Saturday, December 29, 2007

Lessons From the Surge

320 years - not a bad victory streak at all. I'll say it again: The most successful military campaign, in the shortest time, and with the fewest casualties, in the history of warfare. The Drive-by MSM has never been more despicable than during their quest to humiliate America. Not even during Vietnam, when at least there was a question of whether success was being achieved...T

There are lessons to be learned from the dazzling success of the surge strategy in Iraq.

Lesson one is that just about no mission is impossible for the United States military. A year ago it was widely thought, not just by the new Democratic leaders in Congress but also in many parts of the Pentagon, that containing the violence in Iraq was impossible. Now we have seen it done.

We have seen this before in American history. George Washington's forces seemed on the brink of defeat many times in the agonizing years before Yorktown. Abraham Lincoln's generals seemed so unsuccessful in the Civil War that in August 1864 it was widely believed he would be defeated for re-election. But finally Lincoln found the right generals. Sherman took Atlanta and marched to the sea; Grant pressed forward in Virginia.

Franklin Roosevelt picked the right generals and admirals from the start in World War II, but the first years of the war were filled with errors and mistakes. Even Vietnam is not necessarily a counterexample. As Lewis Sorley argues persuasively in "A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam," Gen. Creighton Abrams came up with a winning strategy by 1972. South Vietnam fell three years later when the North Vietnamese army attacked en masse, and Congress refused to allow the aid the U.S. had promised.

George W. Bush, like Lincoln, took his time finding the right generals. But it's clear now that the forward-moving surge strategy devised by Gens. David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno has succeeded where the stand-aside strategy employed by their predecessors failed. American troops are surely the most capable military force in history. They just need to be given the right orders.

Lesson two is that societies can more easily be transformed from the bottom up than from the top down. Bush's critics are still concentrating on the failure of the central Iraqi government to reach agreement on important issues -- even though the oil revenues are already being distributed to the provinces. We persuaded the Iraqis to elect their parliament from national party lists (reportedly so that it would include more women) rather than to elect them from single-member districts that would have elected community leaders more in touch with local opinion.

But the impetus for change has come from the bottom up, from tribal sheiks in Anbar province who got tired of the violence and oppression of al Qaeda in Iraq, from Shiites and Sunnis who, once confident of the protection of American forces and of the new Iraqi military, decided to quit killing each other. They did not wait for orders from Baghdad or for legislation to be passed with all the i's dotted and t's crossed.

Our own recent history should have taught us that bottom-up transformation, in local laboratories of reform, can often achieve results that seemed impossible to national leaders. At the beginning of the 1990s we seemed to have intractable problems of high crime and welfare dependency. Experts argued that we couldn't hope for improvement. But state and local leaders got to work and showed that change for the better was possible. They included Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson on welfare and New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani on crime control and many others, mostly Republicans but many Democrats as well. The federal government came charging in only after success was achieved in states and cities across the country. By now welfare dependency and crime have fallen by more than half, and they have virtually disappeared as political issues.

Lesson three is that it doesn't pay to bet against America. As Walter Russell Mead explains in his trenchant (and entertaining) "God and Gold: Britain and America and the Making of the Modern World," first Britain and then America have built the most prosperous and creative economies the world has ever seen and have prevailed in every major military conflict (except when they fought each other) since the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Many of those victories have been achieved in conflicts far more grueling than what we have faced in Iraq.

Some of George W. Bush's critics seem to have relished the prospect of American defeat and some refuse to acknowledge the success that has been achieved. But it appears that they have "misunderestimated" him once again, and have "misunderestimated" the competence of the American military and of free peoples working from the bottom up to transform their societies for the better. It's something to be thankful for as the new year begins.
Click here for full article

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Horrible Inevitability

A sad day, yet an easily predictable one. As a long time critic of the Bhutto political clan, I still wished, against all reason, for success. As the author writes - " The State Department geniuses thought they had it all figured out". Now it's going to take a lot of blood to save Pakistan - and we have no choice but to accept this...T

Benazir Bhutto's return to Pakistan had a mad recklessness about it which give today's events a horrible inevitability. As I always say when I'm asked about her, she was my next-door neighbor for a while - which affects a kind of intimacy, though in fact I knew her only for sidewalk pleasantries. She was beautiful and charming and sophisticated and smart and modern, and everything we in the west would like a Muslim leader to be - though in practice, as Pakistan's Prime Minister, she was just another grubby wardheeler from one of the world's most corrupt political classes.

