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Likely Scenario That Will Be Pretense For War With Iran February 10, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Commentary, Congress, Main, Military News, Politics, US News, White House, World News.
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This will be my last post on Not A Pundit. With the birth of my second “baby pundit” I find that I am having to squeeze my news posts at odd hours of the day. I leave you all with this final post on what I hope will not come to be true, but I think that Zbigniew Brzezinski has laid out a likely scenario that will be pretense for war with Iran.

Unless you live like a hermit or live in a cave, you must be aware of the Bush saber rattling towards Iran. The nuclear weapons issue is important but some analyst agree Iran is years away from being able to build a weapon. I’m not an intelligence official so it may be true or it may not be true, but one thing that is true is the capture of five Iranians in Iraq that has increased tensions between both the US and Iran. Iraq has become a military quagmire at a time when North Korea, Venezuela and Iran are testing our world hegemony. That is not a good thing to show the world. So what to do?

Iraq has become a proxy battleground between Washington and Tehran, which is challenging – at least rhetorically – the U.S.’s dominance of the Gulf. That has worried even Iraq’s U.S.-backed Shiite prime minister, who – in a reflection of Iraq’s complexity – also has close ties to Iran.

Prof. Gary Sick, a leading authority on Iran, believes the U.S. is seeking to divert world attention from the crisis in Iraq and organize a coalition of Israel and conservative Sunni Arab states to confront Iran.

“The truth is that Iraq is a mess. It is in a state of low-level civil war. And all of these groups are largely self-motivated,” he said on the Council on Foreign Relations Web site. “But it’s much easier to blame it on the Iranians.”

Would the US go to war with Iran alone? Yes and no. At this point I don’t see the US confronting Iran militarily without some Sunni Arab support. Not necessarily military but tacit approval from those nations. Israel and NATO frankly are the better military allies.

The truth is that Iraq is a powder keg ready to explode. In more ways than just a proxy war between the US and Iran. But a powder keg indeed:

In Tehran, political analyst Hermidas Bavand said U.S. force increases were leading many Iranians to believe Washington is looking to pick a fight.

“It’s an extremely dangerous situation,” Bavand said. “I don’t think Tehran wants war under any circumstances. But there might be an accidental event that could escalate into a large confrontation.”

The US has increased its military presence in the Persian Gulf with additional battle carriers. The troop surge supposedly to go to Iraq is forming in Kuwait awaiting their orders. Hhmm…I wonder when they’ll reach Iraq?

Let there be no doubt of possible war with Iran, because our President has made it clear:

Bush said Monday the U.S. “will respond firmly” if Iran escalates military action in Iraq and endangers U.S. forces. The U.S. accuses Iran of arming and training Shiite Muslim extremists in Iraq. U.S. troops have responded by arresting Iranian diplomats in Iraq, and the White House has said Bush signed an order allowing U.S. troops to kill or capture Iranians inside Iraq.

This leads me to my final point that reminds me of an article that went over the newswires that grabbed little attention. Basically Zbigniew Brzezinski laid out to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee what he thought would be the likely outcome of a continued military quagmire in Iraq and the likely scenario leading to a confrontation with Iran.

Zbigniew Brzezinski also told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Bush administration policy was driven by “imperial hubris” and has proved to be a disaster on historic, strategic and moral grounds.

“If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted bloody involvement in Iraq, and I emphasize what I am about to say, the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam at large,” Brzezinski said.

Brzezinski set out as a plausible scenario for military collision: Iraq fails to meet benchmarks set by the U.S., followed by accusations that Iran is responsible for the failure and then a terrorist act or some provocation blamed on Iran. This scenario, he said, would play out with a defensive U.S. military action against Iran.

That, Brzezinski said, would plunge the U.S. into a quagmire that eventually would range across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Brzezinski’s Solution:

Proposing a massive shift in policy, Brzezinski said the U.S. should announce with no ambiguity its determination to leave Iraq “in a reasonably short period of time.”

