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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The NYTimes calls it on the Israeli/Syria airstrike

The NYTimes says it was an early stage nuclear reactor.
Israel’s air attack on Syria last month was directed against a site that Israeli and American intelligence analysts judged was a partly constructed nuclear reactor, apparently modeled on one North Korea has used to create its stockpile of nuclear weapons fuel, according to American and foreign officials with access to the intelligence reports.....

the facility that the Israelis struck in Syria appears to have been much further from completion, the American and foreign officials said. They said it would have been years before the Syrians could have used the reactor to produce the spent nuclear fuel that could, through a series of additional steps, be reprocessed into bomb-grade plutonium.

This where faith breaks down. After all the garbage intelligence distributed by elements of the Bush administration and the NYTimes unquestioning printing of it, how am I supposed to believe this? Especially sourced blind?

Who are the "American and foreign officials" used for sourcing?

Later: Anonymous put an odd question in my brain. Remember Cheney sourcing the NYTimes 'aluminum tubes" story on Meet the Press as proof of an Iraqi nuclear program after he sent Scooter Libby to plant the story with Judith Miller?

This Syrian nuke story was released too late for today's paper, so it'll be front page NYTimes tomorrow.

Who's on the network shows?

Later still: Yes, it's unquestionably a message to Iran.

Picture of the Day

He's so much better at this than our team.

(AP) "In combative comments that took the U.S. side aback during a photo session, Putin criticized Bush's pet project and threatened to pull out of a Cold War-era treaty that limits intermediate-range missiles."

And from a brilliant McClatchy piece on the Bush administration's "misjudgements" about Russia,
After keeping the U.S. officials waiting for 40 minutes, Putin mocked their mission in front of reporters and television cameras.

"Of course, we can sometime in the future decide that some anti-missile defense should be established somewhere on the moon . . . ," he said.

And here I thought Condi Rice was the Russian expert.

Oh, that's right, she's a Soviet expert. So useful.

And, from a later session with FM Lavrov.

(Photo credits: AP Photo/ Alexander Zemlianichenko, REUTERS/Alexander Natruskin.)

Three interesting reads

The WaPo has a feature on Blackwater and its history.

(Australian) Afghanistan 'is going down fast.'

(Stars and Stripes) Service members try to hide brain injuries to return to their units. ("Soldiers have even gone so far as to try and memorize the answers on the aptitude tests to pass and return to their unit...")

9/11 did change everything, even 7 months before 9/11

The WaPo frontpages former Qwest CEO Nacchio's claims that the NSA began seeking wiretapping/datamining from his company in February 2001.

If this is confirmed, it is a huge deal because it moves back wiretapping to seven months before 9/11 and just a month after Bush inauguration meaning that wiretapping and datamining programs were a top of the agenda priority for the incoming Bush administration, not a response to 9/11.

(PS. Within the wiretapping bill currently being debated in Congress there is a provision to give the Telcos immunity for their (illegal) cooperation in all this. This item looked likely to be included in the final bill with the Dems offering it as a bartering chip, but I wonder if these revelations change that.

If this is borne out, the Telcos were not "patriotic" actors helping stop terrorism after 9/11.

Before 9/11 changes everything.)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Gen. Sanchez strafes the administration

Gen. Sanchez's comments are getting headlines, and they should, but what really caught me was the venue.
“There is no question that America is living a nightmare with no end in sight,” retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez told a convention of military journalists on Friday.....

“From a catastrophically flawed, unrealistically optimistic war plan, to the administration’s latest surge strategy, this administration has failed to employ and synchronize the political, economic and military power,” Sanchez said.

Whether you view this as reputation saving, heroic, or whatever, there's one thing that there can be no question about. Making these statements from the lectern at a military journalists convention, Gen. Sanchez came looking for bear.

This is about the widest platform where he could have made these comments, and he chose to make them there. (Trying to create a wave in the military community?)