Since her last spell in power, Pakistan has changed, profoundly. Its sovereignty is meaningless in increasingly significant chunks of its territory, and, within the portions Musharraf is just about holding together, to an ever more radicalized generation of young Muslim men Miss Bhutto was entirely unacceptable as the leader of their nation. "Everyone’s an expert on Pakistan, a faraway country of which we know everything," I wrote last month. "It seems to me a certain humility is appropriate." The State Department geniuses thought they had it all figured out. They'd arranged a shotgun marriage between the Bhutto and Sharif factions as a "united" "democratic" "movement" and were pushing Musharraf to reach a deal with them. That's what diplomats do: They find guys in suits and get 'em round a table. But none of those representatives represents the rapidly evolving reality of Pakistan. Miss Bhutto could never have been a viable leader of a post-Musharraf settlement, and the delusion that she could have been sent her to her death. Earlier this year, I had an argument with an old (infidel) boyfriend of Benazir's, who swatted my concerns aside with the sweeping claim that "the whole of the western world" was behind her. On the streets of Islamabad, that and a dime'll get you a cup of coffee.

As I said, she was everything we in the west would like a Muslim leader to be. We should be modest enough to acknowledge when reality conflicts with our illusions. Rest in peace, Benazir.
Click here for full article

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Gen. David Petraeus - Man of the Year

Amen, in every way...T

I remember the excitement. It was the week before Christmas a year ago, and I had lazily picked up my copy of Time magazine. And there it was: Time's Person of the Year for 2006 is "You."

Wow! We deserved credit, Time judged, "for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game." Thanks, Time!

And thanks for not choosing the obvious alternative--Nancy Pelosi, who had led the Democratic takeover of Congress. That takeover, Time editors and many others hoped, heralded our withdrawal from Iraq. However much they may have desired that outcome, Time was lucky not to select Pelosi. In the subsequent 12 months, she and her colleagues failed to impose a defeat in Iraq. Instead, President Bush announced a new strategy and a new commander, General David Petraeus, in January 2007. And all the real achievements of this year belong to them.

We are now winning the war. To say this was not inevitable is an understatement. Even those of us who were early advocates and strong supporters of the surge, and who thought it could succeed, knew the situation had so deteriorated that success was by no means guaranteed. Two military experts told me early in 2007 that they thought the odds of success were, respectively, 1-in-3 and 1-in-4. They nonetheless supported the surge because, even at those odds, it was a gamble worth taking, so devastating would be the consequences of withdrawal and defeat. We at THE WEEKLY STANDARD thought the chances of success were better than 50-50--but that it remained a difficult proposition.

Petraeus pulled it off. The war is not over, of course. Too quick and deep a drawdown--which some in the Pentagon and elsewhere in the Bush administration are, appallingly, pushing for--could throw away the amazing success that has been achieved. Still: It is as clear as anything can be in this world, where we judge through a glass darkly, that General David H. Petraeus is, in fact, America's man of the year.

Time ludicrously chose to make Russia's ex-KGB agent-turned president Vladimir Putin its cover boy. They just couldn't make Petraeus man--oops--person of the year. Our liberal elites are so invested in a narrative of defeat and disaster in Iraq that to acknowledge the prospect of victory would be too head-wrenching and heart-rending. It would mean giving credit to George W. Bush, for one. And it would mean acknowledging American success in a war Time, and the Democratic party, and the liberal elites, had proclaimed lost.

The editors couldn't acknowledge their mugging by reality. That's fine. Nonetheless, reality exists. And the reality is that in Iraq, after mistakes and failures, thanks to the leadership of Bush, Petraeus, and General Ray Odierno--the day-to-day commander whose contributions shouldn't be overlooked--we are winning.

