Iraq War

  Is This How The Iraq War Ends?May 29, 2007 22:38 This is how the war in Iraq will end: Not with a sudden vote in Congress or a new president in the White House, but with a gradual process of disengagement. That process will begin this fall, but it will likely last into the next administration.

Disengagement will be driven not only by anti-war sentiment on the left, but by misgivings among conservatives. And it will be led, in critical ways, by the judgments of key commanders in the field.

Looking back on the last five months, it was never realistic to expect the Democrats' election triumph in November 2006 to reverse U.S. war policy in Iraq by itself.

Lacking the numbers to override a presidential veto — and with next to no help from the minority Republicans — the Democrats had to decide whether to let the war funding lapse entirely. They were loath to do this, unwilling to be seen as weakening U.S. forces in the field.

So the new majority party wound up approving four more months of emergency funding through September.

All this was predictable, and widely predicted, from the moment the new Congress took its oath in January.

But as President Bush has been winning this round — temporary funding with no timetable for withdrawal — something else has been happening. Over these same five months, the ground beneath the Iraq issue has shifted. A kind of unspoken consensus has begun to emerge about what must come next.

You can see the change in the president himself. When he got his way on the funding, he signed the document quietly at Camp David with little show of celebration. The mood of relief was darkened by the realization that another emergency funding measure must be passed before October, along with an equally contentious overall appropriation for the rest of the Department of Defense.
  Cindy Sheehan Calls It Quits, Anti-War Activist And Mom Of Killed G.I. In Iraq Resigns Role As "Face" Of MovementMay 29, 2007 07:35 Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan announced Monday she is giving up her role as the "face" of the American anti-war movement.

"I've been wondering why I'm killing myself and wondering why the Democrats caved in to George Bush," Sheehan told The Associated Press by phone Tuesday while driving from her property in Crawford to the airport, where she planned to return to her native California.

"I'm going home for awhile to try and be normal," she said.

Sheehan, 49, of Vacaville, Calif., lost her 24-year-old son Casey in Iraq on April 4, 2004. She has since emerged as one of the most vocal and high-profile opponents of the war, drawing international attention nearly two years ago when she camped outside President Bush's Crawford, Texas ranch to protest the war.

  Bush Administration Failing To Achieve Its "Benchmarks" In IraqMay 29, 2007 07:30 US President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have all personally warned Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that time is running out. Deadlines have gone or are fast approaching. Still, the Bush administration is no closer to achieving the “benchmarks” it demanded of the Iraqi government on January 10 and linked to the success of its current military “surge”.

The benchmarks are intended to pressure the Shiite- and Kurdish-dominated Iraqi government into agreeing to a new power-sharing arrangement. The US wanted major concessions made to the predominantly Sunni Arab elite of the former Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein, in the hope that significant sections of the Sunni insurgency would end their armed resistance. The marginalisation of the Baathists and the elevation of Shiite and Kurdish parties following the US invasion was a factor in the eruption of an anti-occupation guerilla war in Sunni areas, as well as the subsequent outbreak of a sectarian civil war.

The revamping of the puppet government in Baghdad was also an essential component of the Bush administration’s broader regional strategy. In its escalating confrontation with Iran, the White House has appealed for support from so-called Sunni states such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which are hostile to the growing Iranian influence in the region, including within the Iraqi government. In part, the US “benchmarks” are aimed at fashioning a regime in Baghdad more acceptable to US regional allies and supportive of any American military action against Shiite Iran.

At the top of Washington’s agenda is the passage of an Iraqi oil law opening up the country to US corporations, but the legislation is mired in conflicting interests.
  Bush Signs Iraq War BillMay 26, 2007 10:48 US President George W Bush on Friday signed into law a bill committing 100 billion dollars to the war in Iraq and handing him a rare political victory over Democrats looking to end the war.

"Congress voted on Friday to provide our troops with the funding and flexibility they need to protect our country, and I was pleased to sign the bill today," Bush said in a statement released by the White House.

"Rather than mandate arbitrary timetables for troop withdrawals or micromanage our military commanders, this legislation enables our servicemen and women to follow the judgment of commanders on the ground," he added.

He reiterated that the measure sets the stage for pressing the fragile government in Baghdad to make progress on national reconciliation.

"Iraqis need to demonstrate measurable progress on a series of benchmarks for improved security, political reconciliation, and governance," the statement said, referring to provisions in the bill. Bush had earlier told reporters that the bill "sent a clear signal to the Iraqis that there's expectations here in America."

