BROOKINGS: IRAQ INDEX
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A British soldier escapes a burning tank in Basra. The soldier survived, but Britain's hold on the southern port town appeared increasingly fragile as it becomes apparent that local militia forces have heavily infiltrated Iraqi government security forces, and Shiite gangs are competing for power with their Sunni opposition.
Hurricane Rita appears ready to follow the tracks of Katrina, picking up intensity as it passes over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
RITA COULD LEAD TO ECONOMIC CHAOS FOR JUST ABOUT EVERYONE
"It really is a touch-and-go situation," says Thomas Bentz, senior energy analyst at BNP Paribas Commodity Futures. "It's really going to depend on where the hurricane makes landfall. It's going to be the difference of paying $3.70 a gallon or staying down under $3...One of Rita's potential routes would take it through Houston and other gulf cities such as Corpus Christi to the southwest and the Beaumont-Port Arthur region to the east. ...The Houston-Galveston area alone is home to nine refineries and more than 13% of the nation's oil processing capacity. Put together with the plants in Corpus Christi, Port Arthur and Lake Charles in southwestern Louisiana, the region accounts for 27.5% of U.S. refining capacity, according to the American Petroleum Institute. Rigs and platforms in the Gulf of Mexico are responsible for about 28% of U.S. crude oil production and 19% of its natural gas, according to the federal Minerals Management Service. Many large oil companies are based in the Houston area, which also is home to a huge contingent of traders in oil, natural gas and gasoline and other petroleum products. Pipelines that originate in the Houston region carry vast amounts of fuel to the Midwest and East Coast, and those deliveries could be affected by Rita. "That area, and the Houston shipping channel, is really the heart and soul of the U.S. oil industry," said Phil Flynn, an energy expert at Alaron Trading Corp. (Elizabeth Douglass, Los Angeles Times, September 22, 2005)
HURRICANE RITA ALSO EXPECTED TO HIT PRODUCTION FACILITIES IN GULF OF MEXICO
The US Minerals Management Service said that Rita has caused 15 rigs to be evacuated so far, cutting daily output from the Gulf of Mexico by about 877,000 barrels of oil.According to the Minerals Management Service almost 60% of crude oil production had been shut down on Tuesday, with about 35% of natural gas output also closed.
"As soon as the storm is over, we'll go back out, assess and hope this is it for the year," said Tim Sampson of the American Petroleum Institute.(BBC, September 20, 2005)
WHO IS GOING TO PAY?
The cost of hurricane damage added to the amount squandered on the quagmire in Iraq is beginning to worry even the Republican members of Congress. That said, neither the President or the Congress is prepared to ask for tax increases for the rich. Gwenn Ifill interviews Pat Toomey, a former Republican member of Congress who is president of the Club for Growth, which supports limited government and low taxes; and Stan Collender, managing director of Financial Dynamics, a consulting firm. He's also a former Democratic staffer for the House and Senate Budget Committees. (PBS News Hour, September 20, 2005)
IRAQ: BASRA EXPLODES
British forces surrounded an Iraqi police station with up to ten tanks, and then crashed through the walls in an effort to free two British SAS soldiers, who had shot and killed an Iraqi police officer, while operating under cover. Earlier, Iraqi police had stirred up crowds to attack the British, and turned the Britsh captives over to a Shiite militia group. They were subsequently rescued.
