July 7, 2008

Back to Iraq this Summer

I swore I wouldn’t go back to Iraq during the summer. But I’m never able to keep promises like this to myself, so I’m sucking it up and I’m going.

I am not going yet. The trip will be closer to the end of the summer than to the beginning. I have to finish my Kosovo material first. (Thanks, by the way, for indulging me while I take a break from the sandbox. Iraq is hot, depressing, and dangerous, and I faced a choice: either do something else for a bit or burn out. I chose to do something else and write about a less unpleasant topic– though my next dispatch from Kosovo will be rather dark. Go figure. It’s not the Bahamas.)

Sadr City Baghdad.jpg
Sadr City, Iraq

This time I’ll embed with the military again, and if all goes well I will go to Sadr City. There might be a problem with embedding there, though. I’m not sure about that, and I need to look into it. While the trip is still open-ended, I’d like to ask: where would you send me if you could order me to a specific location? Is Sadr City a good choice, or would you prefer reports from somewhere else? Ever-changing events on the ground might change tentative plans anyway, but I’d still like to know your thoughts – especially if you are one of my generous readers who donates money for travel expenses.

Please let me know what you think in the comments.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at July 7, 2008 10:25 PM
Comments

Pick someplace that's dangerous enough to be interesting, but safe enough for you to return unharmed!

Posted by: Savtadotty Author Profile Page at July 8, 2008 3:42 AM

I am very curious about Kurdistan. Rumor is, they are developing a brand of Islam compatible with America. Have not found much, but then I only follow you and Yon.

Posted by: JohnJimson Author Profile Page at July 8, 2008 6:41 AM

Sadr City seems like the obvious place. But I'd also be interested in getting some information about non-green zone Baghdad. It sounds like things are changing pretty rapidly there in terms of stats (bombings/day) but I haven't seen much in the way of first hand reporting.

Posted by: ProtestShooter Author Profile Page at July 8, 2008 6:59 AM

Michael, I'd have to agree with JohnJimson. Go somewhere less volatile like Kurdistan, or spend more time in Albania investigating their more moderate strain of Islam.

Of course, if you had taken my advice years ago and bailed on your interview with Hezbollah, you wouldn't have become America's most valuable journalist. But damn! You've tempted the dragon and lived to tell the tale!

Okay, I'll stop now.

Posted by: Pete (Alois) Author Profile Page at July 8, 2008 7:41 AM

John Jimson,

I have been to Kurdistan, but it has been a while. See here and here for starters.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 8, 2008 7:43 AM

I've enjoyed reading about Kosovo and Lebanon, and also Iraq.

Wherever you decide will be great, as long as your safe.

Posted by: Nathania Johnson Author Profile Page at July 8, 2008 8:40 AM

Well if you are set on going NOW then I guess Sadr City is about the best place to go. It is the make-or-break Shiite area in Iraq at least among the less advantaged Shiite underclass .

But candidly others have already reported from there recently, and if you are going back to Iraq why not try to go later in the year when the Regional Elections are supposed to occur ? I would appreciate seeing your interpretations during an actual EVENT. And the Elections are likely going to be IMPORTANT on several levels.

Not to mention the fact that it won't be blast furnace HOT in November-December or whenever they finally do go to the polls.

Just a thought.

ps --- To DPU. Sure looks more and more like VICTORY IN IRAQ with each passing day, does it not? Even better and MUCH faster than I had anticipated. I thought Sadr would be a tougher nut for the Iraqis to crack. Guess he really was effectively finished after the Karbala disaster in late 2007.

Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

Posted by: dougf Author Profile Page at July 8, 2008 8:54 AM

Transportation is a key economic variable among the problems faced in a developing economy. Access to ports is another one of those huge development problems.

I have no idea how difficult it would be to gain access to the Al Basrah, Al Faw, Umm Qesr area, but given the amount of goods and services that come through that area, I would assume there is a significant US presence there. Ports, terminals, pipelines. How was it? How is it? What are the plans for the future? Tonnage today versus tonnage before and immediately after the war?

