Archive for July, 2010
President Petraeus: The Neocons’ Choice
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 7:12 PM
From: “Stephen Sniegoski”
As we move past the mid-term elections, the question as to the Republican candidate for the presidency in 2012 will come to the fore. Obama’s approval rating is falling. And given the economic situation it is very unlikely that there will be any significant improvement in how he is viewed by the voters. Even if increased federal spending might be able to keep the unemployment level stationary or lower it slightly for the short term—i.e., until the 2012 election—the ballooning deficit will still turn substantial numbers of voters against him because of their fears of what will happen in the future. On the other hand, any type of austerity program, or even the elimination of stimulus funding, would probably lead to increased unemployment in the short term—at least up to the 2012 election. In short, Obama is quite vulnerable in 2012. However, he still has substantial support, and despite his escalating problems, he would likely defeat any candidate without widespread appeal, especially those whose strength does not go beyond the conservative Republican base.
And the Republican Party currently lacks politically attractive candidates. For example, Sarah Palin has enthusiastic support from the Republican base, but has too many negatives to win the general election, even against a weakened Obama. The same would apply to a candidate such as Mike Huckabee. Mitt Romney might appear as more moderate, but his flop in the Republican primaries in 2008 does not bode well for his chances against Obama in 2012. And it is not clear that the Republicans could win the presidential election with a lesser known candidate and simply rely on the public’s hostility toward Obama’s policies.
It is quite likely that Republican success in the congressional elections this year will actually help Obama in 2012, since Obama could blame the failing economy on the Republicans obstruction of his spending programs to recharge the economy. This tactic has been used successfully in the past, most notably by President Harry Truman in 1948, who successfully ran against the Republican-controlled “do-nothing” Eightieth Congress for blocking his proposed programs.
In the current political climate, the best candidate for the Republicans would be a non-politician, General David Petraeus. Now Petraeus’ name has been bandied about as a candidate and the general has frequently asserted that he would not run for office. Of course, one wouldn’t expect him to say otherwise and the remainder of this article will provide evidence that his running for the presidency is very much a possibility.
For various reasons, Petraeus would make a much better candidate than the Republican alternatives. First, he does not have the right-wing ideological baggage. No one knows what Petraeus stands for on the domestic scene. In fact, Petraeus has said that he is actually a non-voter so that he would not be considered biased toward any of his civilian commanders. However, it has been noted that he is registered to vote as a Republican in his home state of New Hampshire, the state which holds the first presidential primary.
In short, Petraeus has the ideological flexibility to be able to fit his political needs of the moment. To win over Republicans, he will have to place himself on the Center-Right, but not so far Right as to weaken his appeal to the general public. But would such positioning weaken him with the Republican grass roots and thus preclude his nomination? His military background definitely resonates with the Right. And the Right’s hostility to Obama would be apt to make it more supportive of a Republican likely to beat him, such as Petraeus, than a candidate who, though more in line with its views, would appear a long-shot to achieve victory. While the Republican Right is often characterized as being entranced by ideological purity, its members have been quite willing to support candidates who were less than pure, such as Bush the Elder in 1988 and McCain in 2008. Even the Younger Bush proclaimed himself a “Compassionate Conservative,” which implied that he supported more government welfare programs than the usual conservative. Given the Right’s intense dislike of Obama, it would seem that its members would be even more willing in 2012 to eschew ideological purity to defeat their bête noire.
It is of political significance that Petraeus stands out as having a number of personal attributes that should make him appeal not only to the Right but to the average American voter, and, very importantly, to the media elite whose view shapes that of the general public. If the media elite likes an individual, it tends to spin news about that person in a positive way, downplaying, or even ignoring, anything negative. It would be highly unlikely that any other Republican candidate would enjoy such favorable media treatment in a race against Obama.
Among the positive personal traits for which Petraeus is noted is his academic intelligence, which far exceeds that of the average military officer or politician. In high school, he was a member of the National Honor Society and was named a National Merit Scholarship finalist. Petraeus graduated in the top five percent of his class at West Point in 1974, while managing to finish a rigorous pre-med program. (He did not go on to medical school, and explained that he had taken the program because it was a difficult challenge. Petraeus is not simply intelligent but strives to excel at everything he does, mental and physical.)
Petraeus earned the General George C. Marshall Award as the top graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College Class of 1983 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. And he has earned a master’s degree in public administration in 1985 and a PhD in international relations in 1987 from Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
Petraeus’ doctoral dissertation, “The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam: A Study of Military Influence and the Use of Force in the Post-Vietnam Era,” dealt with the influence of the Vietnam War on military thinking regarding the use of force, which ultimately became known as the “Powell Doctrine.” The “Powell Doctrine” held that the U.S. should only go to war if its vital national interests were threatened and then the force used should be overwhelming, accompanied by strong public support and a clear exit strategy. Petraeus rejected this all-or-nothing approach to war and believed that the US should be prepared for small wars and insurgencies. In this, he explicitly identified with the thinking of neocon military strategist Eliot Cohen, who would become his friend and now supporter. (It should be noted that Cohen is a major proponent of war against Israel’s enemies in the Middle East, coining the term, “World War IV.”) The insurgency in Iraq after the 2003 invasion, which the US military was unprepared to handle, brought back a demand for counterinsurgency warfare, the specifics of which would be provided by Petraeus.
