National Security

Senate to Vote on Escalation

Reid is calling the GOP bluff:

For Immediate Release

Date: Thursday, February 15, 2007

CONTACT: Jim Manley / Rodell Mollineau, (202) 224-2939


Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today released the following statement, announcing that the Senate will vote this Saturday on whether to move forward to debate the President’s escalation of the war in Iraq.

“For nearly four years, the Republican-controlled Senate stood silent on the President's flawed Iraq policies and watched as the situation deteriorated into a civil war. The American people have chosen to change course. Democrats have chosen to change course. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans have chosen obstruction. Almost every Republican who expressed concern about the escalation chose to block the Senate from debating the issue.

“Today, Democrats offered Republicans another chance for compromise, suggesting the Senate debate one resolution in favor of escalation and one resolution opposed to escalation. Once again, Senate Republicans refused.

“Democrats are determined to give our troops and the American people the debate they deserve, so the Senate will have another Iraq vote this Saturday.  We will move for a clear up or down vote on the House resolution which simply calls on Congress to support the troops and opposes the escalation.

“Those Republicans who have expressed their concern over the Senate’s failure to debate the war in Iraq will have another opportunity to let their actions speak louder than their words.”


Now Iran?

In light of the seriously overly optimistic planning for Iraq going on as early as 2002 (see the powerpoint), the President can't expect much support for his allegations against Iran and the accompanying saber rattling

Speaking at a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Mr. Bush dismissed as “preposterous” the contention by some skeptics that the United States was drawing unwarranted conclusions about Iran’s role. He publicly endorsed assertions that had until now been presented only by anonymous military and intelligence officials, who have said that an elite branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps known as the Quds Force has provided Shiite militias in Iraq with the sophisticated weapons that have been responsible for killing at least 170 American soldiers and wounding more than 600.

Yesterday, Senator Hillary Clinton made it clear what she thinks about the President's authority to preemptively attack Iran.

An Iraq Plan Missing One Ingredient - Reality

This is an amazing story from the NYT, complements of FOIL...

When Gen. Tommy R. Franks and his top officers gathered in August 2002 to review an invasion plan for Iraq, it reflected a decidedly upbeat vision of what the country would look like four years after Saddam Hussein was ousted from power.

A broadly representative Iraqi government would be in place. The Iraqi Army would be working to keep the peace. And the United States would have as few as 5,000 troops in the country.

Military slides obtained by the National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act outline the command’s PowerPoint projection of the stable, pro-American and democratic Iraq that was to be.

The arrogance that a post-Saddam Iraq would run itself is astonishing enough.  Even more amazing is that the Administration, Gen. Franks, et al assumed that the State Department, which was sidelined throughout the rush to war, would put together the pieces and create a stable government in Iraq, with limited military support.

August 2002 was an important time for developing the strategy. President Bush had yet to go to the United Nations to declare Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons programs a menace to international security, but the war planning was well under way. The tumultuous upheaval that would follow the toppling of the Hussein government was known antiseptically in planning sessions as “Phase IV.” As is clear from the slides, it was the least defined part of the strategy.

General Franks had told his officers that it was his supposition that the State Department would have the primary responsibility for rebuilding Iraq’s political institutions.

“D.O.S. will promote creation of a broad-based, credible provisional government — prior to D-Day,” noted a slide on “key planning assumptions.” That was military jargon for the notion that the Department of State would assemble a viable Iraqi governing coalition before the invasion even began.

See the entire slide show here...

PostGlobal explores the North Korea nuclear deal

The Washington Post's website has been experimenting with something called PostGlobal, "a conversation on global issues with David Ignatius and Fareed Zakaria."  Currently it is running a worthwhile discussion on the new North Korea nuclear deal featuring six professors from all over the world and other spirited commentators.  If you are looking to learn more about the deal and what it means this is a good place to start.

