Cheney, Bremer Defend Invasion

The non-surprise of the day is that Bush Acolytes Defend Their Records.

Rather than seeing the new round of sectarian violence in Iraq as another hammer-blow to their 2003 decision to invade the country – as many of their critics do – several key figures in the Bush administration are using the conflict to defend their own records.

Leading the charge is Dick Cheney, the former vice-president who was the principal driving force within the administration behind the decision to go to war in Iraq.

Another former Bush-era official seeking to re-enter the Iraq debate is Paul Bremer, the former diplomat who was sent to run Iraq shortly after the 2003 invasion.

Mr Bremer believes the US should launch air strikes, push back the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (known as Isis), which have taken control of cities across northwest Iraq, and says that the administration will need to put special forces troops into the country to assist the air campaign. He said that the US “lost our political influence” with the 2011 withdrawal.

Apart from the initial choice to invade Iraq, Mr Bremer’s move to disband the Iraqi army has been the most criticised single decision of the US occupation.

Confronted in a CNN interview with a 2003 speech when he predicted a “prosperous, democratic Iraq, at peace with itself”, Mr Bremer responded that “every single bit of that came to pass” but that “this has all been reversed in the last two years”.

Bremer Delusional

Bremer is clearly delusional when he claims a “prosperous, democratic Iraq, was at peace with itself” only to be reversed in the last two years.

The biggest threat to world peace was not Al Qaeda, but rather the extreme warmongers president Bush surrounded himself with. Every one of them should be tried for war crimes.

Isis Closes In On Iraq’s Largest Refinery

Today, insurgents broke through the defense perimeter at the Baiji refinery, Iraq’s largest. If the refinery goes, Iraq will have to import oil.

With the battle for Baiji raging, Iraq Requests US Air Strikes but president Obama is reluctant to help.

Iraq has asked the US to stage air attacks on Sunni insurgents as the Islamist fighters edged closer to full control of Iraq’s largest oil refinery and continued to hold out against troops trying to retake the city of Tal Afar.

As the war to redefine the region’s borders entered a second week, Iraq’s foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, appeared on al-Arabiya television to issue the urgent plea: “We request the United States to launch air strikes against militants.”

Witnesses at the Baiji refinery – between the cities of Mosul and Tikrit, both seized by the insurgent group last week – said insurgents broke through the perimeter of the site early on Wednesday and were within sight of administration buildings.

Losing control of Baiji would be a critical blow to Iraqi forces still reeling from the capitulation of close to 50,000 troops last week, many of whom have since been replaced by militias raised from the country’s majority Shia population.

Obama is said to still be weighing options militarily, and US officials for days have quietly signalled that a decision is not imminent. But it will be harder for Obama to rebuke a formal entreaty from a besieged US partner, albeit a frustrating one.

However, Dempsey also told senators that the fluid state of the Iraqi battlefield has left the US with incomplete intelligence – a factor that makes an air campaign more difficult. “It’s not as easy as looking at an iPhone video of a convoy and then striking it,” Dempsey said.

Full-Blown Sectarian War

Curiously, many articles talk of the “threat” of full-blown sectarian war. There is no “threat” of such a war. The war has been underway for weeks.

Mobil, BP Evacuate Staff From Battle Zones

Meanwhile, Oil Majors Begin Evacuating Staff as Battles Rage in Iraq

Oil majors including ExxonMobil and BP started evacuating staff from Iraq on Wednesday as Sunni militants battled for control of the north’s main oil facility and clashes continued to rage across the country.

Exxon has been pulling expatriate staff out of its West Qurna 1 field in the south of Iraq, while BP has taken non-essential employees out of the giant Rumaila field it runs nearby.

Ed Morse, chief oil analyst at Citi, said the insurgents’ recent military gains would have big repercussions for Iraq’s future oil supply and the world’s oil balance.

“The longer the insurgency lasts and the more divisive it becomes, the more difficult it will be for Iraq to even approach its potential to sustain production at 6m barrels a day or more,” Mr Morse said. That would have “radical implications for oil markets” at a time of widespread supply disruptions in places like Libya, he added.

As Isis launched an attack on the Baiji refinery on Tuesday night, Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister, sacked four military commanders. He accused them of abandoning their posts last week and of failing to defend the city of Mosul and elsewhere from Isis fighters and allied groups.

News agencies quoted officials at the refinery as saying that Isis fighters were shelling the facility with mortars and had taken over several of the important sites at the plant, 250km north of the capital Baghdad.

Baiji refinery produces about 170,000 barrels a day of gasoline and other oil products, and supplies northern Iraq and Baghdad.

Adnan al-Janabi, head of the oil and gas committee in Iraq’s parliament, told reporters at a conference in London that, with Baiji closed, Iraq will have to import more than 300,000 b/d of oil products – about half of its needs.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Struggles to Remain in Power

In the midst of all the fighting and the defection of tens-of-thousands of Iraqi troops, Prime Minister Maliki Fights for Survival.

Iraq’s prime minister struggled to maintain his grip on power on Wednesday with a Sunni insurgency swirling around the capital and political rivals inside Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone seeking to topple him.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki took to the airwaves in a defiant appearance on state television in which he blamed foreign powers for colluding with members of former leader Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party and Sunni militants allied with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (known as Isis) in taking control of the country’s second-largest city and plunging the country into sectarian civil war.

“Isis and former Ba’athists have come together to enhance sectarianism and to deepen the crisis,” he said in the broadcast. “This all is sadly conducted by local forces that have the support of foreign forces that target the stability of Iraq.”

Accused by his opponents of sectarian chauvinism and authoritarianism, Mr Maliki was under tremendous pressure from Iraq’s Sunnis and Kurds to step aside, and even from within his Shia coalition, before Isis militants and allied insurgent groups seized control of the cities of Mosul and Tikrit, and began their push towards the capital last week.

The Obama administration has made no secret of its opposition to the way Mr Maliki has governed, especially since US troops withdrew in late 2011, and President Barack Obama has said that any US military assistance will be dependent in part on efforts to include more Sunnis in government.

Iran Offers Help

NBC reports Iranian President: We Will Help Iraq if Washington Joins Fight.

Iran would be willing to overlook contentious relations with the United States and work together in providing assistance in Iraq — if Washington vows to fight “terrorist groups in Iraq and elsewhere,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani pledged Saturday.

Rouhani, appearing on state-run television, said that Iran is standing ready to help its next-door neighbor in the fight against the militant insurgency that broke out earlier this week. But so far, Iraq’s Shiite-led government hasn’t taken up Iran’s offer.

“We all should practically and verbally confront terrorist groups,” Rouhani said Saturday, referring to the Sunni insurgents known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which continues to move south toward Baghdad.

“If we see America starts confronting the terrorist groups in Iraq or elsewhere,” Iran will step in and work with Washington to help Iraqi Shiite troops protect their country, Rouhani said.

Iran Offers to Help

I confidently predict a military coup in Iraq, with a government friendly to Iran in its place.

Coup or not, Iran actually wants to help. Assuming Iraq requests their assistance, and assuming Iran would help stabilize Iraq, an Iraq-Iran association would be a great tradeoff.  Regardless, it’s their battle, not ours. We should stay out of it.

Addendum: I modified the above paragraph to reflect the idea I am not in favor of an invasion, rather if Iraq wants assistance and Iran is willing to provide it, no one else should object. 

Mike “Mish” Shedlock