Petraeus oversaw the revision of the military’s field manual on counterinsurgency in 2006. And he would authorize the teaching of this manual’s counterinsurgency doctrine at the Army’s schools and training programs. As a result, Petraeus is now considered the military’s guru of counterinsurgency. The new counterinsurgency doctrine represents a near total rethinking of the way the United States should wage war. The field manual’s key tenets are simple, but very radical. It places its emphasis on protecting civilians over killing the enemy. The military is expected to use minimum, not maximum, force. Such concepts come very close to nation-building. Petraeus has lent his name to what has now become the Army’s dominant approach to war, the “Petraeus Doctrine,” which has supplanted the “Powell Doctrine.”
But Petraeus is not simply a military scholar but also a practitioner. He employed his counterinsurgency theories in Iraq, where he developed the reputation as a “warrior-scholar.” During the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, Petraeus led the 101st Airborne Division in the Army’s move on Baghdad, being involved in heavy fighting. Following Baghdad’s fall, Petraeus would take responsibility for running the military sector around Mosul, in northern Iraq. There he would apply his views on counterinsurgency against the budding insurgency, which included the development of Iraqi security forces capable of protecting the inhabitants of the region.
As a result of his apparent success in Iraq and his leadership in the new counterinsurgency strategy, he would be made head of US forces in Iraq in February 2007, where he would oversee the “surge.” It is his much acclaimed success with the surge that has given him his popular reputation for military brilliance.
Now those few who have actually studied the situation in Iraq know that there has not been a real solution there. The rationale for the surge was that improved security would provide the opportunity for the central government in Iraq to work for national reconciliation among the major factions—Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites. This clearly did not take place. What the surge actually achieved was temporary pacification—in large part due to the bribing of Sunni sheiks to stop their attacks. Serious ethnic and religious tensions remain, which are apt to explode at any time, and the level of actual violence has recently been on the upswing. Despite this reality, however, the surge has been portrayed by the mainstream media as an overwhelming success.
Not only does Petraeus appear to be an attractive candidate, but he also has the support of the powerful neoconservatives, who see him as a replacement for John McCain, though their support has yet to be heavily publicized. McCain had surrounded himself with neocon advisers and undoubtedly the neocons expect the same from Petraeus. Political commentator Kelley B. Vlahos writes in “President Petraeus?”(May 18, 2010) that the general “probably won’t become the Republican nominee without some heavy lifting from the star-maker machinery at AEI [American Enterprise Institute], which would enjoy nothing more than to get its own pocket general into the White House.”
Of course, it would be the whole neocon network, which consists of a number of think tanks and media outlets and has penetrated the mainstream media, that would be promoting Petraeus for president. As I point out in my book, “The Transparent Cabal,” the neocon network was very effective in promoting its Middle East war agenda. It is not omnipotent since it could not put McCain in the White House, but with Petraeus in 2012, the neocons have a better candidate to work with and a much more favorable political environment.
What is Petraeus’ connection to the neocons? Illustrating Petraeus’ support by the neocons was the neocon American Enterprise Institute’s conferring on him its highest honor for 2010, the Irving Kristol Award. This yearly award is presented at the Institute’s annual gala dinner, which was attended by 2000 guests, including the leading neocon luminaries and supporters, and is regarded as a major event in the Washington social scene.
It should be noted that in January 2008, neocon Bill Kristol wrote an article in “The Weekly Standard” (December 31, 2007 – January 7, 2008), titled “Gen. David Petraeus, Man of the Year,” claiming that Time Magazine should have selected Petraeus as the leading person of the previous year, rather than Time’s choice of Vladimir Putin, because of Petraeus’ success in implementing the surge in Iraq. In ebullient praise for the general, Kristol stated that “The counterinsurgency campaign that Petraeus and [General Raymond T.] Odierno conceived and executed in 2007 was as comprehensive a counterinsurgency strategy as has ever been executed.”
Petraeus’ connection to the neocons traces back to at least his aforementioned connection to Eliot Cohen, who coined the term “World War IV” to apply to the US war against Israel’s Islamic enemies in the Middle East. When he became the commander of American troops in Iraq in February 2007, the surge he would implement had been formulated at the neocon American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Its principal developers were Frederick W. Kagan, a military historian at the AEI, and General Jack Keane, former vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army, and it was presented to President George W. Bush in mid-December 2006.
In his award acceptance speech at the AEI gala dinner, Petraeus would give gushing thanks to the institute: “In the fall of 2006, AEI scholars helped develop the concept for what came to be known as ‘the surge.’ Fred and Kim Kagan and their team, which included retired General Jack Keane, prepared a report that made the case for additional troops in Iraq. As all here know, it became one of those rare think-tank products that had a truly strategic impact.” It might be noted that he gave Frederick Kagan’s wife Kimberly top billing along with her husband, although she provided much less input to the report than had General Keane, who had been a mentor of Petraeus.
See “President Petraeus?,” by Kelley B. Vlahos, May 18, 2010
However, it should be pointed out that Kimberly Kagan had done much to promote Petraeus, writing periodic reports from Iraq in 2007 on the progress of the surge for the “The Weekly Standard.” Despite Kimberly Kagan’s obvious vested interest in making the surge look successful, Kelley Vlahos observes that “her reports were largely passed off as research, even journalism, rather than political ammunition, and she wrote a book about it last year , ‘The Surge: A Military History,’ another encomium to Petraeus and Co. and the altar of COIN.”
