“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The present US strategy with Iran is working to the benefit of the US. Stay the course.

Ahmadinejad stretching with the budget.

Most military and civil intelligence comes from the published and broadcast media of the country of interest. It is gathering data and making comparisons from alternate sources for the purpose of verification of favorite theories. It can be used to see if there is a deliberate attempt at disinformation and if so an analyst would ask why. Here is a small news release from the Tehran Times about Iran's coming budget for 2007-2008.

There are very basic details but the focus is projecting a 20% increase in spending to $248 billion, based on a reduced revenue stream and assuming a $33 per barrel price of oil. Iran is also projecting an 18% increase in tax revenues. Is Iran implying that it has been running huge surpluses at the current and past prices of oil. Is that true? Or is Iran facing reality of a diminishing cash flow from oil and placing a huge tax burden on their economy? If we look at what is known about the 2006 budget we get a different picture. A Radio Free Europe story from February 22, 2006 headlines this ( I cannot post a link because I am doing this from Central America and their security sees me as a threatening link):

Iran: Budget Row Reflects Deputies' Domestic, Foreign Concerns

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad is facing his second crisis in the Iranian parliament. His budget for the Iranian calendar year 1385 (March 2006-March 2007) is being criticized by both right- and left-wing deputies. Much of the criticism is focused on the attention given to religious institutions that fit the president's conservative preferences. Another concern relates to excessive dependence on oil as the only source of revenue -- something that they say could have an inflationary effect. Some also argue that the government is basing its figures on an unreasonably high price for oil. Debates in the parliament suggest that Ahmadinejad's sloganeering and populist approach could meet its match in the realities of running the country.

Introducing The Draft Budget

When Ahmadinejad submitted his draft budget to the legislature on 15 January, he said his governments' priorities are the promotion of "justice, kindness, public service, and national development," the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. The total budget is $217 billion, with $68 billion allocated to the public sector and $149 billion to other state enterprises such as banks and nonprofit organizations. This latter total 27 percent more than in the budget for the previous year and indicates more attention to sectors considered less important by some deputies.

Government spokesman Gholamhussein Elham tried to put a brave face on the impact of sanctions, saying Iran is in a strong position and the nuclear issue will not affect the budget.
Mohammad Ali Hayati, a deputy from Lamerd and Mehr, said the budget has grown but it does not keep up with the needs of the education sector. He added that funds allocated for education have been falling since 2001, and the Education Ministry will have a 33 trillion rial (about $3.67 billion) deficit by the end of the year.

The Management and Planning Organization should explain how it came up with its numbers, Tehran conservative deputy Imad Afruq said, IRNA reported on 24 January. He added that the budget does not conform to the five-year (2005-10) development plan and that there are questions about the budget's compatibility with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's 20-year outlook. The budget reportedly allocates major funding for religious institutions, prompting Afruq -- who heads the legislature's culture committee -- to ask why the budget grew for "certain cultural institutes" when it remained the same for other institutions.

Another member of the culture committee, Jalal Yahyazadeh, was more blunt. "Culture is not just for the Islamic Publicity Organization or the Seminary Publicity Office," he said. "There are other important sectors like theater, and music -- that fit into the category of culture -- and unfortunately their budgets have not been given much attention," "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 22 January.

Excessive Dependence On Oil Revenues

Even before the draft budget was submitted, legislators warned that it depends too much on oil revenues. Adel Azar, who represents Dehloran, Abadanan, and Darreh Shahr, said in early January that 70 percent of the budget is derived from oil sales, whereas in "advanced countries" only 35 percent of the budget comes from natural resources, "Kayhan" reported on 3 January.

Conservative legislator Mohammad Reza Mirtajedini said the budget's dependence on oil revenues increases every year, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 24 January. In 2002-03 it was $10.5 billion; three times higher in 2005-06 at $34.9 billion; and $36.8 billion for 2006-07. Other legislators and a Central Bank of Iran official feared that dependence on oil revenues will contribute to inflation, and an inflation rate of at least 20 percent is more likely than the projected inflation rate of 13.5 percent.

After the budget was submitted, complaints arose that it is based on an excessively high estimate of $40 per barrel. Hussein Kazempur-Ardabili, who represents Iran at the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), said, "oil's share in the budget must be reduced and oil must be priced lower," "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 22 January. Abadan parliamentary representative Mohammad Said Ansari asked how the government would finance a deficit if oil prices fall below the $40 rate.

