Zarqawi Killed

CNN are showing a video of the airstrike that has apparently killed one of the most wanted men in the world, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Whether or not his death will affect the overall insurgency remains to be seen. It could be just as likely that his successor will carry on as ever, though without the same propaganda effect Zarqawi had, having evaded capture for so long.

Incidentally, the notorious US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, will be on Newsnight tonight, discussing the death of Zarqawi, and probably his recent run-ins over the comments of Mark Brown.

Tyler Drumheller

Do you still believe the Bush administration?

Click here.

At that meeting, Drumheller says, “They were enthusiastic because they said, they were excited that we had a high-level penetration of Iraqis.”

What did this high-level source tell him?

“He told us that they had no active weapons of mass destruction program,” says Drumheller.

“So in the fall of 2002, before going to war, we had it on good authority from a source within Saddam’s inner circle that he didn’t have an active program for weapons of mass destruction?” Bradley asked.

“Yes,” Drumheller replied. He says there was doubt in his mind at all.

“It directly contradicts, though, what the president and his staff were telling us,” Bradley remarked.

“The policy was set,” Drumheller says. “The war in Iraq was coming. And they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy, to justify the policy.”

Drumheller expected the White House to ask for more information from the Iraqi foreign minister.

But he says he was taken aback by what happened. “The group that was dealing with preparation for the Iraq war came back and said they’re no longer interested,” Drumheller recalls. “And we said, ‘Well, what about the intel?’ And they said, ‘Well, this isn’t about intel anymore. This is about regime change.'”

Josh Marshall has it covered.
Plus C&L.

The Cost of War

Jonathan Weisman at the Washington Post has an interesting article on the increasing cost of the war in Iraq. The rate of spending is enormous:

Cost of war

The cost of the war in U.S. fatalities has declined this year, but the cost in treasure continues to rise, from $48 billion in 2003 to $59 billion in 2004 to $81 billion in 2005 to an anticipated $94 billion in 2006, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. The U.S. government is now spending nearly $10 billion a month in Iraq and Afghanistan, up from $8.2 billion a year ago, a new Congressional Research Service report found.

One can imagine that if the disengagement happens as planned, the costs may peak at $100 billion a year.

Via Steve.

The Last Exit From Iraq

Joel Rayburn, a Major in the U.S. Army and from 2002 to 2005 taught history at the U.S. Military Academy, has an essay in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs. In it, he draws historical comparisons between the British involvement in Iraq and the current American intervention.

In light of the recent Sunni-Shiite tensions in Samara, the historical context is quite interesting.

He starts with:

A number of pundits have recently noted the parallels between the United Kingdom’s experience eight decades ago and the United States’ today. The comparisons, however, have generally centered on the early and middle phases of both occupations. Too few have focused on the ignominious end of the United Kingdom’s reign in Mesopotamia and the lessons those events hold for the United States today. In fact, Washington’s current position bears a strong resemblance to London’s in the late 1920s, when the British were responsible for the tutelage of a fledgling Iraqi state suffering from immature institutions, active insurgencies, and the interference of hostile neighbors. Eventually, this tutelage was undermined by pressure from the British Parliament and the press to withdraw — forces quite similar to those in the United States now calling for a withdrawal from Iraq. Building a better understanding of the United Kingdom’s mistakes — and of the consequences of that country’s ultimate withdrawal from Iraq — could thus help illuminate the present occupation and provide answers to when and how to end it. If the British record teaches anything, it is this: costly and frustrating as the fostering of Iraqi democracy may be, the costs of leaving the job undone would likely be far higher, for both the occupiers and the Iraqis.

And of the British context:

In 1920, a large-scale Shiite insurgency cost the British more than 2,000 casualties, and domestic pressure to withdraw from Iraq began to build. In the revolt’s aftermath, the war hero T. E. Lawrence led a chorus of critics in the press and Parliament denouncing London’s decision to continue the costly occupation. “The people of England,” Lawrence wrote, have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. … Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. It is a disgrace to our imperial record, and may soon be too inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are to-day not far from a disaster….