Can this be something that our President will do? I’m not holding my breath. Can Congress use its legislative power to push for such a massive policy shift? Lets all hope they can. They can recall the National Guard back to the states. They can place a cap on troops in Iraq. They can refure to provide funding for additional troops. They simply can refuse to authorize the President to go to war with Iran. Plain and simple. Our congressional leaders just need to actually debate the issue this time in the full light of day, instead of the weak abdication of power they showed when authorizing the war in Iraq.

GOP Blocks Full-Fledged US Senate Debate Over Iraq February 6, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Politics, US News.
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WASHINGTON (AP)–Republicans blocked a full-fledged U.S. Senate debate over Iraq on Monday, but Democrats vowed to find a way to force President George W. Bush to change course in a war that has claimed the lives of more than 3,000 U.S. troops.

“We must heed the results of the November elections and the wishes of the American people,” said Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Reid spoke moments before a vote that sidetracked a nonbinding measure expressing disagreement with Bush’s plan to deploy an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq.

The vote was 49-47, or 11 short of the 60 needed to go ahead with debate, and left the fate of the measure uncertain.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky described the test vote as merely a “bump in the road” and added that GOP lawmakers “welcome the debate and are happy to have it.”

The political jockeying unfolded as Democrats sought passage of a measure, supported by Sen. John Warner, R-Va., that is critical of the administration’s new Iraq policy. It was the first time Democrats had scheduled a sustained debate on the war since they won control over Congress in last fall’s midterm elections.

McConnell called for equal treatment for an alternative measure, backed by Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., saying Congress should neither cut nor eliminate funding for troops in the field. That measure takes no position on the war or the president’s decision to deploy additional forces.

Democrats launched a withering attack on Bush’s war policy in the run-up to the vote.

“The American people do not support escalation. Last November, voters made it clear they want a change of course, not more of the same,” said Reid. “The president must hear from Congress, so he knows he stands in the wrong place, alone.”

Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat, echoed Reid. “If the Republicans want to stand by their president and his policy, they shouldn’t run from this debate. If they believe we should send thousands of our young soldiers into the maws of this wretched civil war, they should at least have the courage to stand and defend their position,” he said.

Bush Delays Private Accounts As Olive Branch To Democrats February 5, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Politics, US News, White House.
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WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)–President George W. Bush still thinks private accounts are needed to help shore up the Social Security system, but he postponed their implementation in his fiscal 2008 budget as a goodwill gesture to Democrats, White House budget director Rob Portman said Monday.

“We do include private accounts in the budget, but as an olive branch, I suppose you could say, they are delayed,” Portman said at a briefing on Bush’s budget request, adding that “as a practical matter, probably they would not be able to be implemented until 2012.”

The budget includes voluntary retirement accounts, which Democrats fiercely oppose, beginning in 2012, when workers would be able to divert as much as 4% of their Social Security taxable earnings, up to a $1,300 yearly limit. The accounts would cost $29.3 billion in 2012 and $637.4 billion over a decade.

In last year’s budget, Bush proposed rolling the accounts out two years earlier. The delay helps the administration reach its target of balancing the budget in five years, and shows Bush hasn’t given in to Congressional pressure to abandon the plan.

“The president continues to believe that this is part of the answer to Social Security, particularly for younger people,” said Portman, who heads the Office of Management and Budget.

Democrats, however, haven’t backed down in their opposition, saying private accounts would undermine the structure of Social Security and jeopardize future benefits. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., called the idea’s reprisal a “total waste of time.”

“Even though the American people have rejected Social Security privatization, even though it couldn’t pass a Republican Congress – much less this Democratic one – the White House is at it again,” Baucus said. “I led the fight to defeat Social Security privatization in 2005, and I don’t intend to let this bad idea back on the table.”

A bipartisan Social Security fix looks to be a non-starter with the Democrats inflexible on private accounts and the White House resisting a hike in payroll taxes.

Nonetheless, Portman lauded Bush’s “great political courage” on entitlement reform and said the president wants Democrats to come to the negotiating table without conditions.

“He’s made clear that there will be no preconditions, that all sides should come together and we can talk about these issues, and that there would be no preconditions on our side, nor should there be on the other side,” Portman said. “And I think this is exactly the way we must proceed. It’s the only way to proceed.”

