Wednesday, December 29, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the KRG worries about a military coup, Mosul is slammed with suicide bombers, and more.
Mosul slammed with suicide bombers today. Alsumaria TV reports it was 6 suicide bombers, that they attacked a police station in Mosul, that police managed to shoot dead three of them, that one fled and one detonated taking the life of Shamel Akla (also spelled Shamil Oglaq in some press reports) while the police chief was targeted with a roadside bombings (which he survived). BBC News counts three suicide bombers, says one was killed by police and has the other two entering the police station where they set off their bombs. The BBC's numbers and narrative match with Sinana Salaheddin's AP report. AFP adds that 3 other police officers were killed in the attack and they cite an unnamed police officer calling this the fifth attempt on Oglaq's life. John Leland (New York Times) reports 1 bomber blew himself up outside the station, two charged in and detonated "killing the police commander, Lt. Col. Shamel Ahmed al-Jabori, who was asleep in his quarters, according to the head of the provincial security and defense committee, Abdulrahem al-Shermari. The blast brought down the building, trapping others inside. Local officials said they did not know how many people were killed or wounded." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) notes, "Several officers were unaccounted for after the blast and rescue crews were at the scene late Wednesday morning scouring through the wreckage of the building, looking for them." In other violence, Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing injured two civilians, an attack on a Baghdad police patrol which left two police officers injured, a Salman Pak sticky bombing which injured a judge, a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed 1 life and injured another person and, dropping back to yesterday, a Baghdad sticky bombing targeting a Sahwa who was left unharmed. John Leland (New York Times) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left five more injured.
Yesterday, attacks in Mosul claimed 8 lives. Mosul is in Nineveh Province and, from yesterday's snapshot, we'll note this on the political unrest and political connections:
Hamid al-Zubaidi (Iraq Hurr) reports that last night in Mosul, the Presidency of the Conference of Nineveh, calls were made for the removal of the governor of Nineveh Province (Ethel Nujaifi also spelled Atheel al-Najafi). It's been a busy second half of the year for Nujaifi. In August, he was nearly assassinated, in September he condemned a US raid in Mosul and the arrests which followed, dubbing them "politically motivated," October saw further tensions between the Provincial Council and Nujaifi and that Nujaifi was angling for the post of Foreign Minister (Hoshyar Zebari had the post at that time and Zebari holds the post in last week's 'new' announced Cabinet) and, along with many other activities, he also helped delay the census. Last night in Mosul, Nujaifi was accused of overstepping his role and exceeding his powers due to various alleged abuses including the appointment of a mayor whom he allegedly has ties to. His brother is Osama Najafi who is the new Speaker of Parliament. New Sabah reports Osama Najafi is raising the issues of salaries in the Parliament -- Jalal Talabani's and the two vice presidents. As President of Iraq, Talabani's salary "is more than the salary of [US] President Barack Obama." It is agued that laws are needed to address this -- the same argument was made in the previous Parliament. Nujaifi, who surprised many by disclosing his own finances in a Monday Parliament session, is calling for other MPs and Cabinet ministers to do the same.
Meanwhile the national government. The New York Times' editorial board weighs in today with "An Iraqi Government, Finally" that gets taken in by Sam Dagher's 'reporting' the way so many of the rest of us did early yesterday morning. They provide a fleeting overview. They do manage to note there is only one woman in Nouri's Cabinet. That's about it. The editorial could have been written a few months ago. Most outlets (Baltimore Sun, Washington Post, etc.) wrote their 'new government' editorials last week -- when the Cabinet was announced (Tuesday of last week was the Parliament vote). An editorial that's allegedly about a cabinet should note that Nouri's holding three posts in addition to PM and that the three additional posts are part of at least ten posts that were not filled. That's fairly basic and those who turn their assignments in late are really required to offer something outstanding.