“We say we are in Mesopotamia to develop it for the benefit of the world. … How long will we permit millions of pounds, thousands of Imperial troops, and tens of thousands of Arabs to be sacrificed on behalf of colonial administration which can benefit nobody but its administrators?” Although the London Times remained mainly supportive of the government’s policy in Iraq, other leading British papers, most notably the Manchester Guardian, echoed Lawrence’s call to end the occupation.

The result was what historians have called the “Quit Mesopotamia” campaign, which remained an issue in British politics until the end of the British mandate in Iraq in 1932. For more than a decade, a diverse collection of anti-imperialists, pacifists, Labourites, and Lawrence loyalists kept up a steady stream of criticism in the United Kingdom’s opposition press. The Quit Mesopotamia critics effectively tapped into the British sentiment against imperialism, which had become widespread after the end of World War I. The British public’s interest in maintaining a worldwide empire had waned; the working classes, which had sacrificed so much for the war, wanted their government to invest in the stagnant domestic economy, not in costly imperial adventures. Unlike their ally the United States, the United Kingdom experienced no economic boom in the Roaring Twenties, and unemployment steadily rose throughout the decade. British voters registered their disapproval of the Conservatives’ imperialist tendencies by voting the Labour Party of Ramsay MacDonald into power in 1923. Although that Labour government was short-lived (thanks to a scandal), the Conservatives got the message and in 1925 initiated a series of increasingly desperate measures to sell their Iraq policy to the public.

Colonial Secretary Leopold Amery led the rhetorical charge. In speeches in Parliament and before audiences throughout England, Amery blasted critics for their “reckless disregard … of the honour of their country.” Calls by British newspapers to pull out of Iraq only emboldened the country’s enemies, Amery said, and a “policy of scuttle” would expose the British to far greater dangers than those they would encounter while “fulfilling [their] obligations” to the Iraqi people. The London Times weighed in on Amery’s behalf on September 25, 1925, observing that the “cost of premature withdrawal” would probably be a Turkish invasion of Mosul.

Amery claimed that the situation in Iraq was significantly better than his critics realized. Returning from a fact-finding tour of the mandate in 1925, he said that Iraq’s development was proceeding well enough to promise the British a “substantial return” on their investment in that country. The whole Middle East was undergoing fundamental changes, he declared, and Iraq would soon be a model of development and democracy for the entire region. Besides, he said, Iraq was serving as “a splendid training ground” for the Royal Air Force (RAF), which since 1922 had been charged with defending Iraq and maintaining order there.

These arguments made little impression on the opponents of the occupation. The Labour Party accused the Conservatives of wanting to remain in Iraq for the sake of oil stockholders. “We should never get out of [Iraq] without wrenching something, such as the national honour or the interests of bondholders,” declared the senior Labour Party MP and future prime minister Clement Attlee in Parliament in 1926. “Therefore,” he said, “we had better wrench free at once.”

Nonetheless, Amery’s public defense of the occupation helped the policy withstand parliamentary challenges in 1925 and 1926, and the United Kingdom’s occupation looked set to continue indefinitely. In accepting the League of Nations mandate in 1920, the British government had committed itself to at least 20 years of guardianship of Iraq’s state and society, and when it signed the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1926, London promised to stick around until 1951 (or until an independent Iraq joined the league). Yet starting in 1925, the Conservatives began secretly looking for a way out. In 1927 — just one year after pledging to stay in Iraq for a quarter century — key ministers in Stanley Baldwin’s government proposed a pullout. According to Robert Cecil, a trusted Baldwin adviser, withdrawal from Iraq would be “a complete answer to those of our critics who allege that we are anxious to have a militarist or adventurous foreign policy. That charge has done us a great deal of harm already and may easily be fatal to our existence at the next election.”

Publicly, the Conservatives began to speak about the need to “reduce expenditure” in Iraq. In 1925, Sir Samuel Hoare, head of the Air Ministry and another close Baldwin adviser, acknowledged that “since the war we [have] spent a great deal in the Middle East, and the British taxpayer [has] asked whether the expenditure was worthwhile, and whether it could be reduced.” Returning from a trip to Iraq that year, Hoare announced that once the contested frontier near Mosul was settled with Turkey, the British could reduce their role in Iraq. As a government minister, Hoare could not have made this declaration without Baldwin’s approval; his statement therefore had the effect of an official promise to bring home some British troops. And indeed, the Conservatives soon made the promise a reality: by early 1927, the Baldwin government had pulled most British soldiers out of Iraq, leaving a few RAF squadrons and a battalion of Indian infantry to defend the country alongside a fledgling Iraqi army of only 9,000 men.

