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Now and afterwards

Current Department of Defense thinking about post-war Iraq includes an extension of the 1996 Iran-Libya Sanctions Act. The ILSA called for sanctions on any country which made 40 million dollars or more in new investments in Iran; this includes such countries as Britain, Italy, and Japan. The ILSA has never been invoked before, unsurprisingly.

Remember, folks, Bush is a master of diplomacy. Actually, this would make sense if he’s planning on cutting Rumsfeld loose — focus the resentment of the world on the DoD, and let Powell and State ride in to save the day. I’ve been wondering this flurry of negative press about Rumsfeld is a way of preparing the ground for such a move, but Seymour Hersh is kind of an unlikely agent of the Republicans. So it seems doubtful.

Oh, yeah, the war itself. We’re still in that regrouping phase I talked about last time I did a war update. Things are getting tense in the rear, due to the Iraqi strategy of disguising themselves as civilians. The suicide bombing didn’t help. It’s fascinating me, actually — we may have thought we’d seen televised wars before, but this time the whole world really is watching. That shooting at the checkpoint is an undeniable tragedy, but it would have gone unnoticed even ten years ago. It’s not that we care more now, it’s that we see more now.

What effect will this have on the prosecution of future wars? Damned if I know. I will predict that we have at least one more quantum level in transparency to go, though; when smart drones with cameras are cheap enough to be disposable and have the range to get from Philadelphia to Saigon and back, we’ll have even — I was going to say better. Perhaps not. Even more powerful technology to see what’s going on.

US air strikes are at a fever pitch, oriented towards a) reducing the effectiveness of the Medina Division of the Republican Guard and b) knocking out the Iraqi leaderships command and control facilities. The latter has turned out to be really tough, which is one of the reasons we’re still seeing effective coordination of Iraqi troops on the ground. The US has enough resources to keep on trying for a while, though. It’s just kind of important to knock those facilities out before pushing further, since it’ll make the rest of the war significantly easier.

The former goal — weakening the Iraqi troops between the US and Baghdad — is also important, and is also nearly necessary before the final push. There’s no indication that it’ll fail, but it’s good to watch.

Bruce Rolston points out that there’s no reason to hurry to the next stage, especially since reinforcements have a while yet to come. (You could be reading him instead of my stuff, by the way; he’s smarter about all this than I am.) The only caveat I’d make is that we’re about two months away from looking damned silly for not accepting the Chilean compromise resolution. If the war takes three months, we wouldn’t have lost anything by accepting that one and we might have gained a stronger coalition plus a majority vote in the Security Council, which at least gets Tony Blair out of any trouble he might be in now. However, Bush was in a hurry — partially in order to avoid a summer war — so no such luck.

That hurry makes sense if the war lasts a couple of months. If it drags on into June, it isn’t as sensible. If we hit August (unlikely but possible), it makes no sense at all. So that’s my long-winded way of saying that I can see at least one reason to pressure General Franks to move before reinforcements show up. If the air bombardment weakens the Republican Guard sufficiently, the coalition may at least encircle Baghdad in the next three weeks.

What else? No news in Northern Iraq, except some withdrawal on the part of the Iraqis, for no apparent reason. I can’t imagine Saddam withdrawing from Kirkuk, but it’d be pretty clever if he managed to pull the Kurds into the city. That’s one clear trigger point for a Turkish invasion of Northern Iraq.

And Stratfor is good; excellent maps and interesting news. My money’s well spent.

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