Yesterday we reported that intelligence analyst George Friedman predicted the war with Iraq could begin as soon as this weekend:
- On timing, Friedman says an attack is probably imminent. This weekend offers a moonless night over Iraq’s desert sands. U.S. Gen. Tommy Franks, who will have responsibility for an invasion of Iraq, arrived at Camp As Sayliyah in Qatar earlier in the week.
“This is the best weekend militarily to do it,” Friedman says. “There is no moon, and if you ever have been on the desert in special operations, you know you don’t want a moon when you need to take bridges and other strategic posts.
The signs of impending military action are coming closer and closer together:
Bush spoke last night about a post-Saddam Iraq and Middle East:
- Looking beyond hostilities to topple Saddam Hussein — an outcome administration officials have increasingly portrayed as inevitable — Bush also sought to assure doubters across the globe that the ultimate U.S. goals in the region are not imperialist but democratic.
“Success in Iraq could begin a new stage for Middle Eastern peace, and set in motion progress towards a truly democratic Palestinian state,” he said. “The passing of Saddam Hussein’s regime will deprive terrorist networks of a wealthy patron that pays for terrorist training, and offers rewards to families of suicide bombers. And other regimes will be given a clear warning that support for terror will not be tolerated.”
the speech was the first time he offered a comprehensive picture of a post-Hussein Iraq. Officials said the speech’s purpose was to assure angry Arabs and skeptical Europeans that Bush does not seek conquest.
While linking Hussein’s ouster to a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians and pledging his “personal commitment” to reach such a peace, Bush also presented a neo-Wilsonian view of the imperative to spread liberty and democracy in the world, challenging a panoply of experts and diplomats who say a U.S. attack would foster instability and backlash. [Washington Post]
The Security Council is coming around:
- A senior Russian envoy predicted that his country would not veto a Security Council resolution, offered this week by the United States, Britain and Spain, that would clear the way toward war. The Russian move could boost prospects for U.N. support and weaken France’s opposition campaign.
The media, sniffing action right around the corner, is now giving time to the anti-war side:
- We were mildly surprised to tune in to “Face the Nation” the other day and see as the lead guests two antiwar activists, Susan Sarandon and Mike Farrell.
Yes, they are good-looking Hollywood celebs, and yes, they were paired with a pro-war guest, National Review’s Rich Lowry. But suddenly, instead of Colin Powell or Condoleezza Rice making the case for taking out Saddam, viewers were hearing a serious argument about why Iraq can be contained without war. The same morning, on “Fox News Sunday,” Janeane Garofalo was making her antiwar pitch to Tony Snow.
We had two reactions to this turn of events:
1) It’s about time.
2) Isn’t there any non-movie actor in America who can be booked to oppose the war?
Whether you’re for or against the war, a full-throated debate in the media is overdue. This was the first time this year that the Sunday shows had given such prominent treatment to (admittedly famous) peace activists. The Beltway tilt toward officialdom – and the president’s domination of the airwaves with his anti-Saddam campaign – have largely muffled dissent, at least until now. [Washington Post]
The debate is being aired because war is imminent, there is something concrete to dissent against.
- Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud called on Iraq to cooperate with the United Nations, saying at a news conference Wednesday that the region could not bear a protracted crisis.
The region “requires a fast solution based on the implementation by Iraq of the demands of the (U.N. weapons) inspectors,” Prince Saud said, adding a solution entailed “on the one part, for the (U.N.) Security Council not to rush into war and, on the other part, for Iraq to respond completely to the report of the inspectors.”
“Either Iraq has weapons of mass destruction or it doesn’t,” he said. “If it does, then it should produce them. If it doesn’t, it should respond to the inspectors’ demands and, when it does, we expect the crisis will end and the sanctions will be lifted.”
Saud said oil should not be used to pressure America in this crisis.
Prince Saud also denied a Washington Post report Wednesday quoting anonymous U.S. officials and diplomatic sources as saying the United States and Saudi Arabia had agreed to allow expanded U.S. air operations from Saudi territory for any war on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
“They must know something I don’t,” he said. “I don’t see any expansion in it.” [Washngton Post]
Which simply means he they weren’t ready for the information to be released yet – darn those impetuous “anonymous U.S. officials and diplomatic sources.”
