Over the weekend, I read that the Senate Armed Services Committee decided to cut $1 billion from the aid the Obama administration requested for Iraq during that country's period of transition to a new government. The cuts extend to funding for security forces. They seem absurd under the present circumstances. With the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to be halved this summer, just as Iraq is trying to form a government, how does it make sense to cut funding for Iraqi troops who are trying to fill the gap left by American units? Not surprisingly, the cuts were inspired by Committee Chariman Carl Levin. As the Washington Post's board of editors points out, they are not the product of fiscal probity -- Levin allowed almost $3 billion to be added to the overall defense appropriations bill in earmarks for projects the Pentagon didn't ask for. Instead, according to the Post, Levin was piqued by the Iraqi parliament's decision to reduce its own defense budget. But Iraq is already funding most of the cost of the military transition (as it should), and is spending much more on defense as a percentage of GDP than the U.S. Moreover, Iraq has needed bailouts from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, and will have to issue new debt to cover its budget deficit in 2010. A reliable partner would not deny Iraq the $1 billion under these circumstances. And therein lies the real issue. As the Post concludes: ]T]he biggest problem with the Senate cuts is the message they send: that the long-term strategic partnership that the United States has promised Iraq is likely to be barren. As Iraqis deliberate over the nature and course of their next government, there could hardly be a worse time for Congress to give that impression. Over the weekend, I read that the Senate Armed Services Committee decided to cut $1 billion from the aid the Obama...
Vice President Joe Biden has confirmed that the administration will be holding to its deadline for exiting Iraq: The challenge for Obama, whose opposition to the Iraq invasion helped propel him to the presidency, is sticking to his timeline for a U.S. military withdrawal despite a jump in violence and continued wrangling among [...]
Iraqi security forces and U.S. troops killed Al Qaeda's top two leaders in Iraq Monday in what the U.S. military described as a "potentially devastating blow" to the militant group. Al Qaeda's Iraq leader, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the head of its local affiliate the Islamic State of Iraq, were found dead iinside a house after it was stormed by troops.
Harold Rhode is an expert on Islam and the Middle East. He has a PhD from Columbia in Islamic studies and Middle Eastern history. He is fluent in Farsi, Hebrew, Arabic and Turkish. Rhode recently retired from the Pentagon where he worked for the Office of Net Assessment. This is an internal Defense Department think-tank that deals with the risks and opportunities facing the U.S. Rhode has, in his words, "lived in various places in the Muslim world over the years and my goal was to sit in cafes and to talk with people and to really understand how they view the world -- not to agree or disagree, but to understand the mind-set. . . ." The Jerusalem Post recently interviewed Rhode. It presents the fruits of its interview in two articles. The first article begins with the remarkable story of how, with an assist from Vice President Cheney, Rhode helped salvage items from the Iraqi Jewish archive. The archive had been housed in the building of the Iraqi security services, and the building was hit by a missile during the war, causing extensive damage, including water damage. Rhode then expresses his view that the issue of Iraqi WMD was a pretext for invading Iraq which was used to obtain British support. This doesn't mean Rhode believes that Iraq did not have WMD. Indeed, he still believes (or strongly suspects) that Iraq had them on the eve of the invasion and moved them to Syria. But, from his perspective, the war was about liberating Iraq and ridding it of Saddam, an important ally of those who want to destroy the West. Rhode concludes by assessing the current in Iraq. He argues that, although progress has been slow and unsteady, the country is now on the right path. The second article concerns Iran. According to Rhode, Iran is now being run by people so extreme that they scared Ayatollah Khomeini. Mainstream Shiites believe t
Newsweek is running a cover story about Iraq called "Rebirth of a Nation." Its thesis is: "Something that looks an awful lot like democracy is beginning to take hold in Iraq." Newsweek's piece follows Vice President Biden's claim that Iraq looks to be a major success story of the Obama (sic) presidency. Any proposition endorsed by both Newsweek and Biden is suspect, and skepticism is warranted in this case. Iraq is about to hold an important election, to be sure. But the election will be tainted by the dubious exclusion of various candidates by a panel headed by Ahmed Chalabi, an opportunist with ties to Iran. And no one really knows what will happen to Iraq's fledging democracy following the election. Iraq's democracy is, in short, entitled to only one cheer. But even one cheer in this part of the world is significant. And Peter Wehner is quite right to salute President Bush's decision in late 2006 to implement a new counterinsurgency strategy, including sending 30,000 additional troops to Iraq, at a time "when most Americans were bone-weary of the war." Without this courageous decision, Iraq in all likelihood would have continued on what Pete calls its "death spiral," and al Qaeda would probably be ascendant in Anbar province and reaping the benefits worldwide of helping to inflict an ignominious defeat on the U.S. But, as Pete warns, the successes in Iraq "remain fragile and can still be undone." I agree with Max Boot that "the key to Iraq's remarkable transformation has been the vigorous actions of American troops, and it's anyone's guess what will happen when they are withdrawn." I therefore fear that, to some extent, the triumphalism of the Newsweek-Biden line smacks of Sen. Aiken's proposed Vietnam strategy -- declare victory and leave. Boot
We finally have proof that life exists beyond the confines of planet earth, although not necessarily intelligent life. How else can one explain Joe Biden other than to postulate that he comes from another planet, if not an alternate universe? The Vice President s stunning observation about Iraq last certainly defied any form of earthly logic: [...]