Be safe. And thanks for your continuing journalism.

Posted by: OregonGuy Author Profile Page at July 8, 2008 9:58 AM

I think you ought to skip Iraq all together. The Middle East is getting interesting and a lot of it is outside of Iraq.

The Jordanians have really cracked down on civil liberties in the last year or two. Interestingly enough, they are pointed to the US as justification for their attacks on civil liberities.

There is a lot going on in the Maghreb, particularly Morroco.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at July 8, 2008 10:12 AM

I think you ought to skip Iraq all together. The Middle East is getting interesting and a lot of it is outside of Iraq.

The Jordanians have really cracked down on civil liberties in the last year or two. Interestingly enough, they are pointed to the US as justification for their attacks on civil liberities.

There is a lot going on in the Maghreb, particularly Morroco.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at July 8, 2008 10:12 AM

I agree with Marc. A year from now I expect Iraq will be very interesting. Right now I'm more interested in Jordan, Syria, and of course Lebanon.

Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at July 8, 2008 10:58 AM

The Maghreb is interesting but that's the Near East, not the Middle East! :)

Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at July 8, 2008 11:00 AM

To DPU. Sure looks more and more like VICTORY IN IRAQ with each passing day, does it not?

Not to piss on your heady triumphant parade or anything, Doug, but I think we are seeing Iran's consolidation of influence, which has an upside and a downside. Less political disorder, and the trains run on time.

As I said in a discussion here with TallDave the other day, we'll have to see how the SOFA negotiations go. If the Iran-friendly government in Iraq demands withdrawal of US troops, then we'll know which way the wind is blowing.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at July 8, 2008 11:07 AM

"If the Iran-friendly government in Iraq demands withdrawal of US troops, then we'll know which way the wind is blowing."---DPU

Well for a guy who professes to disdain pissing on my parade, you appear to be giving it your best shot. I was however correct when I said the War was effectively over last year(as you recall since it was you to whom I said it), and I fully plan on being right now as well. I note you didn't disagree with my commentary on Sadr's declining strategic/tactical position or the reasons therefore.

Even the useless, pandering, clown, aka the Very Junior Senator From Illinois, now is retreating from retreat as fast as his unprincipled feet will carry him. Quel surprise !!

Of course the GOI is Iran-friendly (in context). What else should or could it be when ALL the Sunni Arab States have been objectively conspiring to weaken if not overthrow it for the past 3 years ? Not to mention the common(sort of) religious heritage. Jordan and now the UAE have now decided to board the Iraq train before they get left at the station, and others will soon establish formal relationships with the GOI. They HAVE TO. They LOST. But Iran-friendly in no way translates to Iran-supporting. Supposedly Canada is 'friendly' with the US. As more Sunni States smarten up and get with the program Iranian influence will actually likely decline not advance. IMO Iran's high-water mark in Iraq was probably in late 2006 - early 2007. In other words in the very midst of the 'difficulties'. As violence has fallen so has its position.

As to the SOFA ---- Of course the Iraqis want foreign troops out of Iraq. That's like saying that someone wants the sun to rise tomorrow. It's self-evident. And it's a good thing too since it demonstrates Iraqi Nationalism in action. That same Nationalism which supposedly was non-existent just a short while ago according to the godawful media propagandists we are doomed to suffer in this banal age. Supposedly according to the 'media', Al-Maliki now wants the US to set a time frame for withdrawal. Yeah --- sure he does. Nudge,nudge ; wink,wink. What he truly wants is not to appear as a cipher, doormat, or puppet in the eyes of most Iraqis. Can't say I blame him. He want's some form of continued US military presence, but with more Iraqi direction. A partnership not an occupation. Can't say I blame him for that either. That's what everyone (except Iran and Al-Queda) wants as well.

