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Iraq: Situation Normal - Fragile and Reversible

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Senator Gravel also took issue with Schaeffer’s upbeat assessment.

“I really don’t understand how Sabrina can come and say there’s progress,” he said, “but what is worse is the outright lies presented to the American people that Iran is responsible for what is going on.”

Gravel said Washington is trying to develop a concept of a proxy war being waged between Iran and Iraq.

“There is no evidence, none at all,” he said, “And if you go in deeper into the American military, you have army officers, captains, majors, colonels, who will tell you there is no evidence at all about anything coming over the Iranian border into Iraq. But then you get Petraeus and other generals making these statements.”

Gravel said how can they make statements that the mortars used on the heavily fortified Green Zone, for example, are coming from Iran. “These are outright lies,” he said.

Gravel said he can see the same policy being employed now that was used by the US to widen the war in South East Asia some 40 years ago.

“This what happened in Vietnam. We went in and attacked Cambodia and Laos. They had nothing to do with what was going on in Vietnam. All it did was expand a murderous part of the South East Asian War.”

Gravel said Iran is a natural ally of the United States, “Iran has been helping us stabilize the situation in Iraq until we can come to our senses and get out. Our guest here Sabrina says she sees progress, but even Petraeus admitted he sees no light at the end of the tunnel.”

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Schaeffer took the floor to clarify what she says are some of the successes.

“I think Petraeus did an excellent job of explaining this incident in Basra, but overall we have seen a reduction in both ethnic and sectarian violence, terrorist attacks are down, the Iraqis are controlling half of their 18 provinces, and we are seeing that al-Qaeda in Iraq has significantly diminished,” she said, “And I think we can give credit to the troop surge and Petraeus’ experience in counterinsurgency intelligence. So I don’t think we can underestimate the improvements that are taking place on the ground.”

The recent surge in violence, especially in Sadr City that continued over the weekend would not immediately support these views, with correspondents on the scene saying that for the first time they are quite openly seeing snipers on the roofs of buildings and more disturbances on the streets.

Gravel dismissed suggestions that the surge or Petraeus’ expertise was responsible for the pre-Basra reduction in the insurgency across Iraq. Gravel said the reduction had been bought with US taxpayer money, and the relative calm would end as quickly as the money did.

“Do you know how much money Petraeus has been handing out to Sunni warlords?” he asked, “to suppress the violence. Do you really have any idea?”

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Schaeffer said she acknowledged there is an impulse to want to put a price tag on the cost of the war, but that doing so, or putting a timeline on how long the war would take, “is just irresponsible.”

Jawad, taking much the same line as Gravel, was deaf to any claims of progress.

“I will tell you of the successes in Iraq,” he said, “One million killed by the US occupation, five million dispersed people internally and externally. More than a million widows, five million orphans, 150,000 people arrested in centres run by the United States in Iraq, and there is a catalogue of catastrophes inflicted on the people of Iraq by this war. And the sooner they withdraw,” he added, “the better for all of us.”

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British journalist currently based in Tehran, Iran.

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