Clinton: Troops Perhaps out in a Year; Al-Hakim Slams Awakening Councils; Rice Bunkers Down

Reuters says that Iraq made a comeback as a campaign issue on Wednesday through Friday of this week. On Wednesday, Senator Hillary Clinton told a voter that she could get all US troops out of Iraq by early 2009. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who has called for an immediate and complete withdrawal of troops from Iraq, accused Clinton of changing her position. Clinton’s aide, Harry Wolfson, responded, “Governor Richardson knows that Senator Clinton has been clear and consistent: If George Bush has not ended the war in Iraq, she will . . . As she has said, she would accomplish that by beginning to withdraw our troops within 60 days after inauguration at the rate of one or two brigades a month. This would mean that nearly all troops could be home within a year.”

In the past, Clinton has declined to pledge that all troops would be out of Iraq by the end of her first term if she were elected (i.e. by 2012). She has also spoken of keeping a US base in Kurdistan, apparently for the long term. But perhaps she is changing her mind about all that, and if so it is an excellent development. Of course, as Richardson implies, it may not be so much a commitment as the expression of one possibility among others.

The other part of the Reuters piece on the return of Iraq referred to Secretary of state Condi Rice’s testy slamming of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee for his characterization of Bush administration policy as unilateralist and exhibiting a bunker mentality.

Secretary Rice appears to have forgotten that the US invaded Iraq despite the opposition of the United Nations Security Council, and that Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz vowed to “punish France” for having refused to support the US war on Iraq. She also seems to have forgotten that then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld dismissed France and Germany as “old Europe,” in an attempt to divide the European Union and strong-arm the Western European countries into toeing his line. It has also apparently escaped her attention that the Bush administration she serves blew off the Israeli-Palestinian peace process for 7 years even though UK PM Tony Blair and other NATO allies pleaded with them to continue the process begun by Bill Clinton at Camp David. Bush said he wanted to “unleash Sharon” (the then hard line Israeli prime minister), and maintained that sometimes “conflict clarifies things.” (I guess things are very clear now.) Rice’s own support for continued Israeli bombing of poor little Lebanon in August of 2006 was also opposed by virtually everyone in the international community.

The problem with a bunker mentality is that those inside the bunker forget that that is where they are.

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) on Friday warned against the Sunni Arab “Awakening Councils” or US-funded tribal levies as a potential threat to Iraq’s stability if they were not closely integrated into Iraqi security forces. Al-Hakim has met with Awakening Council leaders. He even recently applauded the one in al-Anbar Province for helping some Shiites come back to that region after they had earlier been ethnically cleansed by the Salafi Jihadis.

McClatchy gives us a preview of a forthcoming UNICEF report on the condition of Iraqi children in 2007, which is poor. Main findings:

‘ # Twenty-eight percent of Iraq’s 17-year-olds took final exams this summer; 40 percent in south and central Iraq passed.

# Eighty percent of children outside Baghdad don’t have working sewers in their communities, limiting access to safe water.

# An average of 25,000 children per month were displaced within Iraq by violence or intimidation.

# An estimated 760,000 children were out of primary school in 2006, and 220,000 more displaced children had their educations interrupted in 2007.

# By the end of 2007, about 75,000 children were living in camps or temporary shelter.

# About 1,350 children were detained by military and police, “many for alleged security violations.” ‘

AP reports that that bombing in Kanaan on Thursday killed one US soldier and wounded 10 others, along with the Iraqis killed and wounded. In Muqdadiya, US troops found a torture chamber and mass grave in a facility of the so-called ‘Islamic State of Iraq,’ a Salafi Jihadi organization.

McClatchy reports political violence on Friday:

Baghdad

– Around 1 p.m. a suicide car bomb targeted Al Rasheed police station in Al Yousifiyah, killing four policemen and one civilian and injuring seven policemen and one civilian.

– Police found three bodies in Baghdad; one in Doura, Kasra and Camp Sara.

Diyala

– A mortar shell slammed into Al Salam town (about 25 Kilometers north of Baquba) and hit a house near the town’s police station killing one child and injuring two others.

– Gunmen killed three men in Baladrouz market today.

Salahuddin

– One mortar shell landed in Balad city causing damages to one shop.

– Gunmen kidnapped a citizen in Al Touz town, Iraqi police said.

Anbar

– The U.S. military and Iraqi police said one Iraqi police officer was killed and one marine was injured in an altercation at a joint outpost in the Jazeera area of Ramadi on Wednesday. The police officer died of stab wounds and the marine was treated for minor injuries from lacerations at a military hospital. . .

Reuters adds, “BASRA – A suspected roadside bomb exploded next to a British military armored vehicle east of Basra International Airport, where British forces in Iraq are based, but there were no casualties from the blast, a British military official said.”

At our group Global Affairs blog, Barnett Rubin shares a column by a Pakistani journalist on President Pervez Musharraf, “Banned in Pakistan: Comedian of the Year,” by Ahmad Faruqui.

See also Philip J. Cunningham on China.

At the Napoleon’s Egypt blog, Bonaparte’s letter to the Ottoman Grand Vizier. Remember that “Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East,” available in most bookstores, makes a fine last-minute gift for the holidays . . .

Other good reading for the New Year – Rebecca Solnit’s Library of Hope.

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