For Want of a Pretzel
(Please comment in that thread)
For Want of a Pretzel
An Alternate History of 2002-2010 By Jman
POD: January 14th, 2002. President George W. Bush is watching the Dallas Cowboys and eating pretzels when one of them becomes lodged in his windpipe. In OTL he fell out of his chair and swallowed the pretzel, but in TTL he blacks out and by the time the Secret Service finds him, he is dead.
-Vice President Richard Cheney is sworn is as the 44th President of the United States. The White House issues a statement saying that the President died of a brain aneurysm, on the grounds that the truth is too embarrassing for the American people. Paul Wolfowitz, then the Deputy Secretary of Defense and a close ally of Cheney, is made Vice President.
-The 2002 Winter Olympics are held in Salt Lake City, Utah. President Cheney attends and meets Olympic CEO Mitt Romney. He admires Romney’s budget-tightening and record of fighting corruption, and tells Romney that he will make a good politician some day. Cheney offers Romney a job in the executive branch if he ever wants one.
-Operation Anaconda takes place in Afghanistan, the largest NATO operation since the Battle of Tora Bora. NATO forces consolidate their hold over the country. A jirga, or meeting of tribal leaders, is called, and a new government under Hamid Karzai is established in Kabul.
-A military coup against Hugo Chavez takes place in Venezuela. The United States recognizes the new regime and sends civilian aid via USAID, as well as secretly giving security assistance via the CIA. Still, the coup fails and Chavez is reinstated. Cheney becomes unpopular in Latin America due to his vocal support of the coup.
-2002 US Midterm Elections: The GOP gains a narrow majority in Congress, thanks in part to redistricting carried out after the 2000 census.
-Condoleezza Rice is appointed Secretary of State, replacing Colin Powell, a moderate who had ideological differences with the neoconservative Cheney. Near the end of the year she gives a speech before the UN Security Council laying out the case that Iraq is not fully complying with the sanctions regime or the UNMOVIC inspectors, and that it secretly continues to produce WMD. As a result, UN Security Council Resolution 1440, giving Iraq “one last chance” to comply with sanctions and inspections, is passed, 14-1, with no vetoes from any permanent members. Syria is the only member to vote against it.
- March: Saddam Hussein is assassinated by a sniper as he walks from his motorcade to a government building. The sniper is a member of the Iraqi National Congress, an exile group led by Ahmed Chalabi. Chalabi had found favor with the Cheney administration, and had been receiving covert assistance and intelligence from the CIA. The sniper had been trained by the CIA and given Saddam’s schedule for the day, which had been bought off of an aide by the Americans. The INC operative escapes. The foreign press notes with amusement that some extremely bold pranksters have begun spray-painting bullet holes in the foreheads of the omnipresent Saddam portraits around Baghdad.
-Saddam’s will is read, and it names Qusay Hussein, his younger son, as his successor. Uday, the older but less stable brother, is enraged by this. Uday and some of his friends (the sons of Iraqi generals and Ba’ath Party officials, and frequent guests at Uday’s cocaine-fuelled parties) barge into the meeting room in the al Faw palace where Qusay is assembling his father’s ministers to begin planning the transition. Uday and his group pull out automatic weapons and spray bullets into the assembled ministers, killing or fatally wounding all of them, including Qusay, who is shot in the head and falls into a coma. Palace guards then rush in and gun down Uday and the conspirators, killing everyone. Qusay is rushed to Saddam Medical City by helicopter.
-April: The “Bay of Goats” begins. Like the Bay of Pigs Invasion for which it is named, the Bay of Goats is an unsuccessful attempt by a US-backed exile group to assert control of a country. In this case, Ahmed Chalabi and 1,100 INC fighters, trained by the US military, land in American military transport planes at the defunct Ali Air Base outside Nasiriyah, which had been heavily damaged in the Gulf War and was now part of the Southern Iraqi No-Fly Zone established in 1991. Chalabi famously kisses the ground upon returning to his native country. His forces then take Nasiriyah with no resistance, as the Ba’athist military is in (temporary) disarray after decapitation of the entire government. Nasiriyah is declared by Chalabi to be the Provisional Capital of Liberated Iraq. The INC becomes the Provisional Government. The United States and the United Kingdom immediately recognize it as the legitimate government of Iraq in return for a pledge to hold elections at an undetermined time in the future.
May-August 2003: The Iraqi Civil War
Ba’ath Party Loyalists: Led by the Baghdad Junta, which itself is dominated by Iraqi Defense Minister Ali Hassan al-Majid (Chemical Ali), although the comatose Qusay Hussein is the nominal head of state. Based in Baghdad and strong in Sunni-dominated central Iraq and al-Anbar province, this faction commands about 370,000 soldiers at the beginning of the war, including the elite Republican Guard and the fanatical Fedayeen Saddam paramilitaries.
