Politicians on both sides haunted by Iraq, past and present

The battle for Ramadi looks set to escalate as thousands of Shi’ite militia fighters have assembled near the city, preparing to engage ISIS forces who seized control at the weekend. Tim Arango at the New York Times reports on the difficulties the involvement of the Iran-backed militias throws up for those in power both in Baghdad and Washington.

Reuters reports:

U.S. officials said Washington was deeply divided about the involvement of Shi’ite militias with links to Iran, a U.S. rival that has been expanding its influence throughout the Middle East. After spearheading the recapture of Tikrit, some Shi’ite fighters last month went on a spree of burning, looting, and violence in the Sunni Iraqi city, according to local residents.

“There are people in our government who see any involvement of Iran as anathema. There are others who say the Shi’ite involvement will promote sectarian violence. There are others who say that’s not true,” a second U.S. official said on condition of anonymity.

The clear seriousness of the latest developments led regional experts to criticize the White House response as “delusional” while the Washington Post writes in an editorial that the fall of Ramadi “exposes Obama’s weak Islamic State strategy.”

BBC’s Newsnight has an interview with a former adviser to the US military. She too offers little comfort to the current administration.

The weekend’s events in Iraq, coinciding with the steady galvanizing of the political primary circus – and a couple of the major candidates’ missteps – have naturally focused debate in the US on the 2003 war in Iraq. Some, like Greg Sargent at The Washington Post, have called out the political “sanitizing” of how that war began. He writes:

But ultimately, this whole line of questioning for Jeb [Bush], while creating untold problems for him, is also having the unintended effect of airbrushing out of the picture some really crucial historical facts about the run-up to the Iraq War. And those historical facts indict the woeful performance of Democrats such as Hillary Clinton as well as Republicans, which means that both parties have a strong incentive not to revive them.

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo also spelled out the problems with the GOP’s “new consensus” on the war’s origins. But Paul Krugman in Monday’s New York Times explains succinctly and forcefully exactly why it’s important to have a frank debate about the effect our actions then have had on our current situation.

There’s a palpable sense right now of the political and media elite trying to draw a line under the subject. Yes, the narrative goes, we now know that invading Iraq was a terrible mistake, and it’s about time that everyone admits it. Now let’s move on.

Well, let’s not — because that’s a false narrative, and everyone who was involved in the debate over the war knows that it’s false.

Let’s hope we can actually have such a debate. Because it’s more important than just politics or point-scoring.

***

* POLITICS * With Lindsey Graham announcing he’ll announce and Bobby Jindal starting an exploratory committee, Dana Milbank at the Washington Post thinks the GOP field is a clown car. A more appropriate description might be a clown winnebago. But the serious logistical problem for the party is going to be how to organize its opening debate in August.

Meanwhile, if you’re remotely curious about why some people have formally declared and some haven’t, it’s pretty much all about the Benjamins.

There’s more potential trouble for the Hillary Clinton campaign after the New York Times published documents focusing on the role of Clinton family ally Sidney Blumenthal and advice he is reported to have given then-Secretary of State Clinton on Libya while he was employed by the Clinton Foundation.

As the Times puts it:

..an examination by The Times suggests that Mr. Blumenthal’s involvement was more wide-ranging and more complicated than previously known, embodying the blurry lines between business, politics and philanthropy that have enriched and vexed the Clintons and their inner circle for years….

..Much of the Libya intelligence that Mr. Blumenthal passed on to Mrs. Clinton appears to have come from a group of business associates he was advising as they sought to win contracts from the Libyan transitional government. The venture, which was ultimately unsuccessful, involved other Clinton friends, a private military contractor and one former C.I.A. spy seeking to get in on the ground floor of the new Libyan economy.

According to Politico, Rep Trey Gowdy, head of the Congressional committee investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, plans to subpoena Blumenthal to discuss his role as an adviser to Secretary Clinton.

Separately, the State Department proposed a January 2016 date for the release of 55,000 pages of emails Secretary Clinton had kept on a private server, in response to a FOIA lawsuit filed in January.

The Washington Post also reported that “in one of her last gigs on the paid lecture circuit” before becoming a declared Presidential candidate, Hillary gave a 20-minute speech to a conference organized by eBay, for which she was paid $315,000. The Post writes:

While Bill Clinton’s lucrative speaking career since leaving the White House in 2001 has been well documented, the new disclosures offer the first public accounting of Hillary Clinton’s paid addresses since she stepped down as secretary of state. And they illustrate how the Clintons have personally profited by drawing on the same network of supporters who have backed their political campaigns and philanthropic efforts — while those supporters have gained entree to a potential future president.

Finally for today in Clintonworld, as Hillary continues to “stonewall the press”, her husband is at least appearing online – but the former President’s attempt to troll the current incumbent after President Obama joined Twitter backfired a bit.

 

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