These expressions of concern appeared to have an impact, and Ahmad Tavakoli, who chairs the legislature's research center, announced on 12 February that the parliamentary Economy Committee has decided to reduce the budget's dependency on oil revenues by 25 percent, Fars News Agency reported on 12 February.

Now look at what they are publishing for the world to see this year:

TEHRAN - Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad presented his draft of the national budget bill for Iranian calendar year 1386 (starts on March 21) to the parliament on Sunday.

The bill surpassed that of the current year by 19.6 percent.

The president is asking the Majlis to approve a national budget of 2,290 trillion rials (about $248 billion), which is a 19.6 percent rise compared to the current year’s budget, which stands at 1,910 trillion rials.

“We have set the (projected) oil price at $33.70 per barrel for next year’s national budget, whereas the oil price was $44.10 in the current year's budget,” Ahmadinejad told parliament.

"The future cannot be predicted. It is possible that our enemies want to reduce oil prices to hurt us. That is why we have set the price at $33.70 per barrel to show we are ready for anything," AFP quoted him as saying.

"Even if they reduce oil prices, we will be ready to handle it," he added.

According to the government’s projections in the new budget, tax revenues will increase by 18.4 percent and other revenues will rise by 22 percent, with non-oil revenues climbing 18.3 percent, the president noted.

In line with the plan to reduce reliance on oil revenues, the expenditure of foreign exchange reserves from the Oil Stabilization Fund will be reduced from $38.2 billion to $29.5 billion, which is a 38 percent reduction compared to this year’s national budget, Ahmadinejad explained.

Majlis Research Center Director Ahmad Tavakkoli praised the proposed national budget bill, saying that setting the oil price at $33.70 per barrel will further stabilize the budget.

“Even if the price of exported oil slumps to 33 dollars, the budget will face no serious problem,” he told reporters on Sunday.

Banking higher education center director Mohammad Tabibiyan called the National budget bill “realistic” and positive.

However, the budget should be more deflationary, the university professor told the Mehr News Agency on Sunday.

“In light of the fact that oil prices are decreasing in global markets and that Iran’s economy is dependent on oil exports, the budget should adopt more deflationary policies,” he explained.

The government should also decrease the funding allocated to governmental bodies, he added.

Conclusion: It is obvious Iran is worried about both falling oil prices and restraints on its trade. It is increasing taxes by a whopping 18%. The leadership is further concerned about domestic restlessness. This is great news and The United States should not do anything that would increase the price of oil or diminish political pressure on Iran. A military attack on Iran would play into their hands.


  1. About 150 Iranian lawmakers have signed a letter calling on Ahmadinejad's government to reconsider its draft budget for next year, arguing it overestimates oil revenues in a falling world market. Roughly 80 percent of Iran's revenues come from oil exports.

    Ahmadinejad said Sunday the budget took account of a possible further drop in oil prices, but he gave no specifics.

    "We assume enemies want to damage us by decreasing the price of oil," he said. "So we have reduced dependency on oil revenue."

    Overestimating Oil Revenues

  2. Polls and letters, meaningless, but all divert attention from realities. A perfect case in point:

    "... A new Gallup poll taken this past weekend shows that support of President Bush's troop escalation did not gain any ground, ... (it remains stuck at 38% approval). The survey also revealed majority support for a congressonal resolution opposing the "surge" -- a U.S. pullout within a year.

    Support for such a resolution is strong, with 61% backing that. Asked if congress should try to block the deployments, such as by denying funding, a still significant 47% back that action, with 50% opposing it.

    A total of 56% want a quick pullout -- with 19% advocating "immediately" and another 37% in a year's time. Only 13% say "send more troops."

    "Americans remain unconvinced that it is necessary to send new troops to Iraq to gain victory, as Bush argued, and a majority favors withdrawal of troops within one year," Gallup reports. "Most Americans continue to say the costs of the war outweigh the benefits of succeeding in Iraq, and a majority of Americans also continue to say it was a mistake to send troops to Iraq initially."

    The poll was taken Jan. 12-14.

    So whether it's letters, nonbinding resolutions or public opinion polls it all adds up to a bunch of nothin'.

