Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Personal and the Political

For those of you like me who are following Shaggy's blog, in his latest entry -- "Prostate's Good" -- we learn that Shaggy went to visit a doctor for his "leaking" penis. I guess it doesn't get any more personal than that, right? And, of course, Shaggy's Dad is still trying to hook him up with a wife:
Later this evening, my dad took me to that 'lady of society' that I've mentioned before. She had found me a 'suitable' woman and we were all invited at her house. The girl was not especially pretty and certainly didn't know how to do her hair nor how to dress in this century. I spoke to the lady outside and told her that she looks a bit heavy to which she responded with you can't have it all good to which I replied that I worry about my back. It went pretty well, dad kept his cool for once and didn't bring up the 'marriage' subject out loud. The evening passed and I didn't exchange a single word with her, but I still had fun conversing with everyone else present.
Right now Shaggs isn't having too much luck finding a suitable wife; we here at IBC hope his fortune changes soon.

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Meanwhile, on the political side, Eye Raki has posted an entry -- "Newton's Third Law" -- on the Hakim family, traditional Iraqi political heavyweights, and its struggles with the newcomer Maliki:
Although SIIC feels defeated and let down by the people they also feel betrayed by Maliki. The only consistent thing I have heard from SIIC so far is the sense of betrayal. They believe it was Hakim who made Maliki into what he is today. Without Hakims support and defence Maliki would have just been another Da'wa member. Maybe one day a Minister. Or so they say.

It is not just the ascent to power that they argue was down to Hakim and SIIC, but also his stay in power. Hakim gave Maliki his unconditional support in the fight against the Sadrists in 2008. Ex-Badr militiamen played a role in helping the IA tear apart the Mehdi Army. Maliki should owe his very existence and survival to Hakim. Although these claims are far fetched (the Sunnis and Kurds played the biggest hand in making sure Ja'fari stood down and Hakim was not the only supporter of Maliki in his war with Sadr) the result remains the same. Hakim helps Maliki defeat Sadr. Maliki trumps Hakim in the elections. Maliki allies with Sadr. Hakim, who is already isolated, now feels betrayed.
This quote is just a teaser, of course. I recommend reading the entire entry. Eye Raki points out that something really has changed in Iraq since 2003:
Anyone going through the check-list could easily tell that Hakim beats Maliki where it matters. Except of course in something which is a new phenomenon in Iraq. The ballot.
While the Iraqi blogosphere is at a low point in both production and quality of posts, there are still a few bloggers like Shaggy and Eye Raki pounding out new entries, covering both the personal and the political, to keep the community from completely flatlining. We tip our hats to them.

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One Iraqi who has continued to blog regularly is Iraq Pundit, one of the first-wave bloggers whose focus has been media coverage of events in Iraq. The last two days he has been following the news reports on the fighting and arrest of Adel Mashadani in the Fadhil neighborhood of Baghdad. Yesterday Iraq Pundit opened his entry -- "Viva the Revolution!" -- with tongue placed firmly in cheek:
Good day and welcome to the Iraq news restaurant. I'll be your waiter, and here are our specials today. We are featuring a clash in the Fadhil neighbourhood of Baghdad. Choices from the menu include an "uprising," a "rebellion," a "fall" of the Awakening, a return of al-Qaeda, and an uprising that challenged the Iraqi government's authority and its efforts to pacify the [not just Fadhil but the entire] capital.
In today's entry -- "Calm Returns After Clashes" -- Iraq Pundit takes a look at the follow-up reports on Fadhil, including Juan Cole's usual muddled dithering.

