Monday, July 09, 2007

Stephen Camp

A Comparison of 9x18mm Makarov, .380 ACP, and .38 Special (2" barrel)

By Stephen Camp

A common topic centers on which is best: 9mm Mak, .380 ACP, or the .38 Snub. Though ballistically in the same general ballpark, each round brings with it certain advantages as well as negatives. Let's take a look at what we might expect from these or similar loads.

9x18mm: Rare in the US until the mass importation of the Makarov pistol, the round is now common among shooters. Its ballistic payload is similar to a top end, maximum effort .380 ACP. One load approaches that of the 9x19mm, but only when the latter is being fired from a short (3") barrel. LVE Brown Bear 115-gr. JHP usually hits between about 1020 ft/sec and 1050 ft/sec depending upon the particular Makarov it's being fired from. Federal 115-gr. JHP from a short 9mm is usually less than 100 ft/sec faster as that load is not optimized for shorter barrels. There are many other loads in which the 9mm uniformly walks away from the Mak's capabilities.

In normal trim, it's generally accepted that the 9x18mm throws a 95-gr. 0.363" diameter bullet about 1050 ft/sec.

Foreign-made 9x18mm ammunition is very inexpensive and allows for considerable shooting. It is much less costly than the ballistically similar .380 ACP and slightly more powerful.

.380 ACP: Dimensionally, this is a scaled down .45 ACP from those round's creator, John M. Browning. Like the Makarov, it is most often fired from blow back semiautomatics though a few pistols so chambered have used the locked breech common to higher-pressure rounds like the 9x19mm.

Typical performance from the "traditional size" .380 ACP like the Walther PPK is a 95-gr. bullet at 950 ft/sec. Add approximately 100 ft/sec for +P 90-gr. bullets from the same size pistols.

Note: The really compact .380's currently available were not used in this report. Velocities generally suffer significantly when fired from barrels less than about 3.25". If you use one of the small .380 ACP pistols, you may need to go to +P rounds to insure that the velocity is enough to actually obtain expansion. Having seen JHP ammo expand very nicely from the Makarov/Bersa/Walther sized .380's and act like ball when fired from some of the really compact .380 pistols, I personally prefer the standard size pistols in this caliber. Others may truly need to go with the smaller, but might want to be sure that their ammunition is capable of expansion. There's no guarantee of it with any of them, but I think we're right on the edge with some loads in the smaller pistols.

Some very nice pistols are offered today in .380 ACP (9x17mm, 9mm Corto, 9mm Kurz). Ammunition is more costly, but the selection of high performance JHP ammo is more readily available. Such can be had from American makers like Remington, Winchester, Federal, Corbon, and Hornady. Speer offers their excellent Gold Dot in this caliber as well.

All of this will be more expensive than the foreign JHP is available in 9x18mm Makarov. Like I said, there's "good" and "bad" with each of these calibers.

.38 Special (2" barrel): Still popular, the velocity for most bullets fired will be in the same range as either the Makarov round or the .380 ACP. The difference is that the .38 Special will toss slugs of slightly greater weight at these speeds. Expansion is similar to the other two, but penetration is almost always a bit deeper.

There are many JHP loads in various bullet weights readily available in this caliber. None are as inexpensive as the 9x18mm's. With its heavier bullet capability, the .38 snub's recoil goes up significantly for most folks when compared to the .380 or 9mm Makarov.

Actual Velocities: The velocity figures that follow are all based on 10-shot strings of fire. The listed handgun is what the ammo was fired from.

Both the .380 (left) and 9mm Makarov use 95-gr. FMJ in most FMJ loads. There are exceptions, but this seems to be normal for them in their traditional non-expanding loads.

The CZ83 and Makarov were used for velocity information as both have almost the same length barrels.

.380 ACP (CZ-83 w/3.8" bbl): Average Velocity (ft/sec)

Standard Deviation and

Extreme Spreads are listed in ft/sec.

