A couple of items from The Raw Story this morning . . .
(WaPo) "USAID Paper Details Security Crisis in Iraq" by Walter Pincus.And . . .
The U.S. Agency for International Development paints a dire and detailed picture of the Iraq security situation in its request for contractors to bid on its $1.32 billion, 28-month project to help stabilize 10 major Iraqi cities.
The USAID program, outlined in a Jan. 2 paper, envisions development between 2006 and 2008 of partnerships in cities that make up more than half of Iraq's population. Those cities would include Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Kirkuk and Najaf. The project, which to date has only $30 million of the proposed funds, will try to reduce violence by creating jobs, revitalizing community infrastructure, and mitigating ethnic and religious conflicts . . .
The USAID paper describes some findings that in the past were carried only in classified briefings, congressional sources said. For example, the paper states that external fighters and groups such as al Qaeda "are gaining in number and notoriety as significant actors," and that most suicide bombers are coming from "Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region."
The breakdown of Iraqi society and "the absence of state control and an effective police force" have let "criminal elements within Iraqi society have almost free rein," the paper states. Iraqi criminals in some cases "have aligned themselves with most of the combating groups and factions to further their aims" and Baghdad "is reportedly divided into zones controlled by organized criminal groups-clans," it states . . .
(Seattle Times) "Islamists gain ground from American push for Mideast democracy" by Warren P. Strobel.Yeah, I did add the red to that. I take small, if any comfort, in the fact that he certainly said that with the customary smirk.
President Bush's efforts to spread democracy to the Middle East have strengthened Islamists across the region, posing fresh challenges for the United States, according to U.S. officials, foreign diplomats and democracy experts.
Islamist parties trounced secular opponents in recent elections in Iraq and Egypt.
Hamas, the armed Islamic Palestinian group, appears set to fare well in Palestinian parliamentary elections Jan. 25, posing a quandary for how the United States and Israel pursue peace efforts. Hamas has carried out suicide bombings against Israel and calls for the country's destruction.
In Lebanon, the Shiite Muslim militia Hezbollah is part of the government for the first time.
Washington considers Hezbollah and Hamas, both of which have Iranian support, to be terrorist groups . . .
"Freedom is crawling — over broken glass," said a State Department official, scaling back the president's frequent contention that "freedom is on the march." The official requested anonymity in order to speak more frankly.
Bush and Rice rarely discuss in public the prospect that Islamists could be the prime beneficiaries of their policies.
Asked at a town-hall event Wednesday in Louisville, Ky., about the lack of separation between church and state in much of the Middle East, the president replied: "It's going to be the spread of democracy itself that shows folks the importance of separation of church and state." He cited Iraq's new constitution, which says Islam is "a basic source of legislation" but guarantees rights to the country's non-Islamic and non-Arab citizens.