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Thursday, March 16, 2006
Major Military Operation in Iraq
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:05 pm

Via Reuters: US says launches biggest air assault in Iraq

A military statement said the operation involving more than 50 aircraft and 1,500 Iraqi and U.S. troops as well as 200 tactical vehicles targeted suspected insurgents operating near the town of Samarra, 100 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad.

The statement said “Operation Swarmer” was launched on Thursday morning and is “expected to continue for several days as a thorough search of the objective area is conducted.”


“Initial reports from the objective area indicate that a number of enemy weapons caches have been captured, containing artillery shells, explosives, IED-(bomb) making materials, and military uniforms,” said the statement.

One hopes that the operation (regardless of its awkward name) will be successful and that the Iraqi troops perform well.

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In-N-Out Parliament
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:09 am

Via CNN: Iraqi parliament: 30 minutes and out

For this they stopped all car traffic in Baghdad?

This is not the sign of a functional institution.

It also puts me in mind of the Saddam trial, which seems to meet, and just as it starts to get moving, adjourns for three weeks.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:28 am

The bodycount for the last 24 hours in Iraq has gone up to 80.

Via the BBC: Scores of bodies found in Baghdad

Iraqi authorities have discovered bodies from two mass killings, taking the number of corpses found in the past 24 hours to more than 80.

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75 Bodies Found in Iraq
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:56 am

Via the AP: 72 Bodies Found in Baghdad in 24 Hours

Police found at least 72 bodies killed by gunfire in Baghdad in the past 24 hours — a gruesome wave of apparent sectarian reprisal attacks in some of the capital’s most dangerous neighborhoods, officials said Tuesday.


In a new spasm of violence, authorities said they had found the bullet-ridden bodies of at least 75 people — 72 in Baghdad and three in Mosul.

An abandoned minibus containing 15 bodies was found Tuesday on the main road between two mostly Sunni neighborhoods in west Baghdad, not far from where another minibus containing 18 bodies was discovered last week, said Interior Ministry official Maj. Falah al-Mohammedawi.

The bodies of 17 more men in their underwear and partially covered with dirt were dug up in a field in a mostly Shiite east Baghdad suburb, he said.

At least 40 more bodies were discarded in various parts of Baghdad, including both Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods, he said.

Those killed in Baghdad included a number of bodies recovered from Sadr City, where two car bombs and four mortar rounds shattered shops and market stalls at nightfall Sunday, as residents shopped for food for their evening meals.

Meanwhile, the parties still have not managed to forge the agreements needed to form a government.

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PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » 80 linked with [...] 0 By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:28 am The bodycount for the last 24 hours in Iraq has gone up to 80. Via the BBC: Scores of bodies found in Baghdad Iraqi authorities have discovered bodies f [...]
Monday, March 6, 2006
Amensty Issues Report on Prisons in Iraq
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:14 am

Via the BBC: Amnesty says Iraq abuses continue

Amnesty International has said that thousands of detainees held by the multinational forces in Iraq are still being denied their basic rights.

This is a legitimate and important concern:

The report says the multinational forces and Iraqi authorities must take urgent steps to stop human rights abuses if there is to be any hope of halting Iraq’s slide towards increasing violence and sectarianism.

The unnecessary detention of Iraqis by coalition forces has the very real, very dangerous potential effect of radicalization those detained, along with their friends and family. As such, numbers such as the following are troubling and problematic:

More than 200 detainees have been imprisoned for more than two years and nearly 4,000 for over a year, it reports.

“To hold this huge number of people without basic legal safeguards is a gross dereliction of responsibility on the part of both the US and UK forces,” said its UK director, Kate Allen

The response of many will be that this is war, and such processes are difficult to implement in such a context. However, I would respond again that if the goal here is democratization—the teaching of liberal governance-then a special effort should have been made from the beginning to take extra special care in this area.

The treatment of war-related prisoners was a chance to help teach key lessons about how the new government could and would be better than the old, and it is an chance that appears to have been squandered, starting with Abu Ghraib.

While there is nothing in this new account that rise to the level of Abu Ghriab, there still appear to be areas of serious concern in these prisons.

