay. Nor is it an answer -- though it may become a necessity -- just to go with no concern for what follows. The fundamental question we must answer is whether, as we begin to leave Iraq, there are still concrete steps we can take to avoid leaving chaos behind.

Six months ago Les Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, and I proposed a detailed answer to that question, which can be found at http://www.planforiraq.com. We had two fundamental premises: first, that the main challenge in Iraq is sectarian strife, for which there is no military solution; second, that putting all of our chips on building a strong central government cannot pay off because there is no trust within or of the government and no capacity on the part of the government to deliver basic services to the Iraqi people.

We argued instead for a strong federal system, as provided for in the Iraqi constitution, that gives its main groups breathing room in regions while preserving a central government to deal with truly common concerns; a fair sharing of oil revenue to make those regions economically viable; a jobs program to deny the militia new recruits; and a major diplomatic effort to secure support for a political settlement from Iraq's neighbors.

Doing all those things would enable most of our troops to leave Iraq by the end of 2007, with a small residual force to contend with concentrations of terrorists.

Baker-Hamilton need not embrace the details of our plan. But to win broad support, it must contend with three points central to our plan and to the prescriptions of most senior Democratic leaders.

First, Baker-Hamilton must tackle the issue of U.S. troop deployments. Most Democrats believe we should begin the phased redeployment of our troops in the coming months but not set a hard deadline for their withdrawal. We would refocus the mission of those who remain on counterterrorism, training, logistics and force protection.

The best way to get the Iraqis to concentrate on making the hard political decisions and compromises is to make clear to them that the presence of our troops in their present large numbers is not open-ended. Even if it made strategic sense to keep 145,000 troops in Iraq beyond next year, we could not do so without doing real damage to the volunteer military: sending soldiers back on third and fourth tours, extending deployment times from 12 to 18 months, ending the practice of a year at home between deployments, fully mobilizing the Guard and Reserves, and returning demobilized soldiers to Iraq through a back-door draft.

Second, Baker-Hamilton must propose a clear political road map for Iraq. Democrats agree that as we redeploy we must exert maximum pressure on the Iraqis for a sustainable political settlement that deals with federalism, sharing oil revenue and the militias. Redeployment alone is not a plan -- it is a means to help bring about the political settlement needed if we are to avoid a full-blown civil war and regional conflict.

Third, Baker-Hamilton must speak to the engagement of Iraq's neighbors. Democrats would convene an international conference and stand up an oversight group of major countries to support a political settlement in Iraq -- or, if chaos ensues anyway, to help contain its fallout within Iraq. There can be no sustainable peace in Iraq without the support of its neighbors, including Iran, Syria and Turkey. All major Iraqi factions should be included in the conference -- and, as at the Dayton Conference for Bosnia, we should keep them there until all agree to a way forward.

At the same time, simply convening a conference is not enough. We need a clear plan for our troops, a political strategy for Iraq and a mechanism like the oversight group to hold the neighbors to their commitments.

If the Baker-Hamilton commission addresses these three issues in detail, it can meet Americans' growing expectations. It also can help inform the critical debate on Iraq that I intend to hold in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in close collaboration with my Republican counterpart, Sen. Richard Lugar. These intensive and extensive hearings will put a light on what options remain for America to start bringing our troops home without trading a dictator for chaos.
Senator Joe Biden’s Unite Our States : Blog » Blog Archive » Biden Awaits Iraq Study Group Report: “The Most Important Point Is The Need For A Strategy To Build A Sustainable Political Settlement”:
Biden Awaits Iraq Study Group Report: “The Most Important Point Is The Need For A Strategy To Build A Sustainable Political Settlement”

Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) issued a response to news of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group’s report, from the U.S. Senate website Nov 29, statement in its entirety, below:

“I look forward to the release of the Iraq Study Group’s report on December 6th, and I will reserve full judgment until I see it. But if today’s news reports are correct, I’m concerned the Iraq Study Group may miss the most important point: the need for a strategy to build a sustainable political settlement in Iraq.

“Bringing the neighbors in and starting to get our troops out are necessary, but not sufficient. We need to give each of Iraq’s major groups a way to pursue their interests peacefully.

It would be a fatal mistake to believe we can do that solely by building up a strong central government. That policy has been tried and it has failed because there is no trust within the government, no trust of the government by the people and no capacity on the part of the government to deliver benefits to Iraqis.
See also previous postings on Biden's dishonest and racist garbage:
markfromireland 06:38 02/12/2006

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