(Also NYTimes and AP versions.)

It's the only threat the Kurds have

And they haven't even gotten to the dispensation of Kirkuk yet.
Kurdish separatist rebels said on Friday they were crossing back into Turkey to target politicians and police after Ankara said it was preparing to attack them in the mountains of northern Iraq.


Picture of the Day - 2

President Bush walks back to the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2007, after delivering a statement on the South Lawn. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

After this statement,
On another issue before Congress, I urge members to oppose the Armenian genocide resolution now being considered by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. We all deeply regret the tragic suffering of the Armenian people that began in 1915. This resolution is not the right response to these historic mass killings, and its passage would do great harm to our relations with a key ally in NATO and in the global war on terror.

Thank you.

Here's what I don't get about global warming deniers....

I understand why heavy industry and petrocarbon corporations work to deny global warming. I can even understand why politicians might deny global warming to cater to these industries.

But why does a "Jethro in the street" with no real reason to support either side care so passionately that global warming is perceived as fake?

I think it has to do with their identity. I think global warming/green is perceived as a "weak" issue, and somehow if they support it, they might be gay.

Anybody got any better ideas?

Two bits

(NYDailyNews) Bernie Kerik is expected to be indicted next month, another pre-primary thorn in the side of campaign Giuliani. You figure we should be getting nuggets out of the investigation well into primary season.

Also, (Politico) A Federal Grand Jury has issued a subpoena for a former Congressional staffer as the investigation into Rep. Jerry Lewis continues.

(PS. It's too late for Gore to run. No organization, not on any ballots, no money in the bank, and it's not like he's a 70% approval national hero. Let's put that fantasy talk down.)

Picture of the Day

(John Edwards says goodbye to his wife Elizabeth as they leave the Jefferson-Jackson Democratic Party fundraising dinner in Columbia, South Carolina, April 27, 2007. (Jim Young/Reuters))


(DailyStar) Six Sunni insurgent groups announced that they've banded together to form a "political council" to push the US out of Iraq. (Islamic Army in Iraq and Ansar al Sunna are the most noteworthy.)

(AP) The US military is offering bonuses up to $150,000 to get some special forces guys to re-up. (Another cost of contractors.)

(ChicagoTribune) "The U.S. Army met its recruiting goals for the last year but enlisted thousands of new soldiers with criminal records and fewer who have earned high school diplomas, according to figures released Wednesday."

(WaPo) The first US soldiers on scene at the Blackwater shootings in Nisoor square said the contractors appeared to have fired at fleeing vehicles, and that "It had every indication of an excessive shooting."

(Reuters) U.N. wants security guards in Iraq to face law.

In northern Iraq, a bomb planted among toys in a cart left near a children's playground in the religiously mixed city of Tuz Khormato north of Baghdad, killing one civilian and wounding 17, including five children, police Col. Abbas Mohammed said.

The U.S. military operation near the man-made Lake Tharthar, about 50 miles northwest of the capital, inflicted one of the heaviest civilian death tolls in the offensive against the terror network in recent months.

Nineteen insurgents and 15 civilians, including nine children, died in the raid, the military said.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Picture of the Day - 3

"And you're saying I wouldn't have to do as much work as Vice President....?"

(As for lazy, if I'm reading this right, Thompson earned millions from his Law and Order gig where he appears for a minute or two in 13-20 episodes a year.)

(Former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson speaks as former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani listens during the Republican presidential debate in Dearborn, Michigan, October 9, 2007. REUTERS/Jason Reed)

Did the NSA wiretapping begin before Sept. 11, 2001?

Former Qwest Communications CEO Joe Nacchio is on trial for insider trading. Frankly, I know nothing of the case, but reading this closely, this article does seem to allow the possibility that the NSA was hitting up Qwest, and presumably the other telcos, regarding wiretapping/datamining well before Sept. 11, 2001.
Nacchio planned to demonstrate at trial that he had a meeting on Feb. 27, 2001, at NSA headquarters at Fort Meade, Md., to discuss a $100 million project. According to the documents, another topic also was discussed at that meeting, one with which Nacchio refused to comply.