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And back to the personal. Today, in an entry called "Lovely Lies," Sami (Skies) interpolates personal stories into an Iraqi song. Here is one of the stories from his childhood:
It was war and we moved to a new place to live for a while. I befriended him from the first day when I saw him playing chess alone. He was so sensitive and he never saw Baghdad. I missed my Baghdad so I started lying. I told him that every three or four of our neighbors run a musical rock band and that I have a band with 2 other boys and that I was the keyboard player and the singer. I even claimed to him that I am a professional guitar player. He was a boy from a village, and he was so polite. He took me once to his brother's house and he came with a guitar. He sat on the floor and played a sad piece of Spanish music. Something like "Malaga". Then he taught me to play it. How wise he was. How polite. The next day I didn't stop telling my legendary tales. What a spoilt kid I was.

I wonder what he is doing now.
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Friday, March 27, 2009

On the Banks of the Tigris

In his latest entry at Baghdad Blogger, Salam Pax writes about sitting on the banks of the Tigris on a warm, sunny day in Baghdad with a newspaper in his hands. He comes across a headline for an AP article by Hamza Hendawi (about whom I've written here) about the very city he was sitting in. Stunned by the headline, Salam sets the newspaper aside, thinks about it, and then picks up the paper again and starts to look squarely at his hometown.

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Michael Totten has started to publish new pieces from his latest trip to Iraq. You can now read "Baghdad in Fragments" on his website.

UPDATE: Over at PJM, Richard Fernandez (Belmont Club) has written a very good analysis of how Totten's reporting differs from the standard MSM product: Eyes Wide Open.

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Shaggy's Dad is still trying to find his son a wife but isn't having much luck. Shaggy reports:
Whilst working on some paper work, my dad introduced me to the niece of the managing director of the government office we were at. That was about ten days ago, and up until a couple of days the girl would insist that we talk every night on the phone. I'd be barely awake and talk with her for a rather boring hour. [power cut..] Just spoke to her now though. Now I told dad that after speaking to her that she's not right for me, and he told me that I have to break it off with her, but I just don't know how to without hurting her feelings. I know, it's better to deal with it sooner than later, but I do keep throwing suggestions that I'm not interested.
Well, at least Shaggy has Tequila and a doner kebab to help him figure out what to do.

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Even worse than the decline in the number of new Iraqi bloggers has been the utter destruction of the comments pages in the Iraqi blogosphere. Where once one could find very lively debates -- many of them heated, of course -- one now finds the same entrenched views repeated ad nauseum. The same people who ruined Zeyad's comments pages are now migrating over to Iraqi Mojo's, where they display and reinforce their irrational hatreds. The glory days of the Iraqi blogosphere comments pages are long gone.

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Echoing Salam Pax's entry on relocated families in Baghdad, Touta today writes about a man from her neighborhood who had been forced out of his house due to the violence from a year or two ago ("And That's How It Goes Down"). He shut the house up, moved to Jordan, and then returned to find another family living in his home. At the gate of his house, the owner encounters a man in a tracksuit. Touta reports:
Suddenly the man points an angry finger at the guy in the tracksuit at the house's gate. He says (translated badly by me): " Look! Look People! Look at why we will never be at peace, why we will never have success and power! This is my house, 20 years of work! 20 years! Who is this?! Can any of you tell me who is living in my house!? By my blood, i built this house brick by brick!". His voice breaks at the last sentence, and he really looks like he can't talk anymore.

Ever felt a deep stab of pity and sorrow[?] I did for the man. Why would he lie? He walks round in a circle, and i somehow feel he is trying his best not to scream/cry.
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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Is It Better to Burn Out Than Fade Away?

As most of you know, the Iraqi blogosphere has been in decline for a while now. Let's take a look at an overview of its history, using the year and month of first entries for new bloggers as a guide to its health:

2002

Salam Pax -- September, 2002.

2003

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad -- June, 2003.
Nawar (Ishtar Talking) -- July, 2003.
Riverbend -- August, 2003.
Zeyad -- October, 2003.
Kurdo -- October, 2003.
Fayrouz -- October, 2003.
Ihath -- October, 2003
Omar, Mohammed, and Ali Fadhil -- November, 2003.
AYS -- November, 2003.
Hammorabi Sam -- November, 2003.
Alaa -- November, 2003.
Firas -- November, 2003.
Nabil -- November, 2003.
Faiza Jarrar (family blog) -- December, 2003
Khalid Jarrar -- December, 2003.
Sarmad -- December, 2003.