If you want we can place a small bet on how the SOFA finally evolves. I take the 'no demand for US withdrawal' side. And it WILL be signed before the November Elections. Both of them.

Posted by: dougf Author Profile Page at July 8, 2008 11:58 AM

I dont think the war is over, we are in the eye of the storm.

The only clear winner in this case has been Iran, that and they didnt even have a fire a shot in anger!

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at July 8, 2008 12:12 PM

I dont think the war is over, we are in the eye of the storm.

The only clear winner in this case has been Iran, that and they didnt even have a fire a shot in anger!

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at July 8, 2008 12:13 PM

If you want we can place a small bet on how the SOFA finally evolves. I take the 'no demand for US withdrawal' side.

Sure, sounds good. Loser gives MJT fifty bucks Canadian for his next venture?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at July 8, 2008 12:19 PM

DPU: Loser gives MJT fifty bucks Canadian for his next venture?

I can get behind that.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 8, 2008 1:31 PM

Marc - You say:

I think you ought to skip Iraq all together. The Middle East is getting interesting and a lot of it is outside of Iraq

then you say:

I dont think the war is over, we are in the eye of the storm

Apparently you do think Iraq is interesting, so why shouldn't MJT go there?

Jordan has some gorgeous scenery, but it's certainly not the eye of any storm. Where in the Middle East do they not crack down on civil liberties?

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at July 8, 2008 1:40 PM

"Sure, sounds good. Loser gives MJT fifty bucks Canadian for his next venture?"---DPU

Done.

But these 'diplomacy' things tend to be somewhat 'flexible' especially in difficult circumstances, so since MJT is the proposed beneficiary of our ideological conflict, I think he might have to adjudicate in case of conflicting interpretations of the final SOFA.

In the event that the final agreement is found to be 'flexible', then I suggest we call it a draw and each contribute $25.00. I do think that it will be finalized before November, but the pending Iraqi Elections are a bit of a wild card with everybody and his brother campaigning on who is going to be the best defender of Iraq in addition to promising the usual chicken in every pot, and a Ferrari in every yard. Even if it's all smoke and mirrors the necessary theater might delay the process for a while.

OK by you ?

Posted by: dougf Author Profile Page at July 8, 2008 1:50 PM

1) Jordan

2) Any/all "stan" countries - Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Krygyzstan

3) Any/all of Armenia, Ajerbaizan, Georgia

4) Nepal/Bhutan/Tibet

Posted by: markytom Author Profile Page at July 8, 2008 2:32 PM

OK by you ?

Sounds good to me. Michael is final arbitrator, my position is that the Iraqi government will heed its Iranian allies and insist on firm dates for withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, you takes the position that the government will not demand the same.

What about Kurdistan?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at July 8, 2008 3:53 PM

OK by you ?

Sounds good to me. Michael is final arbitrator, my position is that the Iraqi government will heed its Iranian allies and insist on firm dates for withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, you takes the position that the government will not demand the same.

What about Kurdistan?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at July 8, 2008 3:55 PM

"my position is that the Iraqi government will heed its Iranian allies and insist on firm dates for withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, you takes the position that the government will not demand the same."--DPU

Umm, sort of. I think that the GOI will publicly make all sorts of noises about this but it's all sound and fury designed to establish Nationalistic credibility and undercut Sadr and his underclass supporters. And of course the GOI is run by Iraqis. They are NOT US puppets. Neither in appearance nor in reality. As the Iraqi Army improves I expect more not less Iraqi Nationalism to be displayed. And that's a good thing.

The useless(I really hope it dies soon) media is now pushing the latest misquote about Rubaie DEMANDING a firm date for withdrawal.

As I understand his statement it seems almost entirely 'conditions based', which is I believe the US position and always has been.

