TOO EARLY TO TELL WHETHER IRAQ EFFORT CREATED ALLY, GENERAL SAYS
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
October 24, 2012
WASHINGTON -- It’s still too early to tell whether the U.S. effort in Iraq has created an American ally, the commander of U.S. Army Europe and 7th Army said here yesterday.
Lt. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, who served many tours in Iraq, told the Defense Writers Group that it took years for a democratic government to emerge in West Germany following World War II, and he expects many of the same difficulties happening with Iraq.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen in Iraq,” the general said. “I’m hopeful for increasing positive signs.”
The Iraqi government still is fighting a complex insurgency in a very tough environment, the general noted. “My friends in Iraq … are all very hopeful,” he said, “but they also understand the challenges they are encountering.”
The most encouraging step to date in Iraq is the potential for the rule of law to develop, Hertling said.
“[Iraqi] security forces are competent, but still feeling their way,” he said. “Their politicians are increasingly becoming effective in understanding the representative process, but it certainly can’t be compared to our government, or even our government 10 years after the Revolutionary War.”
Iraq will continue to have struggles in three main areas, the general said: security forces, rule of law and the primacy of political control. “They are still struggling, and it pains me to watch it,” he added.
How Iraq does in the future is something that will haunt U.S. veterans of the Iraq war, the general said. “There was a lot of blood and sweat and tears and hard work put into that country by American soldiers,” he said. He noted that as U.S. troops leave bases in Germany they have been in since 1945, many Germans have come to thank them for what they and their predecessors did to save the country.
The current generation worked hard in Iraq, and is not feeling particularly appreciated, Hertling said. “That’s unfortunate,” he added. “It’s something that all of our veterans from Iraq, and eventually our veterans from Afghanistan, will struggle with. They worked hard, they fought hard, and they did what they were trying to do to establish workable solutions in those two countries.”
IRAQ AND IRAN FORM ALLIANCE WITHIN OPEC
By Guy Chazan
Financial Times (London)
June 15, 2012
VIENNA -- Iran and Iraq are forming a strengthening alliance inside OPEC, raising concerns among moderate Arab Gulf producers like Saudi Arabia and increasing the potential for discord in the oil producers’ group.
. . .
A person familiar with the matter said OPEC’s meeting in Vienna on Thursday was overshadowed by “strong disagreements” over issues ranging from the acceptable price of oil, to the global supply-demand balance, to who should replace the current secretary general of the organization.
A particular bone of contention was a proposal by Venezuela -- backed by other OPEC hardliners like Iran, Iraq, and Algeria -- that the group should protest against the E.U. sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program. The move was rebuffed by Saudi Arabia and other moderates including Nigeria, Libya, and Kuwait, who argued that such protests were the preserve of foreign ministers, not oil ministers.
Riyadh is determined to prevent the group being dragged into Iran’s nuclear standoff with the west, and until Thursday, member states had done a good job of papering over their differences on the issue.
. . .
But the latest bust-up shows it could prove increasingly difficult to maintain that neutrality, with the issue of sanctions reinforcing already deep divisions between hardliners Iran, Venezuela, and Algeria and moderates like Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies Kuwait and the UAE.
The politicization of OPEC bodes ill for the future. “Oil and politics make a really toxic mix, as we saw with OPEC in the 1970s,” said one analyst. He said the rift meant it would be harder for OPEC to take “concerted action in the event of a major bout of price weakness.”
The meeting also showed that Iraq has now joined the hardline camp, whose members are clearly co-ordinating their positions on key aspects of OPEC policy, the person said. Earlier this month, Rostam Qasemi, Iran’s oil minister, visited Baghdad for talks with Nouri al Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister, and during the visit it was announced that the two had agreed to adopt a unified position on Opec production.
That raised the specter of an oil alliance between Iran and Iraq, which could challenge Saudi Arabia’s traditional dominance of OPEC.
. . .
IRAN AND IRAN: A PARTNERSHIP MADE IN AMERICA
By Arianna Huffington
June 12, 2012
With the war there officially "ended" and most of our troops back home, Iraq isn't getting much ink these days. But the story is far from over. Indeed, according to Wadah Khanfar, former director general of Al Jazeera, Iraq is still the most important story in the Middle East -- with a far greater impact on the region's future than Syria. "Nobody's paying attention to Iraq anymore," he told me during dinner in London over the weekend, "but it's becoming a client state of Iran, with a giant amount of oil between them." This state of affairs is, of course, primarily our doing.
And yet, as our soldiers have left, so has our attention. "The war in Iraq will soon belong to history," proclaimed President Obama at Fort Bragg as he marked the occasion of bringing the last troops home. But while the military chapter of that disastrous undertaking might belong to history, its consequences belong very much to the present. A present in which the very same voices that rose to push us into war with Iraq are again rising to push us into war with Iran -- but without ever noting that it was their misadventure in Iraq that gave Iran a new and powerful ally.
