US/Iraqi troops flood Baghdad

Is this the last gasp before all out civil war?

Iraq seems to have continued its spiral downwards as the Israel/Hezbollah conflict distracts the MSMs attention.

35 more people were killed today at a Shiite shrine in Najaf.

Shiite religious leaders said:

“We hold Takfiris [Sunni extremists] and Saddamists directly responsible for this horrible crime … at the same time we hold those who embrace terrorism in Iraq and the countries supporting it as responsible,” they said in a statement.

A Sunni insurgent group, Jamaat Jund al-Sahaba, or Soldiers of the Prophet’s Companions, claimed responsibility for the bombing in an Internet posting

This was not an action by Al Quaeda in Iraq… this was a Sunni attach against a Shia shrine.

The Iraqi Civil War is on.

The US has placed 12,000 extra troops in Baghdad, unfortunately, they did it at the expense of security in places like Mosul, which have now seen increased violence.

The lack of fuel, in an oil rich country, is also causing demonstrations and protests.

And to think… some Americans (and others) think Bush should launch a war against Syria and Iran… before they even get a handle on their current war.

Luckily, the tide has finally turned for Americans on the Iraq war… CNN reports that 60 percent of Americans do not support the Iraq War… and 48 percent think the war is not winnable or the US simply won’t win it.

Coalition Fatality ticker

Linked below is an excellent Flash representation of coalition fatalities since the Invasion of Iraq.

Make sure you have the sound turned on as the effect is increased greatly. I found myself re-running it multiple times… just to grasp the time-space correlations. It’s quite fascination and really solidifies the insurgency/terrorist links.

I’ll let the animation speak for itself.

Iraq War Coalition Fatalities

Assessing the Iranian Threat

Last week, the prospect of a showdown with Iran at the United Nations Security Council seemed inevitable. This week, the rhetoric has been toned down somewhat, and today the Chinese delegation expressed it’s support for a possible Russian solution to Irans nuclear problem.

All that said, there still seems to be plenty of talk about Tehrans, and specifically Ahmadinejad’s threat to Israel and the Greater Middle East with it’s “nuclear” potential.

This has spurred talk of military action against Iran (by either Israel or the US) in order to stop this emerging “threat”… the rhetoric is very reminiscent of the runup to the Iraq War. The question is, is the basis for that response any more legitimate than it was in Iraq?

To answer that question, we have the Arms Control Wonk. They have released an excellent 3-part blog series analyzing, in great detail, the real threat that Iran poses in terms of nuclear capabilities, and what an attack on Iran would do to limit those capabilities.

Their conclusions fall in the “good news/bad news” category. I highly recommend you take the time to read their entire analysis…

Iran and the Bomb 1: How close is Iran?

When some moron like Charles Krauthammer claims Iran is now just “months” away from a bomb, you can pretty much ignore him: He has no idea what he is talking about.

Most references to Iran being “months” away from a bomb are really statements about how close Iran will be once it completes the FEP [Fuel Enrichment Plant]—something, as you will soon see, that will take a few years.

Iran & the Bomb 2: Iran’s Missiles

Iran’s missiles aren’t that big, and its warheads aren’t that small. Without more testing of both, I think Iran would be hard pressed to deliver a missile to Israel, let alone Europe or the United States.

The bottom line: Iran might, might, be able to deliver a nuclear weapon against an Israeli city, but that would be at the extreme edge of their capabilities.

Much more worrisome, I would think, would be the weapon delivered by terrorists, perhaps on a ship. [discussed in part 1]

Iran & The Bomb 3: Strike options

folks in the United States defense establishment have clearly begun to at least think about what a military option against Iran’s nuclear programs might look like. Newsweek recently reported “the CIA and DIA have war-gamed the likely consequences of a U.S. pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.”

Conventional wisdom states that Iran’s facilities are too dispersed to permit a strike like the one Israel conducted against Iraq’s Osiraq nuclear reactor in 1981.

Most of these facilities are quite vulnerable to airstrikes—including the Uranium Conversion Facility at Esfahan and the Fuel Enrichment Plant at Natanz.

