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March 19, 2008

Iraq Conference Call Creates Contentious Clash
Posted by Adam Blickstein

Today, the National Security Network hosted a press conference call with Ilan Goldenberg, Jon Soltz of, and Brian Katulis of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. They were addressing recent comments made by Bush, McCain and Cheney on the 5th Anniversary of the Iraq War.

Our speakers laid out the reasons that John McCain's policies and approaches sound a lot like the continuation of the Bush policies of conflating Iraq with the terrorists who attacked us on 9-11. They addressed that fact that repeated mistakes on serious policy issues (like whether or not a country is aiding terrorists) is not what we need in a commander-in-chief.

When the call turned to Q&A, it got pretty contentious with a clash between the experts and the media over the true nature of McCain's Sunni/Shia conflation.

Listen to the audio for yourself, especially towards the end where things turn into an intense battle over the true intentions and ramifications of McCain's Iraq statements...

Iraq 5 Year Anniversary Conference Call

UPDATE: One of the reporters on the call, The Weekly Standard's Michael Goldfarb, blogs about the call here, describing what most intelligence experts would characterize as black and white as "The Gray Area" of Iran-al Qaeda Connections."  Money-quote (which is so rich it could finance a fleet of wagons for the Right's growing circle):

I was struck by their insistence that Iran wouldn't collaborate
with Sunni extremists, and that they had offered as evidence the
fact that Iran had, at one point, almost gone to war with the Taliban.


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"Our speakers laid out the reasons that John McCain's policies and approaches sound a lot like the continuation of the Bush policies of conflating Iraq with the terrorists who attacked us on 9-11."

Absolutely right, but it's not enough to continually point out that Al Qaeda is not indigenous to Iraq, nor is it being supported by Iran. You need to explain where Al Qaeda really does come from if you want to cut through this tripe once and for all:

It's about time you stop letting incompetent blow-hards call the tune. It's not as if the facts aren't there to back you up.

What the right wingers of this country doesn't seem to understand is that most of the Sunni militia groups are backed up by recruits in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and not Iran. In fact the Iranians hate Al Qaeda as much as the Americans. By constantly going after Iran, the American government has squandered a chance to have them as allies in Afganistan and Iraq and has instead strenghthened the hand of the hardliners in the Iranian government.

Your Update seems misleading to the extent it claims that Goldfarb describes "what most intelligence experts would characterize as black and white as "The Gray Area" of Iran-al Qaeda Connections." According to Goldfarb it was Brian Katulis who said "the facts on this are in a gray area":

Meckler again asks if it is inaccurate to say that there is any element within Iran that is supporting al Qaeda. Golldberg: "I don't have the intelligence to say that one way or the other." Stoltz jumps in, "I never saw that on the ground." Katulis then says "the facts on this are in a gray area...but it seems highly improbable that there is broad Iranian support for al Qaeda figures." Later he added that "one might be able to find in our intelligence agencies snippets of some information of some Iranian groups actually supporting some parts of AQI in particular for whatever reason..." Case closed, right? NYer said. "Gray area" wasn't my language. And you'll note that they later said, as I quoted, Iran is now supporting the Taliban with weapons...

I have had some version of this argument with right-wing acquaintances so often that I despair of the power of rational argument to settle the dispute. We're dealing here with something approaching a religious faith. This faith gives intellectual order and meaning to right wing lives. Michael Ledeen's old notion that the Iranian Mullahs are the "Terror Masters" who oversee and direct global Islamic terror from Tehran was one version of this faith.

The central tenet of the faith is that there is a massive, global Arabo-Perso-Muslimoid conspiracy of Evil to defeat America and Israel and establish a new Islamic Caliphate that will rule the world. Whatever slight differences might seem to exist among the many factions, sects and brotherhoods in this global movement, they pale into insignificance when considered in the great context of the unified global Islamic revolution and struggle. All of these factions can, and do, cooperate eagerly and frequently, in a highly coordinated and secretive way, in their common war effort against us. While the situation might appear complex to the untutored mind, and to overthinking liberals who always miss the forest for the trees, it is actually quite simple: it's US against THEM.

This faith is so strong that no amount of empirical evidence can shake it. If we don't have empirical evidence of the connections, its only because we haven't looked hard enough yet, or because our adversaries are so skilled in the arts of secrecy, deception and misdirection. And every empirical observation that appears to show important divisions, animosities and hostilities in the Muslim world actually only proves how clever our adversaries are in disguising their cooperation.

Idelogues have a profound need for moral "clarity", by which they really mean moral simplicity. This simplified right-wing approach to global affairs is similarly built on paranoia and a persecution complex. Once people have gone down the "They're all in on together" path, it's very had to get them off it.

Anyone who thinks various sects in Iraq wouldn't cooperate if it was in their interests to do so is hallucinating. When was the last time Jon Stoltz was in Iraq? What regions was he posted in? These are the first people who dismiss soldiers' judgments based on their "soda straw" slice of the war IF THEIR JUDGMENT IS TO COMPLETE THE MISSION.