Islamic Dawa Party: Led by Moqtada al-Sadr, this faction is about 80,000 fighters strong and is based in southern (Shia-dominated) Iraq. It has little outside recognition or assistance except from Iran, but enjoys the fervent support of Iraqi Shia, both out of religious zealotry and because of their historic oppression under Saddam. Their nominal capital is Najaf, a Shia holy city.
Kurdish Peshmerga: Led by the Kurdistan Parliament, this faction is about 70,000 fighters strong and enjoys US air support in the Northern No-Fly Zone, as well as US military aid. The capital of Kurdistan is Arbil, the third largest city in Iraq.
Provisional Government of Liberated Iraq: Led by Ahmed Chalabi, with a strength of 1,100 INC fighters, as well as 2,000 or so local volunteer irregulars. Based in Nasiriyah, recognized by the US and UK, and given air support under the cover of the Southern No-Fly Zone.
-May 3: First Battle of Nasiriyah. Iraqi Army forces move to retake the city from the INC, but without air support in the Southern No-Fly Zone they are vulnerable to US air attack. Air Force units bomb their vehicles along what is sometimes called the “Second Highway of Death” (the first being the Gulf War attack on retreating troops on the highway from Kuwait City to Basra), scattering the attacking forces.
-May 11: Capture of Arbil. Republican Guard and Iraqi Army forces attack Kurdish forces in Arbil. Having learned the lessons of Nasiriyah, the Iraqis bring anti-air defenses and attack in a much larger force. They are also supported by fighters scrambled from central Iraq, between the no-fly zones. The USAF is unable to neutralize the Iraqi ground forces before they get into the suburbs of Arbil, where the number of civilians make airstrikes too dangerous. The USAF resigns itself to shooting down the Iraqi fighters and providing reconnaissance from the air for the Peshmerga fighters in the city. The Peshmerga, for their part, erect crude but effective barricades out of junked cars to block access to the city center. They engage the Iraqi forces in brutal urban warfare. Eventually the Iraqis take the city, but it is a Pyrrhic victory. USAF forces try to deny reinforcements and resupply of Iraqi forces, but Iraqis sometimes use civilian vehicles, and Arbil is still a populated city with heavy traffic flowing in and out every day.
-May 26: Siege of Nasiriyah. The Fedayeen Saddam stops all ground traffic into and out of INC-held Nasiriyah. These paramilitaries are harder for the USAF to target from the air since they move in civilian vehicles and never in very large groups. Through a campaign of terror the Fedayeen are able to stop supplies and volunteers from reaching the INC in Nasiriyah. USAF reopens the Ali Air Base and begins a Berlin Airlift-style resupply operation on the besieged city. In order to prevent attacks on supply planes, the USAF patrols the edge of the no-fly zone constantly and shoots down fighters that cross the border on sight.
-May 30: The Najaf Uprising. Islamic Dawa Party members stage a mass protest which quickly turns into a riot. Iraqi police are thrown out of Najaf or killed by Dawa fighters. That night, Iraqi Army troops move in to restore order, only to encounter brutal resistance.
-May 31-June 7: The Battle of Najaf. In house-to-house fighting, Iraqi Army and, later, Republican Guard troops try to restore control of the city of Najaf. Due to the holiness of Najaf to Iraqi Shia, and Moqtada al-Sadr’s efforts to gather Shia fighters together in the city throughout May, they encounter fanatical resistance. The Battle of the Imam Ali Mosque is the climax of the fight for the city, with Shia fighters defending the holy site against the brunt of the Republican Guard. With heavy casualties on both sides, the Iraqi military finally withdraws from the heavily damaged city. Al-Sadr’s followers rejoice, and al-Sadr’s power is consolidated.
-June 14: Liberation of Arbil. Kurdish forces from the countryside launch a counter-attack on Arbil. Although the Americans were unable to deny resupply and reinforcement to the Iraqis, the Iraq military is overstretched besieging Najaf and Nasiriyah, and the desired reinforcements never arrive. Aided by Kurdish residents of the city, who sabotage and attack Iraqi defenses from inside the Iraqi lines, the Peshmerga eventually surround and capture the Iraqi forces. Hundreds of Iraqi Army troops are marched north into the Kurdish countryside as prisoners.
June 17: Karbala Uprising. Islamic Dawa Party rioters throw Iraqi Army forces out of Karbala, the second holiest city in Iraq for Shia, after Najaf. This is accompanied by a growing tide of Shia guerilla activity in the southern countryside. The Iraqi military surrounds and blockades Karbala, but their checkpoints come under constant attack from rural fighters. Iraqi forces make no effort to retake the city itself, unable to afford a repeat of Najaf.