Glaser 70-gr. Safety Slug(Silver) 1299 (ES: 116/SD: 44)

Magtech Guardian Gold +P

85-gr. JHP 1075 (ES: 33/SD: 10)

Federal 90-gr. JHP 1017 (ES: 48, SD: 17)

Federal 90 gr Hydrashok 1036 (ES: 80, SD: 23)

Hornady 90-gr. XTP 933 (ES: 42, SD: 14)

Corbon 90-gr. JHP +P 1083 (ES: 45, SD: 17)

Magtech 95-gr. FMJ 964 (ES: 29, SD: 10)

Remington UMC 95-gr. FMJ 970 (ES: 32, SD: 9)

Remington 102-gr. Golden Saber 928 (ES: 70, SD: 22)

9x18mm Makarov (Makarov w/3.83" bbl):

Barnaul Tiger 95-gr. JHP 1062 (ES: 41, SD: 14)

Barnaul 95-gr. JHP 1051 (ES: 26, SD: 8)

LVE Brown Bear 115-gr. JHP 1018 (ES: 32, SD: 10)

Hornady 95-gr. XTP 979 (ES: 82, SD: 24)

Corbon 95-gr. JHP +P 1121 (ES: 24, SD: 8)

The highest velocity shown for either caliber is from Corbon with their 90-gr. in .380 at 1083 ft/sec compared to their now discontinued 95-gr. Makarov JHP at 1121 ft/sec. 95-gr. .380 loads from Magtech and Remington UMC hit around 970 ft/sec while the Makarov speeds with the same weight bullet hits between 1000 and 1100 ft/sec with the exception of the Hornady XTP. It is clearly in .380 ACP velocity range, but 46 ft/sec faster than the same company's .380 ACP. We can see that the Makarov has a slight edge on the .380 ACP, but it is not a 9x19mm as some folks have claimed.

To prove that, here are some velocity figures from a Glock 26 9mm. It has a 3.46" barrel.

9x19mm from Glock 26:

Corbon 124-gr. XTP 1229(ES: 40 ft/sec)

Glaser 80-gr. Silver Pre-frag 1514 (Not available)

Federal 124-gr. Nyclad HP 1063 (Not available)

Triton 115-gr. Hi Vel JHP +P 1280 (Not available)

Triton 125-gr. Hi Vel JHP +P 1245 (Not available)

Fiocchi 115-gr. FMJ 1180 (ES: 57/SD: 21)

PMP 115-gr. FMJ 1046 (ES: 38/SD: 15)

Winchester USA 115-gr. FMJ 1097 (ES: 87/SD: 40)

Federal 115-gr. JHP 1111 (ES: 34/SD: 13)

Hornady 124-gr. "CQ" Tap (XPT) 1100 (ES: 38/SD: 16)

Winchester RA9TA 127-gr. +P+

JHP 1246 (ES: 33/SD: 13)

Corbon 125-gr. +P JHP (Sierra) 1188 (ES: 43/SD: 17)

Aguila 65-gr. "IQ" HP 1517 (ES: 64/SD: 23)

It is pretty evident that neither the .380 nor the Makarov can compete with the high-pressure 9x19mm. As very compact 9mm pistols now exists, some question the rationale for the Mak and .380 as well as the .38 Special snub. Whether the "wisest" move or not, many folks simply prefer either the caliber or the firearm as sales in both the .380 and .38 remain high and Makarov fans are legion.

.38 Special (S&W Model 642 w/1 7/8" barrel):

Remington 158-gr. +P LSWCHP 800 (ES: 27, SD: 12)

Federal 125-gr. Nyclad HP (Std. Pressure) 836 (ES: 30, SD: 12)

Corbon 115-gr. +P+ JHP 1188 (ES:39,SD: 13)

PMC 125-gr. +P "Starfire" JHP 859 (ES:29, SD: 13)

Though not having the highest velocity with most loads, the short .38 snub throws heavier bullets speeds similar to the .380 and Makarov rounds. With the now-discontinued Corbon +P+ round, the snub actually attained speeds better than some standard pressure 9mm loads from service size pistols.