He continues:

…in March 1927, the Baldwin government proclaimed the Iraqi army capable of defending the country itself and withdrew the last battalion of British ground troops. Mere months later, southern Iraq came under attack by thousands of Wahhabi Ikhwan (“brothers”). The Ikhwan were a puritanical sect that had brutally conquered the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in 1924. Like today’s insurgents under Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Ikhwan were Salafi fighters who invaded Iraq from the desert to terrorize its Shiites (whom the Salafi consider apostates). For the better part of two years, starting in 1927, all that stood between the Ikhwan and the lightly armed Iraqi tribes was a small desert detachment of British-trained Iraqi troops under the leadership of Captain John Glubb, who would later head the Arab Legion in Transjordan. Only with great difficulty did Glubb obtain occasional air support from the overstretched RAF squadrons stationed near Basra and Baghdad.

British officials were slow to grasp the extent of the Ikhwan threat. The British high commissioner in Iraq at the time, Sir Henry Dobbs, declared the Ikhwan defeated in 1928. Acknowledging that the Wahhabi invaders had hurt Iraq’s economy by discouraging foreign investment, he informed the press that “the only grave injury done to Iraq … [has] been inflicted by wild reports manufacturing scare after scare.” In fact, although no official report was ever conducted, it is probable that the Ikhwan managed to kill hundreds of Iraqis. Dobbs’ assessment of the Ikhwan’s strength, meanwhile, was also wrong: the next year, they invaded again, in large numbers. Indeed, the Ikhwan continued to threaten Iraq until they were routed by the army of Ibn Saud in mid-1929.

During this same period, the resurgent Turkey of Mustafa Kemal (better known as Atatürk) threatened Iraq from the north. Kemalist Turkey mounted an unsuccessful invasion of Mosul in 1922 and thereafter continually intrigued against Iraqi rule among the Kurdish tribes in the region. Like Iraq’s Sunni Arabs today, the Kurds of the mandate period represented a communal threat that consumed the attention and resources of the Iraqi state. With Turkish support, the Pesh Merga of the Barzani tribe and its allies were able to sustain an insurgency against the Iraqi government for almost four years. At one point, the Iraqi army was forced to deploy three-quarters of its strength in the Kurdish Sulaimaniya region in an attempt to put down the insurgents. In the spring of 1931, as the formal handover of sovereignty to the Iraqis approached, the British roused themselves to pacify the Kurds for good. For over a month, the RAF bombed Kurdish villages, finally forcing the rebels to capitulate.

The context helps us give an idea why Sunni Muslims are so dominant in present-day Iraq:

When the mandate actually ended in 1932, Iraq’s British-built institutions began, one by one, to collapse. With the occupiers gone, Iraq’s Sunni Arab elite used the army not to defend the state against foreign invaders, but to suppress Iraq’s Assyrians, Kurds, and Shiites. The Iraqi army of the 1930s was the most dangerous kind: it was easily the most powerful institution in the country, too strong to be checked by other groups and free from any real constitutional constraints, but it was also too weak to actually defend Iraq from outsiders. As the British-installed King Faisal lay dying in Switzerland in 1933, Iraqi troops massacred Assyrians in northern Iraq and returned to Baghdad as heroes. Army leaders then used their newfound prestige to meddle in the country’s politics, backing certain factions in parliament in return for the passage of conscription laws that bolstered the army’s strength but turned young Shiite men into a military underclass. By 1936, Iraq’s generals had gathered enough power to carry out a military coup, ending constitutional government and setting a precedent that would recur again and again.

