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 Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Iraq War has become a Rubik's Cube


Other Breaking News

  • MEXICO: Mexico's new President Felipe Calderon would like nothing better than to simply assume office and get on with the task of governing a troubled country. His predecessor, Vicente Fox, leaves a disappointing legacy. A country with macroeconomic stability but insufficient growth; with more housing but also more drug trafficking; with more consumer credit but also more crime; with a less imperial and authoritarian presidency but a weak government cornered by vested interests; with a left that feels excluded through fraud by the political system and wants to make sure that Calderon won't be able to lead it. Read here for more

  • MALAYSIA: Malaysia may introduce tough Internet laws to control bloggers and prevent them from spreading "disharmony, chaos, seditious material and lies" on their websites, a report said on Sunday. Deputy Science and Technology Minister Kong Cho Ha said moves such as registering bloggers would be difficult, but accused some writers of posting controversial articles to attract readers. "We are talking about creating cyber laws to control those who misuse the Internet," Kong was quoted as saying in the Star newspaper.Read here for more

  • NEPAL: Die-hard followers of King Gyanendra in Nepal have kicked off a campaign to save the crown, saying the Himalayan kingdom could not do without monarchy.Led by the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (Thapa) loyal to the palace, former ministers and government officials are trying to persuade people that the future governments should have a role for the monarch, if not as a constitutional king, then at least as a ceremonial ruler. Read here for more

  • UK: The tangled tale of fatally poisoned former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko has seized the headlines recently, but its roots can be traced to a spring evening in Moscow in 1994. At just after 5 p.m. on June 7, Boris Berezovsky, one of Russia's most powerful Jewish oligarchs, was leaving the offices of his car dealership in a chauffeured Mercedes 600. According to Russian news accounts, he and his bodyguard were in the rear seat behind the driver. As the car drove by another parked vehicle, a remote-controlled bomb detonated, decapitating the driver but somehow leaving Berezovsky unscathed. As a high-ranking officer in the organized-crime unit of the FSB, the successor to the KGB, Litvinenko "was the investigating officer of the assassination attempt," said Alex Goldfarb, a Berezovsky associate and a spokesman for the Litvinenko family. "They became friends." That friendship was to shape Litvinenko's career. Read here for more

  • by

    Susan Page and Barbara Slavin

    Read here full article by S. Page and B. Slavin in USA Today


    "The Iraq War has become a Rubik's Cube:
    Move to fix one side of the puzzle and another side is upended."
    All the options carry downsides and dangers.
    1. Withdraw U.S. troops quickly and court chaos, the White House warns.

    2. Send more troops to secure Baghdad and strain a U.S. military that's already stretched thin, the Pentagon says.

    3. Appeal to Iran for help and be prepared for demands that Washington ease its objections to Tehran's nuclear program, diplomats predict.

    4. Divide Iraq into autonomous regions and give al-Qaida terrorists a safe haven in Sunni territory, the administration says.
    The war has become a Rubik's Cube: Move to fix one side of the puzzle and another side is upended.

    The task ahead is defined not only by military, diplomatic and political quandaries in Iraq but also by crises in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, says a key ally, King Abdullah II of Jordan.

    And the United States' ability to control events -- to hold Iraq together, avoid a bloodbath and influence the region -- is ebbing.

    "The American era in the Middle East . . . has ended," Richard Haass, a former foreign policy adviser to President Bush and his father, writes in the current issue of Foreign Affairs. He predicts "the emergence of a new Middle East that will cause great harm to itself, the United States and the world."

    Pressure is mounting at the White House and on Capitol Hill to find new steps and even re-examine those that have been rejected.

    A majority of voters (in last month's election) surveyed as they left polling places want some or all U.S. troops withdrawn now.

    Says Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:
    "I think the president will have to listen. "

    Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, told the Senate two weeks ago there were four to six months left to get control of the violence in Iraq.

    There's no secret about the options as the United States faces its worst military crisis since the Vietnam War.

    1. Withdraw U.S. troops -- or send more?

    Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has proposed deploying 20,000 troops to Iraq in addition to the 140,000 already there -- a step he estimates would require expanding the Army and Marine Corps by 100,000.

    William Kristol, an influential neoconservative and editor of the Weekly Standard, says 50,000 more troops should be dispatched to secure Baghdad without shifting U.S. forces from other parts of Iraq.

    However, the Army and Marines can't sustain higher force levels for long, Abizaid says. Other than forces in Korea, nearly every Army unit is deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, recovering from a deployment or preparing for one.

    What's more, Abizaid says, increasing U.S. troop levels might reduce the pressure on Iraqis to prepare to take over their own security.

    What about withdrawing troops?

    Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops should begin in four to six months, an approach embraced by many other Democrats.

    But the administration says setting a timetable or pulling out troops would embolden insurgents, increase sectarian violence and create a vacuum that Iran and Syria could exploit.

    2. Push the Iraqi government to unify and act.

    The White House wants Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to offer political concessions to Sunnis and give amnesty to insurgents who are willing to lay down their arms.

    David Satterfield, the State Department's Iraq coordinator, told the Senate last month that the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government also should pass a law distributing oil earnings fairly, including to Sunnis.

    But the American axiom that all politics is local applies in Baghdad, too. Al-Maliki won the prime minister's job last spring by one vote because of support from Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

    Phebe Marr, an Iraq expert and adviser to the Iraq Study Group, asks how al-Maliki could fire al-Sadr's ministers or go after al-Sadr's Mahdi Army without losing his own job.

    3. A little help from our friends -- and foes

    Bush administration officials are urging U.S. allies in the Arab world to help tamp the turmoil in Iraq.

    Vice President Dick Cheney has met with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, and Bush has met with King Abdullah II of Jordan. Both could encourage Sunni cooperation with al-Maliki.

    However, they have little influence with the Shiite majority or Sunni insurgents in Iraq, and the Bush administration has refused to meet with two neighbors that do.

    The administration has had no serious talks with Iran since 2003 and no high-level meetings with Syria since early 2005.

    Baker says that policy should be reversed. "You can't fulfill the mission without talking to the neighboring countries," he said in an interview with USA Today in September.

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