Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 2, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

SPYING ON IRAQ....You'll be unsurprised to know that American spy satellites are heavily targeted on Iraq. What might surprise you, though, is that we recently decided to increase our surveillance dramatically in order to keep a closer eye on what the Iraqi army is up to:

The stepped-up surveillance reflects breakdowns in trust and coordination between the two forces. Officials said it was part of an expanded intelligence effort launched after American commanders were surprised by the timing of the Iraqi army's violent push into Basra three months ago.

....Military officials and experts said the move showed concern by U.S. commanders about whether their Iraqi counterparts would follow U.S. guidance or keep their coalition partners fully informed.

"It suggests that we don't have complete confidence in their chain of command, or in their willingness to tell us what they're going to do because they may fear that we may try to get them not to do it," said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a website about intelligence and military issues.

Actually, the Iraqis should be pleased. When we start spying on a country's military movements, it means we're taking them seriously. Iraq is now in the big leagues.

On a more serious note, this raises fresh questions about just how successful last March's Basra mission really was. This story confirms in a concrete way that the U.S. was taken off guard by the offensive in Basra, wasn't happy about it, and doesn't want it to happen again. If it had really turned out as well as everyone is now saying, would we have had such a sharp reaction to it?

Kevin Drum 11:26 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (15)

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Posted by: Swan on July 2, 2008 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

We're simply using the satellites to confirm that the surge really is working!

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on July 2, 2008 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

Even if the mission in Basra was as successful as they claim, I can still see cause to monitor the Iraqi military more closely. The fact that we were taken by surprise indicates a lack of knowledge and control that the US Commanders had probably assumed. So even if things worked out in the end, we may have been put on notice that our influence wasn't as complete as we'd hoped.

Posted by: RyanA on July 2, 2008 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

But almost all those "benchmarks" are being met, as proven indubitably by a recent Study (put out by the same Interests that benefit from it seeming to be the case!)

RyanA, your rather bourgeois and child-like faith in the good intentions of the government are as unconvincing as they are quaint.

Posted by: NB on July 2, 2008 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

I don't trust the Iraqis either, after all, WE bombed them into the sroneage (STILL there), invaded their country(STILL there), raped and murdered their women and children (STILL there), and WE're stealing their OIL(STILL there). WE just can't trust those Iraqis but just so far.

Posted by: Mike Meyer on July 2, 2008 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

We're training the IA to be a pit fighter, and now we're complaining that they're acting on their training?

Me thinks the US is working at cross-purposes...as in the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.

Posted by: sheerahkahn on July 2, 2008 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

A few other questions this development should raise again: Just how blind are we in Iraq? We control the skies, but just how narrow is the perimeter visible from the ground? Do we know where to look? Can we distinguish our enemies from our friends when our own role in Iraq is, to put it charitably, ambiguous?

I doubt that the major offensive in Basra took us by surprise. My guess is that we were surprised by the performance of our Iraqi allies and by the reactions of our adversaries. And we don't have the human intelligence to rectify that dangerous situation.

All the evidence points to Iraq being a country where many of the conquered or purchased pals who are smiling at us and obeying us today in our presence will act entirely differently tomorrow or when out of sight. And satellites won't fix that.

Posted by: Boolaboola on July 2, 2008 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

The fact that the Iraqi Army, on Maliki's instructions, surprised the US tells you that that the Iraqis knew that the US would only help if faced with a fait accompli. Now they know they are being watched they'll just be more careful to dupe us the next time.

The second fact is that since then the US has backed up Maliki on more suppression of his political competitors. Are we building a "strong man"?

Question: How many spy satellites does it take to cover Iraq? It's not like we should need real time. We have troops almost all over the place. How inept are the US forces on the ground?

Oh, right! There's not a single officer who knows anything about any misbehavior in his own command. How would we expect them to know anything about what goes on outside it.

Posted by: notthere on July 2, 2008 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

sheerakhan:

I suggest reading the article. U.S. commanders go on to point out that it is also a good thing that the Iraqi army can now function on its own.

Posted by: Nathan on July 2, 2008 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Bush spies on everybody. If he were alive today, Big Brother would be absolutely green with envy. Fusion centers, anyone.

It seems the sheeple react to infringements on liberty that are presented melodramatically on the big screen, but are eager for infringements that are just slipped in in a businesslike manner or marketed as safety measures.

Here in the hereditary dictatorship of Chicago, I ran into two neighborhood watch cameras in the space of a couple blocks walking from the bus stop. Soon they will blanket the city.

Posted by: Luther on July 2, 2008 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

*

Posted by: Swan on July 2, 2008 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

While we use our multi-million dollar "eyes in the skies" to check up on our puppet army in Iraq, Osama is probably sitting by the pool at his villa outside Islamabad, sipping a Mai Tai and flipping the bird at the blue sky.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on July 2, 2008 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

nathan

Interestingly enough, the key point I'm referring too...

""It suggests that we don't have complete confidence in their chain of command, or in their willingness to tell us what they're going to do because they may fear that we may try to get them not to do it," said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a website about intelligence and military issues.

But the development was also seen as a sign the Iraqi army has reached a level of independence and competence that U.S. military planners had hoped it would achieve.

"The bad news is we're spying on Iraqis," said the former military official. "The good news is that we have to.""

My point being is that we spent how much money to get the IA up to where they can actually conduct operations without the US holding their hand, and on top of that...expect them to take the initiative to do said operations without waiting for Uncle Sam to say "go!"
In short, it is obvious someone, somewhere didn't get an important memo when they should've because you don't go spying unless you've been caught short...and so the right hand, ie, our military, is wondering what the left hand, ie, our political arm is telling the Iraqi's they can or cannot do.

Personally, I think our military would know far more about what is going on in Iraq and Iran if they spied on the White House and the State Department.

Posted by: sheerahkahn on July 2, 2008 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

They'll be so happy we're spying on them that they're sure to approve the Bush Admin 'Status of Forces Agreement'. It's so little we ask from them; you know, 48 permanent garrison towns, freedom to attack whomever we choose anywhere and anytime, complete immunity from prosecution by Iraqi law, etc. All we had to do was gain their trust!!! It was simple!!!

Posted by: JohnMcC on July 2, 2008 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

Boy, we really suck at empire.

Posted by: Harold S. on July 3, 2008 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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