It is evident that based strictly on ballistic capabilities none of the cartridges mentioned are as potent as 9mm, .40, or .45 ACP and that they normally operate in the range of 800 to 1100 ft/sec with some exceptions.

Penetration & Expansion:

I cannot afford the tariff to use 10% ballistic gelatin nor do I have the capabilities of keeping it at a constant temperature so that tests are repeatable and uniform. While it is the "gold standard" for bullet testing, I use water and wet pack tests. I define "wet pack" as super-saturated newsprint that has soaked 24-hrs and been allowed to drain for 30 minutes before shooting. It does limit penetration compared to gelatin. How much depends upon the velocity range of the bullet. For 9mm bullets in the 1100 to 1300 ft/sec range, multiplying wet pack penetration by 1.52 to 1.54 seems to give about the same penetration depths in gelatin. In the .380/9mm Makarov, multiplying the penetration in wet pack by about 2.3 seems to give ballpark gelatin penetration figures for similar velocities, but lower velocities as out of shorter guns will not be the same. The reason is that some of the bullets have a lower threshold velocity for expanding and if it's not met, they penetrate more. I have not yet had the chance to see how much expansion retards penetration with the really short autos. Expansion is very similar in both media. JHP's fired into water frequently fragment a bit more than in wet pack and shed their jackets much more readily as the water gets between the jacket and the bullet easier.

Penetration depths listed for each load is based on a three-shot average. The "estimated penetration" figures are what I think they'll do in tissue assuming no major bones are hit. Both depths are given in inches.

9mm Makarov Ammunition: Wet Pack Penetration: Estimated Penetration:

Brown Bear 115-gr. JHP 3.8 8.7

Hornady 95-gr. XTP 4.1 9.4

Tiger 95-gr. JHP 3.5 8.0

Corbon 95-gr. JHP +P 3.9 9.0

I do not have .380 penetration figures at this time in wet pack in numbers large enough to "trust," but I suspect strongly that they will be extremely similar to those for the Makarov round as both are so similar ballistically.

In bare 10% gelatin, most .380 JHP's penetrate from about 8 to 10".

Here are three 9x18mm Mak Hornady XTP bullets. The one at the top right was fired into water while the other two were recovered from wet pack. The expanded bullets averaged 0.55 x 0.54 x 0.32" tall and weighed an average of 93 grains, losing 2 grains when expanding.

9x18mm Brown Bear 115-gr. JHP's averaged the greatest expanded well and recovered bullets averaged 113-gr. in weight. Dimensions: 0.61 x 0.60 x 0.36" tall.

It seems reasonable to assume that we can count on roughly this depth of penetration with expanding bullets in either caliber. In .38 Special, when fired from a snub, expanding bullets penetrate from a low of about 9" to roughly 12", depending upon maker and bullet weight. If they don't expand, penetration is significantly greater…as is the case with the .380 and 9x18mm. Some folks prefer to use FMJ in these smaller auto calibers or solid SWC in the .38 snub to achieve what they considered adequate penetration. I'm happy with penetration of 10 to 12 inches with the snub or the other calibers under discussion.

Barnaul Tiger 95-gr. 9x18mm exhibited some fragmentation and penetrated an average of 3.5" in wet pack. Recovered dimensions averaged 0.64 x 0.65 x 0.31" tall. The average recovered bullet weight was 94 grains when the bullet did not fragment.

To me, the .380 and 9mm Mak are lacking in penetration for other than frontal, unobstructed shots with the .38 Special 158-gr. LSWCHP +P being but adequate. For me, that's enough of a reason to go with the revolver over the .380/9mm Mak genre of pistols. I will keep testing and checking and re-evaluating as nothing remains static. I'd like to see Corbon bring out their PowRball in both .380 and 9x18mm Makarov if it can be done with the velocity these rounds can provide. I'd like to see the round increase penetration a bit to say 10 or 12".