June 22: The Fall of Nasiriyah. Iraqi forces make an unexpected push into the so-called Provisional Capital of Liberated Iraq. US military intelligence underestimates the strength of the Iraqi forces at this stage in the war, given the recent defeats in Karbala and Arbil. They fail to notice or sufficiently appreciate the buildup of forces besieging Nasiriyah until the Iraqs launch their attack. In the heavily-populated city, trying to bomb Iraqi forces is too dangerous, and the USAF must simply watch as the poorly-trained INC and local volunteers are overrun and massacred. Chalabi is captured and sent to Baghdad for a mock trial. The rest of the INC Provisional Government is tried and hung in Nasiriyah.
June 23: Congress authorizes the USAF to commence bombing operations over the whole of Iraq, not just in the no-fly zones. Operation Widespread Justice is announced, and USAF units begin bombing Iraqi military positions in central Iraq. The USAF achieves complete air dominance as they destroy the last functioning Iraqi Air Force bases. In the absence of the Provisional Government of Liberated Iraq, the United States recognizes an obscure group known as the Iraqi Freedom Movement as the legitimate government. The IFM is said to be an underground movement seeking democratic change, but since no one has heard of it until now, some suspect it was fabricated by the Cheney Administration. In truth, the IFM exists, but it is no more than a dozen Iraqi college students and their history professor, running an underground dissident press out of a basement in Baghdad. Somehow one of their pamphlets got back to the INC and from there to the Americans.
June 29: Battle of Kirkuk. Kurdish forces, with air-dropped US military weapons and American air support, attack Kirkuk, a historically Kurdish city which Saddam drove the Kurds out of. Unlike Arbil it does not have a majority of Kurdish citizens, but at this point the Iraqi military is too overstretched to defend it properly. They do, however, torch the area’s many oil wells as they retreat.
July 4: On a date many suspect is meant to mock his American patron, Chalabi is tried and hung in Baghdad, and his body put on public display.
July 9: Hillah Uprising. The Islamic Dawa Party seizes al-Hillah. There are Shia riots in Basra and al-Kut as well. Iraqi forces fresh from the Nasiriyah victory move north to crush the Dawa faction.
July 10-14: Battle of Hillah. Shia irregulars and Iraqi Army and Republican Guard forces clash near Hillah in the Dawa-held region of south-central Iraq. Iraqi troops, harassed from the air by the USAF, were strung out to prevent another Highway of Death scenario. Unfortunately this also made them easier for Shia fighters to ambush. By the time they reach Hillah the Iraqis are significantly weakened from roadside bombs, snipers, and rocket attacks. The USAF also air-drops weapons into Karbala, Hillah, and Najaf, in an uncharacteristic move to aid the Islamic Dawa Party. Dawa fighters, adept at both countryside guerilla warfare and urban combat, avoid decisive conventional engagement and instead whittle down Iraqi forces with hit-and-run attacks. The Iraqis briefly occupy Hillah. Eventually the Iraqis retreat to al-Kut, which is teetering on the brink of its own Dawa uprising.
July 12: Mosul Uprising. The large northern city of Mosul, with its large Kurdish population, rises up and throws out the Iraqi Army. Peshmerga from the north occupy the city, and the Iraqi relief troops sent to recapture it are spotted by American reconnaissance drones on the highway and bombed.
July 17: Battle of al-Kut. Shia forces from Karbala, Hillah and Najaf push west in pursuit of Iraqi Army forces. Hearing that the Shia fighters are coming, the residents of Kut riot. Iraqi troops are told to stay in their positions at the edge of the city to defend against the coming fighters. Soon the city center is in anarchy, as years of repression spill forth in widespread looting and destruction. Eventually Dawa Party forces reach al-Kut and overrun Iraqi Army positions through sheer numbers, although they incur heavy casualities. The human wave attacks used by the Dawa are often compared to Iranian tactics in the Iran-Iraq war, although the Dawa were better-armed and only used this tactic in a few engagements.