The reality is also this: The counterinsurgency campaign that Petraeus and Odierno conceived and executed in 2007 was as comprehensive a counterinsurgency strategy as has ever been executed. The heart of the strategy was a brilliant series of coordinated military operations throughout the entire theater. Petraeus and Odierno used conventional U.S. forces, Iraqi military and police, and Iraqi and U.S. Special Operations forces to strike enemy strongholds throughout Iraq simultaneously, while also working to protect the local populations from enemy responses. Successive operations across the theater knocked the enemy--both al Qaeda and Sunni militias, and Shia extremists--off balance and then prevented them from recovering. U.S. and Iraqi forces, supported by local citizens, chased the enemy from area to area, never allowing them the breathing space to reestablish safe havens, much less new bases. It wasn't "whack-a-mole" or "squeezing the water balloon" as some feared (and initially claimed)--it was the relentless pursuit of an increasingly defeated enemy.

That defeat has implications far beyond Iraq. In 2007, Iraq's Sunni Arabs fought with us against al Qaeda, and Iraq's Shia Arabs joined with us to fight Iranian-backed Shia militias. So much for the notion that Americans were doomed to fail in their efforts to mobilize moderate Muslims against jihadists. The progress in Iraq in 2007 represents a strategic breakthrough for the broader Middle East whose importance would be hard to overstate.

One additional point: Petraeus's counterinsurgency stands out not just for its conceptual ambition and the skill of its execution but for its humanity. There were those who argued that the U.S. military could not succeed in counterinsurgency because Americans were not tough and bloodthirsty enough. They said that brutality was essential in subduing insurgents and our humanity would be our downfall.

They were wrong. The counterinsurgency campaign of 2007 was probably the most precise, discriminate, and humane military operation ever undertaken on such a scale. Our soldiers and Marines worked hard--and took risks and even casualties--to ensure, as much as possible, that they hurt only enemies. Compared with any previous military operations of this size, they were astonishingly successful. The measure of their success lies in the fact that so many Iraqis now see American troops as friends and protectors. Petraeus and his generals have shown that Americans can fight insurgencies and win--and still be Americans. For that and so much else, he is the man of the year.
Click here for full article

Friday, December 21, 2007

Deja Vu

...all over again...T
Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Unbelievable Tenacity of George W. Bush

I concur - and have been saying so, consistently, throughout the past several years. Bush II will go in the history books as a great, not just good, President (er, the high school textbooks, all written by liberals, notwithstanding)...T

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checked by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat." --Theodore Roosevelt

Listening to the fatuous Al Gore claim his undeserved Nobel Prize and maunder on about how America is ruining the planet makes me realize how fortunate America is to have as its president George W. Bush. Yes, Bush has his ample share of failings. He occasionally speaks at the fifth-grade level. He is too willing to surround himself with cronies and sycophants. An unsupple man, Bush sometimes reminds me of the toy soldier who walks into the wall and keeps going.

Bush's weaknesses, however, are more than compensated for by his one great strength. This is a man with unbelievable tenacity. No American president in my lifetime, not even Reagan, had Bush's guts. Perhaps one would have to go all the way back to Franklin or Teddy Roosevelt to find comparable determination. On the international stage, Bush's stamina recalls that of Churchill. Consider: when Bush was elected in 2000 with the tiniest conceivable margin--a margin so slender it required Supreme Court intervention to place him in the Oval Office--I was sure that Bush's proposed tax cuts were dead. But no: Bush pushed ahead and got most of what he proposed. And the subsequent health of the economy--low interest rates, low unemployment, steady growth--has undoubtedly been nourished by Bush's tax cuts.