Corbon 95-gr. 9x18mm always exhibited expansion and fragmentation. In fact, its recovered bullet diameters were smaller as much of the bullet broke off while passing through the test medium be it water or wet pack. Average recovered weight was 69 grains. Average expanded diameter: 0.49 x 0.53 x 0.34" tall.

Should we find an expanding bullet for either the .380 or the 9x18 that reliably expands and hits in that penetration range, I'd most likely go to it from the .38 snub.

Corbon no longer produces the .38 Special 115-gr. +P+ load shown here. It used a Sierra 115-gr. 9mm JHP and hit velocities of nearly 1200 ft/sec from this Model 642. I do think that this load would cause excessive wear to the revolver and might split the forcing cone. I shoot it but rarely.

This remains my current load of choice in the .38 snub. It's Remington 158-gr. LSWCHP +P. You can see that it meets or exceeds the expanded 9mm Makarov diameters and it penetrates a bit more. Better loads will inevitably be on the way and one might be Speer's 130-gr. Gold Dot +P in this caliber. I've not yet had the opportunity to test it.

In most private citizen lethal force scenarios, the fight is close range and face to face. In such situations where shots can be made to the upper torso without obstructions, any of the calibers under discussion are probably fine. If a little more penetration is required, the .38 Special with the 158-grain expanding bullet wins.


In the Middle East, America’s Exit from Iraq Attracts Less Interest than Gathering War Clouds

DEBKAfile Exclusive Military Analysis

July 9, 2007, 10:09 PM (GMT+02:00)

Since April 2007, George W. Bush has had on his desk an exit plan from Iraq, built around the phased pull-back by early 2008 of a little more than half of the 170,000 or so troops there at present. Around 50-70,000 soldiers are to be redeployed to large strategic fortified enclaves in the south and the north as a semi-permanent US presence. They will be backed by four naval and aerial strike groups in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea and a chain of giant air bases, some expanded, others built from scratch, in Oman, Qatar and Jordan.

The military sources of DEBKAfile and DEBKA-Net-Weekly have been tracking the evolution of this White House master plan since April 27.

Building up in Persian Gulf waters as a key element of this post-withdrawal military plan are three American carriers and their strike groups. The USS Enterprise CVN 65 Big E Strike Group departed for the region Monday, July 8, to join the USS Stennis and USS Nimitz carriers which are already there.

A clue to the coming American deployment can be seen in the Basra Province of southern Iraq where British troops have shut themselves away in a well-fortified compound south of the oil city. It is blasted daily by mortars and other heavy weapons. From time to time, British commando patrols emerge to hit enemy assault concentrations.

In short, even after the Americans quit Iraq, the Iraq War will continue – with one difference: it will no longer rage in the main cities such as Baghdad, but in wide open spaces.

It is already apparent that the US army’s main enemy, certainly in the initial phase after withdrawal, will be al Qaeda, as it is today.

From the end of 2005, Iraq watchers realized there was no way of preventing Iraq fragmenting into sectarian or ethnic segments: an independent Kurdish state in the north and one, or even two, independent Shiite entities south of Baghdad.

The Americans campaign today focuses mainly on rooting the jihadist terrorists out of Baghdad, Baqouba, Ramadi and Falluja in order to determine the identity and character of the third segment, an independent Sunni Muslim enclave in central Iraq.

This task cannot be finished within the timeframe dictated by political realities in America. There is no way therefore of saying for certain which Sunnis will rule that part of the country - indigenous Iraqi Arabs or al Qaeda, or even, by remote control through a surge of cash, Saudi Arabia. Therefore, the outcome of the current US-al Qaeda showdown in Iraq will bear long-term consequences for American positions in the Persian Gulf, especially in relation to Iran.

DEBKAfile’s Washington sources report that on three points the Bush administration has not yet made final decisions:

1. Whether to launch a military operation to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities and cripple its strategic-economic infrastructure.

