Some Middle East bits getting overlooked


UPDATEOne more that seems rather big to have gone mostly unremarked: no ground troops in Libya.

Some bits of Middle East news that seem worthy of more attention than they’ve gotten:
There were no US military deaths in Iraq in August. That’s the first month with no deaths since Bush and Cheney invaded the wrong country. I almost wrote “since the wear started”, but we mustn’t let anyone forget it didn’t just start, but was started, without provocation, under false pretenses.  A month with none of our troops dying doesn’t mean all is calm in Iraq, as the ongoing terrorist attacks show, but maybe it’s time for us to go.

“Time” is meant literally, as the withdrawal schedule under the status of forces agreement has us leaving in just a few months. Some US government officials have been trying to extend our stay, putting up trial balloons (at least I hope they were just trial balloons) about us staying longer or keeping a smaller force in Iraq permanently. Certainly that was the original neocon vision and the bases sounded awfully permanent. However, an overlooked bit of Obama’s speech to the American Legion in Minneapolis Tuesday was his mention that we’re withdrawing at the end of the year. Looks like he resisted the pressure to stay. Good for him.

By the way, if anyone wonders why the left hasn’t been on Obama’s case as much as Bush’s about the war in Iraq, or at least why I haven’t been on Obama about it, that’s why.

It’s not three. I mean the number of countries that have had successful movements for democracy in the Arab world. There is a chance for democracy in three adjoining countries in North Africa which have overthrown their dictators (assuming Gaddafi really is as done as he seems), but four are undergoing serious changes. Oft-overlooked Morocco had a referendum on constitutional changes and has set a date for multi-party elections. Morocco is becoming a constitutional monarchy officially. The King is still retaining considerable power, much more than European monarchs, but he is giving up considerable power, more than other Arab monarchs. Protests were met with much less force than in other Arab dictatorships. Less isn’t none, and opponents of the government aren’t satisfied with the changes so far, but they have made serious progress. They’ve had the Arab Spring’s least reported success.

Protests have resumed in Bahrain. Today’s was a funeral for a 14-year-old killed by a tear gas canister fired at close range directly into protesters. The photo at the top is from the linked Al Jazeera English article. Of course, something that hasn’t changed is Saudi Arabia sees Bahrain as their Cuba, a small country off their shore who they don’t want being run by anyone hostile, and they won’t be convinced a Bahrain ruled by the Shia majority won’t be a base for Iran.

And just for fun, according to Dick Cheney, Barack Obama’s strategy in Libya must have been a failure because even though it succeeded, what he did doesn’t work. That’s my characterization of Cheney’s belief multilateralism doesn’t work. the TPM headline is Dick Cheney’s Obviously Not Impressed With Obama’s Strategy In Libya, but I suggested it should be “Cheney obviously not impressed with Obama’s strategy of attacking the right country”. Yes I know, Obama didn’t actually invade Libya. I just seems like if Libya was handled by the bushies, they’d have responded to Libyan pleas for military intervention by attacking Botswana.

UPDATE: NATO wants the UN to take the lead in Libya, and says no to ground troops. I’m guessing, stress on “guessing”, that at least one reason is NATO wants to conserve resources in case they’re needed for a similar war in Syria, which has about three times Libya’s population.