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Old 08-12-2008, 03:05 PM   #121
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U.S. limited in Georgia crisis
American effort to spread democracy wanes in post-Iraq era.
By Peter Grier | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

from the August 13, 2008 edition

WASHINGTON - Russia's blitz into the former Soviet republic of Georgia has exposed starkly the limits of US military power and geopolitical influence in the era following the invasion of Iraq.

Georgia is one of the closest US allies in Eastern Europe. President Mikheil Saakashvili has visited the White House three times in the last four years. Yet this warm relationship did not stop the Kremlin from unleashing a ferocious military response after Georgian troops entered the separatist province of South Ossetia.

US efforts to expand Western influence and spread democracy along Russia's borders may now be threatened. US relations with Russia itself, at the least, are in flux.

"This gets at the stability of the framework the US thought was going to govern the post-cold-war world," says Stephen Sestanovich, senior fellow for Russian and Eurasian Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Russian leaders on Tuesday said they had ordered a halt to military action in Georgia. The move followed five days of air and land attacks that had routed Georgia's Army and sent Russian troops deep into Georgian territory.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced on national television that Georgia had been punished enough for its move against South Ossetia, which has close ties to Russia. But Medvedev did not immediately announce any withdrawal of forces from current positions and there were reports of continued scattered fighting.

"If there are any emerging hotbeds of resistance or any aggressive actions, you should take steps to destroy them," he told his defense minister at a televised Kremlin meeting.

President Bush, for his part, on Aug. 11 demanded that Russia end its dramatic escalation of violence in Georgia and agree to an immediate cease-fire and international mediation.

"Russia has invaded a sovereign neighboring state and threatens a democratic government elected by its people. Such an action is unacceptable in the 21st century," said Mr. Bush in a statement televised shortly after his return to the US from the Beijing Olympics.

But since the crisis began, there has been no hint that the United States would consider any kind of military move, even logistical aid for Georgian forces, that would bring it into direct conflict with Russia. The US and the West appear to have little leverage over a Moscow that is flush with oil money and eager to reestablish its position along its borders.

Expulsion of Russia from the G-8 group of industrialized nations was among the few apparent strong actions the US and Europe could take.

Other possible moves include threatening Russia with the loss of the 2014 Winter Olympic games at the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

"The United States, its allies, and other countries need to send a strong signal to Moscow that creating 19th-century-style spheres of influence and redrawing the borders of the former Soviet Union is a danger to world peace," said Ariel Cohen, senior research fellow in Russian and Eurasian studies at the Heritage Foundation, in an analysis of the impact of the crisis.

Georgian President Saakashvili has long been one of the Bush administration's favorite world leaders. Georgia contributed 2,000 troops to the US effort in Iraq, and Mr. Saakashvili has talked often of his support for Bush administration efforts to spread freedom and democracy among the countries of the former Soviet Union.

Saakashvili and Bush seem to share a good personal chemistry. Bush visited Georgia in 2005; during Saakashvili's return visits to the White House, the two joshed about folk dancing and their wives' luncheon plans.

In March, at a White House appearance, Saakashvili thanked Bush for supporting Georgia's aspirations to join NATO and for "protecting Georgia's borders."

"I think this is a very unequivocal support we're getting from you," the Georgian leader told the US president, for the cameras.

The US has long publicly stated that it is in favor of a peaceful settlement of Georgia's disputes with its breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Yet Saakashvili decided to send troops into South Ossetia, anyway. That appears to have been the spark that set off the crisis – or the provocation that Russia was waiting for.

Perhaps the Georgian leader thought the US would come to his aid if he got in trouble. If so, he did not take into account the drain that Iraq has been on US forces and the US standing in the world – or the American need to work with Russia on other important geopolitical issues, such as the effort to curb Iran's nuclear program.