The topic itself is redacted each time it appears in the hundreds of pages of documents, but there is mention of Nacchio believing the request was both inappropriate and illegal, and repeatedly refusing to go along with it.

The NSA contract was awarded in July 2001 to companies other than Qwest.

No way to know for sure whether this was about wiretapping, eight and a half months before Sept. 11, but reflecting on the USAToday reporting that Qwest was denied contracts like this because of its refusal to allow datamining/wiretapping, this does raise some questions.

If this is it, the timing is also pretty interesting. Less than two months after inauguration and it's already being brought to the telcos. That would place this as an incoming priority for the Bush administration and would seem to indicate that someone had the basic plans already drawn up as the Bush team came into office.

Picture of the Day - 2

Plainclothes contractors working for Blackwater USA take part in a firefight in the Iraqi city of Najaf in this April file photo. (AP Photo/Gervasio Sanchez, FILE)

Violence defines Iraq

Despite the dearth of reporting on the violence in Iraq (the surge is working, right?,) blood is still being spilled, bombs are still going off, and ethnic cleansing continues.
A series of rockets or mortar rounds struck Camp Victory, killing two members of the U.S.-led coalition and wounding 40 other people on the sprawling headquarters for U.S. forces in Iraq, the military said Thursday.

The US military is blaming the recent increase on Ramadan.

Should Hillary Clinton be farther ahead?

Just thinking about the national Presidential polling this morning. Non-specifically, Hillary Clinton leads Rudy Giuliani in the national '08 polls by something like 5%, but if you look at the generic polls, "would you rather have a Democratic or Republican as the next president," the spread is generally larger than that.

Now, we're yet to see any anti-Republican ads, "do you want 4 more years of this?," but still, is the gap between the generic polling and the candidate specific polling something we should be talking about?

(I think that as Clinton becomes more "inevitable" in the public mind, the generic and the specific polls will begin to align.)

Picture of the Day

When you care enough to send the very least.....

What does it say to the people of Myanmar that the administration has put Laura Bush out to be the top critic?

Not Condi Rice, Hadley, or even a State Dept. minion, not a "special envoy," but instead the first lady.

Her last three photo worthy appearances were the Library of Congress gala, the launch of her daughter's book, and this gem where she's talking about the dress she wore at the 2004 inauguration.

(First Lady Laura Bush is seen with with an outfit she wore to President George W. Bush's second inauguration in 2005, at the 'First Ladies: Political Role and Public Image' Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Monday, Oct. 1, 2007. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke))

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Marines want a war they can win

This does make some tactical sense in that the Afghani theater contains a lot more of the type of small unit offensive operations the Marines are expert at, while Iraq is more standing army, patrol and control, but I can't shake the feeling the Marines might also be looking for a war they can win.
The Marine Corps is pressing to remove its forces from Iraq and to send marines instead to Afghanistan, to take over the leading role in combat there, according to senior military and Pentagon officials.

The idea by the Marine Corps commandant would effectively leave the Iraq war in the hands of the Army while giving the Marines a prominent new role in Afghanistan, under overall NATO command.

Seemingly, this is what the British are doing, too.

Picture of the Day - 2

Unaware of the low expectations discussion, Fred Thompson entertains the pre-debate crowd with his collection of fart noises.

(Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson, stands on stage during the presidential debate in Dearborn, Michigan October 9, 2007. (Jason Reed/Reuters))

(Joke idea stolen from here.)

The Turks prepare

I still don't think we're going to see a massive Turkish invasion of northern Iraq, but I think we're nearing the point where the Turks may make a very public "token" incursion to up the stakes and pressure on the Maliki government and US.
Turkish warplanes and helicopter gunships attacked suspected positions of Kurdish rebels near Iraq on Wednesday, a possible prelude to a cross-border operation that would likely raise tensions with Washington.