Then in 2006, after the midterm debacle, I thought that Bush's Iraq policy was finished. And you could hear the pundits and the newly-elected Democratic congressmen and the pathological Bush-haters gleefully declaring, "Now he's going to have to start pulling out of Iraq." Instead Bush pressed for an increase of 20,000-25,000 troops. Incredibly, he got it. Congress shrieked and howled but went along. The American people were very doubtful, but Bush serenely told them to "wait and see." Bush has seemingly singe-handedly pursued his vision for Iraq even when his allies both at home and abroad have dwindled or lost their nerve. And once again Bush's policy seems to be working. Iraq is becoming more peaceful, and apparently there are Shia and Sunni leaders cooperating with the Americans. The Bush-haters are still with us, but the wind has gone out of the antiwar movement.

Bush has had a tough second term in office. But I think history will be kinder to him than the opinion polls, at least in the past couple of years, have been. When the country looks back at Iraq and sees a standing, even if fragile, democracy, Americans will see that when they became impatient, Bush forged ahead. When they were ready to give up, he was undeterred. And as a consequence the Middle East has its first Muslim democracy, and a pro-American democracy to boot. The lesson of Iraq may well be: Thank God we didn't listen to those advocates of defeat on the left; if we had, it would have been Vietnam all over again.

The diplomat Clare Luce once wrote that history, which has no room for clutter, will remember every president by just one line. I'm not quite sure how Bill Clinton will be remembered: perhaps his only distinguishing mark will be the one that Paula Jones identified. As for Bush, he will go down in history as the president who refused to back down, and if staying the course in Iraq proves to be the right move, then Bush could be remembered as one of America's great presidents.

Click here for full article

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Bush surging, not fading, as tenure's end nears

After reading this, the viewer may ask him, or herself, "why isn't the President's approval rating somewhere in the the 60's then?". The answer is simple and yet depressing - The Drive-by MSM. Never in my life have I seen such an open, coordinated effort to cripple a presidency in the press. Not with Reagan, not even with Nixon.

In the absence of scandal, in the face of an historic booming economy. With stout moral leadership, and with the most substantive and broad based tax cuts ever, excepting Reagan and JFK. After leading our nation through attack, near economic depression ( few know how close we came to this disastrous event after 9/11, with no economic activity at all occurring, without the terrorism insurance he forced through congress, among other reforms), and leading us to total victory in two wars, far across the globe, in record time and with historically low casualties.

Yes, after all this, the Drive-by MSM has successfully water boarded this presidency in the eyes of many - even blaming him for a hurricane, in a state with a liberal democrat governor and a liberal democrat city mayor - AFTER they refused his offer of help under the insurrection act!

Yes, President Bush will go into the history books as one of the greatest presidents of the 20th century...T

Recent polls placing President Bush’s approval numbers near 30 percent miss an important distinction: The policies and positions the president has advocated since 2001 have led to significant results in recent days. In short, the presidency of George W. Bush is surging, rather than waning, with little more than one year remaining in his term.

On the domestic front, the tax cuts the president pushed through the Congress have led to remarkable economic growth, low unemployment and record-high tax receipts that members of Congress can hardly wait to spend. New data released last week showed that America added 94,000 jobs in November 2007 — capping a remarkable 51 straight months in which jobs have been created in our economy. Despite partisan claims that the economy is soft, more than 8.3 million jobs have been created since August 2003 and unemployment remains low (4.7 percent). America remains open for business.

More Americans have more money in their savings accounts and in their wallets as a result of the Bush tax cuts. Despite talk on Capitol Hill of rolling back the president’s tax cuts that “benefit only the wealthy” Democrats have been loath to pass legislation and return to their districts to explain why raising taxes and eliminating the popular $500 per child tax credit is good public policy. Not going to happen anytime soon.

Roundly criticized back in 2001 for his position on stem cell research, the president’s resolve and strength to draw a moral boundary line to protect innocent unborn life has been vindicated. Despite the yammering that the president had hampered scientific progress in stem cell research, despite the vicious demagogy and false claims that if the president hadn’t placed restrictions on how federal funds were spent, people would rise and walk from their wheelchairs, scientists announced last week they could produce an embryo-free way to produce genetically matched stem cells. Or put another way, the president’s decision to draw a bright moral line against destroying human life while providing federal dollars for the first time to stimulate stem cell research has proven successful. The silence in the media about this remarkable development has been deafening.