But if a soldier's judgment is to retreat, I guess that's enough. Jon was not in a position to gather all relevant information on this question, apart from his own unit's experience. Others above him had access to channels of info he was NOT privy to, on-the-ground experience or not. He knows that, and certainly knows better than to make a definitive call based on his own slice of on-the-ground experience. He can't speak to anything that happened AFTER he left Iraq.

And Dan, in your three paras of condescending psycho-babble about conservatives I see no counterargument on tis question. Weekly Standard, do not let yourself be steamrolled by these yahoos.

To Mike Goldfarb

It appears to me that you are letting the Saudis and the Jordanians completely off the hook for allowing their citizens to cross the border and kill Americans. On the other hand you blame Iran for supporting Al Qaeda. The right wingers appear to be Al Qaeda's greatest ally by keeping our eyes off the ball in Afghanistan by first going after Iraq and now by wanting to attack Iran, a Shiite country that wants nothing to do with Al Qaeda. At the sametime the right wingers go easy on the governments of Saudi Arabia,Egypt,Jordan, and Pakistan, whose citizens form the bulk of Al Qaeda's membership.

It's not just that Iran almost went to war with the Taliban. It's that the Taliban engaged in the wholesale slaughter of Afghan Shiite minorities, including the Hazaras. And while I've seen reports of trucks of weapons being sent into Afghanistan from Iran, I have yet to see an ounce of evidence that those weapons were actually intended for the Taliban. Isn't it much more likely that those weapons were intended for the same Afghan Shiite minorities, so they can defend themselves AGAINST the resurgent Taliban?

As for the wingnuts, I suppose that if the war fighters on the ground cannot categorically rule out that some elements of AQI might be secretly receiving “support” from certain groups of agitated Rastafarians, then the issue of Rastafarian support of AQI would now be a "gray area". We'll be invading Jamaica next, I'm sure.

Finally, the administration’s policy toward the Saudis has been nothing short of treasonous. The Saudis are not simply complicit in all of this, they are pulling the strings behind everything. They practically engineered the Taliban from scratch. We've got KSM and several other Al Qaeda insiders telling us that the overwhelming majority of Al Qaeda’s recruits pre-9/11 were Saudis. We have the US and Iraqi governments now conceding that a majority of the suicide bombers in Iraq are Saudis. And the same oil-rich fanatics and "Islamic charities" that financed 9/11 are now financing AQI. And it goes on and on . . .

Yet how has this President responded? Not only by refusing to lift a finger against them (and indeed, dancing around like a monkey for their personal amusement), but by actively covering up even more evidence of Saudi complicity. How is this not treason?

And you'll note that they later said, as I quoted, Iran is now supporting the Taliban with weapons...

Mike, right, which makes your false assertion about "their insistence that Iran wouldn't collaborate with Sunni extremists" all the more ridiculous. You were clearly trying to elicit a particular response, you failed, and then you went ahead and wrote it up as if you had.

Divd Broder actually has a more perceptive take on the mistakes Sen. McCain made while he was in Iraq. He went over there in the wake, and the glow, of his victory in the Republican primaries. But in the general election he is a virtually prohibitive underdog, and the historic unpopularity of the Republican President he is attempting to succeed is the reason.

McCain had opportunties to demonstrate that he was not standing only for a continuation of Bush administration policies, for example in having unlimited patience with Iraq's political leadership. He didn't take any of them. Then he compounded his mistake by making, and repeating, factual errors (or at least errors in the facts of what is happening now, as opposed to what may have happened several years ago). McCain needed above all things to give some indication that he was not Bush's man. No one has more personal motivation to do so, and the political rationale for doing so could not be clearer either. He blew it.

The reason the hard right are so insistent that Iran supports Al Qaeda is because they want to create confusion, hiding the embarrassing political reality in Iraq.

That reality is that ISCI and Da'wa, currently the kingpins of the US-backed Iraqi government, have historically been funded and directed by Tehran, even fighting for them in the Iran-Iraq war. ISCI was even created by Tehran - their pre-2006 name was actually pretty explicit about their agenda: the "Supreme Council for the *Islamic* *Revolution* in Iraq".

That means Iran and the US are in fact on the same side in Iraq, something that is unthinkable to the hardline neocons. The reality is that a war on the Islamic Revolution in Iran would inevitably mean war on the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and therefore the US would be declaring war on the Iraqi government that they themselves created, and whose soldiers they are still as of 2008 arming and training.

That is the absurdity (created purely through their own incompetence) they are trying to hide when they attempt to push the ludicrous idea that Iran is training what is basically a homicidal anti-Shi'a militia.

If McCain wins the election and attempts to push for war with Iran, this whole thing will start to fall apart in ways they can't even imagine yet.

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