Friday, August 13, 2010






This deficit of trust in Obama’s leadership is central to his decline. According to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, “nearly six in ten voters say they lack faith in the president to make the right decisions for the country”, and two thirds “say they are disillusioned with or angry about the way the federal government is working.” The poll showed that a staggering 58 per cent of Americans say they do not have confidence in the president’s decision-making, with just 42 per cent saying they do.
[. . .]
In contrast to the soaring rhetoric of his 2004 Convention speech in Boston which succeeded in impressing millions of television viewers at the time, America is no longer inspired by Barack Obama’s flat, monotonous and often dull presidential speeches and statements delivered via teleprompter. From his extraordinarily uninspiring Afghanistan speech at West Point to his flat State of the Union address, President Obama has failed to touch the heart of America. Even Jimmy Carter was more moving.


Today Teri Weaver (Stars and Stripes) quotes US Maj Gen Terry Wolff stating, "The ministries are still operating. It's not like they're shut down." What the heck is he talking about? He's minimizing the political stalemate. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 5 days.
And the ministries are not 'still operating.' There's no Minister of Electricity and if any Ministry in Iraq needs leadership, it would be the Ministery of Electricity. Iraq is plauged with blackouts, has electricity in most areas for only a few hours each day. There is no Minister of Electricity. He tendered his resignation months ago. Nouri al-Maliki has one of his cronies acting as the minister but the Constitution is very clear that ministers are approved by Parliament and Parliament's never approved this 'acting' minister who is also the Minister of Oil. Erdal Safak (Sabah) explains, "The Iraqis have access to electricity for only three or four hours a day and they do not have access to [potable] water. Iraqi politicians gather every day and negotiate for hours and hours. Although five months have passed since the elections in Iraq, the chances that a government will form are bleak. President Obama is so desperate that he sent a top secret letter to Shiite leader Ali al-Sistani, encouraging him to step in and use his influence."
What a stupid thing to say, "The ministries are still operating. It's not like they're shut down." The elections were supposed to take place in 2009. Everyone's ignoring the fact that Nouri is operating in some quasi-legal territory when he pretends to be Prime Minister. His term expired. Can you imagine the outcry if, in the US, Bully Boy Bush had attempted to occupy the White House through May 2009?
If oil is all that matters, Maj Gen Terry Wolf, then you are indeed sitting pretty. Jung Seung-hyun (JoongAng Daily) reports on the announcement by the Korea National Oil Corporation, "After 10 months of work drilling 3,847 meters (12,621.4 feet) into the earth from October 2009 to August this year, the KNOC estimated a maximum 970 barrels of crude oil and 3 million cubic meters of natural gas could be produced at the site every day. The average daily production expectancy for crude oil was placed at 200 barrels per day." Meanwhile London South East reports, "Shares in Gulf Keystone Petroleum rise as much as 9 percent touch a year high after the oil explorer says tests at its Shaikan-1 well in Iraq's Kurdistan show a ten-fold increase in flow rates, raising expectations for future production rates." AMEinfo explains, "Baker Hughes announced it has signed a three-year strategic alliance with Iraq's South Oil Company (SOC) to provide technical services to SOC's wireline logging department in Burj Esya, Basra south Iraq. Under the terms of the technical services agreement (TSA), Baker Hughes will supply wireline technologies to SOC and other Iraqi oil and gas producers as well as help develop local Iraqi wireline logging capabilities." Dow Jones notes that the Kirkuk pipeline that was carrying oil from Kirkuk to Turkey and was bombed earlier this week is 'back in business' having "resumed the pumping at 11 p.m. local time (2000 GMT) on Wednesday." And Al Bawaba notes:
The exploration of Iraq's rich oil and gas fields will be under the spotlight during a top meeting of oil executives and Iraqi energy regulators in Istanbul in October as global companies that have won contracts prepare to start the development of various fields.
The programme director of Iraq Future Energy 2010, Claire Pallen, says "with the recent awarding of rights to develop various oil and gas fields in Iraq the world's oil and gas executives now await the formation of the government bodies following the recent general elections as well as the eagerly awaited third licensing round that is scheduled for September. Top representatives from global oil giants as well as lawmakers from Iraq will meet in October to prepare for the road ahead with regards to the short to medium term development of Iraq's oil and gas sector".
Of course, Iraqis can't eat oil and the tag sale on their national assets will ensure that the Iraqi people don't profit from the boomtown. And IRIN notes that over "a tenth of Iraq's 2009-2010 wheat crop has been infected by a killer fungus, according to authorities." But Maj Gen Terry Wolf thinks Iraq's functioning just fine. How Iraq's functioning was addressed today on Morning Edition (NPR -- link has audio and text) when Steve Inskeep discussed the country's current status with Thomas E. Ricks.
Thomas E. Ricks: The problem in Iraq is none of the basic political questions facing the country have been solved, and this is one reason that weve gone so many months now without the formation of an Iraqi government. But the basic questions are: How are these three major groups in Iraq going to get along? How are they going to live together? Are they going to live together? How are you going to share the oil revenue? What's the form of Iraqi government? Will it have a strong central government or be a loose confederation? What's the role of neighboring countries, most especially Iran, which is stepping up its relationship with Iraq right now, even as Uncle Sam tries to step down its relationship?
All these questions have been hanging fire in Iraq for several years, in fact before the surge.
Steve Inskeep: Aren't --
Thomas E. Ricks: All of them have led to violence in the past and all could easily lead to violence again. The only thing changing in the Iraqi security equation right now is Uncle Sam is trying to get out.
Steve Inskeep: Aren't these last few months helpful in some way? Ambassador Hill in his interview suggested that while Iraqis have gone months since this election without forming a government, at least they're talking and maybe making progress.
Thomas E. Ricks: Yeah. It strikes me as whistling past the graveyard. I think what's happening in Iraq is everybody is waiting for Uncle Sam to get out of the way so they can get on with their business. No one wants get in a fight with Uncle Sam again. The American troops know Iraq well, the commanders know how to operate there, and they can smack down anybody who turns violent. But President Obama has said we're not going to get involved in that. And so I think a lot of people in Iraq are simply keeping their powder dry.
Steve Inskeep: Is America really getting out of the way? There still going to be 50,000 troops there, for example.
Thomas E. Ricks: Yeah. And actually, the mission becomes more violent and more dangerous with the passage of time, not less violent. I would much rather be on an American combat infantry patrol than, say, be with an advisor to Iraqi forces. That's a more dangerous position to be in. Also, as you draw down American forces, you withdraw a lot of the forces that make things safe and/or limit the consequences of violence. For example, a medical evacuation of wounded people. Intelligence - these are the type of support functions that get cut because youre trying to bring down the troop numbers but are essential to somebody whos wounded, to getting them treatment quickly and getting them out of the country.
As Arnie (Leonardo DiCaprio) tells Gilbert (Johnny Depp), "We're not going anywhere, Gilbert. We're not going anywhere, you know? We're not going anywhere" (What's Eating Gilbert Grape?), Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reports:

Iraq will need U.S. military support for up to another decade to defend its borders because the Iraqi army won't be ready to guard the country when American troops leave at the end of 2011, according to U.S. and Iraqi commanders.
Commanders say they are reasonably confident in the Iraqi security forces' ability to keep order while facing insurgents or other internal threats. But when it comes to their capacity to protect against attacks from other nations, it is inconceivable that the Iraqi army will be able to stand alone by the time U.S. troops go home, said Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, commander of the U.S. military training program in Iraq.

Al Jazeera adds:

A top White House advisor meanwhile suggested that the US military presence in Iraq after the main pullout in 2011 could be limited to "dozens" or "hundreds" of troops under the embassy's authority.
"We'll be doing in Iraq what we do in many countries around the world with which we have a security relationship that involves selling American equipment or training their forces, that is establishing some connecting tissue," said Anthony Blinken, national security advisor for vice president Joe Biden.
"When I say small, I'm not talking thousands, I'm talking dozens or maybe hundreds, that's typically how much we would see."

Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) notes, "On Wednesday, a senior Iraqi military leader, Gen. Babaker Zubari, stated publicly what most Iraqi officials say more privately – that he believed there would need to be a continuing US presence here after 2011. Under current plans to expand Iraq's armed forces, destroyed and dismantled by the US in the war, Iraq will not have the capability to secure its land borders and air space for almost another decade." Bob Higgins offers his take at Veterans Today. Hugh Sykes (BBC News) offers his take here (sidebar mid-page). Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports, "The Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has made a sudden visit to senior defence officials a day after the country's most senior soldier declared his forces would not be capable of securing Iraq's borders until 2020." As the White House and Nouri continue to soft-peddle a US presence/occupation after 2011, Lara Jakes (AP) reports on what slipped out of the cabinet today:
But within hours, while talking to Pentagon reporters en route to a military ceremony in Tampa, Fla., Defense Secretary Robert Gates left open the door that troops could stay in Iraq as long as Baghdad asks for them.
"We have an agreement with the Iraqis that both governments have agreed to that we will be out of Iraq at the end of 2011," Gates said. "If a new government is formed there and they want to talk about beyond 2011, we're obviously open to that discussion."
"But that initiative will have to come from the Iraqis," he said.

"Iraq snapshot"
"The never-ending war"
"An intricately planned assault"
"Maybe we should have asked for snow cones?"
"Sexist Terry Cotta"
"Things to discard, things to value"
"Robert Gibbs is in a tizzy"
"let's give erica payne a time out"
"quayle - jury out - lamont? stupid."
"U.S. Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach"
"The beard"
"Road tales"
"Thanks to Ted Olson and David Boise"
"Is Dana Milbank criminally insane or just nuts?"
"The glitter fades"
"Harry Reid's troubling racial remarks"
"Follow This You Bitches"
"Robert Gibbs has his thong up his ass"
"The cat fights continue"