2. How to respond if Iran decides on a pre-emptive attack on US Middle East interests by fomenting local assaults against Israel by Syria, Hizballah and Hamas and a civil war in Lebanon. Some Middle East military and intelligence sources say this decision is already in the bag in Tehran. Will President Bush seek to avert these flare-ups of violence? Or use them as the starting shot for his military strike against Iran?

3. The timeline for beginning the US military pullout from Iraq, the third decision in abeyance, hinges heavily on the White House’s actions regarding the first two.

The optional exit dates for now are September 2000 or January-March 2008. The latter is seen as the more realistic by American commanders and soldiers serving in Iraq.

Amid the furious political controversy over the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq war, most Americans find it hard to imagine the US army capable of even contemplating taking on another conflict with Iran. It is seen by many as a nightmare scenario. But Tehran sees nothing far-fetched about it. Quite the reverse, Iranians are all but certain an US attack is inevitable this summer or, at latest, in the fall.

They note that the President Bush has never taken the military option off the table for dealing with Iran’s strongly suspected nuclear weapons program. The overriding importance of removing this threat is not in dispute between Bush and Democratic Party leaders.

The Middle East is therefore on the move, in readiness for the worst:

- Monday, July 9, Damascus called on Syrian civilians to depart Lebanon to avoid “an eruption” expected next week.

- US defense secretary Robert Gates cancelled a planned four-nation Latin American tour – officially to help complete the Pentagon’s “benchmark” report due in September. However, as perceived in Middle East capitals, Gates can see a conflagration building up in the region and decided his place was in Washington.

- Israel, Syria and Hizballah have prepared their armies for a war contingency entailing a possible clash on Golan and the Lebanese-Israeli frontier regions.

- Iran has imposed gasoline rationing on civilian vehicles. An Iranian official admitted in Tehran two days ago that the country was preparing for an emergency and stocking up on fuel for the military.

- The Turkish army has 140,000 troops poised to invade northern Iraq’s Kurdistan. Notwithstanding denials in Ankara and Baghdad, Turkish units are operating in northern Iraq against Turkish Kurdish PKK rebels.

- The American carrier, the USS Enterprise, is on its way to the Middle East with a powerful strike group.

Two months ago, military high commands in the Middle East stopped asking when the American army would leave Iraq. They took for granted that a major pull-back is in the works and not far away. The question exercising most minds these days is which of the two leading antagonists in the current regional contest will be first to assemble all the pieces of the war puzzle and gain the advantage over his rival, the Bush administration in Washington or Ali Khamenei’s mullahs in Tehran?

WND Exclusive

'Mideast war this summer'

Syrian official threatens 'resistance' by September, warns Damascus preparing for large-scale conflict

Posted: July 8, 2007
3:32 p.m. Eastern

By Aaron Klein
© 2007

Syrian President Bashar Assad

GOLAN HEIGHTS – If Israel doesn't vacate the strategic Golan Heights before September, Syrian guerrillas will immediately launch "resistance operations" against the Golan's Jewish communities, a top official from Syrian President Bashar Assad's Baath party told WND.

The Baath official, who spoke on condition his name be withheld, said Damascus is preparing for anticipated Israeli retaliation following Syrian guerrilla attacks and for a larger war with the Jewish state in August or September. He said in the opening salvo of any conflict, Syria has the capabilities of firing "hundreds" of missiles at Tel Aviv.

"Syria passed repeated messages to the U.S. that we demand the return of the Golan either through negotiations or through war. If the Golan is not in our hands by August or September, we will be poised to launch resistance, including raids and attacks against Jewish positions (in the Golan Heights)," the Baath official said.

The Golan Heights is strategic mountainous territory looking down on Israeli population centers captured by Israel after Syria twice used the territory to attack the Jewish state.

The Baath official said a new purported guerrilla group called the Committees for the Liberation of the Golan Heights has been training and is ready to attacks against Jewish communities in the Golan in August or September.

He said Syria is preparing for a war.

"More and more of our units have undergone intensive trainings starting at 6 a.m. and finishing late into the evening. If the need arises, we are ready for a war," said the official.

