Obama to Address the Nation on Iraq Tonight

Obama entering the Oval Office, pre-carpet change. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The media has had a field day with stories on the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq today on the eve of Obama’s address to the nation in the Oval Office (with a new carpet I hear).

The Council on Foreign Relations produced a nice time line and multimedia presentation of the progression of the Iraq War since 2003. Seriously, a gorgeous and cohesive presentation for those who haven’t been following news from Iraq since the Bush Administration.

The Weekly Standard published a story by William Kristol urging Obama to address Iraq not as a candidate campaigning for Presidency, but as the commander-in-chief who needs to execute this carefully:

“So my sincere hope—and it is sincere, with no political agenda (for what it’s worth, I think following the advice I’m about to give would help you politically)—is that you don’t begin your remarks tomorrow night, as you did your weekly address Saturday, by taking credit for fulfilling a campaign promise. Your oath as president was to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” and it is in that capacity that you now make foreign policy judgments, not as a former candidate keeping well- or ill-considered campaign promises.”

Laura Rozen, on the other hand, discussed Obama’s fulfilled promises with Iraq when he said he would refocus on Afghanistan and turn Iraq from a combat strategy to a diplomatic initiative. The promises kept, however, will be overshadowed by the still unstable Iraqi state, increasing violence and our wars in other parts of the Middle East.

“The still-unsettled Iraqi state also complicates matters for Obama; while avoiding Bush’s famous “mission accomplished” declaration, the president must nevertheless signal a satisfactory conclusion to the second-longest war in American history,” she writes quoting Abby Phillip of POLITICO.

Reports have also already indicated that the GOP leader has issued a pre-rebuttal of Obama’s speech (not too surprising since a transcript of his speech is probably circulating newsrooms as we speak). The reports say that Repubicans think success in Iraq has come “in spite” of Obama.

Countless other reports have been issued today, but I’m curious to see if this speech will be meaty or simply statements saying that we are staying the course and support our troops.

During Obama’s speech at Fort Bliss this afternoon, he stressed the importance of careful security training in Iraq in light of recent violence.

“The work that continues is absolutely critical, providing training and assistance to Iraqi security forces, because there’s still violence in Iraq and they’re still learning how to secure their country the way they need to. And they’ve made enormous strides, thanks to the training that they’ve already received,” he said.

U.S. Major General Steven Lanza, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, spoke to Reuters in Bagdad today and reassured the public that Iraqi forces are capable of securing the state despite the struggle ahead.
“There is still a lot of work to be done, there is still challenges to be met in the future, there is still be some violence, but again, the quicker the government get seated, that is the most important factor in mitigated the violence,” he said.

On the other hand, a report from RFE/RL indicates that the Iraqi people are worried of the U.S. withdrawal and could feel abandoned in a time of need.

“What they are leaving in Iraq is democracy only, while there is no security, no stability, no services and, in fact, nothing at all but that ‘democracy’ they say they applied. We are not really gaining a lot from their presence here, but maybe if they stayed longer, it would be better,” said one Iraqi woman.
“[President Obama] made the promise to his people that he would withdraw on a certain day and date, and he did it. But he left Iraq in a difficult situation, also in difficult political situation. Things are not good. He should have kept his promise to the Iraqi people they way he did to the American people,” said another Iraqi man.

I’m more interested to see how journalists on the ground in Iraq, soldiers and civilians will react to Obama’s speech. I also am curious to see if the withdrawal will lead to neighboring forces invading or launching their own attacks. Only time will tell. In the meatime, I’ll be watching tonight.

This Week in D.C. August 31-Sept. 3

This week, people are slowly coming back from their August vacations and gearing up for a well-rested Congress and a President determined to make his mark in the Middle East. Tonight, Obama will give his second-ever speech in the Oval Office on the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq starting in September. On Wednesday, The White House will host the first of many Middle East peace talks with both leaders of Palestine and Israel. Will it only take a year? Probably not, but it’ll be interesting to see what kinds of negotiations come from these talks and how the world will react–especially in light of our activity in Pakistan, the recent “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy and increased terror plots.

For Tuesday

*8:00 tonight: President Obama addresses the nation on Iraq from the Oval Office

From 10:00 AM-11:30 AM, Dr. James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute will hold a briefing on the hill on “Muslims in America: Myths and Realities” organized by the Congressional Muslim Staff Association in 2325 Rayburn.

From 12:00PM-1:00 PM, the Federation for Defense Democracies’ Jonathan Schanzer hosts a lunch discussion on how the  “under-reported Palestinian civil war undermines President Obama’s Mideast Agenda” at the Capitol, room H-137.

12 p.m. – 2 p.m. WORLD BANK – WATER — The World Bank Group Water Strategy Review holds a panel discussion and presentation of Sustaining Water for All in a Changing Climate, hosted by Inger Andersen, the Bank’s Vice President for Sustainable Development.