    US troops were attacked by Hadjis dressed in US uniforms, 5 US KIA.
    In a War our good buddy, rufus, tells US is "Won" & "Over", all but for the leaving.
    This "Surge" just a little piece of eye wash.
    If an accurate view, looking good cost 24 US lives in the past two days, hope Mr Maliki appreciates the true costs of his empowerment.

  3. Although I have already quoted this section of the two parter, some things cannot be said often enough.

    "Under the current, broken judicial system for detainees – the “catch and release” program where captured suspected insurgents are judged in U.S. military courts and are let go despite solid evidence of their guilt, the release rate is high, at about 50 percent. This causes a loss in confidence among the Iraqi people and a sag in morale among U.S. and Iraq troops, as the same fighters are released to conduct more attacks and intimidate those who fingered them. The detention facilities are derisively referred to as “Muj Universities” as the insurgents network in the jails."


  4. Our Correspondent adds from Riyadh: President Musharraf and King Abdullah held extended talks here on Sunday, covering the entire gambit of Pakistan-Saudi relations and the ‘explosive situation’ in the region.

    They discussed matters of mutual interest, the situation in the Middle East, with special reference to the Palestine–Israel conflict, the Afghanistan situation and the emerging situation in Iraq.

    According to sources, the growing threat of a war against Iran and its impact on the region were also discussed. Both sides felt that it was imperative to avoid another flashpoint in the region. There was unanimity of views on these issues.

    Musharraf and Abdullah

  5. For those looking for that last minute bit of insomnia producing angst, see Oak Leaf. A Black Hawk Down hero has been screwed by the man. I need not say which man, right?
    Mike Steele, American Hero in Somalia (Black Hawk Down), Reprimanded in Iraq, Career Finished

  6. Despite societal prejudice, religious leaders in Iran have a rather liberal approach towards transsexuals.

    Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who led the Islamic revolution in 1979, decreed that being a transsexual was permissible for those at odds with their gender.

    Most transsexuals believe that a life in the West would be much easier for them due to the open mindedness in those societies.

    Iran's Transsexuals

  7. Indecisiveness: Insulating The Enemy From Defeat

    "In order to achieve victory through the ensuing ‘surge’ of manpower and operations, the United States must either achieve the full support of the entangled Iraqi government against al-Sadr’s deadly Tehran-backed militia (et al) or be prepared to disregard it, thus admitting its inability to govern a non-partitioned, whole Iraqi state."

  8. As the Saturday death toll among American troops was mounting, the military reported five soldiers had been killed in an attack on a security meeting in provincial government building in Karbala, south of the capital.

    Thousands of pilgrims have arrived in the holy city to mark Ashoura, the festival at the start of the Islamic new year that marks the death of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and one of the most-revered Shiite saints.

    Iraqi officials said on Sunday that the gunmen who attacked the meeting wore military uniforms and arrived in black sport utility vehicles commonly used by foreign dignitaries _ an apparent attempt to impersonate American forces.

    Shift on Militia

  9. To avenge ourselves on the Sunni responsible for carrying out the raid that left 5 American troops dead, the US could concentrate on Babil. On the other hand, a bloody raid into Taliban country or an attack inside Yemen against Somalis hiding there could send a message. This is a global war and targets abound globally.

  10. Way too offensive, Trish.
    How about:

    "I'd rather be bringing individuals who are evil-doers to Justice"

  11. I wonder why the American public questions the wisdom of placing more troops into patrolling Baghdad for the purpose of trying to stop Iraqis murdering Iraqis?

    BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- At least 60 people were killed and 110 wounded in a pair of nearly simultaneous car bombings in central Baghdad's Bab al-Sharqi district, an Interior Ministry official said Monday.

    "Body parts everywhere, many bodies charred, it was horrible," the official said.

    According to the official, the midday bombings targeted civilians in a second-hand clothing market, the site of several attacks in the past.

    Separately, mortar rounds fell on an elementary school in southern Baghdad's Abu Dhseir section, killing one woman and wounding eight children.

    Attacks and the crash of a Black Hawk helicopter brought to 25 the number of American troops killed in Iraq on Saturday, making it one of the deadliest days for the U.S. military since the war began almost four years ago.

  12. > I wonder why the American public questions the wisdom of placing more troops into patrolling Baghdad for the purpose of trying to stop Iraqis murdering Iraqis?

    President Bush hasn't made his case. As I have said before, I think that is the root cause of problems, that Bush stopped politics once he got reelected.