At the same time, Iraqi society, the most ethnically diverse in the Arab world, came fully under the sway of Sunni Arab chauvinists. Typical of this development was the fate of Iraq’s educational system, which fell under the control of Sati al-Husri, a Syrian pan-Arabist who taught that Shiite Islam was heretical. Under his influence, the Iraqi government began to suppress Shiite religious holidays and practices — a policy that sparked large-scale Shiite uprisings in the mid-1930s. By the 1940s, Iraq, one of the least Sunni of all Arab states, had become a bulwark of what historian Elie Kedourie called “the Sunni spirit of domination.”

The coups following 1936 mostly involved the Sunni Arab officer corps. By 1939, Iraq’s military rulers had become openly hostile to the United Kingdom. When war broke out in Europe, Baghdad opened back channels to the Axis powers, and it finally offered up the country to Hitler in 1941. Faced with the prospect of an Axis stronghold on their line of communication to India, the British were forced to invade Iraq once again. As British troops approached Baghdad, Iraqi soldiers and police carried out a final act of official butchery, slaughtering hundreds of Iraqi Jews. There followed a second British occupation of the country that lasted until 1948.

Had the United Kingdom stayed longer the first time around, much of this mayhem could have been avoided. Continued British oversight would have prevented the Iraqi government from falling into the hands of military dictators, and the presence of a British force in the country would likely have restrained the Iraqi army from preying on Iraq’s minority communities. Since the British had opposed Iraqi conscription throughout the 1920s, it is safe to assume they would have continued to do so if the mandate had been extended, thereby removing a significant irritant from the relationships among Iraq’s ethnic and sectarian communities. The typically pragmatic British political advisers would also have been unlikely to allow Sunni Arab supremacists to pervert Iraq’s public educational system.

These restraints could have helped Iraq develop into a more stable society, in which Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, and other minorities would have somehow found a way to live together peacefully. Instead, these groups spent the next 70 years of Iraq’s independence with daggers drawn, each decade pocked by civil war.

Rayburn concludes by arguing that the US cannot afford to make the same mistakes as appear to have happened in the past –

Washington thus now finds itself facing roughly the same question that London faced between 1925 and 1927: Should it leave Iraq, or continue until its project there has truly fulfilled its aims? In the British case, both sides of the debate — the Quit Mesopotamia critics and the Conservative officials who minimized Iraq’s problems — apparently believed that the United Kingdom could leave Iraq without repercussions, regardless of whether the mandate had actually served its purpose. They came to assume that an independent Iraq would somehow muddle along — and that if it did not, the consequences would not affect the British.

Accordingly, the Conservative government succumbed to the political and media pressure to pull out. After 1925, as British officials continued to pay lip service to the original goals of the mandate, they privately began looking for ways to withdraw early, even though many of them recognized that chaos would ensue. To avoid a similar result today, the U.S. government and its allies must confront what the United Kingdom’s premature withdrawal achieved: namely, disaster both for Iraq and for its occupier. Having left the work of the mandate undone, the British were forced to return and attempt to finish the job nine misery-filled years later. The United States can ill afford to do the same.

Sir Christopher Meyer Critiques U.S.-U.K. Orchestration of Iraq War

Steve Clemons points to the first part in the serialisation of Sir Christopher Meyer, former British ambassador to the US. It looks like it might be explosive with regard to the Blair premiership. The Guardian has it as front page news. I liked this bit:

I told him [Wolfowitz] there had to be a strategy for building international support. What was needed was a clever plan that convinced people there was a legal basis for toppling Saddam. The UN had to be at the heart of such a strategy. One way was to demand the readmission of UN weapons inspectors into Iraq. If he refused, this would not only put him in the wrong but also turn the searchlight onto the security council resolutions of which he remained in breach. I also stressed the critical importance of making progress in defusing the violence between Israel and the Palestinians, to help carry Muslim opinion. Wolfowitz listened carefully, but he was noncommittal.

A similar list of conditions appears in another leaked document, drawn up following Tony Blair’s summit with Bush at the president’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, a few weeks later in April 2002.

This Cabinet Office note recorded that Blair had told Bush that Britain would support military action “provided that certain conditions were met”. These conditions were that efforts were made to construct a coalition, that the Israel-Palestine crisis was “quiescent”, and that “options for action to eliminate Iraq’s WMD through UN weapons inspectors” were exhausted.

