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Saturday, June 26, 2004

Sensible discussion 

What Next? Rolling Stone convenes a panel of experts to discuss what went wrong in Iraq
Finally, some sensible talk about Iraq from smart people who have actually worked in the region. Some selected quotes:
Chas Freeman U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, 1989-1992; assistant secretary of defense, 1993-1994: Increasing sophistication in the ambush tactics and improvised explosive devices used to kill American troops indicate growing cooperation between secular Iraqi factions and religious extremists like Al Qaeda. Sunni insurgents in Iraq are being helped by Hamas from the Palestinian occupied territories, and the Shiites are being assisted by Hezbollah from Lebanon. All these forces are cooperating, even though many have historically been mortal enemies. Clearly, the U.S. is a big enough enemy for everyone in the region to put aside their differences.
Gen. Anthony Zinni Commander in chief of Centcom, 1997-2000; special envoy to the Middle East, 2002-2003; author of Battle Ready: Any time we look at an "enemy," we look at it at three levels. At the tactical level, the enemy is the terrorist organizations and the financing they get. The operational level is the enemy's center of gravity -- it's the rationale, which is radical Islam. At the strategic level, it's the continuous flow of young people so desperate and angry that they're willing to believe it.
At the tactical level, we could be winning - we could be hurting Al Qaeda and capturing its leadership. But as an ideology, it's strengthening. It is probably stronger now than before September 11th, in terms of recruiting manpower willing to kill themselves.
Sen. Joseph Biden Ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: I was in the Oval Office the other day, and the president asked me what I would do about resignations. I said, "Look, Mr. President, would I keep Rumsfeld? Absolutely not." And I turned to Vice President Cheney, who was there, and I said, "Mr. Vice President, I wouldn't keep you if it weren't constitutionally required." I turned back to the president and said, "Mr. President, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld are bright guys, really patriotic, but they've been dead wrong on every major piece of advice they've given you. That's why I'd get rid of them, Mr. President -- not just Abu Ghraib." They said nothing. Just sat like big old bullfrogs on a log and looked at me.
Youssef Ibrahim Managing director of the Dubai-based Strategic Energy Investment Group; former Middle Eastern correspondent for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal: The sixty-year relationship we've had with Saudi Arabia is on the verge of collapse. How many times have we asked them to please, please open the spigots so we can bring prices down? There's a new 900-pound gorilla coming called China. In ten years, it's going to be the largest consumer of oil in the world, which means that the people who produce oil are no longer kissing America's ass -- they're beginning to kiss China's ass. [In response to a question about whether the war has produced a new respect for American military power] Hardly. We are no longer loved because of Iraq, and we are also no longer feared because of Iraq. The neoconservative dream of regime change throughout the region -- in Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Libya and Somalia -- is dead. Do you really think any of those countries are afraid of us after watching us bleed in the streets of Iraq?

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