“The Two Faces of Kimberly Kagan,” by Kelley B. Vlahos, September 29, 2009
Kimberly Kagan would advocate a comparable “surge” in Afghanistan. As Vlahos writes: “Kimberly Kagan has increasingly become a spear point for advancing the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan. And why not? She is young, attractive in that wonky, austere Washingtonian way, and seemingly unflappable as she discharges fusillades of talking points like a machine gun. One look at her March 2007 performance on Washington Journal circa Surge I and it’s clear why Kagan has replaced the old neoconservative guard as a primary surrogate for the cause.”
“The Two Faces of Kimberly Kagan,” by Kelley B. Vlahos, September 29, 2009
In recognition of her importance, Kagan served on General Stanley McChrystal’s strategic assessment team for Afghanistan in 2009.
In his speech at AEI, Petraeus hinted that he might be interested in the presidency. Howard LaFranchi of the Christian Science Monitor remarked: “The late Mr. Kristol’s son, Bill Kristol, noted in a tribute to the award’s three decades of honorees that none has ever gone on to become president. He then added to applause and laughter, ‘Perhaps this curious and glaring omission will be rectified.’
“Rather than simply letting that moment pass, Petraeus said upon taking the podium that in mulling over the theme for his speech, ‘It never crossed my mind, Bill, to talk about what you were suggesting.’
“The line was delivered with a smile.”
By Howard LaFranchi, “Petraeus for President? Army General Keeps Speculation Alive,” Christian Science Monitor, May 16, 2010
Another neocon who has a close connection to Petraeus is author and commentator Max Boot. Petraeus has taken Boot on numerous Department of Defense-funded trips to Iraq and Afghanistan. Boot has become a strong proponent of Petraeus’ counterinsurgency doctrine. Along with Fred and Kimberly Kagan, Boot co-authored an op-ed piece, “How to Surge the Taliban.” in the New York Times (March 12, 2009), advocating a “surge” in Afghanistan.”
As Petraeus’ recently-revealed email correspondence with Boot indicates, the general had relied upon Boot to maintain a good relationship with pro-Israeli Jewish Americans. Petraeus’ email correspondence with Boot was attached (presumably accidentally) in an email response to Israel lobby critic, James Morris, which the latter later provided to Philip Weiss of the noted Mondoweiss blog.
“Petraeus emails show general scheming with journalist to get out pro-Israel storyline,” July 6, 2010, http://tinyurl.com/2dvpb2o
In an email exchange with Boot, written after the publication of Petraeus’ alleged testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee about the negative impact of Israel on US forces in the Middle East (which would seem to be fundamentally accurate), Petraeus sought to counter any possible negative reaction from the Israel lobby by professing that he never made such statements and asking Boot to help him remain in the good graces of pro-Israel American Jewry. He queried Boot: “Does it help if folks know that I hosted Elie Wiesel and his wife at our quarters last Sun night? And that I will be the speaker at the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps.” Boot, acting as if he understood the collective mind of the pro-Zionist American Jewish community, assured Petraeus that publicizing this additional obeisance was unnecessary, and that he would take care of any misconceptions. Petraeus responded with a “Roger” and a smiley-face.
Very shortly thereafter, Max Boot posted an article on the Commentary blog, titled, “A Lie: David Petraeus, Anti-Israel.” It attacked “misleading commentary that continues to emerge, attributing anti-Israeli sentiment to Gen. David Petraeus.” It dismissed the “posture statement,” which contained information about Israel’s actions being harmful to US military policy, as the work of “Petraeus’s staff,” not Petraeus himself. In an effort to show that Petraeus personally held a contrary view, Boot provided Petraeus’ oral testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in which he downplayed the Israel/Palestine conflict as a cause of hostility to U.S. forces in the Middle East.
It must be stressed that this correspondence indicated not only Petraeus’ close, personal tie to and political dependence on a neocon journalist, whom he referred to familiarly as “Max,” but that he has high political aspirations and perceives the pro-Israel American Jewish community to be very powerful politically.
But just wanting to be president will not make Petraeus the nominee of the Republican Party in 2012. The question is: How does Petraeus go about getting the Republican nomination when he cannot be an official candidate while he is a general in the US army on the other side of the world in Afghanistan?
This task was much easier back in 1952 for Eisenhower when an individual could win with the support of the party bosses and primaries did not mean so much. Eisenhower, who had been serving as Supreme Commander of NATO, did not actually return to the U.S. to campaign until the spring of 1952.
But my thinking is that the neocons, and other powerful supporters, could manipulate the system in such a way as to get the nomination for Petraeus. Perhaps, the scenario would go something like this. Petraeus would have his name put in the running for the Republican presidential nomination without his formal announcement. In the early period of the 2012 campaign, Petraeus would remain behind the scenes, with the neocons and others promoting him. Polls showing that Petraeus was the only Republican candidate who could definitely defeat Obama would have an impact on the party leadership and the grass roots. Moreover the media would be focused on the alleged dangers of the tea party movement. Petraeus would be portrayed as a man of moderation who would keep the right-wing radicals in check.
At the opportune moment, Petraeus would announce his retirement from the military and formally enter into the political arena. No matter what the situation was in Afghanistan, he would claim that he was acting for the best of his country, and there would be an immediate popular groundswell of support for him, which would be heavily publicized by the mainstream as well as the conservative media.