    However, even though Bush doesn't say much, I think Bush's argument still wins, because no one can come up with the alternative that he asks for.

    Troop deaths can be criticized in any war, including world war II. That is the price of fighting war.

    What is the alternative though? Even the liberal groups like the Iraq Study Group admit it would be a total disaster to have an immediate pullout. What the Democrats are pushing for, freezing the troop levels, would end up killing more troops by preventing reinforcements from coming to the field, and preventing tactics from changing to win the war. The Democrat argument that we need a negotiated solution ignores the fact that negotiations go better when our side has military force.

    Also the debate often seems to ignore that the Iraqis want to run this operation and take over their security, so this is a step towards that. It is part of passing the baton to them.

    What Bush and Petraeus are pushing for is to use standard counterinsurgency tactics. One key principle is that we turn things over to the "host nation" (Iraq) as soon as they are ready. What is the alternative to that?

  13. Here is the rub, wu.
    The Iraqi were the only alternative from May of '03.
    There has never been another alternative, nor will there be.

    The Shia dominate the Federal Government of Iraq. They always will, if a "democratic" formula is used to choose that government.

    We could schedule the "hand off", we could begin to withdraw unilaterally, we could negotiate a long term presence.
    There are any number of alternate courses, to the only long term alternative in Iraq.

    Mr Bush has admitted to charting a course to "slow defeat". As allen's link suggests, there has been no "Course Correction", just more of the same, on caffine, steroids beinge outlawed.
    Slow defeat.

  14. Look at the numbers, wu.
    There will not be 1 troop per 100 civilians. Without that the General P Doctine will fail.
    The military could make up for the lack of troops with increased aggresiveness, but the Manual does not tell US what to do when understaffed. It requires a different Doctrine, entirely.

    It would be great to follw the P Plan, but there are not enough US troops nor enough time left in the game.

  15. We will have enough troops, and the Kagan plan describes how in great detail. The focus on phase I is the Sunni & mixed neighborhoods in Baghdad, not Sadr City. That will give us the 1 troop per 50 civilians which the US Army's manual recommends.

    In the long run we won't have and don't want enough troops to occupy the entire country. President Bush is sincere about turning this over to the Iraqis.

    The choice is up to the Iraqis. What we are doing now is training them on the technique they could use to stop the insurgencies in their country. We also are giving them an opportunity to choose central government instead of civil war.

    Action speaks louder than words. Right now the insurgents control Baghdad, which is 1/4 of the population. Liberating it would put the Iraqi government in a better position for negotiations. This operation will give everyone the chance to make choices. There can be endless arguments about whether Maliki is a sectarian puppet, but now in a few months we will know for sure. Al-Sadr will be forced to make public decisions. The Sunni Insurgency will be forced to make public decisions.

    It is time for action instead of just talk.

  16. 1% of population is baseline for an occupying force, but that demands local auxilliaries, police etc another 1%. Add more if occupation troops are crap quality (non-NATO).

    Historical comparison : NATO occupied Bosnia with 60000 (1,5%) and Kosovo with 40000 (2%) and then ramped down as local security forces took up the slack, with the UN/EU able to take over in classic peacekeeping mode after 6-7 years.

    The US tried occupying Iraq with troop levels hovering around 0,5%.

    Shinseki's proposed high figure (500000) would have been 1,6% :).

    Keep in mind, occupation, like police work, is mostly foot work. US forces, despite the hordes of civilian contractors replacing REMFs, still have a terribly high percentage of fobbits (the inevitable hidden price of high tech). REMFs, unlike contractors, can still be pressed to guard bridges, gates etc etc in extremis.

    And when all is said and done, 1% is sufficient to keep the lid on if the pot is not already boiling over. Too late for that now.

  17. That's true, wu.

    When the PM slot became open, a bit over a year ago, I recall a site with the bios of the prospects. Mr Maliki got less than a paragraph, it being said that he was considered to secterian to be acceptable.

    He was Mr al-Jaafari's Press Spokesman. Mr Maliki is not a puppet, but one of the puppetmasters.

    The Iraqi Army is going to ethnicly cleanse Baghdad with US assistance, is what Phase I sounds like to me.
    The Iraqi have already chosen, wu, in the ourole people fingered election.

    They voted for Religion
    They voted for Civil War.

    At least that is what the Iraq the Model's father believes. He, living there with many years of experience, would know, best.

