Morning Report: June 27, 2006

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain! Behind the media's smokescreen, Iraq makes progress as insurgent groups start to come around. New gestures between Baghdad and Tehran leave room for speculation, but there's no doubt that Israel means business on its western corner. And further south, a hideout becomes a last stand for three suspected terrorists.

A step in the right direction. The Belmont Club comments on Mohammed's post at Iraq the Model reporting that seven insurgent groups have expressed interest in joining the political process. ITM: 'So far, everybody in Iraq feels good about Maliki's plan and expressed their hopes for it to meet success and ease the suffering of the Iraqi people; everybody except for the Sadrists and the association of Muslim scholars who both criticized the plan and said it wasn't acceptable and expected it to fail. The question is do they are expecting it to fail only because they think it is not framed in a workable way or because they wish for it to fail? I'm afraid the latter is the likely answer.' They're not the only ones. The Belmont Club: 'The BBC will probably note that the initial intake will consist of groups peripheral to the real fighting, the weaker insurgent groups, the half-hearted Jihadis, and they will be right. However, Maliki is probably trying to get momentum going and the only way to do that is to work on the weakest links of the insurgency first.' (ITM, Belmont Club)

Iraq: The real world vs. the media's world. Strategy Page: 'One of the more interesting types of stories exchanged by Iraq veterans is how their embedded reporters get screwed by their editors. The basic problem is that reporters tend to get close to the troops they are embedded with, and the troops form a good sense of what kind of story is being written. But then, when the story appears, it often has no connection with what actually happened, other than the names of the reporter and the soldiers or marines. The troops get curious about how this can be. ... The answer to all these queries is simple. The reality of Iraq is too positive for the editors back home.' Full article at the link. (Strategy Page)

Ahmadinejad to visit Iraq. Marze Por Gohar: 'Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will visit Iraq soon, the Tehran-based Fars news agency reported on Monday. The president will visit Baghdad in the coming weeks to meet Iraqi president Jalal Talabani and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, and then travel to Najaf where he will hold talks with Shiite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Fars reports.' Meanwhile, Iran Focus reports that 'Former Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari arrived in Tehran on Monday to hold talks with Iranian officials, the government-run news agency Fars reported.' It's not clear what is behind these overtures. Could it have anything to do with an attempt by the IRI to intervene on behalf of Russians abducted in Iraq? Some items via Regime Change Iran. (MPG, Iran Focus, RIA Novosti)

Gaza: Rebuilding Israeli deterrence. Following a Hamas attack on an Israeli post that left two Israeli soldiers dead and a third captive, Israel is gearing up for a no-nonsense response. Debka: 'Steely lines of hundreds of tanks, thousands of armored infantry and commandos menaced the Gaza Strip as of Monday night, June 26, from three jumping-off points: the Nahal Oz base opposite Gaza City, Kissufim opposite Deir al Balah and Khan Younes in the south and Sufa opposite Rafah. Made up of the Golani and Givaty armored brigades and special operations units including the elite Sayeret Matkal, they presented a picture of armored might not seen for many years on the world’s television screens, even in US military sieges of Karbala and Falujja, in Iraq.' The Israeli site notes that the campaign is designed to rebuild the credibility of Israel's deterrent force in the Gaza area, while addressing numerous security concerns including the incursion of al-Qaeda into Gaza, the Palestinian takeover of the Philadelphi border crossing, and the continuing threat of Qassam attacks from the Gaza region. In assessing the likely course of the campaign, Debka concludes: 'A large-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip must aim not only at rescuing Gilead Shalit but also replacing the bankrupt Sharon security strategy with a doctrine that arms Israel with the tools to repel and win the current round of the Palestinian war. This is a tall order for Israel’s top military tacticians. They must come up with a winning card when the Palestinians hold an ace, the hostage Gilead Shalit. ... DEBKAfile’s military experts do not expect the Palestinians to show massive resistance in the first stage of this operation, except for directing scattered Qassam, mortar and rocket fire against f the invading Israeli force. The real crunch will begin when Israeli troops strike into populated districts. But that will only happen if they fail to find the missing soldier in Rafah.' Go to the link for the full analysis. (Debka)

Three bombing suspects killed in Egypt. AP via Jerusalem Post: 'Security forces on Tuesday killed three people wanted for the bombings in a Sinai resort that killed 21 people two months ago, police said. The police shot dead Ibrahim Hameed Freg, his brother Sami and Ibrahim's wife Fawziya Musleh at a hide-out in a farm in the desert near El Arish, said the chief detective of North Sinai police, Gen. Adel Fawzi.' (JPost)

Who is Michael J. Totten? Fifty-one things you probably didn't know about Portland's citizen of the world here. (MJT)

Commentary. A month ago, an item on Marze Por Gohar headlined Iran-Iraq to Seal Border Against Insurgents attracted little attention. The report stated that
Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki of Iran, on the second day of his visit to Iraq, said on Saturday that the two countries had agreed to form a joint commission to oversee border issues and that its primary task would be to "block saboteurs" crossing the 700-mile border.

"We plan to form a joint commission between Iran and Iraq to control our borders and block the way to saboteurs whose aim is to destabilize the security of the two countries," he said in Najaf after talks with Iraq's most powerful Shiite religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

Mr. Mottaki, whose visit was only the second by an official Iranian government delegation since the downfall of Saddam Hussein, said improved border controls would be part of a wide effort to build close ties between the countries, including $1 billion in Iranian economic assistance to Shiite and Kurdish areas of Iraq.

It's hard to guess what is going on behind the scenes in the Washington/Baghdad/Tehran triangle, and Morning Report will refrain from speculating. But DebkaNet Weekly (subscription service) reports that Iraq's highest-ranking Kurdish leaders, President Jalal Talabani and Masoud Barzani, are not pleased with the possibility of a backing-down on Washington's part. Whether President Bush will hold the line against the Iranian mullahs remains to be seen.