If he started late he might not win a majority or even a plurality of the Republican delegates in the state primary elections. However, if no candidate could obtain an outright majority of delegates, he would gain increasing support for the nomination after the first ballot because of the Republicans’ recognition that he was their only ticket to victory in the general election. Deals would be made with some of the leading Republican candidates, who, realizing that their winning the nomination was close to nil, would release their delegates at the earliest moment legally possible “for the good of the party.”
Obviously, I cannot foretell the future. And everything I have written would be obviated by a U.S. war on Iran, in which Obama would provide the neocons and the rest of the Israel lobby with exactly what they want. However, it definitely seems that Petraeus is preparing for the presidency, has definite backers, and, at present, would be the Republican candidate with the best chance of winning. This does not guarantee that he will be the nominee in 2012. However, I think he is a more likely choice than any other person mentioned at this time. And if he were to become president, the question would be: how far would he go to implement the neocon Middle East war agenda?
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General Petraeus leaked emails about Israel
Petraeus emails show general scheming with journalist to get out pro-Israel storyline
Funding corruption and waste in Afghanistan
Last week, GOP chairman Michael Steele came under fire for daring to say what a lot of Americans already know – that our involvement in Afghanistan is an ill-advised quagmire with no end in sight. After nearly 10 years and approaching $1 trillion spent, the conflict is going nowhere because there is nowhere for it to go. After all, if victory is never really defined, defeat is inevitable.
With our economy at home in serious trouble, this wasteful occupation is something we clearly cannot afford. Each soldier costs us $1 million per year, and yet most in Washington are only considering how many more soldiers to send. Fuel costs an astonishing $400 per gallon for our military in Afghanistan! Yet somehow, many politicians feel it is acceptable to squeeze this money out of our taxpayers, who are truly struggling economically, to fund this non-war. Our economy here is not showing any real signs of improvement. Official unemployment is pushing 10nd getting worse. (Real unemployment is over 20ccording to the free-market economists) The growing debt and inflation used to fund this occupation only dooms us to more economic hardship for a long time to come. And – for what?
Where the money for Afghanistan comes from is one problem – where it goes is another. Recently, it has come to light that much of the aid money we send to Afghanistan is lost due to corruption. Billions of tax dollars from hardworking Americans are ending up lining the pockets of corrupt Afghan officials, and likely even filtering into the Taliban we are ostensibly fighting. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that curiously enough, billions more than the Afghan government collects in revenue is leaving the country in the form of cash on huge pallets and in suitcases and mostly ending up in Dubai, as well-connected Afghan officials buy up luxury homes and enrich their personal off-shore bank accounts. Investigations into corruption and graft have been blocked by the Karzai government, probably because Karzai’s own brother would have to be implicated. It is encouraging that the foreign aid appropriations subcommittee has attempted to block billions in aid as a response to these allegations, but this is likely temporary and may not even succeed.
The point is that sending aid money to Afghanistan is not making poor people over there better off. It is making poor people here worse off. Corruption is endemic to Afghanistan, with graft comprising about one fourth of their economy! Even though it is considered the second most corrupt nation in the world according to Transparency International, we still send the Afghan government billions of dollars in aid and are shocked to find it is not making its way out of the sticky fingers of the officials entrusted with it.
Robbing citizens here to fund corruption over there is not helping average citizens anywhere. We are sacrificing real economic opportunities at home for the opportunity to line corrupt pockets in Afghanistan. Not only that, but American soldiers are being killed and maimed. It is tragic and frustrating how much we have lost and wasted already. It is time to leave Afghanistan to the Afghans to sort out. I am glad more Americans are finally willing to face this reality.
About the Author
Ron Paul is a Congressman from the 14th district of Texas and enjoys a national reputation as the premier advocate for liberty in politics today.
Ron Paul: The War That’s Not a War
DEBORCHGRAVE: America ‘s uncertain trumpet
There is no better proof of a dysfunctional – and broke – system of government than Congress passing additional funding for the Afghan war – $300 billion thus far – while simultaneously denying the unemployed an extension of benefits – and then taking a 10-day Independence Day vacation. With the jobless rate hovering just under 10 percent of a 158-million-strong U.S. labor force, including 1.3 million who didn’t get their benefits reinstated and an additional 200,000 a week who have been without a job for at least six months and stand to lose their benefits each week until Congress acts, about 15 million Americans are out of work.
One million Americans dropped out of the job market over the past two months as they gave up a fruitless search for work. They lack the skills needed for a high-tech economy. And companies have slashed payrolls as automation has helped them get along with fewer employees. The ranks of the unemployed who no longer receive any compensation are climbing to 10 million.
The headline in Britain‘s conservative Daily Telegraph read, “With the U.S. trapped in depression, this really is starting to feel like 1932.” For those who do find jobs, the search averaged 35.2 weeks.
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard‘s story reported, ” California tightening faster than Greece,” as 200,000 state workers were reduced to the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to cover a state deficit of $19 billion. Illinois , with a deficit of $12 billion, owes $5 billion to its schools, nursing homes, child care centers and prisons.
Europe, in America ‘s footsteps, is looking anemic, and a double-dip recession for 2011 is the new consensus.
Canada‘s Globe and Mail said our friendly neighbor to the north is perplexed and disturbed as it watches “the most gifted President in several generations,” with a majority in both houses, be swamped “by the doleful legacy of the Bush years, a worldwide recession and its parlous aftermath, and a ferocious Republican opposition bent on a search-and-destroy mission of his presidency.”