I don’t think there is any doubt that the United States could delay Iran’s program by a couple of years, particularly if Iran had to rebuilt its Uranium Conversion Facility and Fuel Enrichment Plants (probably much deeper underground the second time).

There is certainly no reason to launch a strike now, with Iran’s program several years off and many facilities not yet complete. As the cases of Natanz and Esfahan illustrate, a strike now would be conducted with more uncertainty than I would like.

That might buy some additional time—but for what?

… an airstrike now would probably unite Iranians, galvanizing support for a bomb program. Our information about Iran’s bomb program after a strike would likely be much less complete than it is now, having had the benefit of several years of intense IAEA scrutiny.

My take from the whole thing is that we are best to keep doing what we are doing. Our best information is coming straight from the IAEA itself. As long as Iran is working under, or at least under the scrutiny of the IAEA, then we can be relative sure that not too much is getting by and at the same time, we might just get a diplomatic resolution that is acceptable to all parties.

As we saw, in hindsight, in Iraq. The effects of inspections, and dismantling teams in Iraq under the UN and IAEA had a huge impact on the ability of Iraq to conduct WMD research and development. Now that we have that *proven* test case, we should be able to apply that to Iran with full confidence. I will give George W. Bush credit here, he is working with the system and allowing the diplomats their time. I really can’t ask that he do anything different…

However, I think he’s doing so because he and his advisors know the *real* threat from Iran lies in it’s control of world oil production (both directly through production, and indirectly through it’s position on the Straights of Hormuz)

UK losing (or lost) it’s grip on Basra?

Over the course of the past 2 years most of the criticism of the Iraq war has been focused squarely at US forces and the US Administration.

However, the 2nd largest member of the “Coalition” (and the only one remaining in any significant number) were the British. They took control of the Southern section of Iraq which included the city of Basra.

The Brits *seemed* to have gotten the easy job… whether their methods and experience (which are closer to peacekeeping than war making) have contributed to the relative peace in the South, or whether it’s a function of a different attitude toward the occupation by the Shia majority is unclear… but what is clear is that British combat deaths have been far lower (96 vs. 1899 US fatalities) and that in general, the South has been far more peaceful than Central Iraq and even Kurdish areas in the North.

Unfortunately, the honeymoon may be over.

Yes, that’s a UK soldier… on fire. No, I don’t know if he was alright… I hope he was… but who knows…

Why is he on fire? Because he and his compatriots confronted a group of protesters as the UK forces tried to free two UK military officers who had been arrested by Iraqi Police and detained in the central Basra jail. UK forces broke down the prison walls to “rescue” their personel. This resulted in the reported escape of 150 other prisoners.

Do you, like me, assume that Iraqi Police and Coalition forces should be working together?

Logic would dictate that UK forces should not be bulldozing prison walls contrary to the very authority to whom the Brits will be leaving the authority of Basra.

Apparently that assumption is false… and has been for awhile:

At a recent military briefing in Basra, an AFP correspondent was told British soldiers had been ordered not to stop at Iraqi police checkpoints because of fear that rebels could be posing as Iraqi police.

If the UK is looking to get out of Iraq. This is probably not how they’d like to do it.

More on that later.

The UK… played as patsy.

Yet another document has been published by the Sunday Times.

(Audio Podcast Available)

This time, it is the Cabinet Office paper produced on July 21, 2002 to be supplied to the attendees of the meeting of July 24, 2002 to which we have the Downing Street Memo. It was published by the Sunday Times on June 12.

As I have read more and more of these memos and internal documents (see my previous posts), it becomes more and more clear to me that the UK, and Tony Blair, have been played like a fiddle by the United States.

One can assume that this applies to other Coalition members as well, but it seems Tony Blair has really become the biggest patsy of the new milleniums first major war.

The Cabinet Paper outlines, in great detail, the UKs’ position going into its’ decision on supporting the Iraq war. It seems clear, by this memo, that at that point no political or military decision had been made to join the US in an invasion of Iraq. However, the tenor of the memos all suggest that the invasion was seen as inevitable and the only question was whether Blair would go along for the ride… and this particular memo indicates that US plans assume, as a minimum, the use of British bases in Cyprus and Diego Garcia thus implicating the British no matter what the legal realities of the war and their participation in it.