July 24-August 3: The Siege of Baghdad. With US military help, Kurdish Peshmerga forces and Shia fighters coordinate a two-front attack on Baghdad to topple the Ba’ath regime once and for all. Peshmerga and Dawa irregulars, led by elite units trained by the Americans in camps throughout Kurdistan and the south, are mobilized. First, American planes drop precision-guided bombs on key government ministries in Baghdad. Second, they drop hundreds of thousands of pamphlets on Iraq, some printed by PSYOPS, some copies of the Iraqi Freedom Movement pamphlets. The latter are for the benefit of reporters stationed in Baghdad, actual residents of the city are simply confused by the IFM logo. The pamphlets say that America is the friend of the Iraqi people and wants to free them from the Ba’ath Party. They also advise civilians to leave the city before the battle. Iraqi troops take the hint that the rebels are coming and pull back nearly all their forces in Iraq to positions around the city, with a small detachment in still-loyal Fallujah. The Junta sets up surface-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft guns, and artillery in civilian neighborhoods that the Americans will be unwilling to bomb. However, USAF forces still bomb Iraqi positions outside the city core, and especially focus on destroying Iraqi armor, since the rebels have none of their own. The Iraqis dig in but still take heavy losses. The Americans lose one transport plane to heavy AA-fire over Baghdad and others sustain damage, but most of the Iraqi guns are Soviet relics. After the air bombardment, human wave attacks from fanatical Dawa and Peshmerga forces overrun the Iraqi lines more quickly than the Americans anticipate. A few desperate, surrounded Republican Guard units put up an impressive fight in downtown Baghdad to defend the al-Faw Palace and Saddam Medical City where Qusay still lies comatose (thought there is a rumor, purely Junta propaganda, that he is awake and giving orders to his generals), but eventually even this so-called Green Zone is overrun. Chemical Ali and his generals are shot by a Peshmerga firing squad, and Qusay is shot at point-blank range with a pistol by a Dawa fighter. The downside of using fighters from oppressed minorities, and from outside Baghdad, soon becomes apparent, as the Shia and Kurdish forces begin to loot Baghdad. Entire government ministries are stripped of anything even remotely valuable, and the jubilant fighters soon move on to museums and shops. Everything not locked in a vault or guarded by AK-47-wielding shopkeepers (and even many things which are) is soon carried away by the rebels. In a somewhat sinister move, American intelligence provides the rebels with lists of Ba’ath Party members and their home addresses, and soon every important bureaucrat is hanging from a streetlight. Since membership in the Party was necessary to advance in every professional field, Baghdad is now without its managerial class.
August 4: American military leaders land at Saddam International Airport, now known as Baghdad International Airport in the foreign press, Moqtada al-Sadr International airport to the Islamic Dawa Party, or the Jalal Talabani International Airport to the Peshmerga. The Americans are attending a meeting of the victorious rebel forces and the surrender of a few Republican Guard commanders who let themselves be captured. However, all is not peaceful in Iraq. Fallujah is still in the hands of an Iraqi Army garrison, and the Fedayeen Saddam are still engaged in an insurgency in the countryside. The Americans want to stabilize the situation, defeat the remaining Ba’athists, and establish a civilian government which keeps Iraq unified and balances the power of the Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions. Proposals to split Iraq into two or three states are ignored. The Kurdish state would almost certainly cause trouble for Turkey, a NATO member, and the Shia state would fall under Iranian influence. Only a unified, secular democracy is acceptable to the Cheney administration.
2003 Outside Iraq (continued)
-Mitt Romney becomes Dick Cheney’s chief of staff.
-The UN and United States send peacekeepers to Liberia. Dictator Charles Taylor goes into exile.
-The Taliban regroups in northwestern Pakistan.
-Oil prices rise due to the war in Iraq.
-Gray Davis is recalled in California, and there are rumors that actor Arnold Schwarzenegger planned on running, but these turn out to be untrue. Republican Tom McClintock wins the governorship.
-Rumors circulate in the press that the Cheney administration is illegally wiretapping Americans without a warrant. The administration denies this, but their notorious secrecy does little for their credibility. And, in fact, the allegations are true.
-Pervez Musharraf wins another three-year term. In Pakistan, American ground forces have been engaged in cross-border raids into Taliban-held areas. Musharraf protests that this is a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, but Cheney, never highly deferent to international opinion, ignores him. Each man gains popularity among conservatives at home for being stern with the other.
-The Interim Government of Iraq meets in a recently rebuilt hotel in Baghdad. Representatives of the Kurdish Parliament, the Islamic Dawa Party and allied revolutionary clerics, the Iraqi Freedom Movement (the lone history professor and several remaining Sunni bureaucrats corralled by the US into joining the IMF), and tribal groups meet to begin work on a new Iraqi Constitution, with help and direction from US legal experts. Blackwater USA provides security.
-Jean-Bertrand Aristide is overthrown in Haiti, with suspected US involvement.
-In Paris, a nightclub bombing kills 74 people. It is thought to be the work of an “al-Qaida inspired” group.
- NATO is expanded to include the Baltic states, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
-The program Frontline investigates the practice of “irregular rendition” by the US, which sent “high-value terrorists” (HVTs) to Egypt for “interrogation” (torture). The program also alleges that the CIA operates “black sites”, secret prisons in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. These allegations are true, though the administration denies it.
