Thursday, January 13, 2011

Biden in Iraq means what?

Despite Iraqi leaders' insistence that the United States meet its end-of-2011 deadline for withdrawing all troops, the contours of a large and lasting American presence here are starting to take shape.
Although a troop extension could still be negotiated, the politics of Iraq's new government make that increasingly unlikely, and the Obama administration has shown little interest in pushing the point.
Instead, planning is underway to turn over to the State Department some of the most prominent symbols of the U.S. role in the war - including several major bases and a significant portion of the Green Zone.

The above is from Aaron C. Davis' "Contours of a large and lasting American presence in Iraq starting to take shape" (Washington Post). That is indeed plan B to continue the occupation and it's a real shame that in the frenzy to keep up with Sam Dagher's misreporting few bothered to note that reality. Good for Davis for sticking with reality. US Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Iraq yesterday (US time, but Thursday there). Liz Sly (Washington Post) notes Biden's visit was to discuss post-2011:

Maliki, embarking on his second term of office, publicly insists that he wants all the troops to leave on time, and the Obama administration also says it is planning to pull them out on schedule.
But Iraqi military commanders have said they would prefer at least some form of continued U.S. military presence to help deter external threats from Iraq's neighbors until Iraq has its own conventional defense capabilities.
Although Iraq's security forces have proved themselves able to sustain security gains since the formal end of American combat operations last August, they will also need help with training and logistics for several more years, U.S. and Iraqi officials say.

And as noted in yesterday's snapshot, "A bit more on the issue of weight, Al-Kala'a Weekly reports that 60% of Iraq's military officers and soldiers suffer from obesity according to an unnamed officer and that the Minister of Defense will be addressing the issue. Alsumaria TV notes the assertion that the country's 'security forces have been infiltrated and intellegence has been leaked'." Those would also impact Iraq's military readiness.

Aljazeera explains, "At least two people have been killed in bomb blasts in Iraq, shortly after the US vice-president arrived in the capital for talks about the future of American troops there. Three separate explosions shook the capital, Baghdad, on Thursday, Iraqi interior ministry officials said. One person was killed and at least two others wounded in the first attack near a Shia Muslim mosque in the Karrada neighbourhood, while a roadside bomb killed one civilian and wounded four others near a Sunni mosque elsewhere in central Baghdad." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) adds, "At least two people were killed and 14 wounded when four roadside bombs exploded Thursday in different neighborhoods in Baghdad, the Interior Ministry said. The attacks came the same day the U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived on an unannounced visit. Iraq's Interior Ministry says the attacks appeared to be by members of al Qaeda and were related to an interfaith group that was trying to quell recent attacks against Christians in Iraq."

Tuesday was Guantanamo's ninth anniversary and, no, that's not a good thing. We'll close with this from Andy Worthington's "Nine Years Later: The Political Prisoners of Guantanamo" (World Can't Wait):

Political prisoners? Surely, that can't be right, can it? Surely, it's only dictatorships in far-flung corners of the world who hold political prisoners, and not the United States of America?

Sadly, no. As the "War on Terror" prison established by President Bush begins its tenth year of operations, and as it begins to be forgotten that President Obama swept into office issuing an executive order promising to close the prison within a year, but failed spectacularly to do so, the bleak truth is that, for a majority of the 173 men held at Guantanamo, their chances of being released, or of receiving anything resembling justice, have receded to such an extent in the last two years that most face indefinite detention without charge or trial and may still be in Guantanamo a year from now, two years from now, or even five, ten or twenty years from now.

The key to understanding how we reached this grim impasse two years into Barack Obama's presidency is the review of all the prisoners' cases that was conducted by the Guantanamo Review Task Force, a sober and careful collection of 60 career officials and lawyers from various government departments and the intelligence agencies, who reviewed all the cases throughout 2009 and issued recommendations a year ago regarding the "disposition" of the remaining prisoners.

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