"In many respects, Saakashvili got too close to the US, and the US got too close to Saakashvili.... Perhaps that made him overreach," says Charles Kupchan, senior fellow for Europe Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Ukraine, among other nations, will surely watch the outcome of this crisis closely, according to Mr. Kupchan. US hopes of girdling Russia with Western-oriented governments now appear in question, as Moscow reasserts influence over its "near abroad."

US hopes that Russia would be essentially a benign economic partner may also have been dashed when Russian tanks rolled into Georgian territory.

"Victory in this war with no consequences for Russia will reinforce antidemocratic forces in Russia, increase the militarization of its foreign policy, and encourage Russia to take more risks elsewhere on its borders," says Stephen Jones, professor of Russian and Eurasion studies at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass.

With the US far from the area of conflict, European attitudes will be crucial. Yet on Georgia and Russia, different European countries take different positions, and they have serious internal disagreements as well.

The European position tends to skew along lines of interest and history. Older European states, such as France and Germany, have strong economic and energy ties to Russia and see themselves as necessarily working with Moscow. Former Warsaw Pact states like Poland, Hungary, and the Baltic nations view Moscow with real suspicion based on bitter recent history as involuntary allies of the Soviet Union.

Britain, increasingly wary of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's Russia, takes a dim view of Moscow after a season of tensions and spats. East German-born Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor, regards Prime Minister Putin at least as a question mark, but she has been skillful at pragmatic moves that have kept Berlin-Moscow relations strong.

"Nothing meaningful can be done as a matter of American policy if there is no consensus among European states that this represents something deeply shocking," says Mr. Sestanovich of the Council on Foreign Relations.

i'm not deeply shocked.
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Old 08-21-2008, 11:06 AM   #122
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Obama's vision begins to become reality:

Quote:
Rice says U.S., Iraq agree to troop withdrawal timetable

BAGHDAD (AP) — Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Thursday the two countries have agreed that timetables should be set for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the battle-scarred country.

Appearing together at a news conference, Rice and Zebari mutually asserted that a final agreement between Washington and Baghdad on a withdrawal plan and accompanying strategic framework pact is close to fruition — but not there yet.

"We have agreed that some goals, some aspirational timetables for how that might unfold, are well worth having in such an agreement," Rice told reporters after meeting with Iraqi officials, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The two sides had come together on a draft agreement earlier this week and Rice made an unannounced visit to Baghdad to press officials there to complete the accord.

Zebari, asked about fears expressed by neighboring countries over such a pact, said in Arabic: "This decision (agreement) is a sovereign one and Iran and other neighboring countries have the right to ask for clarifications. ... There are clear articles (that) say that Iraq will not be used as a launching pad for any aggressive acts against neighboring countries and we already did clarify this."

A key part of the U.S.-Iraqi draft agreement envisions the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq's cities by next June 30.

Zebari said, "This agreement determines the principle provisions, requirements, to regulate the temporary presence and the time horizon, the mission of the U.S. forces."

On the plane en route to Baghdad, Rice had told reporters, "The negotiators have taken this very, very far. But there is no reason to believe that there is an agreement yet. There are still issues concerning exactly how our forces operate."

Her comments dampened speculation that agreement might be reached while she is in Baghdad on a several-hour visit, her first to Iraq since March. U.S. and Iraqi officials said Wednesday that a draft document was done and awaiting approval from political leaders.

Rice displayed similar caution in the news conference with Zebari.

"Obviously, the American forces are here, coalition forces are here at the invitation of the Iraqi government," she said. "What we're trying to do is put together an agreement that protects our people, respects Iraq's sovereignty.

"... But the goal is to have Iraqi forces responsible for the security of Iraq," Rice added. "That is the goal and that has been the goal from the beginning."

She said the military surge has worked and "we are making progress together in the defeat of Iraq's enemies of all stripes."