2004

Liminal -- January, 2004.
Majid Jarrar -- February, 2004.
Raed Jarrar -- March, 2004.
Ibn Alrafidain -- June, 2004.
Najma -- June, 2004.
Sara -- June, 2004.
Iraq Pundit -- July, 2004.
Kurdistan Bloggers Union (Dilnareen et al.) -- July, 2004.
HNK -- July, 2004.
Raghda -- July, 2004.
Salam Pax (Fat Whiner) -- August, 2004.
Rose -- August, 2004.
Anarki-13 -- August, 2004.
Nancy (Beth Nahrain) -- August, 2004.
Neurotic Iraqi Wife -- August, 2004.
Shaggy -- September, 2004
Ali Fadhil (Free Iraqi) -- December, 2004.

2005

Dr. Truth Teller -- January, 2005.
Hassan (Average Iraqi) -- February, 2005.
Ahmad (Iraqi Expat) -- March, 2005.
Morbid Smile -- April, 2005.
Sunshine -- April, 2005.
Sooni -- April, 2005.
Akba -- April, 2005.
Salam Adil (Asterism) -- May, 2005.
Mama (Sunshine's mother) -- July, 2005.
Iraqi Roulette -- July, 2005.
Konfused Kid -- July, 2005.
Omar (24) -- August, 2005.
Treasure of Baghdad -- August, 2005.
Caesar of Pentra -- September, 2005.
Attawie -- September, 2005.
Still Alive (My Letters to America) -- September, 2005.
Iraqi Lord -- November, 2005.

2006

Eye Raki -- February, 2006.
Hala -- February, 2006.
Chikitita -- March, 2006.
Saminkie (Colors of Mind / Skies) -- April, 2006
Gilgamesh (Into the Sun) -- June, 2006.
Marshmallow 26 -- August, 2006.
Mix Max -- September, 2006.
Iraqi Mojo -- October, 2006.
A & E Iraqi -- November, 2006.
Iraqi Atheist -- December, 2006.
M.H.Z. -- December, 2006.

2007

Zappy -- January, 2007.
BlogIraq -- February, 2007
Sheko Meko -- March, 2007.
Shaqawa -- April, 2007.
Great Baghdad -- April, 2007.
Kassakhoon -- April, 2007.
Mohammed (Last of Iraqis) -- May, 2007.
Bookish (Mosul) -- June, 2007.
Gilgamesh X -- September, 2007.

2008

Baghdadentist -- January, 2008.
Iraqi Translator -- March, 2008.
Sam (Interps Life) -- April, 2008.
Violet -- August, 2008.
Touta -- October, 2008.

2009

Moonlight -- January, 2009.

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As you can see, there have been very few new bloggers over the last year. On a positive note, however, a couple of the veteran Iraqi bloggers -- Salam Pax and Chikitita, for example -- have returned to Iraq and have started to write from a much different country than the one they left. Iraq Pundit and Iraqi Mojo have been the most consistent bloggers of late and seem to be pulling most of the load.

The blogroll for the inactive Iraqi blogs is much longer than the blogroll for those Iraqis who are still blogging on a regular basis. Bloggers burn out. I guess even blogospheres burn out. Is that what's happening here? The light we see now might actually be from a star that is already a cold, distant rock.

What is the future of the Anglophone Iraqi blogosphere? Your guess is as good as mine.

Hey, hey. My, My.

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Yes, Chikitita has returned to Baghdad after a year's absence: Return of the Jinx.

Take a trip through time with Sami: A la Recherche du Temps Baghdadi Perdu.

How about photos from a picnic with Attawie in the UAE? A Picnic on the Beach.