The military offensive also reportedly included shelling of Turkish Kurd guerrilla hideouts in northern Iraq...

The next major step will be the vote in the Turkish parliament (next week) which would authorize operations across the border. All expectations are that such a proposal would pass.

Our "ally" Saudi Arabia arranges a terrorist holiday

I don't know the cases of these guys, so I can't directly comment on any of them, but either they were detained wrongly by the US, or the Saudis are releasing terrorists with a lot of "walking around" money.
The Saudi Arabian government will temporarily release 55 prisoners recently transferred from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and will give each of them about $2,600 to celebrate the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, a newspaper reported Saturday.

Using Iraqi prices, $2600 comes to one AK-47 with some ammo, an RPG, some low level explosives and components to build a couple of IEDs, and just enough left over to pay the smuggler to get you into Iraq.

Again, maybe they're innocent and were wrongly detained by the US, but this seems pretty unbelievable.

Picture of the Day

"Excuse me, sir, but as you are a Republican politician, I'm going to have to ask you to step away from my son...."

(Not intended as a crack at Bush, intended as a crack against the state of his party. (REUTERS/Larry Downing))


As I suspected, the recent Badr/Mahdi ceasefire was part of an effort to get the British out of Basra. (The British wanted to go, but couldn't leave without "peace," so the Iraqis gave them a window of "peace.")

(Time Magazine) "Has the US Ceded Southern Iraq?"

(AFP) "The director of the international airport of Iraq's southern port city of Basra was kidnapped by unknown gunmen outside his home on Tuesday night." (This is the same airport where the British soldiers are based.)

Say a little prayer for the Marines. The Osprey has arrived in Iraq. (This thing crashes in safe field tests. I can't imagine trying to use it in a sand filled, wind blown battlefield.)

(FT) Two more pro-US Sunnis were targeted by bombings that killed "at least 22." (It's not really clear if the "Al Qaeda" strategy of killing collaborating Sunnis is working, but it is certainly ongoing.)

(Reuters) The opening of the US embassy in Iraq has been delayed indefinitely because of problems in construction. (You just don't get the same work quality out of human trafficked near slaves as you used to.)

Duck Republicans

Roll Call. (behind subscription wall, so this is all we get right now.)

Let the Turkish/Armenian genocide legislation wait

In my understanding of things, there is little question that the Turks dislocated or slaughtered some 1.5 million Armenians in WWI, and I think the Armenians do deserve some official recognition of that fact.

But not right now. It is absolutely insane for the US to be launching, once again, into this debate about passing purely symbolic legislation in the US Congress.

I'm more than willing to see this type of measure passed. In fact, I'd term myself a supporter, but it needed to be passed five years ago, or five years from now. US recognition has potential real world costs today.

At this point, we need the Turks. We need the Turks for Iraq, for their role as a stable Muslim democracy, for the US bases there, and for the little influence we have to keep them from invading the Kurdish territories.

If this legislation was being used as a diplomatic lever, I could understand, but it's not. It's just the yearly renewal of this debate. Congress, specifically Dems in Congress, put it aside for a few years, and bring it back at a better time.

There's little value in doing this now and a whole lot of downside.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Bloody, bloody Waziristan

Big fighting, airstrikes on villages, somewhere around 250 killed so far and civilians fleeing in the latest Pakistani attack on Waziristan. Several versions out there, AFP, Reuters, WaPo, NYTimes, but I think the BBC version really captures what the Pakistanis face,
During the last few months, military personnel have increasingly become targets of ambushes and kidnappings.

The headless bodies of several kidnapped soldiers have been found, with messages from the militants warning the army to pull out of the area.

In some of the latest fighting on Monday, the army reported 50 troops missing when a supply convoy to one of the garrisons in the north eastern part of the district was ambushed.