"We're not sitting here talking about an agreement to try to get out of a bad situation," Rice asserted, calling the agreement one that "builds on the success we have had in the last year. This agreement is based on success." (Irvine--see? this was the point of The Surge all along, it's a band-aid, meant to quell things to the point where we could get out and have a certain republican candidate take the credit, and then we could turn around when the nation again bursts into flames and say, well, we tried)

Zebari conceded that officials had hoped to conclude the pact earlier, but he said that "it has taken us more time," citing internal political factors.

"Really, we are very, very close to closing this agreement," he said, "and as we said from the beginning, there is no hidden agenda here."

The foreign minister said the pact that officials are trying to finish will be presented to Iraq's Executive Council for review. "Time is of the essence," he said, "but, really, we are redoubling our efforts to bring this to a successful conclusion."

Followers of anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr criticized Rice's visit and repeated their opposition to the security agreement. Sadr's followers control 30 of the 275 seats in parliament.

Luai Smeisem, the head of the political bureau in the Sadr movement, said, "We as the Sadr movement denounce this dubious visit and such timing. We reaffirm our stance of rejecting the long-term agreement. We demand the Iraqi government, and on the highest levels, not to sign this unjust agreement and we demand the withdrawal of the government as soon as possible."
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Old 08-21-2008, 11:14 AM   #123
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Uh oh, I guess McCain will now have to focus his saber at Russia...
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Old 08-21-2008, 11:24 AM   #124
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Uh oh, I guess McCain will now have to focus his saber at Russia...


i know, right? everything that happens is the existential crisis of our time!!!

when the overriding principle of your foreign policy is hysteria, no shortage of enemies anywhere.
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Old 08-21-2008, 11:38 AM   #125
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This agreement hasn't come about because the administration has had a change of heart, it's come about because the Iraqi government politely told the administration to leave.
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Old 08-21-2008, 04:39 PM   #126
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Obama's vision begins to become reality:
I'm happy Obama is a new convert to Bush administration policy on Iraq since 2004 which has consistently been "as they stand up, we'll stand down.
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Old 08-21-2008, 04:41 PM   #127
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Old 08-21-2008, 04:49 PM   #128
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This agreement hasn't come about because the administration has had a change of heart, it's come about because the Iraqi government politely told the administration to leave.

Yet, as late as 2007, we had people in here insisting that there was no such thing as an Iraqi government.

For its part the administration has never had a policy of staying in Iraq indefinitely. The plan before the war had the United States completely out of Iraq by December 2006, with the exception of a couple thousand troops for Embassy and diplomat security. This changed when events on the ground worsened and the insurgency increased. Bush administration policy then was to only withdraw when conditions on the ground warrented it, "as they stand up, we'll stand down".

Thanks to the surge and other successful US policies in Iraq, there currently is an Iraqi government with a military force that is projected to be capable enough to handle the security situation within the country on their own, within a few years.

As I have always said, provided that the United States does not prematurely withdraw from Iraq, it will be successful in accomplishing its objectives there of rebuilding the country, creating a stable government, developing the economy, and developing Iraqi security forces that are able to handle the security situation within the country without the need for US ground forces.
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Old 08-21-2008, 05:10 PM   #129
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i'm not deeply shocked.

Current US policy in Georgia would be no different if the United States were not currently involved in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A US military response to the conflict would not be seriously considered.

In addition while its true that the current commitment of roughly 20 US combat brigades does to some degree limit the ability of the US to respond to a conflict in Europe, if the Russians were to foolishly decide to repeat their actions in Georgia in either Estonia or Lativia, both ex-Soviet Republics that are now members of NATO, the US would not hesitate to respond by mobilizing and deploying as quickly as possible the remainder(if need be) of its ground forces currently in the United States which with National Guard Combat Brigades comes out to nearly 60 Brigades. Any restrictions currently in place on rates of deployment would be ended and current forces deployed in Iraq would have their deployments extended idefinitely, while others would be withdrawn. The United States already has two Mechanized divisions in Germany, a total of 6 combat brigades.
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Old 08-21-2008, 07:06 PM   #130
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Originally Posted by Irvine511
Obama's vision begins to become reality:
Obama's vision of withdrawal is the same one he had as his Senate leader Harry Reid was declaring "The war is lost!"