  18. > The Iraqi Army is going to ethnicly cleanse Baghdad with US assistance, is what Phase I sounds like to me.

    How could anyone write such a thing, the part about US assistance? Maliki's original plan was for the Iraqis to be the only ones in Baghdad, and the reason Bush insisted on the US being there too was to prevent such cleansing.

    Also, the cleansing is going on right now. The US could be said to be assisting it if we stand by and let it happen. Indeed, a Bush aide said that was one of the reasons the President decided against Plan B, which was just to let the Sunnis and Shiites fight it out, while we targeted Al Qaeda and protected the borders.

  19. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  20. There is way, way too much emphasis placed on Maliki. He could be replaced in a minute just like his predecessor was. Maliki is not a dictator, he is an weak prime minister in a parliamentary system where he can be replaced at any time.

    I'm tired about hearing how bad the Shiites are, while the Sunni Insurgency slaughters ever day. Really Sistani, Maliki, and even al-Sadr get punished for working within the democratic system. The Sunni Insurgency doesn't even bother trying democracy, yet everyone gives them a pass because they are invisible.

    Just in the past 48 hours we've had mass killings of civilians by Sunnis, car bombings, and attacks on US troops which seem to be by them. Yet the talk is Maliki, Maliki, Maliki.

    No one ever seems to ask the question, "The Sunnis have rebelled against democracy and slaughtered Shiites since day 1 - don't the Shiites have the right to kill Sunnis until they submit to the government?" There is an incredible double standard where the violence and lack of cooperation of the Sunnis is ignored. In fact we used to talk about a "war on terror". The Sunnis are a very violent insurgency, which not only attacks the government but slaughters civilians based on their religion. A few years back wouldn't we have said that any such government was allowed to use violence to fix the situation?

  21. Yes, wu.
    For that scenaario to occur, the Sunni paying a price for the Insurgency, the victims will have to be let loose. Contrary to the Sauds desires.

    The Iraqis publicly state they can solve the problem, if given the authority and capability.

    As rufus linked to yesterday, Bill Roggio describes a successful MTT Unit, embedded with the "Snake Eaters". Seven months to basic combat competency. A Bn of Iraqi, about 15 US, a training and deployment cycle of 12 months, per Bn.
    To few teams deployeed, in the past.
    The Surge hastens the deployment of units by a couple of months. It also extends the tours of units scheduled to leave in Feb, Mar, Apr.
    How long will those fellows be extended, in theory years, in reality just three or four months.

    July, August, as described by Mr Gates, while in Iraq.

  22. The cleansing will occur as the Iraqi Army holds & builds, wu.

    It is easy to say that the US will be involved. We will be there, clearing the way.

    Almost 2 million Sunni have already abandoned the Country.
    If you believe that having the Iraqi Army holding & building Baghdad will hasten their return, then historical precedent holds no store with you.

    Already reports are that the Leadership of both the Mahdi Army and aQ & Baathist insurgents are decamping Baghdad, now.

  23. > The cleansing will occur as the Iraqi Army holds & builds, wu.

    With US troops embedded and fighting side by side with the Iraqis? I think not.

    Also, the Iraqi army is not entirely Shiite. Lots of the new Iraqi troops coming to Iraq are Sunni Kurds. There are also mixed Sunni / Shiite divisions, and the US Marines in Anbar are recruiting Sunni divisions for use all over Iraq.

    The Sunnis remaining won't be totally defenseless either. Iraqi law allows them to have a weapon for personal defense.

    One of the main reasons for US & Kurd troops to be present is to prevent sectarian cleansing, and to give everyone confidence that it won't happen.

    > Almost 2 million Sunni have already abandoned the Country.

    Abandoned or just taking a vacation in order to prepare to bring back the dictatorship once the US leaves? All along that has been their strategy, to bring back the dictatorship. I don't see the Sunnis as being victims, or as being in a weak position.

    In fact I see the Sunnis as responsible for all violence in Iraq. For years they not only fought against the US and the government, but slaughtered hundreds of Shiite citizens solely because of their religion, just as Hitler did to Jewish people in world war II. The Shiites and Kurds wanted to work things out through the government, but the Sunnis refused, offering up only violence.