(BBC, September 20, 2005)
-WASHINGTON POST ON THE INCIDENT
-New York Times--Sabrina Tavernise
--Britain's Independent describes the events
--Iran suspected of orchestrating violence (Times of London)
--Juan Cole on the context
IN A FLASHBACK TO THE VIETNAM WAR -U.S. COMMANDERS BEGIN TALKING BODY COUNTS
Until now, the Pentagon
has avoided claiming progress based on the number of suspected insurgents killed, but with the number of enemy attacks increasing alarmingly, restraint has gone out the window. The Washington Post points out, however, that the Pentagon's insistence that it is killing terrorists has little credibility, because it is hard to tell how many of the people killed were really insurgents, and because U.S. tactics appear to be recruiting new candidates for the movement faster than eliminating them.(Ellen Knickmeyer, Washington Post, September 19, 2005)
--Anthony Cordesman on Saudi militants operating in Iraq (Center for Strategic and International Studies)
TV TAPES CONFIRM EARLIER DRY RUN FOR LONDON BOMBERS
Three of the four suicide bombers who carried out the July 7 attacks on London were seen on a "reconnaissance mission" two weeks earlier...The images show Mohammad Sidique Khan, Shehzad Tanweer and Germaine Lindsay meeting at Luton train station around 8.10am. They bought tickets and shortly afterwards boarded a Thameslink train to King's Cross where they were captured on CCTV arriving and walking through the train station at approximately 8.55am...(The Guardian, September 20, 2005)
DEAL WITH NORTH KOREA LEAVES PLENTY OF QUESTIONS ABOUT TIMING
After signing a statement of intentions, the U.S. negotiator, Christopher Hill, had misgivings because the vaguely worded agreement left unaddressed the date disarmament would happen, and hinted at a concession to North Korea that President Bush and his aides had long said they would never agree to: discussing at an appropriate time providing North Korea with a civilian nuclear power plant, senior administration officials said.(Joseph Khan and David Sanger, New York Times, September 20, 2005)
--Chris Hill on PBS' NewsHour on North Korean demands that the U.S. provide a nuclear reactor before North Korea disarms (September 20, 2005) (streaming audio)
--Text of joint statement
--Melbourne Age: Nothing is as it seems
"...Kim Jong-il, leader of the world's most reclusive regime, may look like an oddball but he is nobody's fool. He has again shown as much by calling the bluff of United States President George Bush on nuclear proliferation. Mr Bush, who once dubbed North Korea's leader a "pygmy" and his nation one of the original members of the "axis of evil", has been compelled to wind back the rhetoric and the threats..." (Melbourne Age, September 21, 2005)
GERMANY'S ELECTORAL CRISIS
The German election has ended in deadlock, with Gerhard Schröder's party snatching nearly as many votes as Angela Merkel's CDU/CSU, which had been expected to win comfortably. The result is bad news for Europe's largest economy, and for the continent as a whole.The result of the election held on Sunday September 18th is a deadlock not seen since the end of the second world war: the governing coalition of Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens has lost its majority, but the opposition Christian Democrats (CDU) and Free Democrats (FDP) surprisingly failed to win a majority of their own. A “grand coalition” of the CDU and the SPD now seems the likeliest outcome, but whether the SPD’s Gerhard Schröder, hitherto chancellor, or CDU leader Angela Merkel would head it remains open. (The Economist, September 20, 2005)
LIMP PARTICIPATION IN AFGHAN ELECTIONS QUESTIONS THEIR VALUE IN STABILIZING THE COUNTRY
Election officials said the turnout for the parliamentary vote was roughly 20 percent lower than that for last October’s presidential election. They offered a variety of reasons for the drop-off in voter participation, including a confusing election process and a reluctance to vote for candidates with warlord connections. (Camelia Entekhabi-Fard and Claudio Franco, Eurasianet.org, September 19, 2005)
--Afghan ballots were so complicated that some voters had no idea of who they were voting for (IWPR.net)
IS AL QAEDA MORPHING INTO SOMETHING ELSE?
According to the Jamestown Foundation's Terrorism Focus newsletter, a jihadi analyst, writing on an internet website, speaks of a new phase "which the infidels are unaware of, or do not wish to believe." He claims that al-Qaeda has, and has always had, a specific aim: to galvanize the sleeping corpse of the Islamic Nation and remove the corrosive body of Western influence. To that end, the 9/11 attacks were designed "to force the Western snake to bite the sleeping body, and wake it up;" a strategy which he evaluates as having turned out highly successful. The "end of al-Qaeda" is, therefore, the end of this galvanizing role. Infidels, the analyst explains, "are still fixated on fighting individuals, oblivious to the fact that they are actually fighting an idea, one that has spread across the globe like fire and which is embraced even by those whose faith is a mustard seed." His conclusion is that Western strategies to fight al-Qaeda are therefore illusory (or are a deliberate self-deception) in that al-Qaeda is no longer operative as a strategic body, but rather "the Islamic Nation's men, women and children are all now ‘al-Qaeda.'" [www.alommh.net] (Stephen Ulf, Jamestown Foundation, September 19, 2005)
THE SHIITE MINORITY IN SAUDI ARABIA
From Saudi Arabia's establishment in 1932, its minority Shiite population has been subject to discrimination and sectarian incitement. Beginning in the early 1990s, with then Crown Prince Abdullah's active support, the government took steps to improve inter-sectarian relations. But the measures were modest, and tensions are rising. The war in Iraq has had a notable effect, strengthening Shiite aspirations and Sunni suspicions and generally deepening confessional divisions throughout the region.(International Crisis Group, September 19, 2005)
CHINA'S SEARCH FOR STABILITY WITH THE U.S.
