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April 08, 2008

Pre-Testimony Thread
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg


Max and I will be liveblogging the testimony here all day.  So will Spencer Ackerman over at the Washington Independent and the Iraq Insider

Here are some things to watch for as we get rolling.

1.  The ultimate question.  Is Iraq Making America Safer?  Senator Warner asked General Petraeus this question back in the fall and got a wholly unsatisfactory answer.  It was probably the most dramatic moment of the hearing.  He's signaled that he plans to ask the question again, and I expect other Senators to also go in this direction.  The candidates who are running on the "Responsible Plan" have also put out some interesting questions as has Mother Jones.

2.  On a related note Democrats are going to try to make this hearing about the broader costs to our national security and whether the Iraq War is making us safer.  Petraeus and Crocker will try to avoid these questions saying it's outside their duties, but as I've said before if the President is going to bypass more senior advisors and take your advice directly, you should be thinking about broader strategic questions.

3.  As Spencer Ackerman points out, what violence numbers is the General going to show?  Few people actually realize that the real dramatic drop in violence came after the testimony in September but that Petraeus still used the states from the one to two weeks before the hearing to make his point.  According to those same measures, the situation today would have to be considered deteriorating.

4.  All eyes on Crocker.  The real question is political reconciliation and the primary focus should be in Crocker.  But I doubt that will actually be the case.

5.  What role is Iran playing.  Petraeus is going to say that Iran played a major role in Basra.  The 64 thousand dollar question is: helping who?  Iran has ties into all of the Shi'a factions in Iraq.  Will Petraeus and Crocker portray that way or will they just lump Iran in with Muqtada Al Sadr and ignore the fact that the most powerful Shi'a faction in Iraq has incredibly strong ties to Iran.

6.  And yes there is the whole Clinton-Obama-McCain thing.


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