The Conditions(as I have seen them)outlined by Rubaie:
A. Iraqi Forces must FIRST be in formal and actual charge of security and Government in ALL 18 Iraqi Provinces. They currently have 8 to go. The most problematic 8. That condition alone will take at least another year at minimum. Probably more like 2.
B. At that point US forces would leave Iraqi Cities, and re-establish in bases throughout the country. Essentially out-of-sight; out-of-mind. But there if needed.
C. Conditions would thereafter be reviewed by all parties, every 6 months to determine the course of future US activity and troop strength.
D. This process would continue for a period of 3-5 years after which time final decisions could be made.

If this be what you mean by an Iranian demanded withdrawal of Infidel Forces, then as GWB once said---- Bring it On. How this differs in substance or tone, from what GWB has ALWAYS said, is quite beyond me. Damn clever those Iranians.

What about Kurdistan ? ---DPU

Do you anticipate that the Kurds would want a permanent US base in their territory and would negotiate for that ? I think that whatever happens there will be some US presence in the North. How big it will be is questionable but it would be in everyone's interest to see Kurdistan remain firmly attached to the US in the future.

The wager refers to non-Kurdish areas ONLY.

Posted by: dougf Author Profile Page at July 8, 2008 4:30 PM

Mr. Totten,

I am sorry that I haven’t been active on this site as I once was. I am the individual, however, responsible for this.

I must say that I am happy that I decided to return to your site today. You have posed an interesting question (one particularly poignant to me) and, during my period of neglect, you updated with a wealth of tales that surely will keep me up all night reading. Thank you.

As for the question: I am personally interested in you reporting from Al Anbar. I am told that the turn-around from my last days in Ramadi (summer, 2005) to present day are nearly inconceivable. However I trust that your ability and willingness could do this story significant and needed justice. You are one of the few individuals whom described the Iraq that I had personally experienced. Sensationalism was never needed; the beauty of the story was in the truth. I would like to see that same honest approach directed to an area of the country that is clearly a sign of tremendous success (and much personal sacrifice).

As an aside, if you ever need a capable, willing and experienced companion, I would love nothing more than to return to Iraq while exercising my personal passion for writing. Just saying.. :)

Thank you. I look forward to much reading and being a more active contributor.

Steve B.

Posted by: whiskeyboarder Author Profile Page at July 8, 2008 4:50 PM

Mr. Totten,

I am sorry that I haven’t been active on this site as I once was. I am the individual, however, responsible for this.

I must say that I am happy that I decided to return to your site today. You have posed an interesting question (one particularly poignant to me) and, during my period of neglect, you updated with a wealth of tales that surely will keep me up all night reading. Thank you.

As for the question: I am personally interested in you reporting from Al Anbar. I am told that the turn-around from my last days in Ramadi (summer, 2005) to present day are nearly inconceivable. However I trust that your ability and willingness could do this story significant and needed justice. You are one of the few individuals whom described the Iraq that I had personally experienced. Sensationalism was never needed; the beauty of the story was in the truth. I would like to see that same honest approach directed to an area of the country that is clearly a sign of tremendous success (and much personal sacrifice).

As an aside, if you ever need a capable, willing and experience companion, I would love nothing more than to return to Iraq while exercising my personal passion for writing. Just saying.. :)

Thank you. I look forward to much reading and being a more active contributor.

Steve B.

Posted by: whiskeyboarder Author Profile Page at July 8, 2008 4:59 PM

Whiskey Boarder,

I did go to Ramadi, actually. See here and here for my best pieces from there.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 8, 2008 5:52 PM

I did go to Ramadi, actually. See here and here for my best pieces from there.

Checking out your work now. Thank you.

PS: After a quick scan of the submitted entries, I am immediately having an intense heart-tugging moment; but in a good way, I assure you. Thank you for this. I will comment tomorrow after digesting all of this!

Posted by: whiskeyboarder Author Profile Page at July 8, 2008 7:33 PM

Michael -

Go where you will. Just don't get sloppy. Again.

I am grateful for you views but in my opinion you still have a hard time seeing yourself "in the mix".