To make matters worse, says the Globe and Mail‘s Jeffrey Simpson, “the war in Afghanistan, into which President Obama has poured thousands of additional soldiers and billions of borrowed dollars, is going poorly. As The Economist belatedly recognized this week, ‘ America and its allies are losing in Afghanistan.’ ”
It’s now up to Gen. David H. Petraeus to “somehow salvage something from the Afghan mess, at a time when Americans are growing increasingly weary of that war, now in its ninth year.” One of only five (out of 44) nations authorized to engage in kinetic operations, Canada lost 150 killed, most of them by improvised explosive devices, and Parliament ordered the return of its 2,500 troops next year.
The Globe and Mail echoed the widespread sentiment among Afghan cognoscenti at NATO headquarters in Brussels, in Pakistani military circles and in the U.S. Congress that the best the U.S. and its allies “might hope for is to inflict sufficient damage on the Taliban in the next year that some insurgents might be inclined to negotiate inclusion in an Afghan government. To say that this is a long shot understates the odds.”
The Pakistani military, with the approval of President Asif Ali Zardari and the government, is keeping lines open to some of the groups in the Taliban coalition and to President Hamid Karzai in Kabul. The Pakistanis remain convinced that the U.S. will not stay the course for another five to 10 years, the estimated time required to prevail over the nationwide Taliban insurgency.
The deadline for the beginning of a U.S. withdrawal next summer, set by Mr. Obama, is the evidence cited on both sides of the Atlantic, and in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, for what is seen as Washington’s quixotic resolve. Can the U.S. really stretch gargantuan borrowing requirements into an indefinite future without collapsing the dollar?
Can anyone change the Afghan equation in favor of the U.S. and its allies before the harsh winter freezes operations until next spring? No one knows as much about the history of insurgencies since World War II as Gen. Petraeus. Following his victorious surge in Iraq , he is best qualified and equipped to pull it off. But he needs a minimum of three to five years. Mr. Obama needs dramatic results for his re-election campaign by the spring of 2012.
At London-based Ladbrokes bookmakers, Mr. Obama is odds-on favorite at 10/11 for a second term. Mitt Romney is next at 8/1. Then Sarah Palin (12/1); Mike Huckabee (20/1); Hillary Rodham Clinton (25/1), even with Bobby Jindal; Gen. Petraeus (33/1), even with Michael Bloomberg and Jeb Bush.
There’s no Ladbrokes betting on Afghanistan, but important questions are yet to be answered. How does Afghan nation-building benefit the U.S. economy and its security? Are we less or more vulnerable to another Sept. 11? Is al Qaeda less or more of a threat? There is no question both Iraq and Afghanistan have weakened America ‘s economy. Al Qaeda, with its multiple websites, has radicalized Muslim youth from Mindanao in the Philippines to Meknes in Morocco .
The estimated average of $1 million a day ($365 million a year) taken out of Afghanistan legally on the four daily Kabul-Dubai flights by civilian workers, most of them American, is the kind of war profiteering that can only hurt the allies – and benefit the enemy.
Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor-at-large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.
Commentary: A three-front war?
By ARNAUD DE BORCHGRAVE
UPI Editor at Large
WASHINGTON, July 12 (UPI) — There is no better illustration of the futility of the $1 trillion Iraq war than news photos of a long line of gasoline tankers lined up bumper to bumper as they leave Iraq to enter Iran.
The U.N. Security Council decision to strengthen economic measures against Iran and U.S. President Barack Obama signing into law draconian new legislative sanctions against Iran ‘s nuclear weapons ambitions, leave Iraq ‘s defeated government unable to act.
The Iraq Study Group, led by Lee Hamilton, the prominent Democrat who heads the Woodrow Wilson International Center, and James Baker, whose Institute for Public Policy is at Houston’s Rice University, warned in 2006 that Iran, now rid of erstwhile enemy Saddam Hussein, was already wielding more influence in Iraq than the United States.
The only sanction that would seriously undermine the mullah’s military regime is a severe shortage of gasoline. Iran is awash in oil but lacks refining capacity and has to import 60 percent of its gasoline. A lack of governance in Baghdad has allowed Iran to strike a sub-rosa deal for gasoline imports.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s coalition government narrowly lost last March’s national elections (89 to 91 seats, both rivals short of the 163 seats needed to govern alone). Endless palavers since then have failed to produce a new coalition. With suicide bombers trying to reignite a bloody trail of sectarian violence, Joe Biden flew into Baghdad over the Fourth of July weekend for his fifth visit since becoming U.S. vice president. He urged Iraq ‘s political leaders to form an all-party coalition ASAP.
On his first night there, sirens wailed and over an extensive loudspeaker system a voice shouted, “Duck and Cover.” Five mortar rounds exploded in the Green Zone, a large maximum-security area in the heart of Baghdad that houses the $700 million, 100-acre U.S. Embassy, now the world’s largest.
There was a time when the late dictator Saddam Hussein (executed Dec. 30, 2006) was the most effective barrier to Iran ‘s regional ambitions. In 1980, he launched an invasion of Iran which led to a Mexican standoff that lasted 8 years and cost 1 million dead on both sides. Iranian teenagers were pressed into service as “suicide volunteers” with a golden key around their necks — for the gates of paradise that would allow them to meet up with 72 virgins.
