December 17, 2008

Hezbollah Refuses to Meet Carter

by Charles Chuman

Lebanese Parliamentary Speaker Nabih al Berri refused to meet a US Congressional delegation led by NY-D Rep. Gary Ackerman.

Hezbollah refused to meet with former US President Jimmy Carter claiming that Carter supports "Zionist terror."

These two incidents, similar in simplistic terms: "Lebanese Shia Politicians Refuse to Meet US Policymakers," are extremely different in their underlying implications.

Berri and Ackerman

Berri

Posted by Charles Chuman at 4:05 PM | Permalink | 4 Comments »

December 15, 2008

On the Hunt in Baghdad

by Michael J. Totten

Near JSS Sadr City Night.jpg

BAGHDAD --

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 2:21 AM | Permalink | 25 Comments »

December 11, 2008

Welcome Charles Chuman

I'm nearly finished with a long dispatch from Sadr City, Baghdad, that I think you're going to like. And while my publishing schedule is a bit slower than usual, my friend and colleague Charles Chuman will publish some guest posts here to help take up the slack.

I met Charles years ago in Beirut, Lebanon, after I had been there only a week on my first trip in 2005. A lot of what I know about the country I learned from him and from people he introduced me to. He recently left Lebanon and returned to the United States to work for Barack Obama, but he's still in constant contact with his friends, colleagues, and sources in the Middle East. He knows what's going on in the Levant better than almost anyone. Trust him. I do. And please be nice in the comments.

I'll have more of my own work ready for you to read shortly, so stay tuned for coverage of both Beirut and Baghdad.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 4:37 AM | Permalink | 6 Comments »

December 8, 2008

Iraq at the End of the Surge

Last week I wrote that many Americans and Iraqis I spoke to in Baghdad recently expect a surge of violence after American troops withdraw from Iraqi cities as stipulated by the recently signed Status of Forces Agreement. Many readers seemed surprised by that pessimistic forecast and wondered, after two years of good news, if it could even be true.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 3:57 PM | Permalink | 4 Comments »

Iraq is still Iraq, but end of al-Qaeda in Iraq puts end truly in sight

I'm still working on my first long dispatch from Iraq, but here's another short piece in the New York Daily News to hold you over until then. It's hard to write while roughing it in the Middle East, but I'm trying.

I spent the last two weeks of last month as an embedded reporter with the United States Army in Baghdad and was disappointed to see that, despite the overwhelming success of the surge, Iraq is as rundown and dysfunctional as ever. Yes, the country is less violent now than at any time since the U.S. invaded in 2003, but Iraq is still Iraq.

Many Americans and Iraqis I spoke to feel a sense of dread and foreboding about what will happen when American forces soon begin to withdraw. Without the presence of American soldiers as peacekeepers, Gen. David Petraeus' brilliant counterinsurgency strategy will be moot. Many believe the remaining terrorists and insurgents will respond with a countersurge of their own, or that Iraqis might slug it out with one another in the power vacuum.

Despite that gloomy prognosis, however, the most critical American foreign policy objective has been achieved: al-Qaeda in Iraq has been defeated.

The war in Iraq is best thought of as more than one war. The first, in 2003, was a war against dictator Saddam Hussein's Baath Party regime. Few, at this point, dispute that it was a war of choice. Saddam, as it turned out, posed little or no threat to the United States. Removing him from power was a strategic decision, and that war ended when his regime was demolished.

Staying on to stand up and defend a new government likewise was optional - until Abu Musab al-Zarqawi launched al-Qaeda in Iraq. His army of especially vicious killers joined the rising insurgency, ignited a civil war and seized power in portions of Anbar and Diyala provinces and in parts of the capital.

American involvement in Iraq all but ceased to be optional after that happened. No franchise of al-Qaeda could be allowed to control territory anywhere in the world after what their ideological comrades did on Sept. 11, 2001. Al-Qaeda in Iraq was not the only terrorist group in the country, but it was by the far the most sadistic and violent. It was also, perhaps, the only one that threatened innocents outside Iraq. An al-Qaeda-friendly state in the distant wilds of Afghanistan was dangerous enough for the United States and for much of the world. Al -Qaeda-controlled territory in the heart of the Middle East could not be tolerated, especially since Americans were already there on the ground and could do something about it.

If American troops had begun to withdraw early last year instead of ramping up with the surge, they would have left entrenched al-Qaeda statelets in place and likely would have had to return to Iraq to fight yet again.

Read the rest in the New York Daily News.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 5:57 AM | Permalink | 2 Comments »

December 1, 2008

What’s Next in Iraq

I'm working on a long dispatch from the Sadr City area. Here is a short piece in COMMENTARY to hold you over in the meantime. Thank you for being patient. Everything, including writing and publishing, is a gigantic hassle in Iraq.

BAGHDAD

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:16 PM | Permalink | 10 Comments »
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Winner, The 2008 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

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