Equally deafening have been the media (and congressional Democrats’) reaction to success on the ground in Iraq. After linking vital resources to fight the war on terrorism to a timetable for troop withdrawals, Congress has failed on numerous occasions in recent months to hamstring the president’s ability to conduct the war as commander in chief. And despite claims that the surge of troops and the leadership of Gen. David Petraeus and President Bush have failed, even ardent foe Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) has concluded that the surge in Iraq is working.

Not content to celebrate the success of our brave men and women in uniform who put their lives on the line every day to provide stability in a volatile region of the world, congressional Democrats now claim that while the surge might be working, the Iraqis have “failed” to produce meaningful political results on the ground. Once again, facts get in the way of those on the Hill who are pressing — wishing — for an American defeat on the ground in Iraq.

Absent from media coverage of late is the fact that the central government of Iraq has reached its 2007 budget revenue target of $30.2 billion. This figure is derived from oil revenues — revenues of which the Democrats have criticized the Iraqis and President Bush for not capturing to fund the cost of the new government in Baghdad. This criticism now rings hollow.

Similarly, 40 Iraqi leaders were killed in Iraq during the month of November and Lt. General Ray Odierno has reported that the has been a 23-week decline — nearly six months — in insurgent deaths and attacks upon Iraqi civilians. This decrease in violence has led thousands of civilians to return to the country each and every day to reopen their schools, businesses and neighborhoods that have long been abandoned due to violence.

In Mosul, the airport opened for the first time in 14 years for commercial aviation flights. In a region of the country long associated with violence, Iraqi Airlines is now open for business. While there is always a potential for violence to flare up, Iraqi civilians have returned home to provinces all around the country that had previously been strongholds held by terrorists and Saddam loyalists.

Political stability long thought to be an elusive dream is becoming a daily reality across Iraq.From the surge in Iraq, vindication with his stem cell position and strong economic development on the home front, President George W. Bush has hit his stride and is surging rather than limping into his last year in office. For those who have counted him out, the president remains resolute, perhaps comfortable in the knowledge that history, rather than bitter partisans in Washington, will favorably reflect on his two terms in office for waging an effective war against terrorism while demonstrating capable stewardship and remarkable domestic accomplishments during a time of war.
Click here for full article

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Keep Up the Pressure

This - "middle option" - makes the most sense to me right now, and at least has the grace and simplicity of covering all options. Take note of the effect that US military power (2nd to last paragraph) always has on shaping the political realities on the ground...T

For Democrats, good news in Iraq is bad news. For me, good news is good news, whether from Iraq or now from Iran. Facts are facts. And if the conclusions of the most recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) about Iran's nuclear program are true, they are moderately encouraging. Moderately only, because the NIE itself expressed only "moderate confidence" in its most sensational conclusion--that Iran had not restarted its previously suspended covert nuclear-weaponization program.

First, the good news. To go nuclear, you need three things: a) the raw material, b) the ability to turn the raw material into a weapon and c) the missiles with which to deliver the weapon. Regarding a and c, Iran is proceeding with alacrity and determination on uranium enrichment (with 2,000 to 3,000 centrifuges running) and on the development and testing of long-range missiles. It is the intermediate step--weaponizing the uranium into a bomb--that the intelligence estimate tells us has been suspended.

Now the caveats. First, weaponization is the most opaque of the three elements. Iran has never declared it or admitted it. Accurate information about it would be hardest to come by. Second, the logic is odd. We now believe weaponization was suspended in fall 2003, at the same time uranium enrichment was suspended. However, when uranium enrichment was resumed a few months after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's accession to power, the weaponization program (we are now told) was not.

This does not make a lot of sense. Uranium enrichment is more public and therefore more likely to bring sanctions--which, of course, it did. Why reactivate that and not the covert weaponization program--inherently a less open provocation? And why invest enormous resources on the centrifuges for enrichment and on the missiles for delivery if you're not going to eventually weaponize?