Your writing is not so much a journal as it is a narrative. Honest and not sugar coated, and it is very,very good and useful - light years better than the Green Zone bar commandos output - but somewhere you learned the fallacy that writers (or maybe it's simply middle class America showing through) define their space.

That's a bad template to operate on, sir. And in your past writings where you related how you bearded Hezbollah in their own den, or where you took that wrong turn in Kosovo and everything turned out well... well, there's two mistakes out of a finite number you get to make before paying for one.

If you are someplace where random murder is classified as petty crime, don't hire a driver who doesn't speak some English. And if you just absolutely must have a driver you cannot communicate with, at least use your SATphone and laptop map pack and GPS widget to recon a route with him.

Because you ALWAYS carry that stuff, right?

You worry me, sir. Be a little less "There go I, but for the grace..." and more deliberate.

Continue to do the good work that you do. It is appreciated.

Posted by: TmjUtah Author Profile Page at July 8, 2008 9:07 PM

I'd really like to see what happens in Baghdad come, oh, this coming September through January. My personal assessment is that things will start getting very interesting around that time, with not much significant change happening until that time.

I think both Iran's agents, and the various other Islamist groups, have toned down their efforts in the region in light of the "political season" here in the US in the hopes that they can redouble their efforts after OHB gets office, or possibly directly prior to the election (to spur Obama into the White House over the more war-friendly McCain).

Being as Baghdad is the epicenter of Iraqi politics, I'd think that'd be the ideal place and time to be in Iraq.

I have just found your site and I am very pleased with your journalism. I went back and read a lot of your work (and intend to continue to do so, as I have time - very educational), and I really enjoyed your pieces on the Balkans - it's a region I'm very fascinated with and, if I ever get to visit overseas, will be my most likely first stop(s). While your lack of planning in that trip proved for an interesting story and additional background on the region, I think it may have been a bit risky - do be more careful, this world needs journalists like you!

As for the region where I think this summer might best be spent? I think the Israel/Lebanon/Palestine crossroads should prove quite interesting. From what I'm understanding, something non-trivial is likely to happen there before anything shifts significantly in Iraq and this summer (like the last several) are likely to prove busy.

Posted by: Caimlas Author Profile Page at July 8, 2008 9:28 PM

What about Kirkuk, the city of oil wells and an unclear status?

Or Mosul, the tombstone of AQ-I?

Posted by: Abu Kafir Author Profile Page at July 9, 2008 1:19 AM

What about Kirkuk, the city of oil wells and an unclear status?

Or Mosul, the tombstone of AQ-I?

Posted by: Abu Kafir Author Profile Page at July 9, 2008 1:20 AM

What about Kirkuk, the city of oil wells and an unclear status?

Or Mosul, the tombstone of AQ-I?

Posted by: Abu Kafir Author Profile Page at July 9, 2008 1:21 AM

Solomon2,

The Maghreb is interesting but that's the Near East, not the Middle East! :)

haven't heard anyone say "near east" since junior high school geometry, and that was a long time ago for me!

I always hear MENA (Middle East North Africa) or just "middle east". There are the fans of Greater Middle East" too, but that seems to span half the globe. I have never in my life heard an American use the word Maghreb. Strange how we can't all agree even on the right terms! Is Iran in the generic middle east, using your definition?

Michael, I'd vote for Mosul, but that's only because I follow a lot of bloggers who live there and I'd like to see your take on it.

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at July 9, 2008 5:33 AM

Hi Michael,

How about mixing it up & visiting the Palestinian Territories, Gaza or some such? Or how about, rather than re-visiting Iraq, visiting the places from which at least some of the instability supposedly comes: Iran / Syria. Maybe meeting up with soft-core anti-government types in those countries for better insight into allegations of Iranian / Syrian involvement in Mesopotamia.