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Sunday, March 5, 2006
A Lack of Positive News?
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 2:29 pm

Said General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs on Meet the Press

I don’t think we’re getting the goodness out to the American people the way we should. Somehow we need to find a way to have balance in the amount of reporting that we’re able to get out. If you remember back when the war began, we had 24/7 coverage. Folks could watch television, they could read newspapers, they could read magazines, and they could put together their own opinion of what’s going on. Now the amount of coverage from the war zone is much less than it used to be, and understandably, the coverage, then, that comes out is the bombings and the things like that. People don’t get a chance to see or hear about all the good things that are happening.

There was a time that I was more receptive to the argument that there was an over-focus in the reporting on the negative, and an under-reporting of the positive. However, at this point such pronouncement out of the mouths of administration officials sounds empty and disingenuous.

For one thing, such a statement radically underplays the obvious fact of serious problems on the ground in Iraq. Secondly, if there truly is a surfeit of positive stories that are being ignored, it seems to me that the administration should be working harder to get them out. Yet, we have not seen such a move (indeed, this is a move that the administration has never undertaken), which leads me to believe that there really aren’t all of these obvious positive stories.

Indeed, I still think that we don’t get a full, in-depth picture of what is going on in Iraq. However, the notion that we simply aren’t getting the good news and hence are getting an artificially negative assessments regarding Iraq strikes me as a hollow one. It is clear that the situation is not where the administration thought it would be at this stage, and no amount of good news will change that fact.

Having lived in a place (Colombia) where press coverage paints a grimmer picture than what one lives on a daily basis, I am amenable to the notion that the news coverage paints a picture of greater chaos than is actually the case. However, there is also no doubt that life in Iraq is being disrupted by serious political violence-far more than is healthy for the institution building that need to take place in Iraq at this moment.

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No Second Term for al-Jaafari?
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 2:05 pm

Via the AP: Iraq’s Al-Jaafari Pressured to Stand Down

Pressure mounted Sunday on Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari to give up his bid for a new term amid anger over a recent surge of sectarian killing that has complicated already snarled negotiations on a new Iraqi government.

This dovetails with a story I noted on Thursday.

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Thursday, March 2, 2006
May it be so
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 2:33 pm

Via Reuters: US troops say seize 61 al Qaeda in Iraq members

Bomb making equipment, weapons and munitions were seized in the raids on the training and bomb making facility in an area 50 km (30 miles) northeast of Falluja, Lynch said.

Some of al Qaeda in Iraq’s “critical facilitators” were included in the 61 people captured, he said.

Of course, experience counsels prudence in taking too seriously such initial reports in the WoT.

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Jaafari Out?
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:34 am

Via the NYT: Iraqi Parties Want Jaafari Out of Prime Minister Race

In a move that could redraw Iraq’s political map, leaders of Iraq’s Kurdish, Sunni and secular parties are considering a plan to ask the country’s largest Shiite bloc to withdraw Ibrahim Jaafari as its candidate for prime minister in the new government.


If the plan to oppose retaining Mr. Jaafari as prime minister is carried through, it will be the first step toward forming a grand alliance in Parliament that would present a serious challenge to the power of the Shiites, who took over the country’s leadership after sweeping national elections last January. The parties that seek the withdrawal of Mr. Jaafari, who has served as prime minister in the transitional government formed last year, say that his record has been poor and that they think he is not the right man for the job.

If removing Jaafari accelerates the movement for a grand coalition, then it would be a positive step. However, if his removal substantially upsets the Shiites, I am not sure how that would further coalitional talks. All of this is quite interesting (and helpful, since we are talking about coaltion and cabinet formation in my Comparative Government class), but my word they do take their time with these things in Iraq, don’t they?

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PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » No Second Trem for al-Jaafari linked with [...] cated already snarled negotiations on a new Iraqi government. This dovetails with a story I noted on Thursday. Filed under: Iraq, Global Politics | |Send TrackBack [...]
Wednesday, March 1, 2006
Buckley on Bush and Iraq
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 4:58 pm

WFB is all over Bush and the Iraq policy. First it was the “it’s a failure” column earlier this week, and now another one: NEXT STEP.

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Administration Ignored Warnings on Insurgency
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:31 am

Via Knight-Ridder: Intelligence agencies warned about growing local insurgency in late 2003

U.S. intelligence agencies repeatedly warned the White House beginning more than two years ago that the insurgency in Iraq had deep local roots, was likely to worsen and could lead to civil war, according to former senior intelligence officials who helped craft the reports.