Gen. Tommy Franks tells the “human shields” to watch out:
- In the event of war, U.S. and allied forces could not ensure the safety of civilians who deliberately position themselves as human shields to prevent attacks on Iraqi targets, said Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks, who would run the war.
“We’ll do our best to avoid noncombatant casualties and, I will tell you, we will not be 100 percent successful,” Franks, who heads the U.S. Central Command with responsibility for the Middle East, said in an interview.
Franks was at his Persian Gulf command post here for meetings today with the land, air, naval and special operations commanders who report to him from Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
….Franks said U.S. air patrols are keeping a closer eye on the movements of Iraqi surface-to-surface missiles because of the threat they pose to tens of thousands of U.S. and allied forces gathering in Kuwait.
Another senior U.S. military officer said the Turkish government recently eased its restrictions on the kinds of targets U.S. and British planes may strike in northern Iraq because the Turks are concerned that Iraq might use its surface-to-surface missiles to hit southern Turkey. The British and U.S. planes that patrol northern Iraq fly from Incirlik air base in Turkey. [Washington Post]
- Prime Minister Tony Blair weathered the biggest revolt of his term from within the ruling Labor Party and won a parliamentary endorsement tonight for his pro-American position on the Iraq crisis.
Backed by the opposition Conservative Party, Blair prevailed handily in the House of Commons, by a vote of 393 to 199, and defeated a motion that said the case for war against Iraq had not yet been proven.
….But Ann Clwyd, a member of the Labor Party, declared she would support the war to help ease Iraqi suffering. Citing the torture and murder of civilians, she asked: “When I hear people calling for more time, I say who’s going to speak up for those victims? Who is to help the victims of Saddam Hussein’s regime unless we do?” [Washington Post]
Right on, Ann.
- U.S. intelligence has detected Iraqi President Saddam Hussein moving some elite army troops into new positions as time ticks down toward a possible U.S. invasion to disarm and overthrow him.
In recent days, trucks have been sent to the north to pick up members of his Republican Guard and reposition them around Saddam’s hometown of Tikrit, 100 miles north of the capital, two defense officials said on condition of anonymity.
It is widely believed that American war plans call for the U.S. Army’s 4th Infantry Division, supported by elements of the 1st Infantry Division, to gather in Turkey to Iraq’s north for a possible thrust south toward Tikrit and the capital of Baghdad.
U.S. and Turkish officials in the last few days finished drawn-out negotiations on an agreement that would allow American troops to be base in Turkey.
CNN reported ”more than 100 trucks” have been seen transporting guard troops.
One official said that with the recently detected movement, Saddam risks splitting his better forces. That could require him to replace those forces up north with regular army, which have lower morale and are not as professional.
The Republican Guard, better-trained and equipped than the regular army, have had four of its divisions surrounding Baghdad and the other two in northern Iraq to oppose Kurdish insurgents. [Boston Globe]
And the head rat has spoken to the cat’s media:
- His country is surrounded by
one of the most lethal fighting forces ever assembled, yet in his first interview
with an American reporter in more than a decade, Saddam Hussein remains
defiant. Defiant – even in the face of an impending war that seems certain to end
his rule and, quite possibly, his life.
Dan Rather met him on Monday, in the oldest and largest presidential palace, at
a time when the U.N. arms inspectors have accused him of having prohibited
missiles. And at a moment when President Bush has said time has run out, that
the only thing Saddam can do to prevent war is to disarm immediately. Anything
short of that, the president says, is a game.
At this moment, the chief weapons inspector Hans Blix is preparing what could
be his final report to the U.N. In a matter of weeks, with or without international
support, the American and British forces could begin an all-out assault on
Rather: Mr. President, do you expect to be attacked by an American-led
Translator for Saddam Hussein: We hope that the attack will not take place. But
we are bracing ourselves to meet such an attack. To face it. You’ve been here
for a few days, you see how people live. They live normally, they get married,
they visit each other, but at the same time they hear the news. The officials in
America keep talking about attacking Iraq. And it’s normal that the people
prepare themselves for such a possibility. At the same time they are praying to
Allah to stop the Americans from going through with it and to spare the Iraqis
from the harm that those on the bandwagon of evil want to inflict upon them.
It may not be as soon as this weekend – I don’t think Friendman’s new moon
scenario is ging to eclipse political considerations, but action is very very close at hand.