The official said Syria "learned from the Hezbollah experience last summer and we can have hundreds of missiles hitting Tel Aviv that will overwhelm Israel's anti-missile batteries."

He claimed Syria has "proof" Israel is also readying for a war.

"We hear about special Israeli trainings to take Damascus. We see that Israel is re-establishing bases of the Israeli army in the Golan that are unusual and not needed except for war. We believe the Israeli government has an interest in confronting Syria to rehabilitate its image of losing to Hezbollah," he said.

He also claimed newly installed Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, a former prime minister, "wants to prove he is a military expert."

Israel: Syrian war preparations serious

Israeli security officials confirmed the stepped-up military presence of Syrian troops deployed along the Syrian side of the Golan Heights with strengthened forces after carrying out increased training the last few months. The security officials noted the movement of Syrian Scud missiles near the border with Israel and said Syria recently increased production of rockets and acquired missiles capable of hitting central Israeli population centers.

The Syrian army has improved its fortifications, according to the Israeli security officials, and has received modern, Russian-made anti-tank missiles similar to the missiles that devastated Israeli tanks during the last Lebanon war, causing the highest number of Israeli troop casualties during the 34-days of military confrontations. Syria also received from Russia advanced anti-aircraft missiles.

The security officials said any conflict with Syria could degenerate into a larger war involving Hezbollah along Israel's northern border and Palestinian terror groups launching attacks from Gaza in the south and the West Bank toward the center of Israel.

The officials noted Syria stepped up the pace of weapons, including rockets, being shipped from the Syrian border to the Lebanese Hezbollah militia.

The security officials said the greatest threat Syria poses to the Jewish state are the country's missiles and rockets. They noted Syria recently test-fired two Scud-D surface-to-surface missiles, which have a range of about 250 miles, covering most Israeli territory. The officials said the Syrian missile test was coordinated with Iran and is believed to have been successful. It is not known what type of warhead the missiles had.

In addition to longer-range Scuds, Syria is in possession of shorter-range missiles such as 220 millimeter and 305 millimeter rockets, some of which have been passed on to Hezbollah.

Israel also has information Syria recently acquired and deployed Chinese-made C-802 missiles, which were successfully used against the Israeli navy during Israel's war against Hezbollah last July and August. The missiles were passed to Syria by Iran, Israeli security officials told WND.

Israeli security officials said Syria is indeed preparing for a summer war. But they said there was an argument within the Israeli intelligence community whether the military buildup is for an attack or is meant by Syria to pressure Israel into vacating the Golan Heights. Some officials said Syria estimates the U.S. or Israel will attack Iran, and Syria will be drawn into a larger military confrontation by opening up a front against northern Israel. Also, the officials said, Syria may believe Israel will attack first and its preparations are defensive in nature.

The Israeli army is not taking any chances. The Israel Defense Forces last month reportedly carried out a mock attack on a "Syrian" village during a major exercise in the Negev. The Israeli soldiers besieged and occupied the village, designed to be similar to towns on the Syrian side of the Golan. Similar war exercises were carried out in Israel the past few months, including a mock attack on Damascus.

According to security officials, recent U.S. intelligence estimates also predict a strong possibility of war between Israel and Syria in the coming months.

Dennis Ross, the American Middle East envoy under the Clinton administration, said this weekend in an interview with Ynetnews, a leading Israeli news website, he thinks "there is a risk of war" between Israel and Syria this summer.

"Nobody has made any decision (about going to war), but the Syrians are positioning themselves for war," said Ross.

The reports of war also come amid a flurry of articles in the Arab media the past few days claiming Syria has warned its citizens residing in Lebanon to leave the country ahead of a civil war there. Israeli security officials noted the possibility of a civil war in Lebanon, and said there were strong concerns violence there could be used as an excuse for Hezbollah or Palestinian groups to attack Israel.

Syria formed new terror group?

The Baath official speaking to WND said Syria learned the advantages of using guerrilla tactics to achieve political ends from Hezbollah's war against the Jewish state last summer. He said the Committees for the Liberation of the Golan is modeling itself after Hezbollah.