Bush’s budget blueprint for fiscal 2008 proposes $96 billion in savings on mandatory programs over five years, an amount the White House says is a first step in reforming entitlements, which threaten to crowd out all discretionary spending by 2040.

By Henry J. Pulizzi, Dow Jones Newswires

Presidential Candidates Seen Treading Carefully In Iowa, NH On Iraq February 5, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Politics, US News.
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CONCORD, N.H. (AP)–When it comes to the Iraq war, apparently there is more than one right answer.

Among rank-and-file Democrats in early voting states like New Hampshire and Iowa, anti-war passion is so strong that it’s difficult for their party’s presidential candidates to come across as too forceful in their opposition to the war. On the other hand, candidates don’t want to go too far and risk losing swing voters critical to winning the general election.

At the same time, Republican hopefuls campaigning in these same states must tread delicately if they are to distance themselves from President George W. Bush’s prosecution of an increasingly unpopular war without offending core GOP voters, many of whom continue to support Bush and the conflict.

As a result, candidates in both parties are spinning and pivoting as they search for the right impression to convey on the issue that for many voters eclipses all others.

“Iraq is still the No. 1 issue. It will be the No. 1 issue through the presidential primary,” said Marine Lt. Col. Joseph Kenney, a Republican state senator from Wakefield, N.H., who spent six months in Iraq last year. “We cannot fail in Iraq.”

That’s not how fellow state Sen. Jacalyn Cilley, a Democrat, sees it. She says she has just one question for any presidential candidate seeking her support: “If this Congress and this Senate do not get us out of Iraq by the time you take office, will this be your first act?”

“It’s THE issue for me,” said Cilley, of Barrington, N.H.

Ditto for Democrats and Republicans in Iowa, where party caucuses will kick off the presidential nominating season on Jan. 14, 2008.

“If the situation remains the same, you better not be against the war, you better be really against it,” said former Iowa Democratic Chairman Dave Nagle.

But Michael Mahaffey, a former Iowa GOP chairman, said, “Most Republicans want the president to succeed, they want this surge (Bush’s plan to send more troops to Iraq) to succeed.”

Polls conducted by Research 2000 in late December found Democrats in both states strongly against the war, but the Republican picture was more complicated.

In New Hampshire, 92% of Democrats said going to war against Iraq for regime change was not worth it, and 78% said they favored a drawdown of troops before 2010, the year the Pentagon has set for maintaining its current troop levels. In Iowa, 86% of Democrats said the war wasn’t worth it and 76% favored a drawdown.

Among Republicans, more than half those surveyed – 54% in New Hampshire and 59% in Iowa – said going to war against Iraq for regime change was worthwhile. A majority – 57% in New Hampshire and 63% in Iowa – also opposed a drawdown of troops before the Pentagon’s target of 2010.

Nevertheless, about a third of GOP voters surveyed in the two states agreed with the overwhelming majority of Democrats on the two questions.

Support for Bush’s handling of the war is likely to be strongest among the 100,000 or so Republican activists who actually show up for Iowa’s precinct caucuses, said Mike Ralston, who heads the Iowa Association of Business and Industry.

“I sense there’s a real split developing in the party over the war,” Ralston said. “Most of the folks who show up for caucuses are going to be supportive of the president.”

That perhaps helps explain why the three leading candidates for the Republican nomination – Arizona Sen. John McCain, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani – all support Bush’s plan to increase U.S. troops in Iraq, although McCain has been critical of the president’s handling of the war.

But another candidate, Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, has opposed the increase, saying a diplomatic solution, not a military solution, is the only way to resolve the conflict.

The Democratic candidates unanimously deplore Bush’s handling of the war, but that unity breaks down when it comes to such questions as whether Congress should block funds for a troop increase, whether there should be a cap on current troop levels and a gradual drawdown, and whether there should be a partition of Iraq among the three dominant religious and ethnic groups.

Three of the Democratic candidates who were in the Senate in 2002 – Joe Biden, Chris Dodd and John Edwards – now say their votes to authorize the use of force against Iraq were a “mistake.”

New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has studiously avoided the M-word, but she has said that if senators knew then what they know now, they wouldn’t have voted the way they did. She also told party activists at a Democratic National Committee meeting Friday that if elected president, she would immediately end the war.