Genuine friendship is probably not in the cards, but the economies of China and the U.S. are now so intertwined that both countries have an interest in making things work out. Wang Jisi notes in the current issue of Foreign Affairs that "...the United States is the country that can exert the greatest strategic pressure on China. Although in recent years Beijing has refrained from identifying Washington as an adversary or criticizing its "hegemonism" -- a pejorative Chinese code word for U.S. dominance -- many Chinese still view the United States as a major threat to their nation's security and domestic stability.Yet the United States is a global leader in economics, education, culture, technology, and science. China, therefore, must maintain a close relationship with the United States if its modernization efforts are to succeed. Indeed, a cooperative partnership with Washington is of primary importance to Beijing, where economic prosperity and social stability are now top concerns..."(Wang Jisi, Foreign Affairs, September-October, 2005)
BEIJING IS GETTING THE HANG OF LIFE ON THE POTOMAC: WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, HIRE LOBBYISTS
The Center for Public Integrity reports that in an eight-day span in June, lobbyists from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld contacted federal and state officials nearly 250 times in an unsuccessful effort to build support for an $18.5 billion bid for Unocal by China National Offshore Oil Co. And Akin Gump was just one of six top-flight lobbying firms hired by CNOOC to push its bid. (The Center for Public Integrity, September 13, 2005)
A National Guard trooper approaches a flooded house in New Orleans. More damage from Hurricane Rita is expected.
NEW ORLEANS IS IMPORTANT TO AMERICA
George Friedman writes in The New York Review of Books: "The American political system was founded in Philadelphia, but the American nation was built on the vast farmlands that stretch from the Alleghenies to the Rockies....But it was not the extraordinary land or the farmers and ranchers who alone set the process in motion. Rather, it was geography—the extraordinary system of rivers that flowed through the Midwest and allowed them to ship their surplus to the rest of the world. All of the rivers flowed into one —the Mississippi—and the Mississippi flowed to the ports in and around one city: New Orleans.... Until last Sunday, New Orleans was, in many ways, the pivot of the American economy..."
(George Friedm, The New York Review of Books, October 6, 2005)
SAYING GOODBYE TO IRAQ'S OIL
Michael Klare writes in TomDispatch.Com that the U.S. has always sought to use military force to protect its access to foeign oil. In the case of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the strategy has backfired. "Now, more than two years after that invasion," says Klare,"the growing Iraqi quagmire has demonstrated that the application of military force can have the very opposite effect: It can diminish -- rather than enhance -- America's access to foreign oil..." Michael Klare, TomDispatch.com, September 20, 2005)
FOR LOUISIANA NATIONAL GUARD TROOPS IN IRAQ, THE FEAR IS NOT HAVING ANYTHING TO COME HOME TO
"I was always worried about me not coming home – never that my family could be in danger," Lt. William Besselman said Monday as he toured his battered home inside the confines of Jackson Barracks, where New Orleans Guardsmen are stationed.
One of the first of the returning Louisiana soldiers to visit his home, Besselman relayed the story of angst over Katrina among soldiers already beaten down by a year of intense warfare marked by teary funerals for comrades. In Besselman’s 19-man platoon alone, one soldier had died and eight suffered injuries, almost all from roadside bombs...(Brian Thevenot, New Orleans Times-Picayune, September 19, 2005)
CALLING THE LINE ON IRAQ
In Editor &Publisher, Gregg Mitchell asks: "What will it take, exactly, for The New York Times to declare on its editorial page that the U.S. should begin to bring to a close its adventure in Iraq? Surely the costs of Katrina, fresh troubles in Basra and Najaf, and even the death of one of its reporters, should finally push the paper over the edge..." (Gregg Mitchell, Editor & Publisher, September 20, 2005)
U.S. Central Command's website and Newsletter
Updating Info on Iraq, Afghanistan. the Middle East and the Horn of Africa