Nonetheless, we learned from the Iraq WMD debacle that logic has a limited place in assessing the behavior of radical regimes. Saddam Hussein bluffed his way into a war that cost him his regime and his life, when he could easily have come clean regarding a WMD program he no longer had. So we must be prepared to grant that bluff and pretense may be part of the Iranian nuclear game as well.

Third, we seem to be relying on one giant and juicy piece of information that came to the U.S. this summer. President George W. Bush said it then took time to determine whether it was disinformation. One can never be sure how these double- and triple-agent mirror games are played, which might be why the NIE is only "moderately confident" it has gotten this one right.

Assuming it has, the conclusion drawn by some--that this means Iran has abandoned its nuclear ambitions--is not just wrong but also contradicted by the NIE itself. Suspension does not mean abandonment. The program can be restarted at any time. The fact that huge amounts are still being spent on uranium enrichment and missile development--the other essentials for a nuclear-weapons program--while the weaponization part remains dormant is overwhelming evidence of a country that wants to go nuclear but is being restrained by international pressure.

Which is why the critics' claim that this NIE report is a mandate for a new and soft Iranian policy is wrong. John Edwards immediately said the report justified his vote against designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization and imposing sanctions on it. But the NIE's major conclusion is that Iran calibrates its nuclear efforts--including the suspension of the weaponization part--in a real-world cost-benefit reaction to outside pressure. It makes the case precisely for sanctions.

Moreover, the critics seem not to have noticed when uranium enrichment and weaponization were halted: fall 2003--before the rise of the Iraqi insurgency and while the shock and awe of the U.S.'s three-week conquest of Baghdad was still reverberating throughout the Middle East, scaring WMD pursuers, like Gaddafi's Libya, into giving up their nuclear programs altogether. Timing suggests that the American military option exercised in Iraq contributed to Iran's suspension of weaponization.

The military option may not be necessary right now. If weaponization has been suspended, the window for sanctions has been widened. But there is no reasonable argument for taking military action off the table. If the Iranians refuse to negotiate seriously--their new negotiator says all previous negotiations are void and talks now return to square one--the military option needs to be on the table and in plain view.
Click here for full article

Iran Curveball

Or, then again, there is this depressing possibility. This pattern has, certainly, been the most spectacular failing of the Bush administration(in stark contrast with his corrupt predecessor, who at least ran an admirably tight ship).

We have to remember that this is not just an inside the beltway, political intrigue story - Iran must be forced to abandon it's Nuclear ambitions at all cost...T

This latest intelligence fiasco is Mr. Bush's fault.

President Bush has been scrambling to rescue his Iran policy after this week's intelligence switcheroo, but the fact that the White House has had to spin so furiously is a sign of how badly it has bungled this episode. In sum, Mr. Bush and his staff have allowed the intelligence bureaucracy to frame a new judgment in a way that has undermined four years of U.S. effort to stop Iran's nuclear ambitions.

This kind of national security mismanagement has bedeviled the Bush Presidency. Recall the internal disputes over post-invasion Iraq, the smearing of Ahmad Chalabi by the State Department and CIA, hanging Scooter Libby out to dry after bungling the response to Joseph Wilson's bogus accusations, and so on. Mr. Bush has too often failed to settle internal disputes and enforce the results.

What's amazing in this case is how the White House has allowed intelligence analysts to drive policy. The very first sentence of this week's national intelligence estimate (NIE) is written in a way that damages U.S. diplomacy: "We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program." Only in a footnote below does the NIE say that this definition of "nuclear weapons program" does "not mean Iran's declared civil work related to uranium conversion and enrichment."

In fact, the main reason to be concerned about Iran is that we can't trust this distinction between civilian and military. That distinction is real in a country like Japan. But we know Iran lied about its secret military efforts until it was discovered in 2003, and Iran continues to enrich uranium on an industrial scale, with 3,000 centrifuges, in defiance of binding U.N. resolutions. There is no civilian purpose for such enrichment. Iran has access to all the fuel it needs for civilian nuclear power from Russia at the plant in Bushehr. The NIE buries the potential danger from this enrichment, even though this enrichment has been the main focus of U.S. diplomacy against Iran.

