Army Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker were critical of Iran when they testified Tuesday before the Senate, barely giving credit for an Iranian-brokered cease-fire that curbed the killing after a week of Shiite-on-Shiite bloodshed in southern Iraq and Baghdad.
As they spoke, firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr threatened to unleash his Mahdi Army militia against U.S. and Iraqi forces. Once again, it was Iran that stepped into the political vacuum and urged a halt to militia attacks into the heavily fortified Green Zone, where U.S. and Iraqi officials, including Petraeus and Crocker, have their offices.
The Iranian foreign ministry called for "restraint and prudence of various Iraqi groups," an implicit rebuke of Sadr, who is living and studying in Iran.
The violence began two weeks ago when Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki launched an ill-prepared offensive against militias in the southern port city of Basra. It ebbed after a delegation of the Iraqi governing parties traveled to Iran for talks with a top commander of the Qods force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
This week, it transformed into a conflict largely between the Mahdi Army and U.S. forces. Twelve U.S. troops were killed since Sunday, at least eight of them in the capital, several of them from rocket and mortar attacks into the Green Zone.
The above is from Leila Fadel's "As Petraeus testifies, Baghdad teeters on edge of erupting" (McClatchy Newspapers). Today was to be a march in Baghdad but Moqtada al-Sadr called it off yesterday and also floated the notion that he might call off the cease-fire/truce that's largely credited with the small reduction in violence.
On yesterday's Senate hearings (Armed Services Committee and Foreign Relations Committee), Brady notes the following is getting laughs online:
"Should we be successful in Mosul, should you continue, General, with the effective operations that you've been engaged in, assuming that in that narrow military effort we are successful, do we anticipate that there ever comes a time where Al Qaida in Iraq could not reconstitute itself?"
That's Bambi's first question and people are (rightly) mocking it. He was inarticulate. He stumbled, he cribbed from John Kerry's questioning (which wasn't worth one senator wasting time on) and he ended up with approximately twice the amount of time as any other Senator on the committee -- after he insisting he needed to jump ahed in line because he didn't have time. Then, when he runs out of time, he asks for another minute and takes seven. In the above 'question,' you can see just how unprepared he was. I don't feel like pulling out my notes but I would assume the quotes been cleaned up since there's not even one "uh" in there and that was his most used word throughout. It's why he can't win a debate and why he can't do a listening tour: He talks at people, not with them. And if it's not scripted ahead of time, he's all over the map. In terms of Mosul, I don't know what world he lives in. While Falluja is under (continued) seige, had he used it as an example, it might have made some sense because there are periods where a string of days go by with no reported violence in Falluja (which doesn't mean it's not going on, just that it's not reported) but Mosul rarely makes it throughout a 48 hour news period with a shooting or a bombing. Add in the fact that northern Iraq and Turkey continue to have tensions and with al-Maliki's recent trip to Turkey and granting permission to the Turkish government for them to continue crossing the border for raids (not to mention air assaults), it probably wasn't smart to point to northern Iraq as a place of stability (although that's been marketed since the start of the illegal war -- less believeable today).
A number of people are complaining in e-mails that a pro-Hillary website recommended two places for live blogging and that neither blogged about Hillary. I don't know one, the other is a Panhandle Media reject who's not going to buck so-called 'independent' media. Yes, it is pathetic that he claims he lost C-Span when Hillary was speaking but pathetic is one of the qualities that gets you into Panhandle Media in the first place. I didn't recommend either site and I didn't link to the person recommending either site. (Nor did any community site.) Take it up with her because nothing here ever recommended, noted or alluded to those sites or any other live blogging of the hearing. In the case of one of the recommended, it should have been obvious before the day began that he would (a) find a way to ignore Clinton and (b) lay it on thick for those who had endorsed Bambi.
Thomas E. Ricks (Washington Post) did some sort of live commentary as did McClatchy Newspapers Barbara Barrett, Dave Montgomery and David Goldstein. I haven't had time to read either but my guess would be if you were looking for live commentary, those would be the two outlets to check out. (And I doubt you'll be offered anything so lame as "CSpan just went out so I can't catch Hillary." If, indeed CSpan went out on your computer, CSpan radio would have taken one click. But, we all know, CSpan didn't go out. The hearings were streamed on both and on NPR. But if Panhandle Media couldn't resort to lies, what would they ever do?)
The thing I'm not seeing in most reporting on the hearings this morning is that Petraeus and Crocker repeatedly put forth the notion that paying off the "Awakening" Council members was a good thing and good because it kept them from damaging US vehicles. That's really pathetic and is a case of forking over your lunch money to avoid getting beat up on the playground. That line of argument should be pathetic at any time but note that it came from them when they're trying to sell "success" in Iraq. If nothing else demonstrates how lost the illegal war is (lost from the beginning), grasp that the White House strategy is to buy off thugs. They had to repeatedly spin that as 'good news' because nothing has been achieved. Violence (which never ceased) is spking again and al-Sadr's threatening to call off his cease-fire. Turkey and the PKK remain an issue. Crocker tried to float legislation but none of it has been implemented. Kirkuk remains a source of tension (will it go to the central government or break off to northern Iraq). A year after the escalation and nothing to show for it. No markers met. So they hem and haw and pretend like paying off thugs to avoid violence is a 'win.' Kristen Roberts (Reuters) reports:
The top U.S. officials in Iraq will testify on the war for a second day to Congress on Wednesday as the Bush administration makes its case against a big troop pull-out.
Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker will argue the United States risks losing ground to al Qaeda in Iraq if it withdraws too many troops out of the war zone too quickly.
Leading Democrats, including the party's contenders in the November presidential election, advocate beginning a process to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq and to focus more attention on fighting al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
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thomas e. ricks