Quote:
"We're not sitting here talking about an agreement to try to get out of a bad situation," Rice asserted, calling the agreement one that "builds on the success we have had in the last year. This agreement is based on success." (Irvine--see? this was the point of The Surge all along, it's a band-aid, meant to quell things to the point where we could get out and have a certain republican candidate take the credit, and then we could turn around when the nation again bursts into flames and say, well, we tried)
This whole Iraq house of cards could collapse, it could very well happen.

But as Obama continues to say he STILL wouldn't have supported the Surge....and if his most passionate supporters say that the change in tactics was ordered for Republican political gain only.....

Independents will see the improvements in Iraq and will not buy the Obama spin. It's not a winning issue. Better to attack McCain on the grounds that our commitment in Iraq is hurting Afghanistan.

But it's still an uphill battle for Obama to win on national security.
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Old 08-22-2008, 09:59 AM   #131
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Independents will see the improvements in Iraq and will not buy the Obama spin. It's not a winning issue. Better to attack McCain on the grounds that our commitment in Iraq is hurting Afghanistan.


i think that's what the campaign is going to do. that, and the fact that Obama was right in 2002 and McCain was wrong. if McCain wants to run a candidacy on The Surge, he's got a big problem. you'll notice that once he lost that argument, and once the Iraqi government endorsed the Obama plan, the McCain team went straight for the dirt -- the Paris/Britney ad, the unrelenting negative "he's black/other/celebrity/wants to fuck your white daughters" ads.

and the Georgia crisis helped him last week, because it let him play Churchill for a day. but the fact is, McCain was sent scrambling the last time Iraq became an issue (mid-June, i think), so i wouldn't expect to see much substance coming out of the Republicans on this issue.
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Old 08-22-2008, 03:53 PM   #132
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i think that's what the campaign is going to do. that, and the fact that Obama was right in 2002 and McCain was wrong. .
Well, unfortunately for Obama, Saddam and his regime are long gone and most people, if not now, will eventually be pleased with that fact and as conditions on the ground in Iraq improve, Obama's opposition to removing Saddam in 2002 will look even more pathetic than it does now.



Quote:
and once the Iraqi government endorsed the Obama plan
I have yet to see the Iraqi government endorse any withdrawal plan that is NOT conditions based like Obama's.


Quote:
and the Georgia crisis helped him last week, because it let him play Churchill for a day. but the fact is, McCain was sent scrambling the last time Iraq became an issue (mid-June, i think), so i wouldn't expect to see much substance coming out of the Republicans on this issue.
Iraq's turned into a plus for McCain. His opponent opposed the very plan which has helped produced the dramatic improvements currently seen in Iraq. In fact, he claimed it would make the situation worse. Obama then likes to go back to 2002 and trumpet the fact that he was opposed to removing Saddam from power. Guess what the one area is that McCain has beaten Obama consistently all summer long on, Iraq.

Guess why most voters would prefer McCain to Obama in dealing wit the crises in Georgia? Its partly because of his policies on Iraq.
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Old 08-22-2008, 04:06 PM   #133
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U.S. combat troops would leave Iraq by 2011 under draft agreement
By Stephen Farrell
Friday, August 22, 2008

BAGHDAD: The United States has agreed to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by next June and from the rest of the country by the end of 2011 if conditions in Iraq remain relatively stable, according to Iraqi and U.S. officials involved in negotiating a security accord governing American forces here.

The withdrawal timetable, which Bush administration officials called "aspirational goals" rather than fixed dates, are contained in the draft of an agreement that still must be approved by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and other Iraqi leaders before it goes before the fractious Parliament. It has the support of the Bush administration, American and Iraqi officials said.