Location: World Bank Headquarters, 1818 H Street NW; Room MC 13 – 121

Contacts: Christopher Neal (Cneal1@worldbank.org), 202-473-2049

From 12:30 PM-2 PM, Africa Action, the TransAfrica Forum and IPS’ Foreign Policy in Focus host a debate on “Globalization: Threat or Opportunity?” between Rick Rowden and Eugene Kyambal at the IPs Conference Room, 1112 16th St. NW

at 2:00 PM, the National Democratic Institute will hold a discussion on Kenya’s new constitution with guest speaker Elkanah Odembo, the Kenyan ambassador to the U.S.  The event will be held at the National Democratic Institute at 2030 M. st. NW.

From 2:00 PM-3:30 PM, CSIS will hold a talk on “North Korea and the U.S. Nuclear Umbrella: Extended Deterrence in East Asia” with Dr. Patrick Morgan from UC-Irvine, Jofi Joseph, senior advisor to the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security and CSIS experts. The event will take place at CSIS on 18th and K st.

The Heritage Foundation will hold a discussion on former President Carter’s trip to North Korea and its impact from 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM at 214 Mass Ave NE.

ALSO at 2 PM-3:30 PM, the USIP will hold a panel discussion on “Haiti: Security after the Quake? Addressing Violence and Rape in Haiti.” The panel will feature speakers from the UN Humanitarian Response, Global Consortium on Security Transformation and USIP experts.

After the State Department briefing at 1:15 with Assistant Secretary Crowley, Sec. Clinton will hold a bilateral meeting with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh and later at 3:00 with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.

At 6:15 PM, Clinton will meet with Quartet Representative Tony Blair at the State Department and then launch the first in a series of bilateral meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at 7:45 PM.

For Wednesday

Brookings will hold a discussion on the recent floods in Pakistan from 10:00 AM-11:30 AM with panelists Michael Young of the International Rescue Committee and Gen. Jehangir Karamat.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) will hold a news conference in Washington, D.C., to launch a national public service announcement (PSA) campaign featuring Muslim 9/11 first responders and designed to challenge the growing anti-Muslim rhetoric sparked by opposition to the planned Park51 project in Manhattan at the National Press Club Zenger Room at 10:30 AM.

There will be a telephonic press conference with faith and military leaders at 11:00 AM urging the construction of the Ground Zero Mosque as a community center Notes: 888-674-0222, call ID: Values and Security RSVP.

From 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM, Egyptian Americans for Change will hold a press conference to discuss Egypt’s political future and regional stability at the Press Club’s Murrow Room.

The Hudson Institute will host a discussion from 12:00 Pm to 2:00 PM on the impact of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) on Taiwan’s standing with China.  Professor William Rowe of Johns Hopkins University a leading historian of late imperial China will give a historical perspective and address Taiwan’s socio-economic relations with Asia in the 18th and 19th centuries. The event is located at the Hudson Institute at 1015 15th St. NW.

For Thursday

The Hudson Institute will hold a discussion on “Borders and Bridges: Recent Shifts in North American Relations,” and changes in security relations with Canada, the US and Mexico at 12:00 PM.

The International Monetary Fund will hold a book forum on “Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy” at 4:00 PM at the IMF Headquarters (720 19th st. NW).

The George Washington University Ambassadors Forum will be held at 5:00 PM with Ambassador Erlan Idrissove, Ambassador of Kazakhstan to the U.S. who will speak on Kazakhstan’s Emerging Leadership Role and Its International Implications. The event will take place at Linder Family Commons on 1957 E St. NW.
WHERE: George Washington University, Lindner Family Commons, Room 602, 1957 E Street, NW, Washington, DC.
CONTACT: RSVP to dpe.gwu.publicity@gmail.com; web site: www.gwu.edu

Ambassador Erlan Idrissov, Ambassador of Kazakhstan to the United States

Topics will include Kazakhstan’s emerging leadership role, particularly now that the country holds the 2010 rotating chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The discussion will center on both Kazakhstan’s recent achievements and the various challenges that the country still faces.

Please send RSVP to: dpe.gwu.publicity@gmail.com.

Meet the New Ambassadors

On Thursday last week, the Senate confirmed 27 ambassadors by unanimous consent from countries including Iraq, Greece, Colombia and Nigeria. Read up on your favorite country’s newest representative in Washington:

Jim Jeffrey: Iraq

Maura Connelly: Lebanon

Scot Marciel: Indonesia

Gerald Feierstein: Yemen

Daniel B. Smith: Greece

Peter McKinley: Colombia

Alejandro Wolff: Chile

Rose Likins: Peru

Terence Patrick McCulley: Nigeria

Phillip Carter: Cote d’Ivoire

Francis Ricciardone: Turkey.