"Iraq is not a perfect place," noted the president at Fort Bragg, "but we are leaving behind a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people. We are building a new partnership between our nations."
In truth, we've "teamed" with Iran in propping up the Shiite government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki -- so stability and self-reliance remain elusive goals for Iraq. And Iraq's closest partnership is no longer with the U.S. but with its Shiite neighbor. The evidence increases by the day.
The Associated Press last week called Iran the "big brother" to Prime Minister al-Maliki's government, noting that Iran "helped create" the al-Maliki administration in 2010 and is now "calling in favors among its allied factions in Iraq" to keep the al-Maliki government from falling in a no-confidence vote. "Iran's fingerprints are all over al-Maliki's inner circle," the AP noted.
It also reported that Shiite clerical leader Muqtada al-Sadr just went to Iran for talks, that Iran is pressuring Iraq's President Jalal Talabani to ease pressure on al-Maliki, and that Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Kazim al-Haeri, considered al-Sadr's mentor, recently issued a fatwa against support for secular leaders in Iraq's government. To that end, Iran is also supporting Grand Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi to eventually take over for the aging al-Haeri, a move that would "cement Iran's grip on Iraqi affairs."
As the flow of Iraqi oil is increasing, so is the combined power of the two countries. Last week, an Iraqi oil ministry spokesman said that Iran and Iraq plan "to coordinate the two countries' stance at OPEC." And an Iranian state-run TV outlet said the two would adopt "a unified position on OPEC's production." Iran will also be backing Iraq's candidate for the next OPEC secretary-general at the OPEC meeting in Vienna this week.
This makes sense, given the strengthening partnership between Iran and Iraq at the extraction and refinement stages. Right now the two countries share 23 hydrocarbon fields and five major oil fields, and more trade agreements are on the way.
What does it add up to? In April, Iran's first Vice President Mohammed Ridha Rihaimi said that an Iraq and Iran alliance would amount to a "great international power."
He's right. By the end of the year, Iraq will likely pass Iran as the second-largest OPEC producer, and its goal is to more than double oil production by 2015. The combined output of the two countries will soon approach Saudi Arabia's.
I point all this out not to add to the fear-mongering and saber-rattling currently fashionable in D.C., but to highlight the absurdity of rattling those sabers at Iran without acknowledging the role played by our disastrous decade-long war in Iraq -- and the hubris, ignorance, and lies that fueled it -- in making Iran more powerful. Every time those voices that helped get us into a war with Iraq beat the drums of war against Iran, they should be asked: what effect has the war you supported in Iraq had on Iran's power in the region? By clamoring for a war in Iraq, was it your plan to empower Iran? If not, and if you were so obviously wrong, then why should we trust you now? What rethinking have you done that would give you credibility this time around?
In February, HuffPost's Michael Calderone wrote a great piece about the déjà-vu-all-over-again quality of those currently ratcheting up the tension between the U.S. and Iran: "Military strikes expected! Weapons inspectors called in! A murky al-Qaeda connection! And Cheney says time's up for Ira... Wait. Haven't we seen this movie before? It's already been a decade since the media hyped bogus WMD claims prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. But it sure feels like 2002..."
We've still got a war-mongering Cheney, but instead of Dick we've got Liz. "A nuclear weapon in the hands of the world's worst sponsor of terror, one of them, is something we can't stand for," is one of her choice quotes on the subject of Iran.
A national security reporter Calderone spoke to said the coverage of the lead-up to Iraq and now Iran was "terrifyingly similar" and that some in the media were "making the same mistakes we made a decade ago."
One big difference, of course, is that in this instance we don't have an administration beating the drums, or passing out drums for its surrogates in the media and political establishment to beat. As Calderone noted, the Obama administration continues to be "relatively cautious" in how it's handling tensions with Iran. In May, the president renewed the executive order of national emergency with Iraq for one more year, writing in his letter to Congress:
Obstacles to the orderly reconstruction of Iraq, the restoration and maintenance of peace and security in the country, and the development of political, administrative, and economic institutions in Iraq continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.
Many of those obstacles, of course, are of our own making. And every time we discuss Iran we should remember that. On the one hand, we demonize Iran; on the other, our invasion of Iraq has given Iran a big and increasingly important ally in the Middle East. And contrary to what many of the Iraq hawks -- newly rechristened as Iran hawks -- will tell you, much of this was foreseeable.
In legal proceedings, when a witness with a long history of being wrong takes the stand a skilled cross-examiner will introduce those errors to cast doubt on whether that witness' judgment should be trusted now. We should do the same in the court of public opinion. Those who fomented war with Iraq must not be allowed to do it again with Iran without being held accountable.
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