President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld and others continued to describe the insurgency as a containable threat, posed mainly by former supporters of Saddam Hussein, criminals and non-Iraqi terrorists - even as the U.S. intelligence community was warning otherwise.

Robert Hutchings, the chairman of the National Intelligence Council from 2003 to 2005, said the October 2003 study was part of a “steady stream” of dozens of intelligence reports warning Bush and his top lieutenants that the insurgency was intensifying and expanding.

“Frankly, senior officials simply weren’t ready to pay attention to analysis that didn’t conform to their own optimistic scenarios,” Hutchings said in a telephone interview.

One would think that after the optimistic version of the immediate aftermath of the invasion did not play out, that a more sober mindset would have set in. But alas, this appears not to be the case.

And I think one can link some of this up with the post-war planning failures. The obvious politics of the situation needed to be taken into account, as did the material and infrastructural conditions on the ground, yet they weren’t:

Maples said that while Iraqi terrorists and foreign fighters conduct some of the most spectacular attacks, disaffected Iraqi Sunnis make up the insurgency’s core. “So long as Sunni Arabs are denied access to resources and lack a meaningful presence in government, they will continue to resort to violence,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

That view contrasts with what the administration said as the insurgency began in the months following the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion and gained traction in the fall. Bush and his aides portrayed it as the work primarily of foreign terrorists crossing Iraq’s borders, disenfranchised former officials of Saddam’s deposed regime and criminals.

Certainly I recall the SecDef, on many occasions, speaking of “deadenders” (i.e., Baathists) and foreign fighters, and downplaying the notion of local discontent.

And so:

Hutchings, now diplomat in residence at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, said intelligence specialists repeatedly ran up against policymakers’ rosy predictions.

“The mindset downtown was that people were willing to accept that things were pretty bad, but not that they were going to get worse, so our analyses tended to get dismissed as `nay-saying and hand-wringing,’ to quote the president’s press spokesman,” he said.

The result, he said, was that top political and military officials focused on ways of dealing with foreign jihadists and disaffected Saddam loyalists, rather than with other pressing problems, such as growing Iraqi anger at the U.S.-led occupation and the deteriorating economic and security situation.

The entire piece is worth reading.

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Sectarian Conflict Continues in Iraq
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:21 am

Via WaPo: Shiites Told: Leave Home Or Be Killed

New, deadly attacks — many of them apparently retaliatory sectarian assaults — surged Tuesday, with 66 people killed, according to Iraqi police. The decision to lift a curfew in Baghdad on Monday appeared to have opened the way for a resumption of intense bombings, including explosions at three Shiite mosques that killed at least 19 people. Some of Tuesday’s other victims included 23 people killed by a suicide bomber in Baghdad as they waited in line to buy kerosene; five Iraqi soldiers killed in a car bombing in the capital’s Zayona district; and one U.S. soldier killed by small-arms fire west of the capital, authorities and news agencies said.

Attacks on Shiite and Sunni holy sites had been rare in Iraq until last Wednesday, when bombers blew the gold-plated top off the shrine in Samarra, a heavily Sunni city about 65 miles north of Baghdad. The attack unleashed what many people here vowed would never happen: sectarian warfare in Iraq.

It is truly remarkable that to this point we have not seen this kind of violence, but that the destruction of the Golden Dome has unleashed it with such fury.

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Failure in Iraq, Redux
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:13 am

Yesterday I wrote two posts (here and here that dealt with the SIGIR report on post-war planning for Iraq.

As a point of clarification, I would note that by pointing out the clear failure of post-war planning was not meant to be construed as a statement that I believe that the US should withdraw, or that all is lost in the Iraqi context. I think that it is still possible to construct a stable government there, but I am mightily disheartened by the squandered opportunities that now lay in the past.

We have an obligation to work with the Iraqis to construct a new system there and I think we should see it out because of that responsibility, and because I do believe it is in the long-term best interest of the United States to do so.

I certainly do think that the administration has badly bungled the policy, however, and that makes me wonder as to whether what hope does still exist at some type of success has much of a foundation.