In this regard, it's hilarious to see the left and some in the media accuse Mr. Bush once again of distorting intelligence. The truth is the opposite. The White House was presented with this new estimate only weeks ago, and no doubt concluded it had little choice but to accept and release it however much its policy makers disagreed. Had it done otherwise, the finding would have been leaked and the Administration would have been assailed for "politicizing" intelligence.

The result is that we now have NIE judgments substituting for policy in a dangerous way. For one thing, these judgments are never certain, and policy in a dangerous world has to account for those uncertainties. We know from our own sources that not everyone in American intelligence agrees with this NIE "consensus," and the Israelis have already made clear they don't either. The Jerusalem Post reported this week that Israeli defense officials are exercised enough that they will present their Iran evidence to Admiral Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, when he visits that country tomorrow.

For that matter, not even the diplomats at the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency agree with the NIE. "To be frank, we are more skeptical," a senior official close to the agency told the New York Times this week. "We don't buy the American analysis 100 percent. We are not that generous with Iran." Senator John Ensign, a Nevada Republican, is also skeptical enough that he wants Congress to establish a bipartisan panel to explore the NIE's evidence. We hope he keeps at it.

All the more so because the NIE heard 'round the world is already harming U.S. policy. The Chinese are backing away from whatever support they might have provided for tougher sanctions against Iran, while Russia has used the NIE as another reason to oppose them. Most delighted are the Iranians, who called the NIE a "victory" and reasserted their intention to proceed full-speed ahead with uranium enrichment. Behind the scenes, we can expect Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to expand their nuclear efforts as they conclude that the U.S. will now be unable to stop Iran from getting the bomb.

We reported earlier this week that the authors of this Iran NIE include former State Department officials who have a history of hostility to Mr. Bush's foreign policy. But the ultimate responsibility for this fiasco lies with Mr. Bush. Too often he has appointed, or tolerated, officials who oppose his agenda, and failed to discipline them even when they have worked against his policies. Instead of being candid this week about the problems with the NIE, Mr. Bush and his National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley, tried to spin it as a victory for their policy. They simply weren't believable.

It's a sign of the Bush Administration's flagging authority that even many of its natural allies wondered this week if the NIE was really an attempt to back down from its own Iran policy. We only wish it were that competent.
Click here for full article

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Questions Raised by the NIE on Iran

This could potentially be the greatest Geopolitical breakthrough since Reagan induced the end of the Cold War. Save this one, and watch as the predicted future unfolds, hopefully, for all...T

December 4, 2007

The U.S. National Intelligence Estimate released on Monday-the little bombshell that says Iran has had its nuclear weapons program on hold since 2003-raises two fundamental questions. First, if Iran really does not have a military weapons program, why has it resisted international inspections? Second, why is the United States allowing this news to break?

The Iranian motive for resisting inspections should first be considered.

For the past five years, Washington and Tehran have been engaged in on-again, off-again negotiations over Iraq's future. In these talks the Iranians have been at a sizable disadvantage. The United States has more than 100,000 troops in the country, while Iran's leverage is largely limited to its influence with many of the country's Shiite militias. This influence is a useful tool for denying the United States the ability to impose its desires, though it is not a powerful enough one to allow the Iranians to turn their own preferences into reality.

Moreover, given that the majority of Iran's population is either in or behind the Zagros Mountains, Iran might be difficult to invade, but it lacks military expeditionary capability. Its infantry-heavy army is designed for population control, not power projection. Therefore, for Iran to have a lever in manipulating events in its region, it must develop other playing cards.

Its nuclear program is one of those cards. Iran has had a vested interest in convincing the world-unofficially, of course-that it possesses a nuclear program. For Iran, the nuclear program is a trump card to be traded away, not a goal in and of itself.

As to the U.S. motive, it also wanted to play up the nuclear threat. Part of Washington's negotiation strategy has been to isolate Iran from the rest of the international community. Charges that Iran desired nukes were an excellent way to marshal international action. Both sides had a vested interest in making Iran look the part of the wolf.