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HOUSEKEEPING NOTE: I have once again weeded out blogs that haven't been updated in the last three months and moved them to the Iraqi Bloggers (Inactive) list at the bottom of the blogroll.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

Shiastan (Iraqi Theocratic Republic) Welcomes Criminal Terrorist Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani With Open Arms



So where were the spiders while the flies tried to break our balls...
Ziggy Stardust

As expressed in a recent post of hers, Conservative commentator Debbie Schlussel is not happy:

I Told You So: Iran Gets Its Hands Deeper Into "Liberated" Iraq


One of the nightmarish results from America's Iraq fiasco has been the expansion of Iranian hegemony and influence throughout the Middle East. As Debbie tells it, I warned that we should not have democratic elections and hand this country over to Iranian-backed Shi'ites, and instead should have turned it over to a pro-U.S. Shah-like dictator. But instead we opted for this "democracy" (the same kind that put HAMAS and Hezbollah in power).

Personally, I would have preferred a monarchy or even a communist regime to the Theocratic Sectarian Government currently in charge, but I can't (and no one else should) quibble with her over the broadening base of Iranian power in the Middle East.

Within this milieu of increasing Iranian involvement, especially in the affairs of Iraq, Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, head of the influential Iranian Expediency Council, enters the picture.

As Schlussel describes him,  the former Iranian President is, an ally of the late Ayatollah Khomeini and no enemy of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the ayatollahs who run Iran. And he's, announced he will fund and assist in Iraq's reconstruction. Rafsanjani is one of Iran's most influential and powerful politicians and religious leaders. He's not pledging the help just 'cuz. He's doing it to solidify the latent unity with Iran that Iraq has developed and will continue to embrace more and more openly. Rafsanjani said he visited Iraq to strengthen Iran-Iraq religious, political, and economic ties. Not a good thing.

Bad Dude 101, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani - cr. Wikipedia

And the Iraqis have welcomed him with open arms. America's favorite exceedingly bloated and corrupt Iraqi President Jalad Talabani greeted Akbar Hasemi Rafsanjani saying, Iraqi authorities could benefit from Rafsanjani's "long experience" as a leader who helped rebuild Iran after its war with Iraq...

And it's not surprising at all that he met with his fellow Israel-despising, Mr. Sharia Law himself, the Grand Dragon, Ayatollah Sistani (Thanks Ladybird): Rafsanjani visited Shiites holly (sic) cities Karbala and Najaf and met with Shiites Supreme clerics, Rafsanjani described his meeting with Sistani as “historical”.

That must have been one hell of a "historical" Jew-hate fest when those two noted anti-Semites came together. I can just imagine their conversation: 

Rafsanjani: In Iran, we hang our Jews.

Sistani: We chased all our Jews away, only five left in the country.

Rafsanjani: Can't top that. You da Man, Sistani.

Well, Iraq's happy embrace of Rafsanjani should should elicit disgust from any American that cares about Iraq. Frankly, Rafsanjani should be subjected to citizen's arrest, because he is both a criminal and a terrorist thug.

On July 18, 1994, the Argentine Israeli Mutual Aid Association (Argentina Jewish Community Center) in Buenos Aires was bombed in a terrorist attack, resulting in the deaths of 85 people and casualties in the hundreds.   The suicide bomber, Ibrahim Hussein Berro, a "Hezbollah operative from Lebanon" (with relatives in Dearborn, Michigan), carried out the attack at the behest of Hezbollah, and according to Argentinian prosecutors,  the decision to attack the center, was undertaken, "by the highest authorities of the then-government of Iran..." which was of course headed by Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.  In 2006, the Argentinian prosecutors asked a federal judge to,  order the arrest of former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and seven others for the Jewish Community Center bombing...They asked the judge to seek international and national arrest orders for Rafsanjani...