The Baath official's statements follow a series of WND interviews in which Baath officials said a purported new Syrian guerrilla organization recently was formed and is ready for attacks if Israel doesn't withdraw from the Golan. According to the officials, the Syrian Committees for the Liberation of the Golan was formed last year.

In a WND interview, one Baath party official said Syria learned from Hezbollah's military campaign against Israel last summer that "fighting" is more effective than peace negotiations with regard to gaining territory."

Hezbollah claims its goal is to liberate the Shebaa Farms, a small, 12-square-mile bloc situated between Syria, Lebanon and Israel. The cease-fire resolution accepted by Israel to end its military campaign in Lebanon last July and August called for negotiations leading to Israel's relinquishing of the Shebaa Farms.

The Baath official told WND Syria's new Committees for the Liberation of the Golan Heights consists of Syrian volunteers, many from the Syrian border with Turkey and from Palestinian refugee camps near Damascus. He said Syria held registration for volunteers to join the Committees last June.

The official said attacks by the Committees may include the infiltration of Jewish communities in the Golan, rocket attacks against Israeli positions or raids of Golan-based Israeli military installations. He said all attacks would be launched from the Syrian side of the border.

WND first reported last June on the alleged formation of the Committees for the Liberation of the Golan.

One month later, a man identified as the leader of the Committees gave an interview to state-run Iranian television.

In February, a fax sent to news agencies signed by the Committees claimed the group was holding Guy Hever, an Israeli soldier missing since 1991. Hever disappeared in the Golan Heights near the Syrian border.

Israel is taking the claims of formation of the Committees information seriously. Amos Yadlin, head of the IDF's intelligence branch, told the Knesset in October Syria is indeed in the early stages of forming a Hezbollah-like group.



יט וְשָׁבַרְתִּי, אֶת-גְּאוֹן עֻזְּכֶם; וְנָתַתִּי אֶת-שְׁמֵיכֶם כַּבַּרְזֶל, וְאֶת-אַרְצְכֶם כַּנְּחֻשָׁה. 19 And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass.
כ וְתַם לָרִיק, כֹּחֲכֶם; וְלֹא-תִתֵּן אַרְצְכֶם, אֶת-יְבוּלָהּ, וְעֵץ הָאָרֶץ, לֹא יִתֵּן פִּרְיוֹ. 20 And your strength shall be spent in vain; for your land shall not yield her produce, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruit.

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July 8, 2007

Powell tried to talk Bush out of war

THE former American secretary of state Colin Powell has revealed that he spent 2½ hours vainly trying to persuade President George W Bush not to invade Iraq and believes today’s conflict cannot be resolved by US forces.

“I tried to avoid this war,” Powell said at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado. “I took him through the consequences of going into an Arab country and becoming the occupiers.”

Powell has become increasingly outspoken about the level of violence in Iraq, which he believes is in a state of civil war. “The civil war will ultimately be resolved by a test of arms,” he said. “It’s not going to be pretty to watch, but I don’t know any way to avoid it. It is happening now.”

He added: “It is not a civil war that can be put down or solved by the armed forces of the United States.” All the military could do, Powell suggested, was put “a heavier lid on this pot of boiling sectarian stew”.

The signs are that the views of Powell and other critics of the war are finally being heard in the Pentagon, if not yet in the White House. Robert Gates, the defence secretary, is drawing up plans to reduce troop levels in Iraq in anticipation that General David Petraeus, the commander in Iraq, will not be able to deliver an upbeat progress report in September on the American troop surge.

“It should come as no secret to anyone that there are discussions about what is a postsurge strategy,” said Tony Fratto, deputy White House press secretary, last week.

The surge’s lack of demonstrable success is creating fissures in the Republican party as well as putting enormous pressure on the Democratic presidential candidates to favour a rapid pull-out, which Gates fears could leave Iraq in chaos.