Local reports say all 50 were killed and their bodies set on fire. The army says only 25 were killed.

In August, militants in the neighbouring South Waziristan district kidnapped nearly 300 troops, including at least nine officers, who are yet to be released.

Significantly, many of these troops are reported to have surrendered without firing a shot.

Needless to say, morale is low.

Picture of the Day

Repost: How did I miss the "Dick in a Box" joke?

I must be slipping.

The happiest I've seen Fred Thompson, (and it still looks pained.)

(Republican Presidential candidate Fred Thompson gives the thumbs up after receiving a box of pastries during a campaign stop at Sweetheart Bakery in Clinton, Iowa, October 2, 2007. REUTERS/Joshua Lott)

Turkish PM gives the go ahead to enter Iraq

We're still talking pursuit, not invasion, but the Turkish PM has gone ahead and issued orders allowing "incursions" into Kurdish/Iraqi territory.

We'll have to wait and see whether this is about to be undertaken or just another step in the increasing tensions. I would think we might see a token incursion of some type to express to the Iraqis and Americans that the Turks have had enough.

The US has reiterated its position against Turkish incursions.

Political bits

ABC's Blotter looks at Fred Thompson on the Nixon tapes.
"Our approach is now, we've got a pretty good rapport with Fred Thompson. He came through fine for us this morning," White House counsel Fred Buzhardt says on a tape from June 6.

"He isn't very smart, is he?" Nixon asks.

"Not extremely so, but --," Buzhardt says, interrupted by the president.

"But he's friendly," Nixon says.

"But he's, he's friendly," Buzhardt echoes.


(WaPoblog) Dan Bartlett trashes every Republican candidate but Giuliani at the US Chamber of Commerce meeting. (I guess with Giuliani the frontrunner, it's time to start angling for positions in his administration.)

(ABCNews) Obama, Edwards, Richardson, and Biden have all pulled out of the Jan. 15 Michigan primary. "All of the Democratic candidates already have agreed not to campaign in Michigan because it broke Democratic National Committee rules when it moved its primary ahead of Feb. 5."

(Politico) Clinton will stay on the ballot.

(Politico) After promising New Hampshire was a priority, Fred Thompson hasn't been in NH in over a month. The Union Leader is keeping track.

Bush interviewed on Al Arabiya

The whole interview is interesting, but this jumped out.
Q So, excuse me, Mr. President, what you're trying to say is sometimes a decision of war -- you have to take a decision of war in order to achieve peace.

THE PRESIDENT: That's exactly right.

Q And that's what happened in Iraq.

THE PRESIDENT: First of all, yes.....

Or maybe this one, "I think, first of all, the successes in Iraq have been really quite extraordinary...."

Playing with Al Qaeda intel again

The WaPo reports on its frontpage that leaks out of the Bush administration burned the SITE Institute which has cultured web sources that let it know that there was a Bin Laden tape coming out last month.

The NYSun dutifully reports the same "burned" story, leaving out the outside sourcing, the role of the White House, and the first "leak" which occurred on the Fox News website.

But maybe we should point out the bigger context. This "leak" conveniently put the news of a Bin Laden tape out ahead of Petraeus' testimony on Iraq.

(Also interesting that this administration undermining story hits the press right as the Dem Congress considers the NSA/wiretapping legislation.)

Isn't it wonderful that no one dies in Iraq anymore?

When was the last time you saw mention of a US soldier dying in Iraq?

Thankfully, the death rate has been appreciably down for the last 45 days or so, but US soldiers are still dying, 10 in the first 8 days of this month.

But I guess their deaths are not a story. I guess their service is less valuable.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Picture of the Day - 3

(It's crying out for a caption.)

Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani visits with Irene Sharp at a cafe in Kirkland, Wash., during a campaign stop Saturday, Sept. 29, 2007. (AP Photo/Jeff Reinking)

The Iraqis take it out on Blackwater

I have this feeling that this Blackwater incident is being used by the Maliki government as a way to condemn American violence without ruffling any feathers that matter. (After all, they don't care if they offend the doormat State Dept.)
Iraqi authorities want the U.S. government to sever all contracts in Iraq with Blackwater USA within six months and pay $8 million in compensation to each of the families of 17 people killed when the firm's guards sprayed a traffic circle with heavy machine gun fire last month.

Robert Gates running interference against Cheney on Iran?

I'm always a shade dubious about these vague characterizations in Britain's Telegraph, but file this one away as a possibility, something to watch for, as we see the tips of the iceburgs battle over an attack on Iran.
Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, has taken charge of the forces in the American government opposed to a US military attack on Iran, writes Tim Shipman.

Pentagon and State Department officials say Mr Gates has set himself up as chief rival to Dick Cheney in a bid to thwart the vice president's desire to bomb the Islamic state.

Gates' main tactic is to encourage(allow?) his military underlings to speak of overstretch.
Pentagon sources say Mr Gates is waging a subtle campaign to undermine the Cheney camp by encouraging the army's senior officers to speak frankly about the overstretch of forces, and the difficulty of fighting another war.

That's hardly digging in the heels or threatening resignation.

Political bits

New Iowa polling over the weekend putting Clinton in the lead and Giuliani in 4th at 11%.

(NYTimes) All the top Republican candidates are making speeches to Dobson's FRC conference later this month (a heavy evangelical event) EXCEPT Rudy Giuliani.

(Same article: "A New York Times/CBS News poll of white born-again or evangelical Republican primary voters taken last month found that 30 percent said it would be possible for them to vote for a candidate they didn’t agree with on issues like abortion or same-sex marriage. But 59 percent said they could not.")

Correction: Giuliani has changed his mind and will attend the FRC.

(WSJ) Fred Thompson hits on a jackpot campaign formula, cutting Social Security and Medicare while offering corporate tax cuts. Wow. (Now there's a campaign with its finger on the pulse of the nation.)

Picture of the Day

President George W. Bush leans over to check on an unidentified member of the honor guard who collapsed due to the heat at a memorial service at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Park on the National Fire Academy campus in Emmitsburg, Maryland, October 7, 2007. REUTERS/Larry Downing


(TimesOnline) In a sign they are preparing to leave Iraq, the British government sets a patriation program for those Iraqis who worked for the British government.

(NYTimes) Maliki's office declares the Blackwater attack "deliberate murder." (Is Maliki pressing this for domestic reasons or as a lever against the US?)

(Reuters) A report by the Oxford Research Group says actions taken by the Bush administration in the war on terror is fuelling Al Qaeda.

(HeraldSun) The Czechs are preparing to pull their 100 troops out of Basra.

(BostonGlobe) African American enlistment in the military was down by more than half through 2005.

(Bloomberg) Powerful Kurd politician Talabani endorses the US partition vote. (It's all the Kurds want.)

(Kuna) The US has cordoned off Al Doura in Baghdad allowing only women and children to leave.

(BBC) The PKK killed 13 Turkish soldiers near the border.

(AFP) The Maliki government launches charges against the anti-corruption chief while he is in the US, replacing him in his job with someone presumably more friendly to Shia graft.

And, in "the other war," (AFP) 50 more Pakistani soldiers are missing and out of contact in Waziristan.

Gordon Brown sets the level of pretext

So, this is the threshold for "international support."
Gordon Brown has agreed to support US air strikes against Iran if the Islamic republic orchestrates large-scale attacks by militants against British or American forces in Iraq, according to senior Pentagon officials.

(Reuters) "The U.S. military commander in Iraq stepped up accusations over the weekend that Iran was inciting violence there and said Tehran's ambassador to Baghdad was a member of the Revolutionary Guards Qods force."