Until now those advocating military action against Iran ‘s nuclear installations were found mostly in Israel and among the “neocon” lobby in Congress, and its sympathizers in think tanks and the media. In recent weeks, the ranks of those who now concede the inevitability of a military showdown with Iran ‘s theocracy-cum-military regime have widened to include normally less bellicose politicians and their military friends.
Three former CENTCOM commanders have said on different occasions we should learn to live with an Iranian bomb, much the way the United States adjusted to Russian leader Joseph Stalin breaking America’s atomic and then nuclear monopoly. Later China ‘s Mao Zedong boasted that in a nuclear war hundreds of millions of people would die and China would emerge victorious as it would still have several hundred million survivors. That was just as much of an existential threat for the United States as Iran is to Israel .
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen also expressed reservations from time to time. The Joint Chiefs and former CENTCOM commanders know better than most experts that Iran has formidable asymmetrical retaliatory capabilities, from the narrow Straits of Hormuz that still handles 25 percent of the world’s oil traffic; to Bahrain (U.S. Fifth Fleet headquarters where the population is two-thirds Shiite and the royal family Sunni); to Dubai, where some 400,000 Iranians reside, many of them “sleeper agents” or favorable to Tehran; to Qatar, now the world’s richest country with per capita income at $78,000, which supplies the United States with the world’s longest runway and sub-headquarters for CENTCOM, and whose LNG facilities are within short missile range of Iran’s coastal batteries; to Saudi Arabia’s Ras Tanura, the world’s largest oil terminal, and Abqaiq, nerve center of Saudi’s eastern oilfields) all are vulnerable to Iranian sabotage or hundreds of Iranian missiles on the eastern side of the Gulf, from southern Iraq down to the Strait of Hormuz.
Officially, all the Arab rulers of the Persian Gulf and other Arab leaders are strenuously opposed to any Israeli or U.S. airstrikes against Iran ‘s nuclear facilities. But that opposition is eroding rapidly.
Speaking at the Aspen Institute in Colorado last week, United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the United States Yousef al-Otaiba said publicly — before denying it — “I think despite the large amount of trade we do with Iran, which is close to $12 billion, there will be consequences, there will be a backlash and there will be problems with people protesting and rioting and very unhappy that there is an outside force attacking a Muslim country; that is going to happen no matter what.”
And he added, “If you are asking me, ‘Am I willing to live with that versus living with a nuclear Iran , my answer is still the same — ‘We cannot live with a nuclear Iran .’”
A former Arab leader, in close touch with current leaders, speaking privately not for attribution, told this reporter July 6, “All the Middle Eastern and gulf leaders now want Iran taken out of the nuclear arms business and they all know sanctions won’t work.”
In a joint op-ed, former U.S. Sen. Chuck Robb, D-Va., and retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Chuck Wald, the air commander in the opening stages of Operation “Enduring Freedom” in October 2001, say the time is now to credibly prepare for a U.S. military strike.
“Sanctions can be effective only if coupled with open preparation for the military option as a last resort … publicly playing down potential military options has weakened our leverage with Tehran , making a peaceful resolution less likely.”
The temptation for Obama to double down on Iran will grow rapidly as he concludes that Afghanistan will remain a festering sore as far as anyone can peer into a murky future, hardly a recipe for success at the polls in November. With a war in Afghanistan , which is bound to get worse, and a military theater in Iraq replete with sectarian violence, the bombing of Iran may give Obama a three-front war — and a chance to retain both houses of Congress.
DEBORCHGRAVE: A three-front war?
Strikes on Iran becoming more likely
The U.N. Security Council decision to strengthen economic measures against Iran, and President Obama‘s signing into law draconian new legislative sanctions against Iran‘s nuclear weapons ambitions leave Iraq‘s defeated government unable to act.
The Iraq Study Group co-chaired by Lee H. Hamilton, the prominent Democrat who heads the Woodrow Wilson International Center, and James A. Baker III, whose Institute for Public Policy is at Houston’s Rice University, warned in 2006 that Iran, now rid of erstwhile enemy Saddam Hussein, was already wielding more influence in Iraq than the U.S.
The only sanction that would seriously undermine the mullahs’ military regime would be a severe shortage of gasoline. Iran is awash in oil but lacks refining capacity and has to import 60 percent of its gasoline. A lack of governance in Baghdad has enabled Iran to strike a sub rosa deal for gasoline imports.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki‘s coalition government narrowly lost last March’s national elections (89 to 91 seats, both rivals short of the 163 seats needed to govern alone). Endless palavers since then have failed to produce a new coalition. With suicide bombers trying to reignite a bloody trail of sectarian violence, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. flew into Baghdad over the 4th of July weekend for his fifth visit since becoming vice president. He urged Iraq‘s political leaders to form an all-party coalition ASAP.
On his first night, sirens wailed, and over an extensive loudspeaker system a voice shouted, “Duck and cover.” Five mortar rounds exploded in the Green Zone, a large maximum-security area in the heart of Baghdad that houses the $700 million, 100-acre U.S. Embassy, the world’s largest.
There was a time when the late dictator Saddam Hussein (executed Dec. 30, 2006) was the most effective barrier to Iran‘s regional ambitions. In 1980, he launched an invasion of Iran that led to a Mexican standoff that lasted 8 years and cost 1 million dead on both sides. Iranian teenagers were pressed into service as “suicide volunteers” with a golden key around their necks – for the gates of paradise that would allow them to meet up with 72 virgins.
