All of Washington is up in arms, so to speak, over President Bush's revamped plans for securing the peace in Iraq and winning the War on Terror. As usual, those doing the yapping are parsing words the president did, and did not use, such as "surge." And as is also usual, they missed seeing the forest for the trees. Here are the money lines from the president's speech:
"In earlier operations, political and sectarian interference prevented Iraqi and American forces from going into neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence. This time, Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter those neighborhoods -- and Prime Minister Maliki has pledged that political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated."
In other words, bye-bye Mahdi Army. That force, led by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, was cornered by our troops back in 2004, but allowed to regroup and re-arm. But since the president's speech last week, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who had previously protected al-Sadr's group, has no choice but to go after insurgents of every stripe or risk losing U.S. support.
In the face of this, Mahdi Army militiamen say that they will simply remain undercover and wait "for the security plan to end." This, however presupposes that it will be U.S. forces -- whom the rest of the world, like Democrats in Congress, mistakenly think are controlled by popular opinion and not a Commander in Chief determined to win -- dealing out the punishment. No, this time it will be the Iraqis who must deal with them.
And just in case Maliki's fellow-Shiites in the Iraqi Army are a bit queasy about hunting down their co-religionists, a Kurdish brigade of that force is on the way to Baghdad. And their mission, should anyone doubt it, is clear. In the words of their commanding general: "We are going to confront any terrorist elements or militias. We will confront any outlaws." This opportunity for fierce Kurdish fighters to enter the fray has to chill the hearts of their southern neighbors.
Also on the receiving end of U.S. attention is the second prong of the Axis of Evil. Thought by many to be aiding insurgents like the Mahdi Army and our other enemies, we have basically told Iran that the jihad jig is up for them as well. Recent events have combined to demonstrate that, just maybe, we can and will expand the battlefield of the War on Terror to include the bad boy of Tehran.
First off was the news that U.S. forces stormed what purported to be an Iranian consular office in the city of Arbil, in northern Iraq, capturing five "employees." Next came word that we had deployed the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis to join the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Persian Gulf. And is it a coincidence that a group of U.S. F-16 jet-fighters, AWACs and tanker planes have arrived in Turkey for the "purpose of conducting exercises with the Turkish military"?
Sometimes diplo-speak is music to the ears. Here's how Defense Secretary Robert Gates explained the buildup: "The Iranians clearly believe that we are tied down in Iraq, that they have the initiative, that they're in a position to press us in many ways. We are simply trying to communicate to the region that we are going to be there for a long time."
The hope here is that the new Sec-Def is sincerely on board with what is starting to look like a renewed commitment by the president to take on our enemies wherever they are, without deference to the keenings of Congress or the laments of liberal editorial boards. It sure looks like the Iranians believe it. According to a report on Monday (since denied by Iran):
Iran had asked Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally, to help ease tensions between the Islamic Republic and the United States, as Washington held out the possibility of "engagement" with Tehran if it changed tack in Iraq.
Further proof is a scan of recent headlines like, "Senators to Bush: Stay Out of Iran," and the hilariously titled, "Did the President Declare 'Secret War' Against Syria and Iran?" Asked the once and future Democratic presidential candidate, Dennis Kucinich, "Isn't one war enough for this president?" If it is prosecuted to include all those who actively aid and abet our enemies, it just might be.
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