Best,
Scott

Posted by: scottmoshen Author Profile Page at July 9, 2008 6:21 AM

Thanks for the links on Kurdistan, Michael. I've always enjoyed traveling to out of the way places, bringing my simple tourist dollars in hopes of finding a way to apply my skills at building. To help someone paint their house or build an extension, just for the comraderie, especially in a country excited about the future, is my idea of fun. To know someone has a better opinion of the average American is a lasting source of peace for my old age.

Posted by: JohnJimson Author Profile Page at July 9, 2008 6:46 AM

If there was any way of talking you out of going to Iraq, then I would vote for a trip to Lebanon and/or Syria. That area is also an 'eye of the storm', it's fast-changing, newsworthy and it's not hellish and hot. It would be interesting to find out what Syrians and Lebanese think about America and its allies' handling of the situation with Hezbollah.

However, if you must go to Iraq, TmjUtah's suggestion of a SATphone, laptop map pack and a GPS widget sounds good.

...and maybe sign up for micro-blog posts via phone to keep us posted?

(CNN) — James Karl Buck helped free himself from an Egyptian jail with a one-word blog post from his cell phone.

Buck, a graduate student from the University of California-Berkeley, was in Mahalla, Egypt, covering an anti-government protest when he and his translator, Mohammed Maree, were arrested April 10.

On his way to the police station, Buck took out his cell phone and sent a message to his friends and contacts using the micro-blogging site Twitter.

The message only had one word. “Arrested.” ..

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at July 9, 2008 7:00 AM

You need to do Basrah, but certainly not in the summer. If you want to simulate reporting from Basrah in the summer you could put on all your heaviest wool clothes, roll in sewage, step into a steam bath, then soak yourself in gasoline and set yourself on fire. That might bring out some juices, but I doubt they'd be creative.

Mosul might be safe enough in two months, and it will be a story that the majors aren't really covering. Kirkuk as an embed is a really tempting story because it is looking from the other side, but you might be able to get to that later. Finally, nobody is covering the borders worth a damn. Taking a good hard look at the Iranian, Syrian, Saudi, and Kuwaiti borders is probably more of a long term project, but I think there's some meat there.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell Author Profile Page at July 9, 2008 9:24 AM

dougf,

I'm sure that the Kurdish regions would be happier with three permanent US bases, on for each governate (Dohuk, Hawler, Suli). They would be happiest if each province got a permanent US base. They would be more than happy to modify General Order #1 to get rid of that annoying drinking ban, especially in Suli.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell Author Profile Page at July 9, 2008 9:30 AM

Patrick - is there a drinking ban in Suli? I remember liquor in the stores & beer on offer in restaurants in late '06...

Best,
Scott

Posted by: scottmoshen Author Profile Page at July 9, 2008 10:15 AM

Is Iran in the generic middle east, using your definition?

Yes, because Iran sends its money, weapons, and personnel to mess up Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, and the Arabian Peninsula.

Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at July 9, 2008 10:27 AM

Yeah, my vote would definitely be for "during the elections." They're supposed to finally the date in a vote on July 15th.

I would be very interested to hear if Sadr City will be voting for Sadr. It sounds like they won't.

“Security is better without the Mahdi Army,” said a 42-year-old resident who wanted to be identified only by his nickname, Abu Israa. “We don’t want them back.”

http://www.deanesmay.com/2008/07/09/sadrs-cunning-plan-to-revitalize-sadr-city-bears-fruit/

Posted by: TallDave Author Profile Page at July 9, 2008 1:34 PM

Patrick-After rolling in the sewage would Michael have enough strenght left for the other suggested items? As one of Michael's infrequent contributers I would trust Michael's judgement that he would cover interesting places and events. However that reminds me of that old Marine t-shirt from the Viet Nam era about enlisting and visiting interesting places and meeting interesting people and then shooting them. Except in this case it might be Michael being considered the interesting person. As for recommendations I think I will pass because it reminds me to much of people yelling up at a building for the person on the ledge to jump!

