** SAUDIS IN IRAQ? A strategist for the Saudi government, reminding that his country’s leaders warned the US not to invade, writes in an intriguing Washington Post essay that his country will have to intervene in Iraq if the US withdraws in order to protect fellow Sunnis. And, presumably, not simply hand regional Islamic supremacy to Iran.
It’s been quite a few days for the tattered Iraq policy of President George W. Bush. Last week, Iraq and Iran’s energy ministers met in Tehran to discuss Iran’s role in helping revive Iraq’s electric power grid, still disrupted after the 2003 US invasion. Then, Iraq’s president, Jalal Talabani, was delayed in flying to Tehran for a summit meeting with America’s Middle Eastern bete noire, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, by the closure of Baghdad international airport due to sectarian fighting in Iraq’s capital city. Finally, the Iraqi president made it to Tehran, where he and Ahmadinejad appeared to get along famously. It began with the Iraqi president announcing that Iraq needs Iran to rescue it and ended with Talabani announcing that the two countries have agreed to a “security accord,” details yet to be disclosed.
Meanwhile, President Bush, having flown to Jordan for his own summit with the Iraqi prime minister, was left cooling his heels. A variety of explanations were offered for why Maliki was not engaged in the scheduled summit. The two ultimately had breakfast the next day. Now this latest pronouncement from “our man in Iraq.” Not to mention the only consistent major ally on Iraq, Britain, making known its intention to substantially withdraw its forces next year.
As I wrote the other day, it is fascinating to watch a policy unravel in real time.
** EARLIEST EVER PRESIDENTIAL ANNOUNCEMENT? Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack this morning announced his candidacy for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, in a folksy Iowa event. I think this is the earliest ever formal announcement of candidacy. He will need an early start. Though a successful two-term governor, polling in his home state — which happens to be the first-in-the-nation contest for the presidential nomination — shows him in a real dogfight for contention.
Vilsack is a moderate Democrat who backs alternative fuels, such as ethanol (think Iowa corn), diodiesel, and wind power, and has chaired the centrist Democratic Leadership Council and the Democratic Governors Association. He becomes a dark horse contender in the field, which is led by New York Senator and former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, with former North Carolina Senator and 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards, Illinois Senator and 2004 Democratic national convention keynoter Barack Obama, and possible contender Al Gore bunched in a tie for second. Vilsack is off on tour to early contest states New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada.
** Track global and national energy prices in near real time via Bloomberg. Crude oil prices have crept up to $63 and $64 per barrel.