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Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Second Chance for Peace?

The end of Saddam Hussein and the Iraq War has, as we anticipated, opened a window of opportunity for Palestinian - Israeli peace. The Roadmap of the quartet is meant to cure the defects of the failed Oslo Process. The roadmap got off to a promissing start when Palestinians chose Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) to be their new Prime Minister on April 29. Abu Mazen made a strong speech condemning terrorism, vowing to fight it, and committing his government to a fair peace.


by Moderator @ 02:37 AM CST [Link]

Friday, April 25, 2003

Who's in charge around here, anyway?

The confusion in Iraq, it seems, at least partly mirrors confusion in Washington. As Eli Lake's stupefying account most clearly suggests, there is no unified policy on an interim government, just a rugby scrum of bureaucratic factions:

Ironically, the Salahuddin conference that produced the leadership panel Wolfowitz would like to empower was, at the time, considered a victory for the State Department, which used the opportunity to marginalize the INC, the one-time umbrella for the Iraqi opposition. In Salahuddin, the INC was only one of numerous opposition groups that it had once held under its wing, including SCIRI and both major Kurdish parties. Alongside Chalabi, delegates to the conference chose Allawi, an ex-Baathist who has received clandestine funding from the CIA since the early '90s; Abdul Aziz Hakim, brother of Mohammed Bakr Al Hakim, whose militia is trained by Iran's military; and the leaders of both Kurdish parties, Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani. The sixth member of the leadership committee was Adnan Pachachi, an octogenarian former Iraqi foreign minister living in the United Arab Emirates who has been courted by the Saudis and, more recently, by Zalmay Khalilzad, the president's special envoy to the Iraqi opposition. (Pachachi and Allawi have been unclear as to whether they are still a part of this group, making it essentially a group of four and leaving it Sunni-less for now.) The Pentagon plan calls for the group of four to help choose Iraqi internals and develop a power-sharing arrangement to lead an interim authority with input from Washington.
All clear now?


by Analyst @ 07:06 AM CST [Link]

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Family Enterprise

One of the jokers in the Pentagon's deck of "Personality Identification Playing Cards" depicting wanted Iraqi leaders (collect them all!) reads, in part, as follows:

Iraqi tribal names were dropped starting in the 1970s. Many Iraqi last names in documents include the tribal name, for example, al-Tikriti, which is very common among leading regime figures. Iraq decreed again in the 1990s that Military officers were not to use their tribal names.

by Analyst @ 08:23 AM CST [Link]

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Definition of Terms

A serious observer of both Middle Eastern and American politics asked me whether it was a sin or a provocation to mention the group known as "the neoconservatives."

At least in the manner that is fashionable today, it is exactly that. This remains true whether or not the person who uses it is aware of it. [more]

by Analyst @ 04:15 AM CST [Link]

Land for Peace: Addendum

Yasir Arafat, predictably, has rejected the new cabinet proposed by Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazin).

Now the fight is on. Will Abbas threaten to resign, as promised? And if so, will Arafat cave, letting Abbas have effective control over the government? Will they reach a muddled compromise? Or will Arafat let him resign and take the consequences?

The final possibility above cannot be disregarded. When a person has zero credibility with the international community, he has no crediblity to lose. Arafat seems to have located a "floor" -- a place where he can't fall any further. He seems to be altogether comfortable there.

One man is not the sole obstacle to all progress in the Middle East, but it is frequently amazing how close he actually comes.

by Analyst @ 02:28 AM CST [Link]

Monday, April 14, 2003

Land for Peace

From the interview with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon recently published in Ha'aretz:

Interviewer (Ari Shavit): You established the settlements and you believed in the settlements and nurtured them. Are you now prepared to consider the evacuation of isolated settlements?

Ariel Sharon: "If we reach a situation of true peace, real peace, peace for generations, we will have to make painful concessions. Not in exchange for promises, but rather in exchange for peace."

Let's ponder this for a moment.