Posted by: Pat Patterson Author Profile Page at July 9, 2008 4:36 PM

Michael,

In order of interest to me now:
1. Syria
2. Iran
3. Turkey

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at July 9, 2008 5:02 PM

i would be interested in hearing from Afganistan. I have not seen comparable reporting done on the situation there, and what little bit does trickle out sounds somewhat unstable.

if you aren't interested in reporting from there, i would certainly be happy to take a recommendation on someone who takes a similar approach to reporting there.

thanks, and best of luck wherever you head.

Posted by: tpf,j Author Profile Page at July 10, 2008 9:09 AM

i would be interested in hearing from Afganistan. I have not seen comparable reporting done on the situation there, and what little bit does trickle out sounds somewhat unstable.

if you aren't interested in reporting from there, i would certainly be happy to take a recommendation on someone who takes a similar approach to reporting there.

thanks, and best of luck wherever you head.

Posted by: tpf,j Author Profile Page at July 10, 2008 9:14 AM

If you must go to Iraq, I'd like to hear about the current situation and likely outlook for Mosul. I'm also interested in what Basra is like these days.

If you're looking wider afield, it'd be nice to read you writing more about Afghanistan. Alternatively, you might consider a visit to Pakistan; I think their problems matter to us.

Also, please keep writing about Lebanon.

Thank you.

Posted by: hiraethin Author Profile Page at July 10, 2008 2:54 PM

As for recommendations I think I will pass because it reminds me to much of people yelling up at a building for the person on the ledge to jump!

I wouldn't recommend that anyone should go to a place that I wouldn't visit myself. There's nothing suicidal about traveling to places like Morocco, Lebanon, Iran or Syria. I'd guess that London has more genuinely rabid Islamists than Morocco, and Iran and Syria are rated by "Come back alive" as being relatively safe.

Going to these places and learning about what people think and what people do is valuable. Being embedded with the military in Iraq shows a point of view that the media tends to ignore. For the most part sources like Newsweek don't show the whole picture. There's documented proof that they cooperate in spreading Hezbollah's propaganda, and there's no doubt that most of their military reports are based on every anti-Vietnam war movie ever made. Believing the mass media, who seem to have mostly abandoned the idea of honest or investigative reporting, is probably more self destructive in the long run than traveling to the Middle East.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at July 10, 2008 3:29 PM

Michael,

I figure you'll be the best judge of spots that are too hot for your health, so if Sadr City doesn't work, I'd vote for somewhere where you ARE able to walk around and talk to people. Not only are places like this rarely in the news, but it's also one of the things I enjoy about your writing; I feel like I'm peering over your shoulder as you go. It's a fascintating perpective for those of us back home. Plus, I think this is where one finds the story of Iraq going forward. I can't imagine the bombings and firefights are over, but the really interesting dynamic IMO is the Iraqis remaking Iraq in their collective image. It's an inspiring and intimidating thing to watch, and will only get more interesting as the economy stumbles its way forward, with elections, and as expats and exiles return. ANYWAY. Whatever you report, I'm sure I'll be up too late reading it all as usual... (yep, nearly midnight again).

Be well!

Posted by: Lisa-in-DC Author Profile Page at July 10, 2008 8:59 PM

May I suggest Turkey? Something is brewing there with the army and "islamists" and gaging the public would be interesting.

They are a 70 million strong nation and have an extremely able army, so they matter. The fact that they border essentially everyone we're interested in the ME makes them even more important.

Posted by: nameless-fool Author Profile Page at July 12, 2008 6:09 PM

...where would you send me if you could order me to a specific location?

I would like to see updates of places you've been before. It is important to see if the progress is ongoing (and how much progress we're talking about), if progress has stopped, or if things are backsliding.

Especially chances to do then-and-now photos. Pictures really are worth a thousand words.

Posted by: rosignol Author Profile Page at July 13, 2008 6:34 AM

Michael,

Here's one off the beaten path, and also a part-reward.

Paris.

