Assume the Position

Saturday, February 08, 2003
"Franco-German Duplicity" Has Become A Redundant Phrase. Here are the reported highlights of the latest "Old Europe," aka "Axis of Weasels," plan to disarm Iraq without war: Der Spiegel in German, The Mirror Google translation, and Reuters' coverage in English on ABCNews. From Reuters's version:
Der Spiegel said the initiative, which it said had been dubbed "Project Mirage," included the following proposals:

-- the some 150,000 U.S. troops already deployed to the Gulf should stay in place to force Baghdad to cooperate and be ready to invade if it breaches the new proposed U.N. resolution

-- Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would be forced to admit thousands of armed U.N. troops to oversee intensified weapons inspections in the whole country as well as full disarmament, creating a de facto "U.N. protectorate"

-- the number of weapons inspectors should be tripled from the current 100 operating in Iraq

-- the no-fly zone over northern and southern Iraq should be extended to cover the whole country and French, German and U.S. reconnaissance planes should be allowed to patrol the skies

-- a permanent U.N. coordinator of arms inspections in Iraq could be appointed

-- sanctions should be made more focused to clamp down on oil smuggling by Iraq's neighbors and tighten export controls

-- a special U.N. court should be established to oversee infringements of the new resolution and human rights abuses

According to The New York Times,
Livid American officials denounced the fact that they first heard of the possible plan from reporters.

"That's not the way to have a winning hand with the United States," said a senior American official. In fact, the official said, Mr. Rumsfeld asked the German defense minister, Peter Struck, about the report, and was told, "We're not ready to talk yet." The American official indicated that the United States would not support the plan, citing the failure of United Nations forces to prevent massacres in Bosnia.

The Times of Oman uses AFP and Reuters reports to provide a bit more detail into why US officials probably feel like they've been ambushed.

The way the proposal had emerged further deepened US "suspicions" about what the French and Germans — who both oppose a war on Iraq — were up to, the official added under cover of anonymity. Rumsfeld first heard about the plan when he was asked about it by a camera crew on the margins of the annual Munich security conference.
While it might initially sound like a reasonable plan, that first item is what should really make US officials "livid." Der Spiegel actually reports the approximation as 200,000 US troops. This is a plan for containment, but not in the way it is usually considered.

Here are standard definitions of "containment" from that should be familiar to most people:

  1. The act or condition of containing.
  2. A policy of checking the expansion or influence of a hostile power or ideology, as by the creation of strategic alliances or support of client states in areas of conflict or unrest.
  3. A structure or system designed to prevent the accidental release of radioactive materials from a reactor.
However, in an older dead-tree dictionary I find the following definitions:
con·tain·ment   n.
1. Mil. The engagement of the enemy so that he is unable to extricate forces for use elsewhere.
2. In international politics, the forestalling or offsetting, by political and economic policy, of territorial or ideological extension by an inimical power.
When you consider "containment" as a military term, you should see that it is a double-edged sword: while the enemy forces are tied-up, so are yours. There are some 37,000 US troops in South Korea that cannot be withdrawn safely or easily. Prior to the current build-up, "containment" of Iraq since the end of the Gulf War has kept around 17,000 to 30,000 US troops contained in the Persian Gulf to enforce the sanctions and maintain the No-Fly Zones.

Rather than effectively do anything about Iraq, this Franco-German plan seems designed to try and contain the United States even more by locking down some 200,000 US troops for an indefinite stay (another decade or more?) everywhere in the Persian Gulf except Iraq.

UPDATE 2/9/2003: Scott Ott's satire, "U.N. Troops to Serve as Human Shields in Iraq," hits on the most widely held perception about UN peacekeeping missions: peacekeepers "often…act as a buffer between hostile parties." In this case, of course, they would appear to be protecting Iraq from the US.

The Mother Of All Surrenders II - A quick look at the morale of the main Iraqi army.

The view of military forces in northern Iraq by a recent defector/deserter, Private Abass Shomail (emphasis added):

Conditions back in the Iraqi trenches were not so good, he said. "We have two blankets for every soldier, but they are very thin and don't keep us warm. The officers beat us. And the food is disgusting. I'm only paid 50 dinars [about £3] a month."

"There are two groups in the Iraqi army," Abbas said. "One is made up of soldiers like me. The other is the Republican Guard. The special guard will support and defend Saddam. The ordinary soldiers and many of the commanders will surrender."

(link via Tacitus)
The status of the Iraqi army in southern Iraq by UN Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission officers (emphasis added):
UNIKOM officers who patrol the 9-mile-wide demilitarized zone, created after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and who travel in southern Iraq provided a firsthand independent look at war preparations and troop morale in the region.

"They are terrified," said one army captain, clad in a blue beret. "They won't surrender at the first shot. They will surrender when they hear the first American tank turn on its engine."

UNIKOM officers said they had quietly advised their troops to be ready to evacuate the DMZ quickly in case of war and to watch UNIKOM's American members, because they might get advance warning.

"But I don't think there will be much fighting here," one UNIKOM captain said during an interview in a coffee shop. "That waiter there looks more together than any soldier I have seen in southern Iraq."

(link via Country Store)

Friday, February 07, 2003
Slammer Scammer. Dan Verton was taken in by a hoax engineered by Brian McWilliams. Not bad for a couple of journalists.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003
Abbas Abdi Sentenced to Eight Years. In my last post I mentioned that Abbas Abdi had been arrested in November 2002. The Iranian court has sentenced him to eight years for "espionage" in association with a poll showing Iranians want increased dialogue with the Great Satan. Fellow pollster Hossein Ali Qazian received a nine-year term, and a verdict has not yet been returned in Behrouz Geranpayeh's trial.

Original content copyright © 2002-2005 Lynxx Pherrett. All rights reserved.