There was also, among other criminal acts that Rafsanjani organized, the "1992 Mykonos restaurant assassinations of Sadiq Sharafkindi, an Iranian-Kurdish leader, as well as three of his associates," which German prosecutors contend was, "personally ordered" by Rafsanjani and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.   

Can you imagine the United States allowing acceptance of such tainted reconstruction money? Well, perhaps under the current Obama administration, but during previous administrations, not even Bill Clinton would stoop so low.

But, then again this is Iraq, and the bombing of a Jewish Community Center would be greeted favorably by many Iraqis, including some of the bloggers. In fact, I recall one Iraqi blogger commenting a while back, that they'd like to see Israel burned and the Jews driven into the sea.

Any ways, as a VOA report notes: Washington has expressed concern about increasing ties between the two Shi'ite-majority neighbors.

Lol, if only the Bush administration had thought of that beforehand...

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

IraqPundit on the Juan Cole and the Kurds



In December 2006, Prof. Cole posted his top ten myths about Iraq. Most of the myths are just semantic arguments or strawmen, but following were emphatic:
1. Myth number one is that the United States "can still win" in Iraq
This was just six months before the insurgency came in from the cold and AQ in Iraq's dominance of Anbar ended.

5. The second Lancet study showing 600,000 excess deaths from political and criminal violence since the US invasion is somehow flawed.
This was less than a month before the Lancet study was exposed as a farce. The vivisectioning continues as IraqPundit recently reported:
AP says Johns Hopkins "announced yesterday that it is barring Gilbert M. Burnham [Lancet Study author] from serving as a principal investigator on projects involving human subjects.
IP on Prof. Juan Cole

IraqPundit
offers more evidence that the professing Cole is not really so comfortable with Arabic. Sad because he's had 6 years to buttress his boasts with actual knowledge.
Yesterday the professor wrote that he read in Arabic language Azzaman, "the arrival of United Nations counselors in Kirkuk with an aim of compiling a list of 'original' inhabitants of the city has provoked a wave of assassinations in the disputed city." The story actually says a census will be conducted. Cole then refers to Jala Naftji, a Turkmen member of the Kirkuk governing council, as a man. According to Cole, Nafitji "told Al-Zaman that he had been afraid of an increasing security vacuum in the province." Never mind that Jala is a woman's name and the newspaper used feminine pronouns. But Cole's an expert who is fluent in Arabic. Who am I to argue?
A couple of years ago Christopher Hitchens and The New York Times noted that Cole's ease with Persian was dubious as well.

IP Notes AP Only Reports Arab Atrocities Against Kurds
Does the reader get any figures about Kurdish violence against non-Kurds in Nineveh? No, because they are often portrayed as victims. The mainstream media have been covering the north as though it is only Kurdish territory. That is wrong.[...]What about Turkmen and Assyrians and others? I personally know people who have had their homes stolen by the peshmerga. The reporter writes as though the non-Kurdish people of Kirkuk do not exist. Certainly his Kurdish sources are not going to remind him.
Everything IP says is true. Also, while the Kurdish-controlled regions have been relatively liberal and secure since the fall of Saddam, they are in many ways politically repressive...for Kurds and especially for non-Kurds as the erstwhile blogger Kurdo once pointed out poignantly (although I can't seem to find the post).

My take is that absent a political solution, the Kurdish-Arab problems will be solved inevitably by force. Unfortunately however, neither the Kurds nor the Arabs are inclined to reach concessions:
If Arabs are being mistreated now, they will soon be able to turn things around...and the Arab suicide bombers will still be there.

And that's why, for what it's worth, I am slightly more sympathetic toward the Kurd's side: because I consider their plight to be existential (speaking as a political and cultural coalition, not individuals) while the situation of Arab Iraqis is less dire. Kurds are plundering the homes of non-Kurds for their homes as Arabs have been doing elsewhere. But Kurds (so far as I have heard) are not killing random people simply for not being Kurdish, while there are still Arab Iraqis killing Kurds for being Kurdish.