"Embed" with the French gendarmes, and visit the Parisian cités, which have become more like Muslim enclaves/ghettoes than suburbs.

France just denied citizenship to a Muslim woman, because she was "incapable of assimilating" with French culture.

Yes, there's a war going on in the Middle East. The same war is being fought, with different weapons (sometimes) in Paris, and will one day be fought in the UK and the USA.

Your perspective will be extraordinarily valuable.

Posted by: Kim du Toit Author Profile Page at July 13, 2008 11:02 AM

Michael Totten,

I would like to see Kurdistan again. The photos of the new construction were enlightening. Also Mosul would be interesting since that is the last urban site of A.Q..

I have heard some tidbits about Ashraf about 60 km north of Baghdad. Kirkuk has had no reporting and that is a cnetral city of oil and chnaging demographics of Sunni, Kurds and Shia.

I also would like to see changes in Basra.

Posted by: RAH Author Profile Page at July 13, 2008 2:10 PM

It's like a soft, one-sided street war with the maroccans / Mahgreb people in Europe. Notice that these people not only rioted in Paris, but also blew the Madrid subway and killed Van Gogh. But maybe not dangerous enough for Totten.

Posted by: Onslo Author Profile Page at July 13, 2008 2:43 PM

I think we have seen a lot of military embed stories and those certainly are interesting but maybe things have changed enough to get a different angle. Might there be a chance to talk more to ordinary Iraqis? Someone should tell the story of things getting put back together ... of life slowly getting back to normal. How are Iraqis that have returned to their homes the past several months doing? Are expats returning? What do they think? Is the cultural pulse of the towns starting to return? How is the politics changing ... are the religious parties beginning to find competition from more secular parties with agendas not based on religious differences and more on vision for how to rebuild the country?

In other words, instead of reporting on the military actions there, I would like to hear more everyday life stories. Are factories re-opening? Do people have access now to things they never had before? What about the university kids?

I am also interested in how the Iraqi Shiites might be challenging Iran's role as sort of the center of global Shiite ideology globally. Are people like Sistani offering an alternative to Iran's style? Is anyone outside of the region (say in Lebanon) paying any attention? What do Iranian pilgrims who come to the Iraqi holy sites have to say about what is going on in Iraq?

A trip to Najaf might be something worthwhile.

Posted by: crosspatch Author Profile Page at July 13, 2008 11:17 PM

Hi Michael,

Sadr City is a good choice but I'm not sure the best in Iraq right now. You may want to consider Maysan Province. Perhaps Amara and Al Mijjerr al-Kabir.

This is Iran's last stand in Iraq and the Iraqi army and Coalition forces are routing out the Iranians and special groups right now.

Some of the things that are going on there aren't being mentioned in the media. I've heard the Revolutionary Gaurd actually has forward operating bases in Iraq in the Province. May be an interesting (though dangerous) place to be right now.

Thanks
Scott

Posted by: Scott Wolfe Author Profile Page at July 14, 2008 9:31 AM

I would have to agree with the person who left the comment a few days ago. Go somewhere interesting but safe. Maybe a place in Iraq that you haven't been to yet. Thank you for what you do.
Diana P.

Posted by: DianaP Author Profile Page at July 14, 2008 8:30 PM
Post a comment









Remember personal info?




Winner, The 2008 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

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

Read my blog on Kindle



blogads-blog-button.png


Recommended Reading




Warning: include(): http:// wrapper is disabled in the server configuration by allow_url_include=0 in /home/mjt001/public_html/archives/2008/07/back-to-iraq-th.php on line 781

Warning: include(http://michaeltotten.com/mt_essays.php): failed to open stream: no suitable wrapper could be found in /home/mjt001/public_html/archives/2008/07/back-to-iraq-th.php on line 781

Warning: include(): Failed opening 'http://michaeltotten.com/mt_essays.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/lib/php:/usr/local/lib/php') in /home/mjt001/public_html/archives/2008/07/back-to-iraq-th.php on line 781