That no longer is the case. There are only two reasons the U.S. government would choose to issue a report that publicly undermines the past four years of its foreign policy: a deal has been struck, or one is close enough that an international diplomatic coalition is no longer perceived as critical. This level of coordination across all branches of U.S. intelligence could not happen without the knowledge and approval of the CIA director, the secretaries of defense and state, the national security adviser and the president himself. This is not a power play; this is the real deal.

The full details of any deal are unlikely to be made public any time soon because the U.S. and Iranian publics probably are not yet ready to consider each other as anything short of foes. But the deal is by design integrated into both states' national security posture. It will allow for a permanent deployment of U.S. forces in Iraq to provide minimal national security for Iraq, but not in large enough numbers to be able to launch a sizable attack against Iran. It will allow for the training and equipping of the Iraqi military forces so that Iraq can defend itself, but not so much that it could boast a meaningful offensive force. It will integrate Iranian intelligence and military personnel into the U.S. effort so there are no surprises on either side.

But those are the details. Here is the main thrust: Ultimately, both sides have nursed deep-seated fears. The Iranians do not want the Americans to assist in the rise of another militaristic Sunni power in Baghdad-the last one inflicted 1 million Iranian casualties during 1980-1988 war. The United States does not want to see Iran dominate Iraq and use it as a springboard to control Arabia; that would put some 20 million barrels per day of oil output under a single power. The real purpose of the deal is to install enough bilateral checks in Iraq to ensure that neither nightmare scenario happens.

Should such an arrangement stick, the two biggest winners obviously are the Americans and Iranians. That is not just because the two no longer would be in direct conflict, and not just because both would have freed up resources for other tasks.

U.S. geopolitical strategy is to prevent the rising of a power on a continental scale that has the potential to threaten North America. It does this by favoring isolated powers that are resisting larger forces. As powerful as Iran is, it is the runt of the neighborhood when one looks past the political lines on maps and takes a more holistic view. Sunnis outnumber Shia many times over, and Arabs outnumber Persians. Indeed, Persians make up only roughly half of Iran's population, making Tehran consistently vulnerable to outside influence. Simply put, the United States and Iran-because of the former's strategy and the latter's circumstances-are natural allies.

On the flip side, the biggest losers are those entities that worry about footloose and fancy-free Americans and Iranians. The three groups at the top of that list are the Iraqis, the Russians and the Arabs. Washington and Tehran will each sell out their proxies in Iraq in a heartbeat for the promise of an overarching deal. Now is the time for the Kurds, Sunni and Shia of Iraq to prove their worth to either side; those who resist will be smears on the inside of history's dustbin.

Separately, a core goal of U.S. foreign policy is to ensure that the Russians never again threaten North America, and to a lesser degree, Europe. A United States that is not obsessed with Tehran is one that has the freedom to be obsessed with Moscow. And do not forget that the last state to occupy portions of Iran was not the United States, but Russia. Persia has a long memory and there are scores to settle in the Caucasus.

Back in the Middle East, U.S. foreign policy has often supported the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, favoring the weak against the strong in line with the broad strategy discussed above. A United States that does not need to contain Iran is a United States that can leverage an Iran that very much wishes to be leveraged. That potentially puts the Arabs on the defensive on topics ranging from investment to defense. The Arabs tend to get worried whenever the Americans or the Iranians look directly at them; that is nothing compared to the emotions that will swirl the first time that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and U.S. President George W. Bush shake hands.

We expect the days and weeks ahead to be marked by a blizzard of activity as various players in Washington and Tehran attempt both to engage directly and to prepare the ground (still) for a final deal. Much will be dramatic, much will be contradictory, much will make no sense whatsoever. This is, after all, still the Middle East. But keep this in mind: With the nuclear issue out of the way, the heavy lifting has already been done and some level of understanding on Iraq's future already is in place. All that remains is working out the "details."

Stratfor is a private intelligence company delivering in-depth analysis, assessments and forecasts on global geopolitical, economic, security and public policy issues. A variety of subscription-based access, free intelligence reports and confidential consulting are available for individuals and corporations.
Click here for full article