Until now, those advocating military action against Iran‘s nuclear installations were found mostly in Israel and among the neoconservative lobby in Congress and its sympathizers in think tanks and the media. In recent weeks, the ranks of those who concede the inevitability of a military showdown with Iran‘s theocracy-cum-military-regime have widened to include normally less bellicose politicians and their military friends.
Three former U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) commanders have said on different occasions that we should learn to live with an Iranian bomb, much the way the U.S. adjusted to Stalin breaking America’s atomic and then nuclear monopoly. Later, China ‘s Mao Zedong boasted that in a nuclear war, hundreds of millions of people would die, and China would emerge victorious, as it would still have several hundred million survivors. That was just as much of an existential threat for the U.S. as Iran is to Israel.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also expressed reservations from time to time. The Joint Chiefs and former CENTCOM commanders know better than most experts that Iran has formidable asymmetrical retaliatory capabilities, from the narrow Strait of Hormuz, which still handles 25 percent of the world’s oil traffic; to Bahrain (U.S. 5th Fleet headquarters, where the population is two-thirds Shia and the royal family Sunni); to Dubai, where about 400,000 Iranians reside, many of them “sleeper agents” or favorable to Tehran; to Qatar, now the world’s richest country, with per capita income at $78,000, which supplies the U.S. with the world’s longest runway and subheadquarters for CENTCOM, and whose liquified natural gas facilities are within short missile range of Iran‘s coastal batteries; to Saudi Arabia’s Ras Tanura, the world’s largest oil terminal, and Abqaiq, nerve center of Saudi’s eastern oil fields – all are vulnerable to Iranian sabotage and/or hundreds of Iranian missiles on the eastern side of the Gulf, from southern Iraq down to the Strait of Hormuz.
Officially, all the Arab rulers of the Gulf and other Arab leaders are strenuously opposed to any Israeli and/or U.S. air strikes against Iran‘s nuclear facilities. But that opposition is eroding rapidly.
Speaking at the Aspen Institute in Colorado last week, the United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef al-Otaiba said publicly – before denying it – “I think despite the large amount of trade we do with Iran, which is close to $12 billion, there will be consequences, there will be a backlash, and there will be problems with people protesting and rioting and very unhappy that there is an outside force attacking a Muslim country; that is going to happen no matter what.”
And he added, “If you are asking me, ‘Am I willing to live with that, versus living with a nuclear Iran, my answer is still the same – ‘We cannot live with a nuclear Iran.’” A former Arab leader, in close touch with current leaders, speaking privately and not for attribution, told this reporter July 6, “All the Middle Eastern and Gulf leaders now want Iran taken out of the nuclear arms business, and they all know sanctions won’t work.”
In a joint op-ed column, former Sen. Chuck Robb and Gen. Charles F. Wald, the air commander in the opening stages of Operation Enduring Freedom in Oct. 2001, say the time is now to prepare credibly for a U.S. military strike. “Sanctions can be effective only if coupled with open preparation for the military option as a last resort … publicly playing down potential military options has weakened our leverage with Tehran , making a peaceful resolution less likely.”
The temptation for President Obama to double down on Iran will grow rapidly as he concludes that Afghanistan will remain a festering sore as far as anyone can peer into a murky future, hardly a recipe for success at the polls in November. With a war in Afghanistan, which is bound to get worse, and a military theater in Iraq replete with sectarian violence, the bombing of Iran may give Mr. Obama a three-front war – and a chance to retain both houses of Congress.
Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor-at-large of The Washington Times and of United Press International
Prof. Mearsheimer: No accountability for Israel on any issue!
Saturday, July 10, 2010 11:01 PM
From: “maidhc ocathail”
Does U.S. Support for Israel Threaten American Safety?
Petraeus Kneels, Kisses Neocon Boot
Philip Weiss on the shame and humiliation
The following article was mentioned in the above interview with Phil Weiss:
Does U.S. Support for Israel Threaten American Safety?
Stirrings of a New Push for Military Option on Iran
Posted By Jim Lobe On July 9, 2010 @ 11:00 pm
“From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August,” explained then-White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card back in September 2002, in answer to queries about why the administration of George W. Bush had not launched its campaign to rally public opinion behind invading Iraq earlier in the summer.
And while it’s only July — and less than a month after the U.N., the European Union (EU) and the U.S. Congress approved new economic sanctions against Iran — a familiar clutch of Iraq war hawks appear to be preparing the ground for a major new campaign to rally public opinion behind military action against the Islamic Republic.
Barring an unexpected breakthrough on the diplomatic front, that campaign, like the one eight years ago, is likely to move into high gear this autumn, beginning shortly after the Labor Day holiday, Sep. 6, that marks the end of summer vacation.
By the following week, the November mid-term election campaign will be in full swing, and Republican candidates are expected to make the charge that Democrats and President Barack Obama are “soft on Iran” their top foreign policy issue.
In any event, veterans of the Bush administration’s pre-Iraq invasion propaganda offensive are clearly mobilizing their arguments for a similar effort on Iran, even suggesting that the timetable between campaign launch and possible military action — a mere six months in Iraq’s case — could be appropriate.