On the issue of the still unsettled Cabinet, Alsumaria TV is reporting on ongoing squabbles over one post. They note, "In a statement over Kurds' demands to take over one of the security ministries, National Alliance MP Ali Shallah affirmed that there is no political agreement between Kurds and Al Maliki over allocating the National Security Ministry to Kurdistan Alliance." And they note: "National Alliance MP Nada Al Soudani affirmed that Iraq's security ministries will not be subject to political apportionment. In a statement to Alsumaria, Al Soudani noted that plans to choose security ministers among independent figures might be hindered." That's two members of the National Alliance (Shi'ite bloc) who've felt the need to go on the record today insisting that the Kurds had no automatic hold on the National Security Ministry. Alsabaah reports that the plan is to announce the post next week and quotes a colleague of Nouri's insisting "al-Maliki refused to be pressured on this issue of selecting the Minister of Security." And they remind that Nouri only named 29 posts last week (plus the 3 he named himself to) while there are 42 positions. There are also calls from the National Alliance for the process to be speeded up and for more women to be named with the latter calls being led by the Virtue Party's Kamilp Moussawi who notes that the last Cabinet had 7 women ministers. In addition, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has received a letter from female MPs formally protesting the marginalization of women in the Cabinet. As noted last Wednesday, among the female MPs protesting the inequality is Ala Talabani, Jalal's niece. On the issue of Kurds in Baghdad, Saman Basharati (Rudaw) reports that 1,000 peshmerga (Kurdish forces) have been sent to the city due to rumors "of a military coup" and "This is the first time since 2003 that a top Kurdish official has acknowledged the threat to Kurdish politicians of a military coup." In other unrest, Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reports on a mood -- move? -- in Basra that continues to argue for the city to become its own region -- not unlike the KRG in the north -- and it would certainly have the oil riches to fund any adventures. It also has a highly important sea port as well as Basra International Airport. There have been two efforts at forcing a vote on the issue and Salaheddin reports a third may emerge now that Nouri has named his (partial) Cabinet finally. The Economist observes, "The biggest worry is over the failure so far to name three 'power ministers' to run interior, defense and national security. Until those posts have been allotted, Mr Maliki will hold them himself. He has already shown a tendency to use the police and army for his own political ends, so the sooner they are dished out the better. In any event, it is vital for Iraq's future that they fall under civilian control and do not become political fiefs."
Yesterday, Sam Dagher dominated the news as only a spinner can do after he filed "Iraq Wants the U.S. Out" which opened:
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ruled out the presence of any U.S. troops in Iraq after the end of 2011, saying his new government and the country's security forces were capable of confronting any remaining threats to Iraq's security, sovereignty and unity. Mr. Maliki spoke with The Wall Street Journal in a two-hour interview, his first since Iraq ended nine months of stalemate and seated a new government after an inconclusive election, allowing Mr. Maliki to begin a second term as premier. A majority of Iraqis -- and some Iraqi and U.S. officials -- have assumed the U.S. troop presence would eventually be extended, especially after the long government limbo. But Mr. Maliki was eager to draw a line in his most definitive remarks on the subject. "The last American soldier will leave Iraq" as agreed, he said, speaking at his office in a leafy section of Baghdad's protected Green Zone. "This agreement is not subject to extension, not subject to alteration. It is sealed."
And then Dagher quickly moved on to other topics. There's reporting and there's lying. When we wrote yesterday morning, we noted Nouri's pattern and other things that Dagher should have noted in his article. The Wall St. Journal, so thrilled to finally have a scoop (have they had even one since Murdoch took over the paper), quickly released the transcript of Dagher's interview and uh-oh, not quite as definitive as he painted it.
In the third paragraph of the excerpt above, he quotes Nouri stating, "The last American soldier will leave Iraq." And then he jumps to "This agreement is not subject to extension, not subject to alteration. It is sealed." Let's go to the transcript and I'm going to put what Dagher quoted in italics:
The last American soldier will leave Iraq. Secondly this agreement is sealed and at the time we designated it as sealed and not subject to extension, except if the new government with Parliament's approval wanted to reach a new agreement with America, or another country, that's another matter. This agreement is not subject to extension, not subject to alteration, it is sealed, it expires on Dec. 31
Wow. Journalistic malpractice before our own eyes. What Dagher's established is that no one should ever trust a quote from him again. He cherry picked to spin the story the way he wanted and deliberately left out a very pertinent fact. (Though he doesn't quote him, like a good Rudith Miller, Dagher does bury the possibility of a new SOFA in paragraph thirteen. Alsumaria TV demonstrates how Dagher's distortions are spread across Iraq.)
Nouri's statements are cagey and make more sense today. The SOFA would have to be replaced, we've long noted that. If the US military presence continues in Iraq (and is not fudged as "State Dept mission"), the SOFA would have to be replaced with something. That's how the UN mandate worked as well. Nouri pushes the burden off onto Parliament and with his past history that's meaningless.
