Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Nothing's been accomplished but Robert Gates had a change of heart

Violence is increasing in Iraq, raising questions about whether the security improvements credited to the increase in U.S. troops may be short-lived.
Car bombs in Baghdad on Monday killed at least 11 people and injured a prominent leader of one of the country's most influential American-allied tribal militias.
The Ministry of Electricity announced that power to much of the nation, already anemic, is likely to lag in coming days because insurgents had blown up transmission facilities and natural gas pipelines that fuel generators.
CBS News confirmed that two of its journalists are missing in Basra, in Iraq's south.
A leading parliament member warned that budget disputes have paralyzed the legislature.

The above is from Steve Lannen's "Two car bombs in Baghdad as violence rises in Iraq" (McClatchy Newspapers) and addresses many of the same problems that have existed throughout the illegal war. While noting the deaths of Iraqis are rising, one topic that is not covered in the article is the deaths of US service members. On the 12th day of the month, there have been 16 announced deaths thus far this month. By waiting until after the first of the month look-back pieces were written and printed to announce deaths, they managed to go with a death toll in the thirties for the month of the January (it was actually 40). For the entire month of December it was 23 -- a number greeted as 'good' news by War Hawks in Congress. Already in February -- the shortest month of the year -- the toll has risen to seven short of December's total.

The stated purpose of the escalation, stated by the White House, was to allow 'breathing space' for the puppet government in Baghdad to reach benchmarks -- those would be benchmars that they failed to reach in 2007, White House defined benchmarks. US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who earlier was seen as in a battle with other members of the cabinet over his insistence that the drawdown start and proceed smoothly so that the approximately 30,000 US troops sent over to Iraq as part of the escaltion return as they were supposed to, has now declared that a 'pause' can be taken in the drawdown -- indicating that he either had a mysterious change of heart or he is not calling the shots for the department he heads. AFP addresses some of what's got on -- or rather hasn't -- during the escalation:

The reconciliation program was supposed to hang on three main pieces of legislation:a relaxation of the law to bar former Baathists from public office, a provincial election law and a law to distribute oil revenue.
Of the three, only one has been passed. The oil law is tied up by the objections of the Kurds, who want to keep control of resources on the territory of their own autonomous region while retaining a full share of federal revenue from elsewhere in Iraq. Deputies were due to discuss and possibly vote on the election law on Thursday, but the session broke up in anger. Last month, parliament did approve a law to allow thousands of former lower and mid-ranking Baath Party members to reclaim government jobs or pensions, a move hailed by US President George W Bush as "an important step forward". But the passage of the act did nothing to calm tensions. Iraq's senior Sunni leader, Vice President Tareq Al-Hashemi, condemned the law because it will also see thousands more ex-Baathists excluded from the finance, foreign and security ministries.
Rather than appease the Sunni minority, the law served only to reinforce their impression that they are excluded from Iraq's decision-making processes, which are now concentrated in the hands of Maliki and his Shiite allies. Kurdish lawmaker Mahmud Othman says the coalition's base must be broadened.

Thom Shanker (New York Times) observes that Gates' turnabout "was something of a surprise" and notes:

Within the Bush administration, Mr. Gates had been seen as a potential counterpoint to General Petraeus’s calls for caution about withdrawing troops. In recent months, Mr. Gates has said he hopes that by the end of 2008, American troop levels could be reduced to a level significantly smaller than the 130,000 or so that will be reached in July.

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