The 2004 US Presidential Election
Republican: Dick Cheney declines his party’s nomination. Cheney feels more at home behind the scenes, and is not comfortable interacting with the public. He has not liked his unwanted tenure as President. There is also a consensus in the party that he is not well-liked publically, as he is notoriously secretive, unilateralist, and was never elected President. There is no real contest for his successor. Whoever Cheney endorses will be the GOP candidate. Eventually, Cheney decides there is only one candidate both hawkish enough to fit Cheney’s ideology, and popular enough to get elected: Senator John McCain. Cheney pulls McCain aside and says that his endorsement has conditions: that McCain nominate Mitt Romney his VP, that Rumsfeld remain the Defense Secretary, and that Wolfowitz be put in charge of State. McCain agrees and is nominated after token opposition from Gov. Mike Huckabee (representing the Evangelical Christian wing of the GOP) and Rep. Ron Paul (representing the libertarian wing) in the primaries.
Democrat: At first, Hillary Clinton seems to be pursuing the nomination. However, the DNC discourages her from running. It has only been four years since her husband’s presidency. If the DNC is to challenge McCain (whom they immediately recognize is Cheney’s pick and therefore the likely candidate), with his reputation as a “maverick”, they need someone not tainted with the Clinton name, which is synonymous with “Washington insider”. That, and the DNC fears she’s just not likeable. The serious contenders are Gov. Howard Dean, Sen. John Edwards, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Sen. Joe Lieberman, and Rev. Al Sharpton. Dean eventually wins the primary and selects Edwards as his running mate to balance the ticket and represent the populist wing of the party, whereas Dean is seen as further left.
John McCain campaigns on his party’s foreign policy record, including the successful prosecution of the war in Afghanistan, the “quick transition from dictatorship to democracy” in Iraq aided by US money and air power, and the capture of many high-level al-Qaida operatives (though not, disappointingly, Osama bin Laden). Howard Dean focuses on domestic issues, primarily education, healthcare, and civil liberties. His focus on the economy is, most analysts agree afterwards, a mistake. Although the Democrats are not strong enough to challenge the Republicans on foreign policy, the economy in 2004 is generally strong in spite of high gas prices. Americans vote with their pocketbooks and elect McCain with a respectable 52% of the popular vote and 283 electoral votes for the Democrats’ 254. The only area in which Dean consistently nails McCain is on civil liberties, arguing against the USA PATRIOT Act, warrantless wiretapping, irregular rendition, and other human rights issues. This makes Dean fairly popular abroad, but not popular enough at home to win.
-2004 Congressional Elections: The GOP, enjoying a deal of popularity, increases its majority in the House to 236 seats (to the Democrats’ 199). The Senate remains essentially split, with 50 Republican senators as well as Joe Lieberman, who at this point votes with the Republicans on foreign policy and some economic issues and the Democrats on social issues. Barack Obama is elected in Illinois and becomes the only black member of the Senate.
-John McCain is inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States.
-Moqtada al-Sadr leads a walkout of the new Iraqi Parliament. The Islamic Dawa Party is unable to compromise on the secularism of the Iraqi Republic, insisting that the nation be known as the Islamic Republic of Iraq and that it include constitutional prohibitions on blasphemy and sacrilege. The Kurdish faction, for its part, has been stubborn on autonomy issues and has been demanding an unreasonably large share of Iraqi oil profits (to compensate for the loss of many of the fields around Mosul in the war, it says), but in general it has been fairly cooperative with the IFM and even has extended a hand to the Dawa from time to time. The IFM itself is an almost comically weak force. The few times it is ever assertive, it is being so because of American pressure, and often being stubborn on things that don’t make sense in the Iraqi political landscape. The walkout leads the Kurds and Sunni to extend a generous compromise offer to the Dawa Party, but al-Sadr refuses. He knows he is in a position of strength, with widespread support among Shia, a religiously zealous paramilitary force, and most importantly, no enemies with the political will to occupy an uncooperative southern Iraq. The Islamic Republic of Iraq secedes from the Republic of Iraq on the Muslim holiday of Ashura (which in 2005 falls on February 19th), with the border, known as the al-Sadr Line, drawn along existing provincial borders (the al-Anbar/al-Najaf line, the al-Anbar/Karbala line, the Baghdad/Babil line, and the Diyala/Wasit line). Iran extends recognition to the ISI, but no other nations do so.