Does that make what the peshmurga are doing right? Does that ameliorate the injustice done to perfectly innocent Arab and non-Arab Iraqis who are being ethnically purged for the crime of not being Kurdish and for having something some Kurd with a gun wants? NO. That's why I said "I am SLIGHTLY more sympathetic toward the Kurdish plight".

And, anyway, as much as I want it, I don't see a political solution in the offing very soon.

While the fight over Kirkuk is also a greed issue on both sides (oh! that precious, beautiful oil revenue!), the core issue is trust:

Arab Iraqis think the Kurds want to take Kirkuk and leave.
Question: Why does that bother them?
Answer: It is human nature to value something more if others value it. And anyway the Arabs think that the Kurds WILL leave if they secure Kirkuk a Kurdish. And although they don't want to admit it, that clearly bothers them.

Iraqi Kurds believe that if Arabs become a significant voting block in Kurdish regions, they will use that power to oppress Kurdish language and culture. Looking at the last 80 years of Iraqi history, it is difficult to argue that that is not the case. The position of many Arab Iraqi bloggers seems to be "tough luck for them".
What is so great about Kirkuk? The Kurds see the arabization of Kirkuk (which began well before the Ba'athists came to power in the early 60s) as a shocking injustice to them, and they want that rectified. Well, it was. It is also, true that the Kurds see the oil of Kirkuk as way to make viable the idea of an independent Kurdistan--either because they actually want it or because they want to it as political leverage.

The truth is that there is not enough oil in the world to make an independent Kurdistan viable in the forseeable future for the reasons I explained here (although a failed Iraq is no longer a concern, the upshot is still true):
The new Kurdistan will be at war with the countries on its West, East, North, and South: Turkey, Iran, Syria, Iraq and the attempted independent Sunni state. [Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Iraq] will begin handing out money and supplies to secure aliances with the local Arabs and other ethnicalities, and with rival Kurdish groups within the new Kurdish state. So in addition to fighting a war on every front, the new Kurdistan will be engaged in a no-holds-barred civil war with itself...Kurdistan will become the center of a maelstrom with a maelstrom.
George Packer
For more on this, I recommend the 2004 George Packer article The Next Iraqi War.
Money quote: "Fanaticism is the legacy of Saddam's Arabization policy."
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Monday, March 02, 2009

The Bloggers and the Speech

UPDATE

It seems that Jon Stewart (at least) has noticed
the striking similarities in the plans of
Presidents Bush & Obama.


There is relatively little comment from Iraqi bloggers about Pres. Obama's "Iraq Speech" on Friday. And why should there be? Obama essentially conceded to the the Bush strategy:

Draw down the troops to 50,000 by August of next year.

THEN

In 2006, Obama called for the immediate draw-down of US troops in Iraq to zero within 16 months. Sen. McCain rightly pointed out that his plan would have meant that last US boot would have been out of Iraq at the very point that more boots that (in conjunction with the Sunni Arab provinces finally getting a clue) more boots had completely turned things around. During the campaign, Obama (like US journalists generally) refused to acknowledge that the surge had improved anything.

Very late in the campaign --as Candidate Obama perversely began to brag that his position on Iraq was closer to Pres. Bush's than Sen. McCain's-- he still called for a 16 month drawn-down of every single US service personnel in Iraq.

NOW

On Friday PRESIDENT Obama said:
"To understand where we need to go in Iraq, it is important for the American people to understand where we now stand. Thanks in great measure to [the work of the US military], the situation in Iraq has improved. Violence has been reduced substantially from the horrific sectarian killing of 2006 and 2007. Al Qaeda in Iraq has been dealt a serious blow by our troops and Iraq's Security Forces, and through our partnership with Sunni Arabs. The capacity of Iraq's Security Forces has improved, and Iraq's leaders have taken steps toward political accommodation. The relative peace and strong participation in January's provincial elections sent a powerful message to the world about how far Iraqis have come in pursuing their aspirations through a peaceful political process."
Instead of removing all troops from Iraq in 16 months, he is now calling for bring down the levels 50,000 in 18 months. Then he is calling for removing all the troops in 20011. He says that draw-down to 50,000 includes all US "combat troops", but as we all know now, there is no such thing as a non-combat troop in Iraq. They are all targets, and therefore they are all potential combatants.