But as usual, Juan Cole's an idiot. The cheerleader for the war who then was against it, then saw a turned corner, then didn't know what he was doing, then got testy when Steve Rendall mentioned some of this reality in a CounterSpin interview, thinks that because he has a few groupies who allow him to constantly blog in a revisionary style, the whole world will hail him as a genius. Keep dreaming.
Juan Cole plays idiot (plays?) quoting a State Dept cable on the issue of the occupation and Iraqi opinion of it. So that's an interp of an interp? And we're supposed to believe it? The cable exists I'm not denying it. I'm also not a stupid asshole who thinks information and opinions are freely shared in an occupation. Or that third-hand gossip is necessarily "news." Juan wants you to know that the Parliament could never approve a SOFA, never!!!! Again, Nouri's pattern is to subvert the Parliament. I don't know who's been doing Cole's lectures and testing but maybe he needs to turn his blog over to his TA? Let's assume for a moment that this was an issue that went before Parliament. Cole argues:
There are not 163 votes in parliament for an extension of the US troop presence, and any move in that direction would likely cause al-Maliki's government to fall. Muqtada al-Sadr's followers have 40 seats in parliament and are the leading party in the National Iraqi Alliance, the Shiite fundamentalist parties, who have a total of 70 seats. They would pull out of al-Maliki's government and likely return to militia activity were he to betray their expectations in that way. Al-Maliki's own State of Law coalition, including his Islamic Mission Party (Da`wa) is certainly not going to plump for US troops to remain. It has 89 seats. Those two Shiite religious blocs have 159 seats between them. And, among the Sunni Arabs of the Iraqiya, there would certainly be at least 4 who opposed retaining US troops. Voila, 163. No parliamentary approval.
Third-hand news and lousy crystal visions -- it's as if Juan Cole formed a cheap Fleetwood Mac cover band to do a Rumors tribute.
A number of people -- including guess who -- spent forever claiming the SOFA wouldn't get pushed through in the first place. It did. Probably a good idea not to try to predict what the future holds. But if you're going to, probably a good idea to know a thing or two.
Unlike Juan Cole, we've covered the targeting of Iraqi Christians. We've covered it repeatedly and regularly. That has several times meant drawing a very firm line on a number of topics. One of which is that the supporters in the US who organize rallies are advocating for the US military to remain in Iraq for the near future. (As noted many times before, we don't support that.) Is Juan aware of that? Probably not. He certainly doesn't write as if he is.
Most likely, those Iraqi Christians in the Parliament would vote for the US to stay. The State Dept has long considered the Kurdish bloc a sure thing to vote for the US to stay. Once you note those, it's not too difficult to note other things. Such as the split between Moqtada's bloc and the Iraqi National Alliance whose leader increasingly tilts westward.
And then there's the most important thing of all -- which Juan is too 'pure' (too much of a priss, actually) to note -- money. Palms were greased and then some in November 2008. Palms will be greased again. It is not at all difficult to see a similar vote as that which took place in November 2008: a large number of MPs bailing on the vote. Those who remain left to insist on this extra and that bonus.
Nouri's not popular. The stalemate only made him less so. He was hoping to be feared as iron-fisted Nouri. But the stalemate just reminded everyone of how, in his four-year term as PM, Nouri never could seal the deal. He's a wanna be strong man who lacks the fear factor with the public.
It's not difficult to see him (yet again) throwing his lot in with the US. It's paid very well for him thus far and neither Iran nor the US really seems focused on much more than pushing Iraq back and forth between them like a shiny, rubber ball.
"They gave me a gun" he said
"They gave me a mission
For the power and the glory --
Propaganda -- piss on 'em.
There's a war zone inside me --
I can feel things exploding --
I can't even hear the f**king music playing
For the beat of -- the beat of black wings."
[. . .]
"They want you -- they need you --
They train you to kill --
To be a pin on some map --
Some vicarious thrill --
The old hate the young
That's the whole heartless thing
The old pick the wars
We die in 'em
To the beat of -- the beat of black wings."
-- "The Beat of Black Wings," words and music by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her
Chalk Mark In A Rainstorm.
British citizen Danny Fitzsimons' trial began in Baghdad today and he could receive the death penalty. He served in the British military for eight years and was stationed in Afghanistan and Kosovo before returning to Iraq as a contractor in the fall of 2009. He is accused of being the shooter in an August 9, 2009 Green Zone incident in which 1 British contractor, Paul McGuigan, and 1 Australian contractor, Darren Hoare, died and one Iraqi, Arkhan Madhi Saleh, was injured. Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reports Arkan Mahdi Saleh took the stand today and testified, "I was standing at a guard post when I heard some movements behind me. When I turned back to check, I saw Fitzsimons with a pistol in his hand and aiming at me."