The UK had a number of concerns… why don’t we look at those concerns, point by point…

the UK would support military action… provided that certain conditions were met:

  • efforts had been made to construct a coalition/shape public opinion,
  • the Israel-Palestine Crisis was quiescent, and
  • the options for action to eliminate Iraq’s WMD through the UN weapons inspectors had been exhausted.

and said another way further into the document,

Aside from the existance of a viable military plan we consider the following conditions necessary for military action and UK participation:

  • justification/legal base;
  • an international coalition;
  • a quiescent Israel/Palestine;
  • a positive risk/benefit assessment; and
  • the preparation of domestic opinion.

On the “positive risk/benefit assessment” ie, the end state of Iraq and whether it would be better than the current situation… and the political effect at home. the Paper had this to say…

… The US Government’s military planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace. But, as yet, it lacks a political framework. In particular, little thought has been given to creating the political conditions for military action, or the aftermath and how to shape it.

Now there’s a ringing endorsement of the US Administration’s military planning if I had ever seen one. And to continue…

Although no political decisions have been taken, US military planners have drafted options for the US Government to undertake an invasion of Iraq…. US military plans include no specifics on the strategic context either before or after the campaign.

Some may say that “hey, this was almost a year before the war started… it was still early for planning that stuff out!”. To that I say… what planet are you from? Do you not think that it would behoove whoever the invader, nee.. “liberator”, is, to have a plan on how to sell the “liberation” both to the domestic political masses, and to the “liberatees”.

In my view, this memo shows extreme naivetee by the US Administration… but also extreme manipulation of their British allies.

The UK, it seems, was in a bind. It desperately wanted to show to the US that it was it’s greatest and most reliable ally. But at the same time realised that it would be stuck paying at least part of the bill, politically, militarily, and financially thanks to basing agreements at Cyprus and Diego Garcia.

the use of bases in Turkey would also be necessary Turkey refused

US military planning assumes that the US would be allowed to use bases… in Jordan Also refused… not even airspace flyover was granted.

France might be prepared to take part if she saw military action as inevitable. She refused [It appears, that the big worry was Russia and China, far more than France and Germany)

Real progress towards a viable Palestinian state is the best way to undercut Palestinian extremists and reduce Arab antipathy to military action against Saddam Hussein.

That didn’t start happening until after Arafat died (after the war of course).

A post-war occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise. As already made clear, the US military plans are virtually silent on this point.


We judge that for climactic reasons, military action would need to start by January 2003, unless action were deferred until the following autumn

In other words… avoid fighting in the heat of the Arabian summer. Ooops.

So the British didn’t get their wish on:

  1. a legal basis for war
  2. military basing in Turkey or Jordan
  3. effort on the MEPP
  4. a coalition including either NATO or the UN
  5. a post-war strategy
  6. a quick war with definite outcomes
  7. not getting stuck with the tab of rebuilding Iraq

One wonders how Blair sleeps at night knowing he sold out his nation.. for that.

And to add… now the Sunday Times is reporting that the British Foreign Office indicated to the Blair government in July 2002 that the subsequent “spikes of activity” in the no fly zones…that is, air raids designed to “soften up” Iraqs air defenses before the war, were, in the Foreign Offices legal opinion… ILLEGAL UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW.

These air strikes happened 6 months before resolution 1441, which the Coalition claims authorized the invasion.

He said UN Resolution 688, used by the allies to justify allied patrols over the no-fly zones, was not adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which deals with all matters authorising military force.

The Foreign Office advice noted that the Americans had “on occasion” claimed that the allied aircraft were there to enforce compliance with resolutions 688 and 687, which ordered Iraq to destroy its weapons of mass destruction.

This view is not consistent with resolution 687, which does not deal with the repression of the Iraqi civilian population, or with resolution 688, which was not adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, and does not contain any provision for enforcement,” it said.