New Mexico senator Pete Domenici became the third Republican senator in recent weeks to break ranks openly with Bush on the war. “We cannot continue asking our troops to sacrifice indefinitely while the Iraqi government is not making measurable progress,” he said. “I am calling for a new strategy that will move our troops out of combat operations and on the path home.”

Speculation is growing that Gates will demonstrate his commitment to withdrawing US forces by moving a combat brigade of up to 3,000 troops out of Iraq as early as October and continuing to reduce their numbers month by month from their current strength of 160,000 to presurge levels of around 130,000 by the summer of 2008.

Gates believes American troop withdrawals are essential to building a cross-party consensus for retaining a presence in Iraq after Bush’s term in office expires. As a former director of the CIA who saw out the cold war in the early 1990s, he hopes to win the same bipartisan support for Iraq that President Harry Truman secured against the Soviet Union after the second world war.

The policy is likely to appeal to Gordon Brown, the prime minister, who hopes to begin withdrawing more British troops from southern Iraq by the end of August.

A senior defence source said it would be possible to reduce the number of American forces to roughly 50,000-70,000 by election day in November 2008. “You are going to have to have some people left behind to provide stability and security for the country and take on the terrorists,” the source said.

The figures are similar to those floated by aides to Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, although she has been upping the rhetoric against remaining in Iraq in an effort to capture the support of party activists.

According to Powell, the US cannot “blow a whistle one morning” and have all American forces just leave. The former secretary of state has twice met Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, to advise him on foreign policy. Despite his antiwar stance, Obama supports a phased withdrawal that could leave a “significantly reduced force” in Iraq for “an extended period”.

Defence experts believe it will be impossible to maintain the surge’s high troop levels beyond February at the latest, given the need to rotate and refresh troops. Powell, who served as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff in the early 1990s, said in Aspen that America’s volunteer army was already overstretched. He predicted that Bush would be forced to “face the situation on the ground” and alter course by the end of this year.

Supporters of the surge believe this could send a disastrous signal to the Iraqis. “If we pull out, if we stop this operation now, we will hand Al-Qaeda a terrific victory,” said Frederick Kagan, a military historian at the American Enterprise Institute and an early advocate of the policy.

“The Iraqi government, right now, is a terrific ally in the war on terror. There have been more Iraqis killed fighting Al-Qaeda than in any other nation of the world. The question is, are we going to stand by them?”

The same political fault line runs through the White House between Vice-President Dick Cheney’s office and the State Department � now run by Condoleezza Rice, Powell’s successor � as it did at the start of the Iraq war. Bush has not yet thrown his weight definitively behind one side or the other, but the key difference this time is that the defence secretary is one of the “realists”.

According to Powell: “We have to face the reality of the situation that is on the ground and not what we would want it to be.” He believes that, even if the military surge has been a partial success in areas such as Anbar province, where Sunni tribes have turned on Al-Qaeda, it has not been accompanied by the vital political and economic “surge” and reconciliation process promised by the Iraqi government.

Al-Qaeda, Powell asserted, was only 10% of the problem in Iraq and Nouri al-Maliki, its prime minister, lacked the political will to establish an effective government. After a promising start to the surge at the beginning of the year, 453 unidentified corpses were found on the streets of Baghdad last month, 41% more than the 321 bodies found in January, according to unofficial Iraqi health ministry statistics.

The military gains could prove as fleeting in Anbar as Baghdad. American officers in Iraq believe Al-Qaeda strengthened its hold on the Sunni-dominated region in 2005, when responsibility for security was shifted prematurely to Iraqi forces that were led by Shi’ites and proved incapable of providing protection.

Powell believes that a reduction in US forces will have to be accompanied by talks with Syria and Iran. “You have to talk to the people you dislike most in this dangerous world.”

The general and former joint chiefs of staff added: “Shi’ites will ultimately prevail because they are 60% of the population and their militias can be pretty violent. They will prevail also because they are determined not to be ruled again by the Sunnis.

“The Sunnis are struggling for power and survival and it’s going to be resolved by a test of arms. It’s going to be very ugly.”