Ariel Sharon, the self-described warrior, is not by native temperament a statesman, and has often been accused of using the impressive-sounding but vague words "painful concessions" to project reasonableness without conceding a thing. In Camp David's bloody wake, he has confined himself to discussion of temporary measures. But now, exactly when the rise of Mahmoud Abbas gives some hope that the greatest of all the obstacles to peace - one Yasir Arafat - might be pushed aside, Sharon is extending himself further. When he uses "painful concessions" directly in reply to a question about the settlements, his meaning is difficult to mistake. [more]

by Analyst @ 07:57 AM CST [Link]

Friday, April 11, 2003

CNN Exec: We Witheld News About Iraq

In today's New York Times, a CNN executive explains that CNN (and presumably other networks) withheld news about the horrors of Saddam Hussein's regime, "awful things that could not be reported because doing so would have jeopardized the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on our Baghdad staff." The attempt by "Baghdad Bob" to blow up a CNN office is especially interesting.

It is worth reading, and understanding also that CNN and other networks withhold news about conditions in other countries for the same reasons - reporting the truth would get them kicked out, cut off their news sources or get citizens in trouble. Remember this when you read (or do not read) news about Syria, Saudi Arabia, Palestinian Authority and other Middle East countries. Israel has not been very good to unfavorable journalists either.

The text of the article by Eason Jordan of CNN is below. Eason Jordan is chief news executive at CNN.


by Moderator @ 05:19 PM CST [Link]

Minister of Information

Just how slavishly does the American news media follow cues provided by national authority figures in this season of war? Among alert watchers of cable TV news, skepticism has long since yielded to cynicism. Now the major newspapers, too, after just a few days' flirtation with probing questions, not only have adopted en masse the Pentagon's narrative of ineluctable triumph (in a remarkably rapid transition to Part 4 of the Shafer Cycle), but much of its preferred terminology as well. Just as embedded TV cameras now serve as the nation's eyes, the Secretary of Defense molds its vocabulary. Yesterday's example was "tipping point." [more]

by Analyst @ 09:55 AM CST [Link]

Wednesday, April 9, 2003

The Transmigration of Saddam Hussein

The latest version of the story is that Saddam managed to depart the location where four 2,000-lb. smart bombs nearly caught up with him on Tuesday. (They certainly did catch up with some of the local residents.) An alternative version making the rounds is that he was never there; the whole thing was an Iraqi ruse to test how deeply the U.S. had penetrated their inner circle. A Kurdish newspaper claims he's holed up in Tikrit with his boys. Other rumors have him driving himself around the streets of Baghdad. As one correspondent commented on Tuesday morning's National Public Radio broadcast, Saddam sightings have now reached Elvis-like proportions. [more]

by Analyst @ 08:34 AM CST [Link]

Friday, April 4, 2003

Addendum on CBW

AFP quotes CAPT Adam Mastrianni of the 101st Abn. as saying that a chemical or biological attack was expected either over the last couple of days of fighting, or not at all:

by Editor @ 05:49 AM CST [Link]

Saddam's infrastructure of revenge?

It's been nothing short of amazing to watch two divisions of the Republican Guard break up after less than a week of concentrated bombing. It was never wise to assume it would happen so painlessly, but now that it has, the new new conventional wisdom is that they never had any fight in them to begin with. Yet the Guards certainly hung together last time, in retreat if nothing else, and after a much lengthier air campaign. It seems that target-spotting and bomb-damage assessment with new UAVs makes for a massive force multiplier.

But there's another aspect of this battle that raises a worrisome question. Whatever happened to the long-awaited attack with chemical and biological weapons? [more]

by Editor @ 02:02 AM CST [Link]

Tuesday, April 1, 2003

Letter to an Army friend

A letter from Washington, DC, to a friend in the US Army awaiting deployment to Iraq:

Not to be discouraging, but despite the one-sided casualty counts, it doesn't look like things are going entirely well. This was not a well-planned campaign, and our forces are significantly below the strength preferable for this sort of situation. The 3rd ID and 1st Marines are probably also quite worn down by now. I doubt these guys have gotten a lot of quality sleep in the last one and half weeks, and their machines are probably not in top shape, given the hard pace of the first week, the fighting, the sand, heat, etc.

The way it looks now, a lot will be riding on the reinforcements, i.e., you guys. [more]

by Editor @ 08:27 AM CST [Link]


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