Another leading candidate for the Democratic nomination, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, was a state legislator at the time. He opposed the Iraq war from the start.

Over the weekend another candidate, former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, went even further than his rivals, calling for Congress to cut off funds for the war.

Democrats who supported the war in the past will be forgiven if they make their current positions clear, Nagle said. But he warned that equivocation will be fatal.

“Anybody who raises a real banner against it is going to do well,” said Nagle. “Anybody who tries to toe-step around it is going to have a real problem.”

Iowa Democratic strategist Joe Shannahan said Democrats are looking for realistic solutions.

“Somebody has got to step up and fix this,” he said. “This war has been bungled and people are going to be looking for leadership from our candidates.”

McCain: Iraq Resolution Supporters Intellectually Dishonest February 4, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Politics, US News.
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WASHINGTON (AP)–The top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee sought to weaken support for a resolution opposing President George W. Bush’s Iraq war strategy, saying Sunday that supporters are intellectually dishonest.

Arizona Sen. John McCain, a 2008 presidential candidate, contended the bipartisan nonbinding resolution amounted to a demoralizing “vote of no confidence” in the U.S. military because it criticized Bush’s plans to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq without offering concrete alternatives.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to say that you disapprove of a mission and you don’t want to fund it and you don’t want it to go, but yet you don’t take the action necessary to prevent it,” McCain said.

“In other words, this is a vote of no confidence in both the mission and the troops who are going over there,” he said, noting the proposal does not seek to cut off money for troops.

“I do believe that if you really believe that this is doomed to failure and is going to cost American lives, then you should do what’s necessary to prevent it from happening rather than a vote of “disapproval,” which is fundamentally a vote of no confidence in the troops and their mission,” McCain said.

An early test vote is tentatively set for Monday.

A fellow Vietnam veteran, GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, disagreed with McCain’s assessment. Hagel said the resolution would make clear the Senate’s belief that Bush’s policy is misguided.

Hagel said the proposal also lays out alternatives such as moving troops away from the sectarian violence and closer to the Iraq border to provide “territorial integrity.”

“We can’t change the outcome of Iraq by putting American troops in the middle of a civil war,” said Hagel, who is considering a run for the White House in 2008.

The Democratic-controlled Senate heads toward a showdown this week on the bipartisan resolution by Sen. John Warner, R-Va. In a bid to attract more GOP support, Warner added a provision pledging to protect money for troops in combat.

The newly worded resolution states that Congress “should not take any action that will endanger United States military forces in the field, including the elimination or reduction of funds for troops in the field.”

That compromise, however, drew the ire of some Democrats, including Sens. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and Russell Feingold of Wisconsin, who said it leaned too far in endorsing the status quo. They want to see binding legislation to cap troop levels, force a new vote to authorize the war or begin bringing troops home.

Republican leaders worked to block a vote on Warner’s resolution. They insisted that several proposals be considered and each be subject to 60 votes – a strategy that could dilute support for Warner’s measure and make it tougher for any measure to pass.

McCain, who is sponsoring a resolution expressing support for a troop increase and setting benchmark goals for the Iraqi government, sought to capitalize on some of the Democratic division. Democrats hold a 51-49 working majority in the Senate.

He said Warner’s proposal makes no sense for Democrats who want stronger action. It also risks undercutting a military mission that could haunt the U.S. in the future should it fail.

“The consequences of failure are such that you will see a level of violence that far exceeds anything that we have seen,” McCain said. “I believe we’ve got a great general there. I believe that this new strategy has a good chance of success.”

Hagel said the Warner resolution strikes a careful balance for a majority of senators who oppose a troop buildup but differ on the appropriate response. If the resolution passes, some Democrats may choose to move forward with stronger measures against the war, he said.

“This is not a cut and run resolution,” Hagel said.

He called McCain’s proposal meaningless because it offers benchmarks but doesn’t spell out what the U.S. government will do if the Iraqi officials fail to meet them.

“What are the consequences? Are we then going to pull out?” Hagel asked. “Are we going to cut funding? Now, that falls more in the intellectually dishonest category.”

Hagel and McCain appeared on ABC’s “This Week.”