Friday, August 20, 2010

Some of the obstacles remaining

Not everyone is so optimistic. "The Iraq war is not over and it is not won," Anthony Cordesman of the Center for International and Strategic Studies warned Thursday. He expects it could take another decade for Iraq to become stable, and fears the U.S. government may not adequately fund the struggling government it helped create. "Iraq still faces a serious insurgency, and deep ethnic and sectarian tensions," he said. "In spite of its potential oil wealth, its economy is one of the poorest in the world."
The focus of the U.S. presence in Iraq will become the Baghdad embassy -- Washington's largest anywhere -- and consulates (think of them as mini-embassies) in the southern city of Basra and the northern city of Arbil. The State Department also plans to establish what it's calling two embassy "branch offices" in the north, in Kirkuk and Mosul, to deal with tensions there created by the Arab-Kurd contest for control. Unlike permanent consulates, those are expected to operate for no more than five years.

The above is from Mark Thompson's "Iraq: What Will the Remaining 50,000 U.S. Troops Do?" (Time magazine). Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor via Sacramento Bee) quotes Iraq's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hoshyar al-Zebari stating, "Major war, serious war … is over. You don't have safe havens for the insurgents -- you don't have a war because all the roads leading to the south, north, east, and west are open. Still, the war is not over because you still have serious security challenges and a political drift that may lead to violence or the resurgence of violence." What? I'm reminded of the scene in My Favorite Brunette when Bob Hope's agreeing with Dorothy Lamour just because she's holding a knife. ("Oh,, she's safe alright . . .") And that actually works on several levels. There's no such thing as war in a minor key. A war is a war.

About the militarization of diplomacy, yesterday, Michele Kelemen (All Things Considered, NPR -- link has audio and text) reported:

Michele Kelemen: Overseeing contractors will be another key challenge, he says. Security contractors will be needed not just at the embassy but also at the other diplomatic outposts that are being opened if diplomats are going to be able to get out of their buildings to do their jobs. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Michael Corbin says there will be two consulates - one in the southern city of Basra and one in Erbil in the Kurdish north. There are also plans for temporary branch offices in Mosul and Kirkuk.

Michael Corbin (Deputy Assistant Secretary of State): These are a three- to five-year presence. And we chose the Kurd-Arab fault line, as we like to call it, it's not what the Iraqis call it. But there are issues in Kirkuk and in Mosul that have not only to do with Arab-Kurd issues but also Iraq's minorities.

Howard LaFranchi (Christian Science Monitor) goes to Brooking Institution voices for feedback and Ken Pollack states of the militarization of diplomacy, "What the State Department is being asked to do is not in their DNA" and "Michael O’Hanlon, a military affairs scholar also at Brookings in Washington, says he actually sees three transitions going on in Iraq, making for a particularly difficult moment in the country. In addition to the US military-to-civilian shift and the Iraqi stalemate over forming a new government, he says the top tier of US leadership in Iraq has changed all at once." Rebekah Mintzer (Xinhua) speaks to NYU professor Patricia DeGennaro, "DeGennaro said she sees the current lack of a national government as 'hurting the country as a whole in the long run,' but does not believe that recent events will change the U.S. established timetable for withdrawal. She stressed that the United States is maintaining some troops in Iraq until the end of 2011 in order to continue to train Iraqis to deal with insurgent attacks and other violent incidents." Lack of a national government? Iraq is in a political stalemate.

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 12 days. Phil Sands (National Newspaper) notes that if the stalemate continues through September 8th, it will then be a half a year since Iraqis voted.

The US Embassy in Iraq issued the following:


New U.S. Ambassador James F. Jeffrey meets with Iraqi Prime Minister within hours of arriving in Iraq
Just hours after getting credentialed by President Talabani and Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari on August 18, newly-arrived U.S. Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad on Thursday to discuss the current political situation and government formation.
Ambassador Jeffrey is a member of the U.S. Senior Foreign Service with extensive experience in the region. Previously, he served as Chargé d'Affaires to Iraq from March -- June 2005 and as Deputy Chief of Mission in Baghdad from June 2004 – March 2005. Immediately prior to his appointment as Ambassador to Iraq, he was Ambassador to Turkey and has served as Ambassador to Albania. He has previously served on detail to the National Security Council as the Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor; as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs; as Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State for Iraq.

Nouri al-Maliki's office released this statement, "Maliki received at his office to Iraq the new American Ambassador James Jeffrey on the occasion of starting his mission in Baghdad. Talks tackled the latest political developments and the ongoing talks to form a government of national unity."

TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Helene Cooper (New York Times), Jeanne Cummings (Politico), Michael Duffy (Time magazine) and Martha Raddatz (ABC News) join Gwen around the table. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is "An Unplanned Aberration: A peek behind the curtain at the PBS NewsHour." This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Karen Czarnecki, Melinda Henneberger, US House Rep Eleanor Holmes Norton and Princella Smith on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And this week's To The Contrary online extra is a discussion of marriage equality re: California verdict. Need To Know is PBS' new program covering current events. This week's hour long broadcasts Fridays on most PBS stations -- but check local listings. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

The Blowout
Scott Pelley investigates the explosion that killed 11, causing the oil leak in the waters off of Louisiana, and speaks to one of the oil rig platform crew survivors who was in a position to know what caused the disaster and how it could have been prevented. | Watch Video

The Russian Is Coming
Mikhail Prokhorov, perhaps Russia's richest man, discusses his purchase of the N.J. Nets basketball team, his vast wealth and the surprisingly unusual way he made most of his money in his first American television interview. Steve Kroft reports. | Watch Video

60 Minutes, Sunday, August 22, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Radio notes. Today on The Diane Rehm Show (NPR and streams online live starting at 10:00 a.m. EST) the first hour (domestic) finds Diane joined by Dante Chinni (Christian Science Monitor), Eleanor Clift (Newsweek) and Byron York (Washington Examiner). The second hour (international) panelists are David Ignatius (Washington Post), Laura Rozen (Politico) and Thom Shanker (New York Times).

We received this notice from people planning protests with the 3rd Battalion is sent to Iraq next week. Some of you may have heard about this upcoming action during the webcast we did a couple weeks ago.
This is a nation-wide call to action! Come to Fort Hood, Texas, Aug. 22 to participate in peaceful actions with veterans and anti-war leaders opposing the deployment of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment's 5,000 Soldiers to Iraq. This is your invite. Can you attend?
Despite President Obama's fallacious claims that the war in Iraq is winding down, the 3rd ACR is gearing up for yet another deployment! Furthermore, many Soldiers facing deployment are known to be unfit for combat due to injuries sustained in prior tours. The Peace Movement must not let this stand!
The Soldiers of the 3rd ACR and the people of Iraq need you to be here Aug. 22. This will be a RADICAL demonstration, with optional direct action elements and possible legal implications. While all are welcome to participate at whatever level they are comfortable, we value greatly those willing to put their bodies on the line.

And we'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "Raising A Child With Sperger's Syndrome" (CounterCurrents):

To many women, being the wife of an All-Star major league pitcher may seem like a dream existence. Behind her celebrity husband’s glamorous network TV appearances on the diamond and the sports page headlines, though, a baseball wife must grapple with raising a family alone for a good part of the year when her husband is away on the road, no easy task under normal circumstances, and a daunting one for a family that had to move 40 times because of spring training and trades to five different ball clubs. And if the wife is also battling skin cancer and has one child with Asperger’s Syndrome, and another with anorexia, she is apt to write a book about her trials as Shonda Schilling has done, titled, “The Best Kind of Different: Our Family’s Journey with Asperger’s Syndrome(HarperCollins).” Fortunately, Shonda was a journalism major at Towson State College, Maryland, and knows how to tell a difficult story.

Shonda is the wife of Curt Schilling---a dominating hurler for two decades for the Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox, among other contenders, and a man who struck out a phenomenal 3,116 batters while compiling an enviable 216-146 won-lost record over nearly 20 years in the Big Time, collecting three World Series championship rings in the process for his performances in 2001, 2004, and 2007. With Curt away so much it wasn’t always possible to be a typical family, Shonda writes. In an interview on Comcast on “Books of Our Time,” produced by the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover, Shonda told law professor/TV host Holly Vietzke:

“I think that when you’re married to somebody who’s a professional or a celebrity, you’re often thought of as never having to do anything. So I was always trying to live up to what people thought, to prove that I was doing it. And I was raising my own kids…at a cost of killing myself in the process.” After a while, Shonda said, she stopped trying to change peoples’ minds and determined “to live my life the way that I am, and true to who I am (and after the fourth child) get some help in there.” Married in 1992, the Schillings have four children: Gehrig, 1995; Gabriella, 1997; Grant, 1999; and Garrison, 2002.

While she recognized that son Grant was different “in a way I’d never seen before,” Shonda said, “I had no idea that anything such as Asperger’s ever existed…I just kept chalking everything up to that he was the baby of the family.” At times, Grant would not obey her in public and threw temper tantrums, causing passers-by to stare or offer advice, which Shonda regarded as humiliating. The Schillings did not know Grant had Asperger’s until he was diagnosed with it at the age of seven. What followed in her family, she believes, could happen in any family. “There is no perfect family, and (it’s best) to go with your instinct and just be kinder to people. I mean, knowing now what I know, if I see someone who’s really struggling, the last thing I’m going to do is throw a look at them. I smile at them because it is humiliating, you know, and if someone would have thrown a smile at me, it would have meant everything in the world to me. Instead, I got all the unwanted advice about what I was doing wrong, and what kind of child he was and…that I was failing so miserably. But we just do really (have to) realize that there are all different kinds of kids in the world.”

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