In a column at WaPo, former Bush administration Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Douglas Feith, cuts the President about a mile of slack for his turn-around:

His speech effectively repudiated the extreme antiwar rhetoric of recent years. [CMAR II says "that is, his own extreme anti-war rhetoric"] In setting aside the 16-month exit timetable that he had promised while running for the White House, and on other issues, Obama unapologetically demonstrates that, while campaigners can be simplistic and rigid, responsible officials grapple with complexities and require flexibility.[...] This Iraq speech...represents the defeat of the defeatists.

The Obamaniacs, meanwhile, are demonstrating the acumen I have come to expect of them. I saw the speech in a shop, Friday, and a woman actually danced around shouting "Yay! The war is over!" I suppose she hoped Life Magazine would get a picture of pamphleteer kissing her.

The Iraqi Bloggers

Raed: Thank You Obama!

Raed's post is nearly at the level of that Obama bimbo [Obimbo] in the shop. Willful suspension of disbelief. He soft-pedals the President's commitment to only draw-down troops to 50,000. Essentially, his position is that of the American Obama Movement cheerleaders [Obamonkhees], who were screaming "Bring them all home now" when Bush was the decider: "Yes, this is not what he promised, but this is such a wonderful change!"

This is not "change". This is the Bush policy. He's not going to move all US troops out of Iraq. The Iraqis won't want it either. Are the German's wanting all US troops out? No. It's too lucrative to have them posted there.

Iraqi Mojo: Obama Evolving

Mojo's position is more close aligned to Douglas Feith's. He at least acknowledges what a drastic change this is from the President's campaign rhetoric. But I have one quibble. Mojo says:
"His speech on Friday, announcing a faster timetable for withdrawal of combat troops, also reflects his own evolution as a leader."
This not "faster timetable". It is merely a publicly declared timetable. If Bush had announced this six months ago, the Obamaniacs and Raed would not have considered this a move forward.

IraqPundit: U.S. Out of Iraq

IP finds 2011 to be a reasonable date for a total US withdrawal [granting the presumption they will do that] but realistically notes that the decision is perilous:
Iraq certainly can manage its own affairs. But it would be naive to think that Iran is not quietly planning its move for January 2012. In the West, people tend to look at next week or next month. In the East, people look at the next decade or the one after.
Nibras Kazimi: The Enemy Has a Vote

Nibras says that it doesn't matter what Obama says. He says that all the troops (beyond, I suppose, a small number of unobtrusive advisors) will leave Iraq in the fall of 2010, because the Status Of Forces Agreement referendum will fail.
The SOFA referendum won’t pass. It will likely undergo the same mechanism by which the referendum on the constitution (2005) was conducted: it SOFA is rejected (over 50 percent) by three provinces, then it is rendered null. This is a very likely possibility, and it shall be very difficult to any political party, even ones in the ascendancy such as Maliki’s, to make the case to the public to vote for SOFA. Amendments to SOFA, or a whole new SOFA will likewise be very difficult to pull off, both politically and legislatively.Which means that in one year’s time after the date of the referendum (…likely to be around the end of the summer), all U.S. troops, combat or otherwise, would have to depart Iraqi soil.
Other Issues

Sam at Interpreter's Life tells how he came to become a US military interpreter.

Shaggy discusses his father's plans to find him a wife.

Eye Raki discusses the possibility of Maliki and the Sadrists forming a new coalition government that leaves Allawi and the SIIC in opposition.

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