American officials stressed repeatedly that meeting the timetables depended on the security situation in Iraq, where sectarian killings and attacks on American troops have declined sharply over the past year from the peak levels of 2006 and 2007. Iraqi officials, who have pushed for an even tighter target date for the United States to end its military operations, could also end up rejecting the draft agreement.

Even so, the accord indicates that the Bush administration is prepared to commit the United States to ending most combat operations in Iraq in less than a year, a much shorter time frame than seemed possible, politically or militarily, even a few months ago. President George W. Bush and many leading Republicans, including the party's presumptive nominee for president, Senator John McCain, had repeatedly dismissed timetables for pulling out of Iraq as an admission of defeat that would empower America's enemies.

But Iraq's Shiite-dominated government demanded a withdrawal timetable as the price of legalizing the U.S. military presence after the expiration of the United Nations mandate at the end of this year. Security gains in recent months also made the prospect of a winding down of military operations more palatable to the White House and top military officials, said people involved in the talks.

If approved in its current form, the accord seems likely to take center stage in the presidential race. McCain has vowed to stay in Iraq until the war is won but has suggested that he would have the troops out by 2013, two years later than the Bush administration has agreed to withdraw them if conditions in the accord are met.

Senator Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, has argued that the United States should withdraw its troops 16 months after he took office, or by mid-2010, a faster pace for full withdrawal than envisioned in the draft accord. But the draft's interim goal of ending combat operations in Iraqi cities by next summer is faster than any commitment made by Obama.

The draft appears to contain one significant concession on the Iraqi side. A senior Bush administration official said that Maliki had allowed the timeline for ending combat operations to slip to 2011. Previously, he and other Iraqi officials had said they wanted American troops out by 2010.

A deal between American and Iraqi officials was given fresh impetus by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's surprise visit to Baghdad on Thursday. Rice met with Maliki and other Iraqi leaders and confirmed that both sides saw the value in "aspirational timetables" to govern the continuing role, mission and size of American forces in Iraq.

She declined to discuss the timing, saying that "would be inappropriate at this time" and that decisions must be based on events, not timetables.

"We have always said that the roles, missions and size of the American forces here, the coalition forces, was based on the conditions on the ground and what is needed," Rice said at a news conference in Baghdad with the Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari.

Iraqi officials were more forthcoming with their interpretation of the draft agreement. In an interview by telephone in Baghdad, Mohammad Hammoud, the chief Iraqi negotiator, said that the draft contained two dates: June 30, 2009, for the withdrawal of American forces from "cities and villages," and Dec. 31, 2011, for combat troops to leave the country altogether.

Hamoud said the draft specified that meeting the timetable, particularly the goal of full withdrawal by 2011, depended on the security situation. He said that at the end of 2011 the Iraqi government "will review the security situation in the country and if necessary will ask the American side for certain forces for training or supporting the Iraqi Security Forces."

Even if the goal of withdrawing combat troops by 2011 is realized, the accord does leave open the possibility that American military trainers and support forces could remain in Iraq after that time. It is unclear whether the accord provides for semipermanent military bases in the country, and what role the United States would play in providing air and naval support for Iraq.



timetables with withdrawal as the goal. Obama gets it right again.
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Old 08-22-2008, 04:14 PM   #134
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timetables with withdrawal as the goal. Obama gets it right again.

Opps, looks like you missed this little fact:

Quote:
The United States has agreed to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by next June and from the rest of the country by the end of 2011 if conditions in Iraq remain relatively stable according to Iraqi and U.S. officials involved in negotiating a security accord governing American forces here.
The Obama plan does not call for staying in Iraq if conditions on the ground get worse.
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Old 08-22-2008, 04:19 PM   #135
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Opps, looks like you missed this little fact:



The Obama plan does not call for staying in Iraq if conditions on the ground get worse.


except that it has and does. everyone knows this but you. so ... keep on trying!!!
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