It was a busy week in Iraq. Let's check in on the latest haps and the who's who of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Three years after President Bush declared an end to major military operation in Iraq in front of the infamous "Mission Accomplished" banner, most Americans don't feel the mission has been accomplished and 44% don't believe it ever will. But I have to ask: what the mission is again?
Condi and Rummy's Excellent Adventure
Secretaries Rice and Rumsfeld have returned from a surprise trip to Iraq. I think they use the term "surprise" to distract from the fact that we CAN'T announce a visit by any high-level administration official for security reasons. It's not like a birthday party where the troops are treated to some of Rummy's poetry or Condi's music. Just the same, the Dynamic Duo report progress with the new government and that's hopeful, if a little frustrating that it's taken several months since the election for the government to form.
Biden Divide and Conquer Policy in Iraq
Puffing up his international policy skillz Democratic presidential hopeful and George Washington look-alike Joe Biden proposes a decentralized Iraqi federation in hopes of minimizing the factional infighting. Biden's idea is to give ethnic and political factions in Iraq "room to run its own affairs, while leaving the central government in charge of common interests." He wants Iraq divided into three separate regions — Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni — with a central government in Baghdad. Biden acknowledges the fact that just such an agreement was dismissed by the Sunnis earlier this year and says that a 20% oil royalty (which is consistent with their percentage of the population but much more than their region contributes in oil production) might just be the sweetness in the pot to persuade them.
Powell Called for Increased Troops—Anyone Listening?
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell came out this weekend and said he'd advised the President to have much more robust troop presence in Iraq to establish order after the initial invasion but that the President sided with "others" (read: Rumsfeld) and went with a smaller force. In a series of teleconferences conducted shortly after the 2004 presidential election, Powell says he advised the president to increase troop levels, but there's some dispute as to just how explicit Powell was in his assertion. The Washington Post reports:
Accounts differ about the details of Powell's remarks. One U.S. official said that Powell flatly stated: "We don't have enough troops. We don't control the terrain."
But a senior State Department official familiar with the exchange said that Powell was less pointed... This official said Powell spoke about the size not only of the U.S. presence but also of the British and Iraqi forces.
Powell, calling on his experience in the field of battle and also as the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is quoted as saying one "key task in warfare is to dominate the ground and control the situation."
Shortly thereafter, the President did increase troop levels by 12,000 (raising overall deployments to over 150,000), but it's unclear whether those increases matched what Powell recommended.
Let's Make a Deal – Baghdad
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani today said he has been meeting with armed insurgents in an attempt to bring them into the political fold. He was careful to note, however, that he was NOT meeting with those loyal to al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which makes me wonder exactly who he was meeting with?
Talabani reports some success in his talks though and says, "the groups are realizing that Americans are not their true enemy, the source said, and that they have been "fighting the wrong enemy." The real enemy, according to a source quoted in the CNN article, is not across the ocean in America, but right next door. "The most important thing is an Iraq that is free from Iranian influence"
In the meantime, while nobody is talking to the groups most responsible for the insurgency in Iraq, April was the most violent month to date for coalition forces.