Council of Foreign Relations Issues Major Iraq Report

As House Democrats move to debate President Bush’s escalation of the war, Steven Simon of the Council on Foreign Relations has issued a thoughtful report outlining the actions the US should take in Iraq after the surge:

The United States should...make clear now to the Iraqi government that, as the results of the anticipated surge become apparent, the two sides will begin to negotiate a U.S. military disengagement from Iraq,” says a new Council Special Report. “The proposed military disengagement would not be linked to benchmarks that the Iraqi government is probably incapable of fulfilling....The U.S. drawdown should not be hostage to Iraqi performance.”

The report’s author, Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies Steven N. Simon, says the surge is a fait accompli and its results will be known very soon: “the surge is going to take place regardless of public or congressional opposition. Thus, the issue is what happens after the surge. Since General David Petraeus has said that he expects the results of the surge to become apparent quickly, the ‘day after’ realities should be thought through now.”

Disengagement “would entail withdrawing the bulk of American forces from Iraq within twelve to eighteen months (that is to say, over the course of calendar year 2008); shifting the American focus to containment of the conflict and strengthening the U.S. military position elsewhere in the region; and engaging Iraq’s neighbors, including Iran and Syria, members of the UN Security Council, and potential donors in an Iraq stabilization plan,” Simon writes.

New America Foundation Event Tomorrow: U.S.- Iran Relations Collision, Stand-off, or Convergence?

NAF is hosting a day of of programming on U.S.-Iran relations tomorrow.  Check it out:

Start: 02/14/2007 - 9:30am
End: 02/14/2007 - 3:00pm
628 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC, 20510
United States

See map: Google Maps


9:30 am - Coffee & Registration

10:00 am - Welcoming Remarks

  • Steven Clemons
    Senior Fellow & Director, American Strategy Program, New America Foundation
  • Trita Parsi
    President, National Iranian American Council

Ruse or Opportunity? The Provenance of Iran’s Spring 2003 Negotiations Offer

  • Flynt Leverett
    Senior Fellow & Director, Geopolitics of Energy Initiative, New America Founadtion
    Former Senior Director for Middle East Affairs, National Security Council
  • Col. Lawrence Wilkerson
    Former Chief of Staff, U.S. Department of State
  • Trita Parsi (moderator)
    President, National Iranian American Council

10:30 am - Iran’s Nuclear Challenge – Debating the Technical Dimensions

  • David Kay
    Senior Fellow, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies
    Former IAEA/UNSCOM Chief Nuclear Weapons Inspector in Iraq
  • Bruno Pellaud
    Chairman, IAEA Experts Group on Multilateral Approaches to the Fuel Cycle
    Former Deputy Director General and Head, IAEA Department of Safeguards
  • Maurizio Martellini
    Secretary General for Landau Network - Centro Volta
    Consultant on Non-Proliferation, Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Joseph Cirincione (moderator)
    Senior Vice President for National Security and International Policy
    Center for American Progress

12:00 pm - Luncheon: A Consideration of U.S. Options Toward Iran

  • Steven Clemons (Introduction)
    Senior Fellow & Director, American Strategy Program, New America Foundation
  • The Hon. Jane Harman (Keynote pre-lunch)
    Chairperson, Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing, and Terrorism Risk Assessment
    Committee on Homeland Security
    U.S. House of Representatives
  • Francis Fukuyama (Keynote post-lunch)
    Bernard L. Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy
    School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University

1:45 pm Iran’s Pretensions and a Turbulent Middle East

  • Thomas Donnelly
    Resident Fellow, Defense & Security Studies, American Enterprise Institute
  • Daniel Levy
    Senior Fellow & Director, Middle East Policy Initiative, New America Foundation
    Senior Fellow, Century Foundation
    Former Senior Advisor to Israel Prime Minister Ehud Barak
    Lead Israeli Drafter, Geneva Initiative
  • Dafna Linzer
    National Security Correspondent, Washington Post
  • Trita Parsi
    President, National Iranian American Council
  • Bahram Rajaee (moderator)
    National Iranian American Council
  • 3:30 pm Adjournment

McCain fears a repeat of the Tet offensive

From the AP, via Time:  

"By the way, a lot of us are also very concerned about the possibility of a, quote, 'Tet Offensive.' You know, some large-scale tact that could then switch American public opinion the way that the Tet Offensive did," the Arizona senator said.