He continues:

Then, in November 2002, came a breakthrough – the passage of UN Resolution 1441, demanding a full and final disclosure of all Saddam’s weapons. Saddam agreed to comply and the weapons inspectors went back in. There was a brief period of hope that Saddam could be disarmed peacefully.

Against a backdrop of intensifying military preparations, anxiety gripped the Bush administration. It feared a prolonged inspection process that failed to reveal Saddam’s WMD; troops going stale as they kicked their heels; allies going off the boil; and a once-and-for-all opportunity to be rid of Saddam slipping through American fingers. The issue of the moment became how to find the “smoking gun” that would justify action against Saddam – the irrefutable proof that he had weapons of mass destruction.

The risk was that, through impatience and excessive pressure on the weapons inspectors, America would shatter any international coalition for war before it had even got started. I no longer thought that, in the event of opposition to war from most of the UN security council, Bush would blink. Yet he would still have an agonising decision to take early in 2003. And if it was agonising for him, it would be doubly so for Blair.

The advice the British prime minister then gave the US president would never have been more important in my time in Washington. It could even be the swing vote for war or peace. The pendulum never swung back again. If the president had left himself any space to step back from war, he closed it down early with his state of the union speech on January 29 2003.

Even by Bush’s standards the speech was unusually messianic in tone. The destruction of Saddam was a crusade against evil to be undertaken by God’s chosen nation: “This call of history has come to the right people.”

Blair now paid one more visit to Washington. The meeting with Bush on January 31 2003 took place against a deeply unpromising background. Transatlantic relations were in a trough. British attempts to overcome France and Germany’s vocal opposition to war were sinking beneath the waves. The prime minister’s best hope seemed to be to ensure that we and the US went to war in the best possible company. To do this, he needed to secure Bush’s solid support for a second UN resolution, explicitly sanctioning military action.

Heck, read the whole thing.

Web site: Al Qaeda in Iraq abducted Egyptian envoy

Al-Qaeda are now apparently claiming that they were the ones to snatch the Egyptian’s top diplomat in Iraq:

“We announce, al Qaeda in Iraq, that the Egyptian ambassador had been kidnapped by our mujahedeen, and he is under their control,” said a statement on an Islamic Web site linked to the group. CNN could not confirm the statement’s authenticity. The posting said al-Zarqawi is expected to issue a longer announcement soon.

When did Bush decide to invade Iraq?

Fred Kaplan with a good piece on the Downing Street memo:

The key passage of the memo—which lays down the minutes of a July 23, 2002, British Cabinet meeting and was obtained and published by the Times of London just last month—is also the one that’s gained the greatest notoriety:

C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.

“C,” as is now well known, was the code name for Richard Dearlove, head of MI6, the British foreign-intelligence service. Most discussion of this passage has focused on its final sentence and the meaning of the phrase “fixed around.” But the most interesting part, for purposes of this discussion, is the second sentence: “There was a perceptible shift in attitude.” When Dearlove had been in Washington some time before, war was not a certainty; yet during this most recent visit, the whiff of gunpowder was distinctly in the air.

It would be useful to know the precise timing of Dearlove’s “recent talks in Washington”—and of his most recent visit before that. Still, if his perception (or, perhaps, his American source, who would have been then director of the CIA George Tenet) is to be trusted, the Bush administration seems to have firmly decided on war sometime in the late spring of 2002.

This inference is bolstered by an article that Nicholas Lemann wrote in the March 31, 2003, issue of The New Yorker, shortly after the war began. In it, he quotes Richard Haass—then the State Department’s director of policy planning—recalling a meeting with Condoleezza Rice, then Bush’s national security adviser, in the first week of July 2002:

Condi and I have regular meetings, once every month or so—she and I get together for thirty or forty-five minutes, just to review the bidding. And I raised this issue about were we really sure that we wanted to put Iraq front and center at this point, given the war on terrorism and other issues. And she said, essentially, that that decision’s been made, don’t waste your breath. And that was early July. … For me, it was that meeting with Condi that made me realize it was farther along than I had realized.