“By the first quarter of 2011, we will know whether sanctions are proving effective,” wrote Bush’s former national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, and Israeli Brig. Gen. Michael Herzog in a paper published last week by the Washington Institute for Near Policy (WINEP), a think tank closely tied to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
“(T)he administration should begin to plan now for a course of action should sanctions be deemed ineffective by the first or second quarter of next year. The military option must be kept on the table both as a means of strengthening diplomacy and as a worst-case scenario,” they asserted.
While Hadley and Herzog argued that the administration should begin planning military options now – presumably to be ready for possible action as early as next spring – others are calling for more urgent and demonstrative preparations.
”We cannot afford to wait indefinitely to determine the effectiveness of diplomacy and sanctions,” wrote former Democratic Sen. Charles Robb and Air Force Gen. Charles Wald (ret.) in a column published in Friday’s Washington Post in which they warned that Tehran “could achieve nuclear weapons capability before the end of this year, posing a strategically untenable threat to the United States.”
“If diplomatic and economic pressures do not compel Iran to terminate its nuclear program, the U.S. military has the capability and is prepared to launch an effective, targeted strike on Tehran’s nuclear and military facilities,” they wrote.
Their column was based on the latest of three reports promoting the use of military pressure on Iran released by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) since 2008 and overseen by BPC’s neo-conservative foreign policy director, Michael Makovsky.
Makovsky, whose brother is a senior official at WINEP, served as a consultant to the controversial Pentagon office set up in the run-up to the Iraq War to find evidence of operational ties between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein as a justification for the invasion.
The BPC report, “Meeting the Challenge: When Time Runs Out,” urged the Obama administration, among other immediate steps, to “augment the Fifth Fleet presence in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman, including the deployment of an additional (aircraft) carrier battle group and minesweepers to the waters off Iran; conduct broad exercises with its allies in the Persian Gulf; …initiate a ‘strategic partnership’ with Azerbaijan to enhance regional access…” as a way of demonstrating Washington’s readiness to go to war.
“If such pressure fails to persuade Iran’s leadership, the United States and its allies would have no choice but to consider blockading refined petroleum imports into Iran,” it went on, noting that such a step would “effectively be an act of war and the U.S. and its allies would have to prepare for its consequences.”
Of course, some Iraq hawks, most aggressively Bush’s former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, have insisted that neither diplomacy nor sanctions, no matter how tough, would be sufficient to dissuade Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapons and that military action — preferably by the U.S., but, if not, by Israel — would be necessary, and sooner rather than later.
Since the Jun. 12, 2009 disputed elections and the emergence of the opposition Green Movement in Iran, a few neo- conservatives, notably Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and Michael Ledeen of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), have argued that a military attack could prove counter-productive by rallying an otherwise discontented — and possibly rebellious — population behind the regime.
But with the Green Movement seemingly unable to challenge the government in the streets that argument has been losing ground among the hawks who, in any event, blame the opposition’s alleged weakness on Obama’s failure to provide it with more support.
“Unfortunately, President Obama waffled while innocent Iranians were killed by their own government,” wrote William Kristol and Jamie Fly, in Kristol’s Weekly Standard last month.
“It’s now increasingly clear that the credible threat of a military strike against Iran’s nuclear program is the only action that could convince the regime to curtail its ambition,” wrote the two men, who direct the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), the successor organization of the neoconservative-led Project for the New American Century (PNAC) that played a key role in preparing the ground for the Iraq invasion.
Neoconservative and other hawks have also pounced on reported remarks by United Arab Emirates (UAE) Amb. Yousef al-Otaiba, at a retreat sponsored by The Atlantic magazine in Colorado this week to nullify another obstacle to military action – the widespread belief that Washington’s Arab allies oppose a military attack on Iran by the U.S. or Israel as too risky for their own security and regional stability.
“We cannot live with a nuclear Iran,” Otaiba was quoted as saying in a Washington Times article by Eli Lake, a prominent neo-conservative journalist.
“Mr. Otaiba’s …comments leave no doubt what he and most Arab officials think about the prospect of a nuclear revolutionary Shi’ite state,” the Wall Street Journal‘s editorial board, a major media champion of the Iraq War, opined. “They desperately want someone, and that means the U.S. or Israel, to stop it, using force if need be.”
Otaiba was interviewed at the conference by The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg, an influential U.S.-Israeli writer who in a widely noted essay published by the New Yorker magazine in 2002 claimed that Hussein was supporting an al-Qaeda group in Kurdistan and that the Iraqi leader would soon possess nuclear weapons.
Goldberg, who asserted in his blog this week that “the idea of a group of Persian Shi’ites having possession of a nuclear bomb …certainly scares [Arab leaders] more than the reality of the Jewish bomb,” is reportedly working on an essay on the necessity of attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities for publication by The Atlantic in September.
(Inter Press Service)
Read more by Jim Lobe
- Obama and Netanyahu All Smiles – July 6th, 2010
- Key Congressional Committee Votes to Lift Cuba Travel Ban – June 30th, 2010
- After McChrystal: What Now? – June 28th, 2010
- Israel Lobby Riding High in US Election Run-Up – June 23rd, 2010
- Timing of Afghan Mineral Story Wealth Evokes Skepticism – June 14th, 2010
Article printed from Antiwar.com Original: http://original.antiwar.com
URL to article: http://original.antiwar.com/lobe/2010/07/09/stirrings-of-a-new-push-for-military-option-on-iran/