Still, to paraphrase Colin Powell: we broke it, so we have a long-time obligation to fix it. I remain glad that Saddam is gone, but it is clear that we didn’t plan for what to do after his ouster, and we are reaping that lack of planning at the moment.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006
The Same Subject Continued
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 1:43 pm

From the SIGIR report entitled Iraq Reconstruction: Lessons in Human Capital Management[PDF]:

This report on the use of human resources within the U.S. reconstruction program in Iraq reveals a central if unsurprising point: there was insufficient systematic planning for human capital management in Iraq before and during the U.S.-directed stabilization and reconstruction operations. The practical limitations ensuing from this shortfall adversely affected reconstruction in post-war Iraq. Moreover, the somewhat fitful creation of the initial coalition reconstruction organizations, and the unanticipated post-war collapse of virtually all Iraqi governing structures, substantially hindered coalition efforts to develop and rapidly execute an effective reconstruction program.

A variety of causes led to the problems that burdened human capital management in Iraq. When planning for managing postwar Iraq began in mid-2002, no comprehensive policy or regulatory guidelines existed to staff a temporary “surge” organization for stabilization and reconstruction. One senior Department of Defense (DoD) official told the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) that the U.S. government was not systemically structured to execute overseas reconstruction and stabilization programs. Further, overall operational planning naturally focused on military requirements.

Sans ability to execute “overseas reconstruction and stabilization” the invasion should never have taken place.

What is especially frustrating is that I am not sure we have yet developed the capacity needed.

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PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Failure in Iraq, Redux linked with [...] q, Redux By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:13 am Yesterday I wrote two posts (here and here that dealt with the SIGIR report on post-war planning for Iraq. As a point of clarification, I would not [...]
Failure in Iraq
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 1:28 pm

Wrote William F. Buckley in his column of yesterday:

One can’t doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed.

And via the CSM we find excerpts from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR)’s report that discusses the almost nonexistent planning for post-invasion Iraq.

The CSM overview points to an AP story in WaPo that notes that what should have been basic issues were not addressed:

Thanks to inadequate planning, the report said, early occupation officials lacked enough reconstruction staffers who knew what they were doing.


“Pre-war reconstruction planning assumed that Iraq’s bureaucracy would go back to work when the fighting stopped,” it said. “When it became clear that the Iraqi bureaucracy was in widespread disarray,” occupation authorities “had to find coalition personnel to perform these tasks.”

“The U.S. government workforce planning for Iraq’s reconstruction suffered from a poorly structured, ad-hoc personnel management processes,” the report said, calling hiring practices “haphazard.”

If this policy was going to work, there needed to be serious planning about what to do once the invasion was successful. At the time, I assumed that such planning had been done-it seemed an obvious and vital part of the process, and as such I thought that trained professionals at the highest levels of government would think about such things-it appears my assumptions were incorrect and my confidence in some of the key actors misplaced.

I have thought for some time now that the looting that was allowed in Baghdad severely hampered governing the country, now it is clear that the problem was even worse: the war planners seemed not to understand that getting rid of Saddam and the Baath party elites was going to cause substantial disruption to an already poorly run state.

Instead, we let that poorly run state apparatus be take apart in chaotic looting, and then did not have a plan to deal with either the bureaucracy or the infrastructural problems.

I used to think that the administration’s unwillingness to talk about a long-term commitment to Iraq was born out of political exigency, but now it would seem that they really did think that we could go in, topple Saddam, hang around for a little while, and then leave-as if the whole thing was only a military operation. Back to the CSM piece, quoting a WaTi article:

The report also quotes a senior Pentagon official as saying that “the US government was not systemically structured to execute overseas reconstruction and stabilization programs.” And pre-invasion planning was “naturally focused on military requirements.”

All well and good, but wasn’t it blatantly obvious from the beginning that conquering Iraq wasn’t the hard part, that building a viable democratic (even quasi-democratic) state was the hard part? It is one think to assume that people want to be free and self-governing, it is another to just come off the dictator and then hope that everything else comes together. Granted: we didn’t just get Saddam and leave, but how much better could the last three years have been had we actually planned for the post-war situation?

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PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Buckley on Bush and Iraq linked with [...] en Taylor @ 4:58 pm WFB is all over Bush and the Iraq policy. First it was the “it’s a failure” column earlier this week, and now another one: NEXT STEP. [...]
PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Failure in Iraq, Redux linked with [...] re in Iraq, Redux By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:13 am Yesterday I wrote two posts (here and here that dealt with the SIGIR report on post-war planning for Iraq. As a point of clarific [...]
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