Bisa Williams: Republic of Niger

Helen Patricia Reed-Rowe: the Republic of Palau

Patrick Moon: Bosnia and Herzegovina

Christopher Murray: Republic of the Congo

Mark Charles: Zambia

J. Thomas Dougherty: Burkina Faso

Eric Benjaminson: the Gabonese Republic and the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe

James Frederick Entwistle: the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Laurence Wohlers: the Central African Republic

Judith Fergin: Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste

Michael Owen: Republic of Sierra Leone

Robert Porter: Republic of Cameroon

Pamela Bridgewater Awkard: Jamaica

Michele Thoren Bond
: the Kingdom of Lesotho

Paul Jones: Malaysia

Phyllis Marie Powers: Republic of Panama

Luis Arreaga-Rodas: Iceland

Arab Countries: A Nuclear Iran Would be “Positive”

A majority of the Arab population support Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, says a new study by the University of Maryland and Zogby International.

Shibley Telhami, the principal investigator of the 2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll announced at the unveiling of the study at the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C. that an overwhelming number of Arabs feel that Iran has the right to pursue a nuclear program, even if the program is not for peaceful purposes.

This study goes against the opinion of many experts who say that Arab nations would oppose a nuclear-armed Iran, including Mustafa Alani, research director at the Gulf Research Centre in Dubai, who said “We have a shared interest in preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power”.

The poll indicates that 77 percent of the surveyed Arab population think Iran has the right to pursue a nuclear program, which jumped up from 53 percent last year. More than half also acknowledged that Iran is likely pursuing a nuclear program for non-peaceful means. A majority (57 percent) also said it would be “more positive” for the Middle East region if Iran had a nuclear weapon. Last year, only 29 percent of the population felt a nuclear-armed Iran would be “positive” for Middle Eastern countries. A mere 20 percent say that Iran should be pressured to stop its program.

The survey focused on Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon and the UAE between June 29 and July 20 of this year.

“This does not mean they like Iran. Arabs have mixed feelings,” said Telhami. “This is highly correlated to how they feel about the U.S. and their hopefulness of U.S. foreign policy.” According to the poll, the greatest foreign policy issues that disappoint the surveyed countries are the Palestine/Israeli conflict and the War in Iraq. While the war in Afghanistan overwhelmingly trumps Western headlines, only 4 percent of the surveyed population said they were disappointed with Obama’s handling of Afghanistan.

Additionally, the surveyed countries feel that the U.S. and Israel pose a greater threat to Middle East peace than Iran. While Israel scored 88 percent, Iran scored 10 percent.

“What you have is an evaluation of Iran through the lens of bigger threats—when over 80 percent are worried over Israel, the Iran issue seems marginalized. So the evaluation isn’t really about Iran—a lot of it is “the enemy of my enemy.”

The poll suggests that the Arab community has also dropped in its support and optimism for the Obama Administration because of his handling of Iraq and relationship with Israel.

“This disappointment comes from the outcome of the Iraq elections. I don’t think we get it sometimes. It’s not that Arabs don’t care about Afghanistan, but it’s not the prism they evaluate American foreign policy,” said Telhami. “It’s not the main issue to them.”

63 percent are discouraged by Obama’s policies towards the Middle East, which changed dramatically from 15 percent in 2009.

To view the complete report, visit Brookings.

Soldier who leaked U.S. apache attack video to be charged

video available on YouTube or Collateral Murder

FIRST thought: So…this soldier who leaked a video showing the blatant murder of two journalists is being prosecuted….why aren’t the soldiers who committed these war crimes being prosecuted?

Yes…he broke the law–he obtained classified information and made it public. But by doing so, he revealed something much greater.

If you haven’t seen it, you must take a look at this video and listen to the conversation between two soldiers targeting the journalists. They weren’t sure that they were journalists, but the “insurgents” were not attacking anyone nor were they showing signs of aggression.

According to “Iraq Body Count,” between 96,845 and 105,596 civilians have been killed during the Iraq war thus far, but there’s no real way of knowing how many truly have been killed in the line of fire. The Committee to Protect Journalists issued a request to Sec. Gates asking for an investigation of the murders, as well as the murder of SIXTEEN other journalists who have been killed. The request stated:

“While we have not found evidence that U.S. troops intentionally targeted journalists in any of these cases, our research shows that the majority of the killings were either not sufficiently investigated or that the military failed to publicly disclose its findings.”

CPJ also lists the names and details of journalists killed on the job, providing news and insight to the wars we support and fund.

The Committee also states that in most cases of war, journalists are the targets of murder rather than dying in the line of fire by accident. This case shows an instance of targeted murder, although it is true that the soldiers didn’t know they were reporters. In any case, they were racially profiled, followed and killed when they weren’t carrying weapons or showing signs of aggression.