"I look forward to continuing to work with the prime minister and his government in meeting those expectations," he said, referring to Iraq's Nuri al-Maliki.
  Democrats Turning Toward Cutting of War FundingMay 15, 2007 23:09

Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) announced yesterday that they will support a symbolic vote to cut off funding for combat troops in Iraq within a year, an important shift for both Democratic presidential candidates as the war debate on Capitol Hill intensifies.

The funding vote is expected in the Senate today, as one of four test votes on Iraq that Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) had scheduled in advance of final talks with the House and the Bush administration over a $124 billion war-spending bill.

In the House last week, 169 Democrats and two Republicans voted to withdraw troops from Iraq within nine months -- a surprisingly large number that underscores the growing determination among Democrats to legislate an end to the war.

For Clinton, the shift reflects the particular pressure on Democratic presidential candidates. She voted to authorize the war in 2002, and has resisted calls to specify a U.S. withdrawal date. But she has grown increasingly critical of the war and, two weeks ago, called for revoking President Bush's authority to continue the conflict past October without a new vote from Congress.

  U.S. Military Deaths In Iraq At 3,383May 11, 2007 11:47 As of Thursday, May 10, 2007, at least 3,383 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,761 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

The AP count is one higher than the Defense Department's tally, last updated Thursday at 10 a.m. EDT.

The British military has reported 148 deaths; Italy, 33; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 20; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; Denmark, six; El Salvador, five; Slovakia, four; Latvia, three; Estonia, Netherlands, Thailand, two each; and Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Romania, one death each.
  Differences Continue Delay Of Iraq War BillMay 10, 2007 23:28 Congressional leaders and representatives of the White House are putting off tough decisions on the Iraq war until a handful of House and Senate negotiators work out details of a funding bill they'll try to send to President Bush by Memorial Day.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has been meeting with White House chief of staff Josh Bolten and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., about a funding compromise.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Thursday that only "token meetings" have been held to resolve differences over Iraq.

"There's been no honest attempt to work together," he said.
  Majority Of Iraqi Lawmakers Now Reject OccupationMay 09, 2007 21:33 On Tuesday, without note in the U.S. media, more than half of the members of Iraq's parliament rejected the continuing occupation of their country. 144 lawmakers signed onto a legislative petition calling on the United States to set a timetable for withdrawal, according to Nassar Al-Rubaie, a spokesman for the Al Sadr movement, the nationalist Shia group that sponsored the petition.

It's a hugely significant development. Lawmakers demanding an end to the occupation now have the upper hand in the Iraqi legislature for the first time; previous attempts at a similar resolution fell just short of the 138 votes needed to pass (there are 275 members of the Iraqi parliament, but many have fled the country's civil conflict, and at times it's been difficult to arrive at a quorum).

Reached by phone in Baghdad on Tuesday, Al-Rubaie said that he would present the petition, which is nonbinding, to the speaker of the Iraqi parliament and demand that a binding measure be put to a vote. Under Iraqi law, the speaker must present a resolution that's called for by a majority of lawmakers, but there are significant loopholes and what will happen next is unclear.

What is clear is that while the U.S. Congress dickers over timelines and benchmarks, Baghdad faces a major political showdown of its own. The major schism in Iraqi politics is not between Sunni and Shia or supporters of the Iraqi government and "anti-government forces," nor is it a clash of "moderates" against "radicals"; the defining battle for Iraq at the political level today is between nationalists trying to hold the Iraqi state together and separatists backed, so far, by the United States and Britain.
  Pentagon Tells 35,000: Prepare To DeployMay 08, 2007 13:03 The Pentagon has notified more than 35,000 Army soldiers to be prepared to deploy to Iraq beginning this fall, a move that would allow commanders to maintain the ongoing buildup of troops through the end of the year if needed.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Tuesday the deployment orders, which have been signed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, do not mean that the military has made a decision to keep the increased level of 20 brigades in Iraq through December. A brigade is roughly 3,500 soldiers.

Instead, he said the decision gives the Pentagon the "capability" to carry the buildup to the end of the year. The replacement forces, Whitman said, would give commanders in Iraq the flexibility they need to complete the mission there.

The announcement, said Whitman, has "nothing to do" with a decision to extend the troop buildup. He said the Pentagon "has been very clear that a decision about the duration of the surge will depend on conditions on the ground."

Early this year, President Bush ordered close to 30,000 additional troops to Iraq to quell the spiking violence particularly in and around Baghdad. Gates and his military leaders have said that commanders in Iraq will make recommendations in September on whether the buildup has been successful, and whether it should continue or if troops can begin coming home.
  Boehner Says GOP Will Want Results In IraqMay 07, 2007 10:05 A key Republican House leader said Sunday that if President Bush's current strategy in Iraq is not working by fall, members of Congress will demand to know what the White House's next plan is.