What does this mean? Hasn't American opinion already gone south? Is he admitting that the war is lost? What does this mean? Senator McCain has some explaining to do.

North Korea Nuclear Talks Break Down

The NYT reports today on a disturbing development in negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear program.  Vital efforts to complete a deal in which North Korea would abandon its nuclear program and gives up the nuclear materials it has already acquired are on the brink of collapse:

Negotiations on a step-by-step deal that the Bush administration hopes will lead North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program appeared near collapse on Sunday over North Korea’s demands for huge shipments of fuel oil and electricity before agreeing to a schedule for turning over its nuclear weapons and fuel.

The chief American envoy, Christopher R. Hill, said he and North Korea’s envoy, Kim Kye-gwan, held a “lengthy and very frank” meeting on Sunday. But Mr. Hill seemed much less optimistic that a deal could be struck. Negotiators are planning to end the talks on Monday, and other envoys were pessimistic that any breakthrough would emerge on the final day… 

…The huge annual energy package North Korea is demanding would eclipse the aid provided under the 1994 deal, when the North was promised light-water nuclear reactors with a generating capacity of two million kilowatts of electricity, as well as a temporary fix of 500,000 tons of heavy fuel oil…

…North Korea’s insistence on the package deflated the optimism that had infused the early days of this round of talks and spread to senior officials in the White House, who said they expected a deal this weekend.

Gates tossing the neocons under the bus

Secretary Robert Gates is becoming a very interesting historical figure.  Increasingly in his comments and actions, he has become a leader of the effort, supported by so many, of making the reign of the neocons an unfortunate memory.  He asked for more troops in Afghanistan; admitted mistakes in Iraq; and yesterday, in his response to Russia's Putin, not only did he fail to take Putin's bait (a sign of a new maturity), he distanced himself from the neocon foreign policy construct of the primacy of might and force in our relations with the world:

Mr. Gates cast himself as a geopolitical realist and drew a knowing laugh when he focused on Mr. Putin’s assertion that the United States and its allies were dividing Europe.

“All of these characterizations belong in the past,” Mr. Gates said. “The free world versus those behind the Iron Curtain. North versus South. East versus West, and I am told that some have even spoken in terms of ‘Old Europe’ versus ‘new.’ ”

The last was a reference to a characterization Mr. Rumsfeld made in January 2003 to contrast Germany and France, which objected to the United States plan to invade Iraq, with neighboring supporters, not all of which are NATO members.

Reviewing NATO’s success in standing up to the Soviet threat, “it seems clear that totalitarianism was defeated as much by ideas the West championed then and now as by ICBMs, tanks and warships that the West deployed,” Mr. Gates said. The alliance’s most effective weapon, he said, was a “shared belief in political and economic freedom, religious toleration, human rights, representative government and the rule of law.”

“These values kept our side united, and inspired those on the other side,” he added.

Shifting to current threats and challenges, he called on NATO members to support a comprehensive strategy to stabilize Afghanistan, “combining a muscular military effort with effective support for governance, economic development and counternarcotics.”

We should view the forging of our policy towards Iran as the next great battleground between the realist school of American foreign policy, so successful in the 20th century, and the waning but still influential neocon school.  The neocons seem so discredited that it hard for me to believe that they will win the day, but Gates, Hagel, Biden and others working to defeat the dangerous and disproven neocon approach need our spirited support.

WaPo:rising Sunni-Shiite tensions central dynamic of today's Middle East

The Post has a mustread story today by Anthony Shadid on a subject we've been focusing on for some months now: how our policies have unleashed a new dynamic in the Middle East that is fundamentally changing the region's politics:

The growing Sunni-Shiite divide is roiling an Arab world as unsettled as at any time in a generation. Fought in speeches, newspaper columns, rumors swirling through cafes and the Internet, and occasional bursts of strife, the conflict is predominantly shaped by politics: a disintegrating Iraq, an ascendant Iran, a sense of Arab powerlessness and a persistent suspicion of American intentions. But the division has begun to seep into the region's social fabric, too. The sectarian fault line has long existed and sometimes ruptured, but never, perhaps, has it been revealed in such a stark, disruptive fashion.

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