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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Iraq - The British Withdrawal From Basra

Map courtesy of gulf2000*

Well, here's a pretty pickle indeed. The Guardian, renowned for its fiercely independent and highly professional journalism, reported nearly a month ago that the British pulled out of Basra (the palace) and are now located at their quarters near the airport. In leaving, they essentially handed over control of Basra, a southern Iraqi city rich in oil, to Muqtada al-Sadr's Shiite milita.

A glance at the map above will confirm that Iraq is mostly surrounded by nations which are not likely to welcome U.S. military withdrawing through their territories. The only "safe" course is westward through al-Anbar province and into Saudi Arabia, or southeastward through Babil, Qadisiya, Dhiqar, and Basra provinces into Kuwait.

Anbar province is the heart of the Sunni insurgency. I know that Petraeus and Chimpy have been bragging recently about how the Sunnis have "joined forces" with the U.S. against al-Qaeda in Iraq, but quite frankly I don't believe a word of it. Why, you ask? Because the U.S. knows precious little about the Byzantine (aptly) politics of the region, and is too busy polishing the few turds that it passes off for knowledge to dig deeper and unearth facts.

Gordon, at Alternate Brain, has his own take on the events, and prefers to believe Greg Palast, investigative reporter extraordinaire, who opines:
There are some real sheiks in Anbar, such as Ali Hathem of the dominant Dulaimi tribe, who told Rick that Abu Risha was a con man. Where was his tribe, this tribal leader? "The Americans like to create characters like Disney cartoon heroes." Then Ali Hathem added, "Abu Risha is no longer welcome" in Anbar.

"Not welcome" from a sheik in Anbar is roughly the same as a kiss on both cheeks from the capo di capi. Within days, when Abu Risha returned from Dubai to Dulaimi turf in Ramadi, Bush's hand-sheik was whacked.

On Thursday, Bush said Abu Risha was killed, "fighting Al Qaeda" -- and the White House issued a statement that the sheik was "killed by al Qaeda."

"Sheikh" Sattar al-Rishawi - Abu Risha - is the same character who recently took a little trip with some $75 million of U.S. taxpayers' money, to, uh, do his "laundry," I believe. Palast adds:
But creepy and deadly or not, these capi of the desert were effective in eliminating "Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia." Indeed, as U.S. military so proudly pointed out to Rick, the moment the sheiks declared their opposition to Al Qaeda -- i.e., got the payments from the U.S. taxpayers -- Al Qaeda instantly diappeared.

This miraculous military change, where the enemy just evaporates, has one explanation: the sheiks ARE al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. Just like the Sopranos extract "protection" payments from New Jersey businesses, the mobsters of Anbar joined our side when we laid down the loot.
Personally, I put a lot more faith in Greg Palast's reporting than in Chimpy McTardwit's or Petraeus'.

What has Palast to gain or lose by reporting the facts as they are? If he's correct, he has something to gain in that his stature as an accurate reporter of facts is enhanced. If he's wrong, that's a black mark against him.

What has Petraeus to gain or lose? If he convinces the American public and the idiot-in-chief that he's correct, then he gets a free hand in Iraq for as long as he can keep things going, plus a medal or two in his future, an increase in his pension, a promotion, and a bolstering of his chance to run for the Presidency in 2012. He's known to be an ambitious bugger, and those are some appealing pluses. If he's wrong, we won't know it till the entire house of cards collapses, and he can rely on his CiC backing him up anyway. There's always the antiwar movement to blame. So no loss there.

As for Awol von Bunnypants, he has lied throughout the entire past seven years without missing a beat, so it's unlikely that he's suddenly discovered the joys of veracity at this late stage. And what doth it profit him to lie, as he now does, shamelessly, like a rug? Why, it's boosting his job performance approval, isn't it? It's boosting his poll numbers. He's gone from a miserable low in the low 30s to a miserable low in the high 30s. That's gotta count for something.

What troubles me about the pullout of the British in Basra is that it leaves American military supply lines very vulnerable and exposed. The Christian Science Monitor (one of the last few great papers in the world) reports:
American troops all over central and northern Iraq are supplied with fuel, food, and ammunition by truck convoy from a supply base hundreds of miles away in Kuwait. All but a small amount of our soldiers' supplies come into the country over roads that pass through the Shiite-dominated south of Iraq.

Until now the Shiite Arabs of Iraq have been told by their leaders to leave American forces alone. But an escalation of tensions between Iran and the US could change that overnight. Moreover, the ever-increasing violence of the civil war in Iraq can change the alignment of forces there unexpectedly.


The precarious nature of our supply line is well-known to our military leadership. Unfortunately, this is one of the many problems in Iraq that has not been adequately addressed because of a shortage of troops. We should start building ourselves another line of supply as a backup, and we should do it soon.
Military leadership? What military leadership? We've got a grandstanding pissant busy kissing the butt of a man who never served in a war and relies on bullshit and fearmongering to continue this feeble illegitimate excuse for a war.

I fear the worst. The south of Iraq is already overrun with competing Shia militias. It wouldn't take too much for them to unite, even if only temporarily, against the common enemy, that is, the U.S. If and when that happens, they will cut the supply lines and mine the roads and cover the roads between the Green Zone and the Baghdad airport. Then we'll see a mad scramble to get out. Because there is no plan, just a slow descent into chaos. I fear the worst.

*Follow link in map caption to enlarge original map and view provinces in greater detail, if you need to.

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