-Realizing that a divided Iraq is now inevitable, the United States moves to strengthen the Iraqi Republic in the north as a counterweight to the Iranian-backed Islamic Republic of Iraq in the south. In a new agreement with the Cheney administration, the RI agrees:
•To relinquish any claims on Kurish territory in Turkey
•To award contracts to rebuild the Mosul oil fields to American companies
•To allow a substantial American, British and Polish “peacekeeping force” to secure Baghdad, Fallujah, and Anbar Province (40,000 troops by the end of the year)
•To accept a secular, democratic constitution and begin planning for elections within the year
In return, the RI receives an influx of American aid, technical assistance, military training, arms, and full diplomatic backing by the US and UK, including a seat on the UN General Assembly.
-In Florida, a controversial decision is made to take Terri Schaivo, who had been the focus of a national right-to-die debate, off life support. Evangelical Christians, led by Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, protest the move, but the McCain administration does little to oppose it. McCain loses some support from the Christian Right.
-The Battle of Fallujah: The International Security Force in Iraq (ISFI), an almost entirely American force with a few token British and Polish units, moves west from Baghdad towards Fallujah, a Sunni city held by a Ba’ath loyalist remnant which had been bypassed in the war. American troops capture the city fairly easily, as low morale among the Iraqi loyalists had lead to heavy desertion. Soldiers hearing of the depredations of the Islamic Dawa fighters had been streaming east to Baghdad to surrender to the more merciful American forces. Still, this means those who are left in Fallujah are the most fanatically devoted core of the loyalist remnant. The Battle is by no means a cake-walk, and few Iraqis allow themselves to be taken prisoner.
-Pope John Paul II dies, and a Papal Conclave is held in the Vatican to elect his successor. Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, a liberal from Italy, is chosen. He chooses the name Pope John XXIV, seeking to link himself to John XXIII, a reformist Pope famous for opening the Vatican II council and issuing the encyclical Pacem in Terris.
-Massive protests in Lebanon against Prime Minister Hariri, viewed by many as a Syrian puppet, lead to a crackdown by Syrian troops.
-Moqtada al-Sadr purges several Shia clerics who will not submit to his leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iraq. The United States and its allies declare al-Sadr to be a dictator and a war criminal, and place sanctions on his regime. However, they are unable to push the sanctions through the UN, and Russia, China and others continue to trade with the IRI.
-The Sharon administration evicts all Israelis from the Gaza Strip, in a move condemned by the Israeli and American right (although the McCain Administration itself stays silent).
-Hurricane Katrina strikes the Gulf Coast, breaking storm levees in New Orleans and flooding the city. FEMA is overwhelmed but able to call in National Guard troops to help with the evacuation. Since none of the Guard are deployed in Iraq as in OTL, the operation is completed swiftly.
-The Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe is adopted by voters in the EU.
-Chief Justice William Rehnquist dies, and President McCain nominates John G. Roberts as his successor.
-Elections in the Palestinian Territories bring Hamas to power, hurting Palestine’s chances of international recognition. In response, and with American and Egyptian support, Israel closes all border crossing into the Strip, beginning a blockade of the territory.
-Stephen Harper takes office in Canada.
-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad makes a state visit to the Islamic Republic of Iraq, shaking hands with Moqtada al-Sadr in a widely-publicized photo. The United States and Great Britain declare an embargo on Iranian oil, and stop importing it.
-The Islamic Courts Union, a Somalia Islamist group with ties to al-Qaida, captures Mogadishu. President McCain, as a police action and as part of the War on Terror, announces Operation Somali Liberty. 10,000 US ground troops, mostly Army, along with a naval anti-piracy task force, begin to mobilize.
-A small “homegrown” terrorist cell in Toronto, Canada kills 28 people and wounds dozens of others using an IED in a backpack which is left on a subway car. The group, calling itself Canadian Islamic Jihad, sends a video claiming responsibility to the media. The cell is later infiltrated when members try to purchase fake entrance visa for foreign jihadists from an uncover Canadian intelligence agent.
-American troops arrive in Somalia and capture Mogadishu without serious resistance. The Somali Provisional Government, which had been in exile in Ethiopia, returns to the capital. President McCain visits the troops in Mogadishu, where he makes a speech introducing Operation Vigilant Justice. The operation is an umbrella term for multiple smaller fronts in the War on Terror (outside Afghanistan), including:
•5,000 more US troops for Somalia to secure the countryside
•2,000 US troops to assist the government of the Phillipines, which is engaged in counterterrorism in Mindanao
•3,000 US troops to aid UN peacekeepers in Darfur
Vigilant Justice is a rather strange foreign policy venture, as it is popular with both liberals and neoconservatives. The liberals support the humanitarian nature of the missions in Darfur and Somalia, and the neoconservatives support the proactive, aggressive fight against potential terrorist hotbeds. McCain’s approval rating shoots up.