The US has given up on reconciliation, too

This WaPo frontpager saying that Iraqis have given up on "reconciliation" is getting a fair amount of blog ink, but really, if you look at the US strategy, it has given up on near term reconciliation as well.

If you look at what's happening, rather than the White House rhetoric, the US is now aiming for a "balance of powers" peace, arming and training Sunni militias and attempting to limit the arms coming into the Shia from Iran.

There's been a lot of language about "bottom up reconciliation," and that's really what that means. Arming and organizing local Sunni groups and targeting Shia ethnic cleansing to try to stem the Shia wave that was rolling over the country.

Political reconciliation has been dead for quite a while. It's just that its corpse has been trotted periodically out because the Bush administration tied itself to that talking point.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Picture of the Day

In an AP analysis piece, Liz Sidoti goes over Fred Thompson's qualifications.
But his low-key style has not translated into charisma. He stumbles over questions from reporters and bumbles over his stump speech. The script is laden with broad pronouncements of a need to fix the country's ills but offers few specific solutions. He also is fighting the notion that he is lazy, given his languid pace of campaigning.

What he lacks in substance and energy, the former Tennessee senator makes up in personal and physical traits.

His Southern accent, plainspoken style and homespun phrases give him a guy-next-door quality. His commanding 6-foot-5-inch frame, deep baritone, and weathered brow give him a presidential air.

So, his main qualification for President of the United States is that he is tall....

and he's running second or third in the Republican polls.

(Presidential hopeful former Sen. Fred Thompson visits the Lincolnway Energy plant in Nevada, Iowa, on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2007. (AP/Kevin Sanders))

(Also: New Hampshire, (WaPo) "Former actor and senator Fred D. Thompson (Tenn.) has slowly begun assembling an operation and now has three paid staffers in the state." (No rush, Fred.))

A Sadr/SIIC "peace deal"?

The flareups in Basra are part of a much larger fire as the two largest Shia factions battle for power over what's become a Shia dominated Iraq. The Sadr movement has established itself as the populist anti-government, anti-US party of the poorer, more religious Shia Iraqis, while the SIIC represents the more establishment Shia.

But I think more importantly, the Shia divide is as much about who stayed in Iraq and suffered under Hussein (Sadrist,) and those who went abroad to live the quiet, unoppressed lives of foreign dissident (SIIC) in Iran and London.

Although the current fight for Shia control is immediately, and significantly, about power, position, graft, and control, the faultlines are drawn along these broader histories.

To today's news, The headlines seem to be writing of a new agreed upon peace between the Sadr and SIIC factions, however if you read it closely, there's no agreement on powersharing or a Sadrist reentry into the government. It's a ceasefire, not a peace deal.

Sadr's bloc took a major PR hit in the fairly recent Shia on Shia violence in Karbala, taking the blame for the flareup. (The official Iraqi government story (SIIC) is that Sadrists opened fire into crowds of unarmed pilgrims. The Sadrist version is that the SIIC controlled security for the shrines and was refusing entrance to Sadr identified pilgrims.)

The bottom line is that the Sadrists took the blame which forced Sadr into his current standdown in which he is trying to pull back and regain his previous "moral authority." This ceasefire between Sadr and SIIC should be seen as no more than part of that effort.

Because the real battle for Iraq is set to begin in 6 months when the US begins drawing back its forces. From here to there, Iraqi politics will all be about positioning and arming.

(This is the exact "timetable" outcome that the Bush administration talked about for so long. The announcing of a Spring/Summer drawdown has established a starting gun.)

Priceless detail on Karl Rove

Would you keep the picture of the guy who took the fall for you?
Karl Rove keeps a newspaper picture of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby and his wife on the day Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in the CIA leak case. Rove says he holds onto it to remember. "I'm really sad about Scooter," he said. Although he does not say it, the picture may also be a reminder of what he avoided.

(From a somewhat interesting article interviewing some of those who have recently left the White House.)