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Jul 26th, 2008

Today, I traveled to Minneapolis to tape an interview with Ken Avidor for The UpTake, focusing on my background, my reasons for running, and my core issues of national security, law enforcement / public safety, and border security / illegal migration.

In discussing national security, I remarked on lost opportunities after 9/11, specifically the ill-conceived invasion of Iraq, which turned a country that had been militarily contained and led by a dictator hostile to Iran and to Islamic fundamentalism — both Shi’ite extremism and al-Qaida’s brand of radical Islam — into a foreign policy nightmare that has consumed our domestic political agenda and squandered our finite resources for more than five years.

Upon checking the latest news wires upon my return home to Sartell, I found the following Associated Press report, from which I excerpt below.

Analysis: U.S. Now Winning War That Seemed Lost

BAGHDAD (AP, July 26, 2008) — The United States is now winning the war that two years ago seemed lost. Limited, sometimes sharp fighting and periodic terrorist bombings in Iraq are likely to continue, possibly for years. But the Iraqi government and the U.S. now are able to shift focus from mainly combat to mainly building the fragile beginnings of peace — a transition that many found almost unthinkable as recently as one year ago.

Despite the occasional bursts of violence, Iraq has reached the point where the insurgents, who once controlled whole cities, no longer have the clout to threaten the viability of the central government.

That does not mean the war has ended or that U.S. troops have no role in Iraq. It means the combat phase finally is ending, years past the time when President Bush optimistically declared it had.

The new phase focuses on training the Iraqi army and police, restraining the flow of illicit weaponry from Iran, supporting closer links between Baghdad and local governments, pushing the integration of former insurgents into legitimate government jobs and assisting in rebuilding the economy.

Scattered battles go on, especially against al-Qaida holdouts north of Baghdad. But organized resistance, with the steady drumbeat of bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and ambushes that once rocked the capital daily, has all but ceased. […]

Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, told The Associated Press this past week there are early indications that senior leaders of al-Qaida may be considering shifting their main focus from Iraq to the war in Afghanistan. […]

Shiite militias, notably the Mahdi Army of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, have lost their power bases in Baghdad, Basra and other major cities. […]

Despite the favorable signs, U.S. commanders are leery of proclaiming victory or promising that the calm will last. […]

Iraq still faces a mountain of problems: sectarian rivalries, power struggles within the Sunni and Shiite communities, Kurdish-Arab tensions, corruption. Any one of those could rekindle widespread fighting. […]

Now a moment has arrived for the Iraqis to try to take those positive threads and weave them into a lasting stability.

The questions facing both Americans and Iraqis are: What kinds of help will the country need from the U.S. military, and for how long? The questions will take on greater importance as the U.S. presidential election nears, with one candidate pledging a troop withdrawal and the other insisting on staying.

Iraqi authorities have grown dependent on the U.S. military after more than five years of war. While they are aiming for full sovereignty with no foreign troops on their soil, they do not want to rush. In a similar sense, the Americans fear that after losing more than 4,100 troops, the sacrifice could be squandered.

U.S. commanders say a substantial American military presence will be needed beyond 2009. But judging from the security gains that have been sustained over the first half of this year — as the Pentagon withdrew five Army brigades sent as reinforcements in 2007 — the remaining troops could be used as peacekeepers more than combatants. […]

Army Col. Tom James, a brigade commander who is on his third combat tour in Iraq, explains the new calm this way:

“We’ve put out the forest fire. Now we’re dealing with pop-up fires.”

It’s not the end of fighting. It looks like the beginning of a perilous peace. […]

Whatever happens in Iraq, the new administration in Washington come January will face a more perilous situation in Iraq than did the current administration when it assumed office in January 2001. And for the foreseeable future, the American people will see hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars pumped into the rebuilding and restabilization of Iraq.

In addition, al-Qaida — which was nonexistent in Iraq prior to the March 2003 U.S. invasion – will continue to have a presence in Iraq, though not nearly as lethal as it was before the “Sunni Awakening,” the 2007 troop buildup, and the successful counterinsurgency strategy instituted by Gen. Petraeus.

Of greater concern, the anti-American Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who is currently pursuing religious studies in Iran with the intent of becoming an ayatollah, could lift his August 2007 ceasefire at will, with the specter of unleashing renewed violence in Iraq. My expectation is that he will bide his time, with the intent of turning Iraq into a Shi’ite fundamentalist theocracy along Iranian lines after the United States withdraws from Iraq.

Image: Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr
Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr talks to the media in his house in the holy Shiite city of Najaf, Iraq, August 2005. (Photo credit: Alaa al-Marjani / AP file)

Finally, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a former ally of al-Sadr, is himself closely aligned with Iran. There is no certainty that post-Saddam Iraq will be a reliable ally of the United States.

In short, the next president of the United States will face a formidable set of national security challenges in the Middle East and beyond.



Meet Rep. Michele Bachmann’s Republican Primary Challenger

Text and Video by Ken Avidor

Aubrey Immelman is challenging Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (MN-06) in the Republican primary in September. Dr. Immelman is a professor at the College of Saint Benedict / Saint John’s University in St. Joseph and Collegeville. His field is political psychology, hypnosis, and forensic psychology. According to his web site, Immelman is also a military consultant specializing in nuclear counterproliferation, human factors, threat assessment, flexible deterrent options, force multipliers and psyops.

In addition to his concerns about foreign policy, Professor Immelman brings a unique perspective to the Sixth District race on U.S. immigration policy. In the interview, he speaks about his own experience as an immigrant from South Africa.

Immelman has been accused by some Republicans in the Sixth District of being a DFL proxy and cite Immelman’s support for Patty Wetterling in 2006. In this interview, Immelman explains that he and Patty Wetterling worked together before she ran for office. Immelman says he hopes his campaign will bring more attention to unsolved cases of missing, abducted, and murdered children.

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