    There is a great effort to blame the victim by saying that the US and Shiites are responsible for this, but the fact is that it is the Sunnis. The fact of the matter is that it once the Sunnis insisted on violence, on fighting a civil war, it is absolutely impossible for the US, the Iraqi Shiites, or anyone else to avoid that violence. Either the Sunnis stop, or someone fights them. Whether it is the US along, US & Iraqis, US & UN, is just a detail, but once the Sunnis have chosen an offensive war, then the only option is to fight.

    Consider today's bombing in which dozens were killed, dozens of Shiite civilians who were shopping, just because of their religion:

    That car had a large amount of explosives and metal objects, including nails and other shrapnel, to inflict maximum casualties, the official said...

    Monday's first blast, a parked car bomb, tore through stalls of vendors peddling DVDs and secondhand clothes shortly after noon in the Bab al-Sharqi market between Tayaran and Tahrir squares — one of the busiest parts of Baghdad. Seconds later, a suicide car bomber drove into the crowd.

    The solution is not allowing Sunni civilians to be killed by Shiites, but allowing Shiites to maintain their militias until Sunnis agree to stop their insurgency. The whole reason al-Sadr gained support was that the Sunnis supported this senseless violence for years, with the Shiites only responding politically.

    This is why I've said all along that I don't know whether or not I support US involvement in the Baghdad operation, because I don't know what the Sunni Insurgency has said, what deal if any they have made.

    It is not enough to say that Shiite should fight Shiite, meaning Maliki against the militias. In order for that to happen, then the Sunnis should agree to fight Sunnis, using violence if necessary to stop Al Qaeda and others from slaughtering civilians. If some Shiites and some Sunnis aren't willing to stop the others, then the US should just let them fight it out.

  24. Look at what happened in Kosovo. We intervened on the side of the majority Albanian Muslims and they have pretty much etnically cleansed the Cristian Serbs. Why would it be different in Iraq?

  25. No reason, at all, duece.

    Look at the numbers, wu.
    3,000 Sunni police in Anbar, touted as success. It is, of a sort. Much to little though, to impact the 300,000 folk. of just the Six Enemy Tribes of Anbar.
    The remaining 800,000 or so folk are of the Sunni tribes of the police.
    3,000 police for a population base of over 1 million. Granted that population may hve dipped.

    Basicly, preInvasion, there were 25 million Iraqi
    60% Shia
    20% Sunni
    19% Kurd
    1% other.
    20% of 25 million, 5 million
    The UN exodus numbers put external refugees at 1.8 million, mostly Sunni.
    36% of the Sunni population has already been cleansed under US Security arangements.
    At what percentage does flight from fight become "cleansing"?

    If a third of my hispanic neighbors hit the highway, to Mexico, I'd be thinking Arizona was well on the way to being "cleansed".

  26. You either miss the point, or haven't read Allen's link, Wu:
    Either the Iraqis are 100% behind the plan for a unified Iraq, or they are not.
    All your aurguments prove very well they are NOT.
    ...and yet the plan moves forward as if they were, or as if we can muddle through together on the strength of the deception.
    Kind of like Domestic Politics is supposed to work these days in the Twilight Zone of BushWorld.

  27. "Already reports are that the Leadership of both the Mahdi Army and aQ & Baathist insurgents are decamping Baghdad, now."
    So, once again, the flypaper attracted the evildoers, and once again, instead of whacking them when we got em, we let them go, and the whack a mole with a sponge hammer course coninues.

    The scary thing to think about is what happens next, other than the obvious spin and coverup.

  28. allen links to Christopher Hitchens who has presented a ten point alternate Plan.
    Right here
    He present the 10 Steps at the end of a review of Mark Steyn’s new book:
    "America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It"

  29. > Either the Iraqis are 100% behind the plan for a unified Iraq, or they are not.

    The issue is not whether they are 100% for unification, but whether enough Iraqis favor unification and peace, and are willing to fight and die for it. And by changing circumstances, like by getting a cease fire in Baghdad, the Iraqi people's decision might change.

    Somalia is a good example. A few months ago the Islamic terrorists controlled nearly the whole country, and most of the world thought they would soon have it all. It appeared that the Somalian people had rejected the central government, and chosen the terrorists.

    But with military action from Ethiopia, the terrorists collapsed like a house of cards. The people rejected the Islamists and now support the central government.

    The Iraqis might change their minds if Baghdad is stabilized and they might not, but Somalia shows that peace is certainly a possibility.