Atomrakete – yes! “Atom-rocket”! One that will be in North Korean hands, and thus under the “Great Successor’s” personal control, and rather soon! (more…)
The “surge” has succeeded, we are all told. Iraq is now a much more peaceful place; the government of Nuri al-Maliki is now in good shape, they say, increasingly able to take over the task of providing internal security with its own native forces. But “they”? “They” is primarily those with an interest in pushing the image of a peaceable Iraq today as a way somehow (and finally!) to justify the expenditure of thousands of American lives, hundreds of thousands of Americans wounded, and hundreds of billions of dollars since March of 2003. In other words, “they” is namely the Bush administration, and also the McCain presidential campaign – and the credibility of at least the first of those has been running on empty for quite some time.
No, far better to seek a judgment on the current state of Iraq from experts with a higher quotient of objectivity. One long-standing authority is Juan Cole, professor at the University of Michigan and both Arabic- and Farsi-speaker, mainly through his weblog Informed Comment. He recently offered his own summing-up of where we are now: “The level of violence at this moment in Iraq is similar to what prevailed on average during one of the 20th century’s worst ethnic civil wars [the Lebanese Civil War of 1975-1990]! It is still higher than the casualty rates in Sri Lanka and Kashmir, two of the worst ongoing conflicts in the world.” On the other hand, New York Times correspondent Dexter Filkins has to know something about conditions in Iraq, from where he reported from 2004 to 2006. (He also has a book coming out soon about that, The Forever War.) In a recent e-mail interview (The Progress in Iraq is Remarkable) he asserts that much of the improvement of conditions in Iraq is “astonishing,” that “parts of [the country] are difficult for me recognize,” although “the calm is very fragile.”
A large part of the basis for optimism is the hand-over last Monday of responsibility for the security of Anbar province to the Iraqi government, which Filkins himself reported on for the NYT. This is also covered by Rainer Hermann of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (From sanctuary for terrorists to model province), who adds some telling details. (more…)
If you keep tabs with the major American press outlets – in this case I’m talking specifically about the New York Times, although the usual line-up of blogs have thoroughly linked to it already – you will have already seen this article on the latest pessimistic assessments from in-country CIA personnel in Iraq. Ultimately though, as President Bush has already pointed out in this context, these folks are just guessing, and their guesses are pretty much as good or as bad as anyone else’s.
But another “guess” you likely haven’t seen, unless you regularly read the Dutch-language NRC Handelsblad, is that of UN special envoy to Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi, given in the course of a recent exclusive interview (UN Top Man: Elections in Iraq Not Doable Now) to that newspaper’s editor Robert van de Roer. (more…)
When I recently expounded my own evaluation of the settlement of the Najaf stand-off, naturally I was serious about presenting it “for . . . refutation.” You can’t escape that in this medium, anyway, and no definitive answer that I’m aware of as to “winners” and “losers” has emerged as of yet in any case, or may ever. In the meantime, an interesting contribution to the debate comes from “M.”, writing for the Danish commentary newspaper Information (Once al-Sadr, always . . .). (more…)
Over on his excellent weblog “Informed Comment,” Prof. Juan Cole has already posted his boxscore for the three-week-old Najaf confrontation that is seemingly coming to a close through the intervention of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. The losers: the Americans and their Iraqi interim government. The big winner: Sistani. And for Shia insurgent Muqtada al-Sadr it all was a “wash.”
I don’t quite see things that way. I think this is quite an excellent outcome for the American side, even the same sort of “divine intervention” for them that the remnants of the Mahdi Army hiding within the Imam Ali shrine (falsely) claim to be for themselves. True, I am no learned professor, and I don’t watch, hear, or read the Arabic press. (I did know Arabic in the past, but that was a while ago; that capability is now, let’s say, in remission.) But the following argument I offer for your comment and refutation. (more…)