-Kofi Annan’s second term as Secretary-General ends, and the selection process for a successor begins. Due to the unwritten agreement that the post would rotate between continents, an Asian was expected to be chosen. There was also a desire to select a woman to the post, which had always been held by men. In the end, an Afghani woman, parliamentarian Fauzia Gailani, is selected.
-Al Jazeera English is launched.
-McCain asks for, and receives, a pledge from NATO to send more troops to Afghanistan, as fierce fighting erupts in the southern provinces.
-2006 US Midterm Elections: With Iraq now divided between a brutal dictatorship in the south and a shaky Kurdish state reliant on American aid and muscle in the north, puplic opinion turns against the GOP, which had been popular thanks to its foreign policy successes. The GOP loses thirteen seats in the House and one in the Senate, meaning that it retains a narrow House majority (223 to the Democrats’ 212) and an effective tie in the Senate (49 Republicans, 50 Democrats and Joe Lieberman, an independent who usually votes Republican).
-A series of car bombings in Baghdad kills 112 Iraqi civilians, 32 Kurdish paramilitaries, and 8 US Army Rangers. Al-Qaida claims responsibility.
-Mahmoud Ahmadinejad opens a controversial conference on “the historical evidence for the Holocaust and the political impacts of Zionism”. He is condemned by the United States and Israel.
-Romania and Bulgaria join the EU.
-Operation Blue Mountain: American forces pursue Taliban fighters into Pakistan without the approval of Pres. Musharaff. Musharaff decries the violation of Pakistani sovereignty, but the McCain administration ignores his protests, saying that the Taliban fighters do not respect the border, so they are to blame for forcing the Americans to pursue them. Musharaff threatens to close the main American supply line through Pakistan but must walk a fine line between remaining popular at home and angering the Americans unnecessarily. His threats come to nothing.
-The Cedar Revolution: Weeks of street protests in Lebanon lead to the withdrawal of Syrian military forces, and Prime Minister Hariri is forced to call for an early election.
-At Virginia Tech, a student named Seung-Hi Cho shoots himself.
-A subprime mortgage crisis begins in the United States.
-President Hugo Chavez’s proposed constitutional amendments pass a referendum, extending the powers of the executive in Venezuela.
-Shia Iraqis, at the prompting of the Islamic Dawa Party, stage a large protest in Baghdad, marching from the impoverished Shia neighborhood of Sadr City to the International Zone downtown. They are calling for Baghdad to be jointly administered by the Republic of Iraq and the Islamic Republic of Iraq. The Kurdish-dominated Republic of Iraq Parliament, the secular-Sunni Baghdad City Council, and the American Embassy issue a joint statement rejecting their demands.
-NATO forces declare Southern Afghanistan “secure”. The chief concern is now the east, along the border with the Pakistani tribal frontier.
-Benazir Bhutto is elected President of Pakistan. A left-wing politician, she has little love for the hawkish McCain administration, but even less for the theocratic Taliban fighters plaguing her country’s frontier. Lacking domestic support for sending the Pakistani army against the Taliban, Bhutto reluctantly gives an order allowing US troops into the country for short, temporary periods, which must be disclosed to the Pakistani government. This is meant to allow US troops to pursue fleeing Taliban fighters across the border, but not to stay for indefinite periods.
-As China prepares for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, dissidents within the country begin to circulate protests, primarily online. Soon, demonstrations against human rights abuses an authoritarianism in the PRC are being held in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the US. The McCain administration angers China by boycotting the games, a move which is also controversial at home. McCain loses his temper with reporters critical of the move, famously uttering the phrase “because I fucking said so!” which becomes something of a catchphrase on the late-night comedy shows.
-Stock markets indices begin to fluctuate as fears of a looming recession in the United States grow.
-A series of car bombings in Peshawar kills 128 Pakistani civilians and 43 police officers. The Taliban claims responsibility.
-Raul Castro replaces his brother Fidel as President of Cuba, following Fidel’s hospitalization.
-Gaza Conflict: Responding to mortar and rocket fire out of the Gaza Strip, which itself was in retaliation for the Israeli blockade, Israel begins bombarding the territory. Due to the number of civilian casualties, this action is later condemned by human rights groups and the UN.
-Hamid Karzai is assassinated by the Taliban at a military parade in Kabul. His Vice President, Mohammed Qasim Fahim [who in OTL wasn’t VP until 2009, but in TTL ran in 2004 on the same ticket as Karzai], takes power.
-An outbreak of Avian Flu in Southeast Asia is declared an epidemic by the WHO.
-The United States officially enters a recession. Soon several European countries follow. McCain’s approval rating falls, as many blame his deregulatory policies for the unsound banking and home-loan practices which led to the recession.
