“The issue of establishing security in Iraq is the most important part of our talks,” said Iraqi President Jalal Talabani after summit talks in Tehran with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “We are in dire need of Iran’s help in establishing security and stability in Iraq.”
It’s fascinating to watch policy unravel in real time. When President George W. Bush has his own summit with the prime minister of Iraq later this week in Jordan, he will be dealing with a fait accompli.
** EXPECT NEXT WEEK’S HEARINGS ON ROBERT GATES TO PROVE ILLUMINATING, BUT NOT A FULCRUM ON THE IRAQ DEBATE. The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee will hold hearings early next week on the appointment of former CIA Director and current Texas A&M University President Robert Gates to succeed Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. If he is approved by the committee and confirmed by the full Senate the following week, he is expected to take office shortly after in December. Note that this is the current Senate, and its Armed Services Committee, doing the honors.
Some, such as incoming Virginia Senator James Webb, want the nomination held over for the new Senate to consider. Webb crossed swords in the late ’80s with Gates as secretary of the Navy. But this appointment is on a fast track, with the White House determined to move Iraq War architect Rumsfeld out the door before the Democrats take over the Senate. What we should get from Gates is an early public preview of the forthcoming views of the Iraq Study Group. A favorite of Bush I, he was an ally of ISG co-chairman James Baker, the cowboy booted, Savile Row-suited former U.S. secretary of state, secretary of the treasury, and George Herbert Walker Bush campaign manager. It was Baker who pulled the plug on his boss’s 1980 presidential campaign, thus preserving him as a live option to become Ronald Reagan’s vice president. Bush defeated Reagan in Iowa, then foundered in subsequent primaries, leading Baker to essentially end his campaign for him.
** YOUR ASSIGNMENT, 007, IS TO CRAFT A “REDEPLOYMENT” PLAN. The British defense ministry is saying that the UK will “downgrade” its commitment to the Iraq policy next year, withdrawing thousands of troops from Iraq.
Since there are only about 7,000 British troops presently in Iraq, this amounts to a substantial withdrawal. At the height of the full-scale fighting, Britain had 46,000 troops in the Iraq War, as the only other major participant in the “coalition of the willing.”
** Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made a relaxed appearance yesterday on NBC’s Meet the Press. On state issues, he said he wanted to find ways to lower health care costs and extend health care to all the uninsured. And to get rid of California’s structural budget deficit during his second term, without raising taxes. Those are expansive goals, not unfamiliar with the former Mr. Universe, with no details attached.
On larger issues, he denounced the most prominent Republican denier of global warming, outgoing U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chairman James Inhofe of Oklahoma, lauded the bipartisan Iraq Study Group headed by former Secretary of State James Baker and former House Intelligence Chairman Lee Hamilton, and said that U.S. troops should be withdrawn from Iraq, on a “timeline.”
Here’s what Schwarzenegger had to say about Inhofe and other global warming deniers: “There’s always in history been people that are back with their thinking in the Stone Age. And I think that the key thing for us is, is to not pay any attention to those things, because as I said, the science is in, we know the facts, there’s not any more debate as to global warming or not. We have global warming and the fact also is that we can do something about it. We can slow it down or we can stop it, but only if everyone is working together.”
** BAGHDAD AIRPORT REOPENS, IRAQ PRESIDENT TO IRAN. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is off to the Iranian capital of Tehran today for a summit with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on gaining Iranian help in settling the spreading chaos in Iraq. Talabani had been scheduled to fly to Tehran on Saturday, but Baghdad international airport was shut down due to widespread sectarian violence in the Iraqi capital. The airport has reopened and a three-day curfew in Baghdad has been lifted. But there has been renewed violence in the strife-torn city.
The reality is that while some in the US debate whether or not there should be engagement with Iran on the Iraq crisis — and clearly Iran is fomenting discord in Iraq, for its own obvious purposes — Iraq itself is already engaging with Iran. This is already happening. First with their energy ministers meeting to discuss reviving the electric power grid disrupted during the US invasion of 2003, as reported here last week. Now with summit discussions on how to settle the violence.
** Track global and national energy prices in near real time via Bloomberg. Crude oil prices are around $60 per barrel on seasonally mild temperatures in the US.