|Southwest Asia News Digest
Israeli Historian: Bush and His Team Should Be Tried
Israeli historian Martin Van Creveld writes that "Bush and the rest of the President's men" should be put on trial for "misleading the American people, and launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 B.C. sent his legions into Germany and lost them." This view is developed in Van Creveld's column, "A Costly Withdrawal from a Foolish War," in Forward on Nov. 25. Van Creveld is "the only non-American author on the U.S. Army's required reading list for officers," notes Forward.
Referencing the population's turn against the Iraq war, and the impact of the failed war on Congress, Van Creveld says that this was all inevitable. But now, if the U.S. goes with "Vietnamization"where all the equipment was left for the new Vietnamese Army, and then seized by the North Vietnam communistsas the withdrawal plan for Iraq, then they might as well give all the military equipment directly to Al Zarqawi.
Withdrawal is inevitable, he says, whether Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice like it or not. So instead of "saving face," the Administration must adopt a "classical withdrawal," and soonas U.S. casualties continue to mount. But the U.S. must stay in the region for a long time, because the war's aftermath means a weak, unstable Iraq, a vastly strengthened Iran (thanks to the U.S. war on Iraq), and "a hundred mini-Zarqawis" attacking regional states.
His "classical withdrawal" bears some similarities to Rep. John Murtha's (D-Pa) Congressional resolution of Nov. 17, insofar as both note that a nearby, quick-response capability of the U.S. has to remain in place for a long time.
Bush Okays Khalilzad Talks with Tehran
In a desperate attempt to stabilize Iraq, U.S. Ambassador to Baghdad Zalmay Khalilzad has obtained President Bush's okay to open talks with Tehran. "I've been authorized by the President to engage the Iranians as I engaged them in Afghanistan directly. There will be meetings, and that's also a departure and adjustment," Khalilzad told Newsweek Nov. 27. The magazine also reports in the issue posted Nov. 27, that Khalilzad and Gen. George Casey, the U.S. Commander in Iraq, have had to "make compromises" with the Sunni "supporters of insurgency," to get basic improvements in security, such as reducing attacks on the road from the Baghdad airport to the Green Zone.
The Newsweek article is a puff piece that says the Bush Administration has finally foundwith these compromisesa "new way out." But Newsweek's "good news" is fakery, with more than 500 insurgent attacks weekly.
Khalilzad also makes a new excuse for staying in Iraq: If there were a "premature withdrawal, there could be a Shia-Sunni war here that could spread beyond Iraq. and you could have Iran backing the Shias, and Sunni Arab states backing the Sunnis." Preventing this is the context for the green light to talk to Tehran. Khalilzad also warns of a "regional war" and threats to the oil supply, if the U.S. leaves. In addition, terrorists might be able to take over chunks of Iraq and use them as staging grounds for terrorism against other Arab regimes.
Top Iraqi Shia Group Demands 'Freedom To Fight Terror'
Abdul Aziz Hakim, head of the largest Iraqi Shia organization, told the Western press that the U.S. must allow it "more freedom" to "fight terror," according to the Washington Post Nov. 27a proposal that sounds like a call for a civil war. The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the leading Shia organization to receive U.S. funding during the Saddam Hussein era, when it was in exile in Iran, is now the main influence within the government, and is likely to win the largest vote in the December elections.
Hakim told the Post in an interview that "one of the biggest problems is the mistaken or wrong policies practiced by the Americans," meaning the restraint on the SCIRI militia and the Iraqi Army in dealing with "terrorists." He accused the U.S. of preventing the "forces of the Interior and Defense Ministries from carrying out tasks they are capable of doing, and also in the way they are dealing with the terrorists." He called for the arrest of Sunni leaders with "ties to the insurgents." He rejected accusations that government forces or SCIRI militia torture Sunni prisoners.
U.S. General: Iraqi Police Are the Militias in Uniform
Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, head of training for the Iraqi forces, said the Iraqi police forces are essentially the various militias in uniform, the New York Times reported Dec. 3. Speaking to a Pentagon press conference from Iraq, Dempsey said the police forces, recruited locally rather than nationally like the army, "tend to be of a single ethnic group." Regional Iraqi leaders want to retain both their own "home guards" and "regional guards," that are just their old militias. "It undermines the Iraqi security forces that we're training and equipping as the sole provider, the legitimate source of authority and force in Iraq," Dempsey said.
Dempsey also raised the possibility that the Baghdad government may not have sufficient funds for the army of ten divisions envisioned by the Bush Administration.
Private Security Contractors in Iraq Are Outside the Law
Some 60 private security firms with more than 20,000 employees, were paid over $750 million in government contracts over the past two years, and no one is watching. Such is the state of the private security contractors operating in Iraq. On top of that, they are armed, can shoot at will, and have immunity from prosecution throughout the country, the Los Angeles Times reported Dec. 5.
The Times obtained copies of 200 "serious incident" forms under an FOIA filing; this represents only "a small portion" of the total incidents on file.
While half of the (completely voluntary) reports are of roadside bombs and other attacks, 11% are incidents of contractors firing on vehicles carrying innocent civilians thought to be suicide bombers.
More than 400 security guards have been killed since the collapse of the Iraqi Army, but no one even knows the number of civilians killed in such incidents. "This is not a particularly effective way to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqis," says Joshua Schwartz, the codirector of George Washington University's government procurement program. "The contractors are making the mission of the U.S. military in Iraq more difficult."
Israel's Intentions, Capabilities Toward Iran Assessed
A sober assessment of Israel's intentions and capabilities with respect to Iran's nuclear program, by Gen. Shlomo Brom, former head of Israeli military intelligence, appears in a new volume of studies published by the U.S. Army War College. The volume, titled Getting Ready for a Nuclear-Ready Iran, was edited by Patrick Clawson and Henry Sokolski. Brom's contribution was summarized in the Jerusalem Post Dec. 7.
Brom states that there are two relevant factions in Israelone represented by Military Intelligence and several Knesset members, and the other with supporters in the Mossad, Ministry of Defense, and Foreign Ministry.
"While the first school assumes that no political pressure can force Iran to stop its military nuclear program, the other school believes that political pressure can be effective in at least delaying the nuclear program significantly," Brom writes. "The second school believes that a nuclear Iran with a different regime will not pose a high risk to Israel, and can be easily deterred."
If Israel were to attack Iran's nuclear sites, he writes, it would "necessitate sustainable strikes on a relatively large number of targets that are well defended.... It is very difficult to find in the Iranian nuclear program one vulnerable point that, once it is attacked and destroyed, the Iranian program is stopped or stalled for a long time."
Brom then details Israel's capability to attack these sites with its long-range F-15I and F-16I fighter bombers. Given the long distances, necessitating complex refueling, Israel could not conduct a sustained campaign. "The conclusion is that Israel could attack only a few Iranian targets, and not as a part of a sustainable operation over time, but as a one-time surprise operation. Even if Israel had attack capabilities needed for destruction of all the elements of the Iranian nuclear program, it is doubtful whether Israel has the kind of intelligence needed to be certain that all the necessary elements of the program were traced and destroyed fully."
Nonetheless, he writes, "It can be safely assumed that any Israeli action against the Iranian nuclear program would enjoy vast support by Israeli public opinion." He also claims that Iran's reaction would have very limited effect. He writes that if Lebanon's Hezbollah were unleashed on Israel, Israel would launch a direct attack on Syria. But he warns that Iran could attack Israeli and Jewish targets outside of Israel.