2008 US Presidential Elections
Republican: The incumbent McCain-Romney ticket accepts the nomination as a formality at the Republican National Convention in St. Louis.
Democrat: The serious contenders are Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, and John Kerry (John Edwards is involved in an adultery scandal a few weeks into the primaries and drops out). Outside candidates are Barack Obama, Dennis Kucinich, Joe Biden, and Bill Richardson. Clinton, who has been building a network of supporters since deciding not to run in 2004, quickly emerges as the frontrunner. The only surprise is how well little-known candidate Obama does. Eventually, Obama is selected as Clinton’s running mate, due to his popularity with black voters and college students. The Clinton-Obama ticket accepts the nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Detroit, Michigan, a location chosen to dramatize the economic woes of the nation, a key part of the Democrats’ platform.
The 2008 campaign is hard-fought, with both candidates spending record amounts of money. McCain, as in 2004, campaigned on his party’s foreign policy record, pointing to the success and popularity of Operation Vigilant Justice in Iraq, Somalia, Darfur, and the Philippines. Clinton campaigns on a domestic-issues platform and slams McCain and the GOP on economic issues. McCain is seen as weak in this area and has no specific plan to bring the nation out of the new recession. Clinton, on the other hand, puts forth a fairly modest recovery plan calling for higher taxes on the very rich and tax cuts for the middle class, exactly the kind of thing pundits expected from the centrist-Democrat Clinton. She also plans to expand social services and give more Americans access to healthcare. In the end, Americans again vote with their pocketbooks, punishing the GOP for the financial crisis and narrowly electing Clinton with 50% of the popular vote to McCain’s 49% (the other 1% go to third parties, especially Ron Paul’s Libertarian campaign, which became an internet phenomenon), and with 335 electoral votes to McCain’s 203.
-2008 Congressional Elections: The GOP is also punished in Congress, where the Democrats gain a substantial majority in the House and a two-seat majority in the Senate.
-Hillary Clinton is inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States and the nation’s first female President. Barack Obama is the nation’s first African-American Vice President. Record-setting crowds attend the inauguration.
-The Gaza Conflict ends, although the blockade remains in place.
-The Icelandic banking system collapses. Prime Minister Haarde resigns and is replaced by Prime Minister Siguroardottir, the world’s first openly lesbian head of state.
-Albania, Croatia and Montenegro join NATO.
-In the Islamic Republic of Iraq, al-Sadr calls upon the residents of Baghdad to defy the American occupation, using violence if necessary. The next day, gunmen attack the US embassy in downtown Baghdad. They kill 12 Iraqi military police and three American soldiers before they are killed themselves. President Clinton declares the IRI a “state sponsor of terrorism”. The United States joins the International Criminal Court and begins seeking to prosecute al-Sadr.
-In Iran, President Ahmadinejad is reelected. His defiance of the United States has made him popular at home in spite of the continuing US/allied oil embargo. Increasing demand from China has kept the Iranian oil industry afloat.
-Dubai World, the state-owned development company responsible for the construction boom in Dubai, requests a debt deferment, signaling the end of the explosive growth of the city.
-A magnitude 7.0 earthquake destroys Port-au-Prince, Haiti. International aid pours in to the country. Vice President Obama visits the capital and makes an inspiring speech on the generosity of the donor nations during this economic crisis. The American press notes that Obama is actually a better public speaker than President Clinton.
-The 2010 Winter Olympics are held in Vancouver.
-An uprising in Kyrgyzstan is bloodily suppressed by the ruling regime.
-The Mexican Drug War worsens as a bus full of tourists in Cancun is hijacked by the Gulf Cartel, which demands the release of its high-ranking members from prison.
-The Baghdad Awakening: Following a terrorist attack by militants tied to al-Sadr’s IRI, thousands of Baghdad residents, both Sunni and Shia, take to the streets to protest the IRI’s sponsorship of terrorism against their fellow Iraqis. Waving the new Republic of Iraq’s flag, they affirm their belief that Baghdad should be kept out of al-Sadr’s hands. The Republic’s government promises to be more inclusive of Sunnis as an extra incentive to keep Baghdad in the Republic, but the fact is that even without this promise, al-Sadr is becoming increasingly disliked in both Iraqs as a tyrant, and the American-backed, Kurdish-dominated government of the north, while certainly not popular, is seen as the lesser of two evils by Sunnis and moderate Shia. Iraq finally stops its plunge into anarchy and begins a long uphill struggle.
A salty snack kills the president in 2002. The world will never be the same. For Want of a Pretzel: (Read) (Comment)
Last edited by Max Sinister; December 10th, 2010 at 12:17 PM.. Reason: discussion link