Rep. John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House minority leader, said the troop buildup had shown some success and noted that it was not yet complete. But he embraced the idea of setting benchmarks for the Iraqi government and requiring Bush to assess the Iraqis' progress on a monthly basis.

"Over the course of the next three months or four months, we'll have some idea how well the plan is working," Boehner told Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday." "Early signs are indicating there is clearly some success on a number of fronts. But … by the time we get to September, October, members are going to want to know how well this is working, and if it isn't, what's Plan B?"

Last week Democrats failed to override Bush's veto of a $124-billion war funding bill that would have required troop withdrawals to begin by Oct. 1. But the comments from Boehner and other lawmakers suggested a line of possible compromise between Democrats and Republicans that would embrace a set of relatively weak benchmarks for the Baghdad government and delay the more far-reaching debate until fall.
  Iraqi Blocs Opposed To Draft Oil BillMay 03, 2007 19:30 Kurdish and Sunni Arab officials expressed deep reservations on Wednesday about the draft version of a national oil law and related legislation, misgivings that could derail one of the benchmark measures of progress in Iraq laid down by President Bush.

The draft law, which establishes a framework for the distribution of oil revenues, was approved by the Iraqi cabinet in late February after months of negotiations. The White House was hoping for quick passage to lay the groundwork for a political settlement among the country’s ethnic and sectarian factions. But the new Kurdish concerns have created doubts about the bill even before Parliament is to pick it up for debate.

The issue comes at a delicate moment for Mr. Bush, who on Wednesday began negotiations with Congressional Democrats over a new war-spending measure.

The president vetoed a $124 billion bill on Tuesday because it included timetables for troop withdrawals, and a House vote on Wednesday fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to override the veto, with 222 voting in favor and 203 opposing the override.
  Bush Veto Forces Dems To Weigh Difficult ConcessionsMay 02, 2007 10:05 President Bush's veto of an Iraq war spending bill that set timelines for U.S. troop withdrawals puts new pressure on Democrats in Congress to craft a compromise even as their caucus grows more fractious on the topic.

The party's most liberal members, especially in the House, say they will vote against money for continuing the war if there's no binding language on troop drawdowns. Bush and almost all congressional Republicans continue to insist on a spending bill with no strings attached on troop movements.

Bush on Tuesday rejected legislation pushed by Democratic leaders that would require the first U.S. combat troops to be withdrawn by October 1 with a goal of a complete pullout six months later.

"This is a prescription for chaos and confusion and we must not impose it on our troops," Bush said in a nationally broadcast statement from the White House. "It makes no sense to tell the enemy when you plan to start withdrawing."

The standoff gives Republicans leverage, because even with the liberals' votes, Democrats don't have enough support to override Bush's veto. It will force Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, to seek more Republican help in drafting a new bill that Bush might accept, her allies and opponents say.

  Bush Vetoes War-Funding Bill With Withdrawal TimetableMay 01, 2007 17:37 Four years to the day after standing on the deck of an aircraft carrier and declaring "major combat operations" in Iraq as being over, President Bush on Tuesday vetoed a war-spending bill that calls for the start of a withdrawal of American combat troops from the now-unpopular conflict.

"It makes no sense to tell the enemy when you plan to start withdrawing. All the terrorists would have to do is mark their calendars. ... Setting a deadline for withdrawal is setting a date for failure, and that would be irresponsible," Bush said in a televised address after the veto.

"I recognize that many Democrats saw this bill as an opportunity to make a political statement about their opposition to the war," Bush said. "They've sent their message, and now it is time to put politics behind us and support our troops with the funds they need."

The president invited the congressional leadership to the White House on Wednesday to discuss a compromise.

Before sending the bill to the president Tuesday afternoon, Democratic congressional leaders urged Bush to sign the bill and begin winding down the war.
  Shadowy Iraq Office Accused Of Sectarian AgendaMay 01, 2007 11:33 Iraq's prime minister has created an entity within his government that U.S. and Iraqi military officials say is being used as a smokescreen to carry out an extreme Shiite agenda that is worsening the country's sectarian divide.

The "Office of the Commander in Chief" has the power to overrule other government ministries, according to U.S. military and intelligence sources.

Those sources say the 24-member office is abusing its power, increasingly overriding decisions made by the Iraqi Ministries of Defense and Interior and potentially undermining the entire U.S. effort in Iraq.

The Office, as it is known in Baghdad, was set up about four months ago with the knowledge of American forces in Iraq. Its goal is ostensibly to advise Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki -- the nation's new commander in chief -- on military matters.

According to a U.S. intelligence source, the Office is "ensuring the emplacement of commanders it favors and can control, regardless of what the ministries want."