Questions For Petraeus

[ Posted Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008 – 15:37 UTC ]

General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker will be back in front of Congress next week (scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday), to give their half-yearly report on what is going on in Iraq. So today, as a public service, I'd like to provide the questions I feel would be a good idea to ask the two of them. Democratic committee members, please feel free to use any or all of these yourselves.

Of course, Petraeus and Crocker will be attempting to put a big smiley face on Iraq once again, and they must be kicking themselves for being blindsided by Maliki's recent Basra fiasco. If only Maliki had waited two or three weeks, they could have testified that everything was hunky-dory in Iraq, and then gotten out of Washington unscathed.

But since it didn't happen that way, the questions will be much more intense. Congressional Democrats need to ask probing questions, and then (most importantly) press Petraeus and Crocker for details. Followup questions need to be asked if a straight answer is not forthcoming.

So without further ado, here is my list of questions that need to be asked to Petraeus and Crocker next week:


It has been reported that solving the standoff with Muqtada al-Sadr in Najaf a few years ago meant cutting a deal with him. The United States reportedly paid over 300 million dollars to Sadr at that time. How much total money has America paid to Moqtada al-Sadr or any organization he controls? Are we still paying Sadr any money?


How much money has been paid to the "Sunni Awakening" groups so far?


How much more money is budgeted for paying these Awakening groups? When will these payments end, or will they continue on into the foreseeable future? What do you think will happen when we stop paying these groups?


How many of these Sunnis have been accepted into the Iraq Army or national police forces? Or is Maliki blocking their path to becoming part of the national government's legitimate forces?


Would you call the money we are paying these groups "protection money" or "bribes" paid so that they don't attack American forces? If the money stopped tomorrow, how many of them do you think would begin attacking our forces once again? Is this really a sustainable long-term strategy?


How much of the decrease in violence in Iraq can be attributed to the "surge" and how much to Moqtada al-Sadr's cease-fire? Was the Basra situation a glimpse of what will inevitably happen if he ends this cease-fire?


What is your professional military opinion of the Iraqi Army? How close are they to being able to take over their own security? Are we months away from that happening, years away, decades away, or will it never happen?


Why was the Iraqi Army fought to a standstill in Basra, when the militias reportedly only had mortars and rocket-propelled grenades in addition to automatic weapons? Are we giving them enough heavy equipment for them to succeed, or are they outgunned by the Mahdi Army?


Please detail exactly what American troops' participation was in the recent activity in Basra. Be specific. Were we in on the operation from the beginning? Were we on the front lines, or merely backup and support? How much air power was used? Were British foot soldiers used during the operation? The operation was presented to the world as being controlled by the Iraqis, but how much help did we (and the British), in reality, give them?


Did the Iraqi Army attack any other Shi'ite militias than the Mahdi Army? Did they take on the Badr Brigade or any other militia as well, or was the entire operation against Sadr and the Mahdi Army?


It has been widely reported that Sadr is saying Maliki's push in Basra was purely political -- to quash a rival political party before this fall's Iraqi elections. Is there any truth to this? If so, why are American troops being used in this fashion? How does this fit into the overall American military mission in Iraq?


Do you honestly think the situation in Basra today is better, the same, or worse than it was a month ago? Have any militias been "routed" or are they still in control of pretty much the same territory?


Can you comment on the reports of the Iraqi police force abandoning their uniforms and going over to one militia or another? There were news reports of police forces joining the Badr Brigade and also the Mahdi Army during the fight. Are these reports accurate? What percentage of the Iraqi police force do you estimate to be nothing more than militia members getting a paycheck from the central government, while being trained to be more effective fighters for the militias?


Was giving Maliki a green light for the Basra offensive any sort of quid pro quo offered by Vice President Cheney during his recent visit, in order to secure passage of the Iraqi law which will ensure local elections in Iraq by October 1st? To the best of your knowledge, was any deal of this nature ever discussed with you?


What exact deal did Maliki make with Sadr to end the fighting? Please be specific and address Mahdi Army prisoners released or to be released by Maliki.


It has been reported that Iran brokered the deal between Maliki and Sadr, on Iranian soil. Is this true?


Is Iran supporting the Mahdi Army? Is Iran supporting the Badr Brigade? What other militias is Iran supporting in Iraq?


Given the fact that Iran brokered this deal, and that the Badr Brigade seems to be the side Maliki took in this fight, and given that the Badr Brigade is heavily supported by Iran, did this entire exercise in Basra strengthen or weaken Iran's influence in Iraq and in the region?


While much attention has been paid to Iran aiding Iraqi Shi'ite militia groups, are other countries involved in such support to any militia group in Iraq? Is Saudi Arabia in any way funding Sunni militias in Iraq?


If violence on the scale of Basra erupts in the next few months, will you continue to withdraw the "surge" forces on schedule? Do you think that since the Iraqis know this drawdown schedule as well, that they are just biding their time and violence will get worse in the next few months? If violence in Iraq does get completely out of control, will you ask for more troops at that point?


Do you think this sort of internal fighting between various Iraqi groups is inevitable when America leaves Iraq -- no matter when that may be? Or do you see some other future?


Would you support making the recent National Intelligence Estimate update on Iraq public? Do you feel that the American public deserves to see an analysis of the current situation there, or do you think this information should be withheld from the public for some reason?


How many American troops will be in Iraq at the end of this year, in your estimate?


How long will American combat troops be in Iraq, in your estimate?


Cross-posted at The Huffington Post


-- Chris Weigant


No Comments yet on “Questions For Petraeus”

Comments for this article are closed.