Liz Fitzsimons: You see, when he came out of the army because the army had always been his life, it was then at a real crossroads in his life and where some people might be able to cope, unfortunately, Daniel didn't cope well because he did enjoy army life. It was all he ever wanted, he loved it. And you come out and you live Middleton, which is where he ended up, and he couldn't find a path that suited him, he couldn't find a job although he tried very hard. And a testament to Daniel is that he joined a gym and kept himself -- Daniel likes routine. Daniel goes to the gym every day almost, I would suggest, every day, goes jogging he's a very clean young man. You know, he's not sort of gone wayward and just gone to the dogs kind of thing. And he met a girl, like you want your children to do, but then he wanted the normal life and he wanted the money that would go with a normal life. How does he do that when he can't find a job? And unfortunately becoming a security --
Eric Fitzsimons: He went back into doing security.
Liz Fitzimons: -- person in Iraq. [. . .] Oh, awful. Awful. The situation in Iraq isn't good, is it? We all know it's not good. But he would be out in convoys I believe their main job is to escort to --
Eric Fitzsimons: Oil [workers? Second word isn't clear.]
Liz Fitzsimons : Yes but they do escort people to jobs. And they do ride shotgun basically. They ride around --
Eric Fitzsimons: He's told us quite a lot of --
Liz Fitzsimons: Yeah.
Eric Fitsimons: -- tales.
Liz Fitzsimons: He saw some awful things. The person in the cab next to him was blown up.
Eric Fitzsimons: Yeah.
Liz Fitzsimons: Next to him. At the same he had a bullet in his foot.
Eric Fitzsimons: Bullet in his foot, yeah, he's seen all sorts of IEDs you know, sorts of explosions at the side of the road. Loads and loads of them. And seen lots and lots of his friends killed
Responding to a new televised appeal to David Cameron made by Danny Fitzsimons, the British security contractor detained in Iraq and awaiting trial for murder, Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock said: "It's obviously right that private military and security contractors are made fully responsible for any alleged wrongdoing when they're working in places like Iraq, but we're very concerned about this case. "Iraq has an appalling record of unfair capital trials and there's a definite danger of Danny Fitzsimons being sentenced to death after a shoddy judicial process. "David Cameron should certainly seek assurances from the Iraqi authorities that Mr Fitzsimons will receive a fair trial and that the death penalty will be ruled out from the beginning." Iraq is one of the biggest users of the death penalty in the world. Last year Iraq executed at least 120 people, the third highest of any country in the world. Approximately 1,000 prisoners are currently on death row, many reportedly close to execution.
"I would like to reiterate the importance of peaceful co-existence and religious tolerance in Iraq and call on the federal government to make the protection of Christians and religious sites a priority. We will always defend the rights of the Christian community and we repeat that the Kurdistan Region is open to embrace the displaced Christians."
The incident that took place in Iraq is still being investigated, but can be readily accessed online following the links to any major newspaper. The incident took place in the early hours of Sunday 9th August, after a drink fuelled argument led to Danny being set upon and beaten. In response Danny has drawn his sidearm and shot his two colleagues dead. One cannot explain the amount of confusion and grief that has affected all families involved in this incident and even as Danny's brother, my initial thoughts were immediately for the victims and their grief stricken families. However, I consider myself to be a fair man, and I cannot avoid the fact that I believe there is a third victim in this incident; Danny Fitzsimons, and that mercy must be shown to him. Danny should never have been able to set foot in Iraq, and certainly should not have been given a job working for one of the biggest security firms working in there. Danny left the UK without any of his family knowing, and whilst being wanted by the UK Police force for previous charges. I am unclear as to how Danny managed to leave the country undetected, and very confused as to how he managed to secure a job with a company who are quoted as saying they 'have a strong vetting procedure' for employees. Not only was Danny a wanted man with an extensive criminal record when he left for Iraq, but he also suffered from severe mental stress including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other personality disorders linked to aggression, dual personality and alcohol problems. This is a soldier who has spent seven months in prison for previous offences, a soldier who 'has killed more people than he can count' both in the army as a very young soldier and as a private security worker, a soldier who has been trained by the armed forces to be an efficient killer and sniper, a soldier who has fought bravely for his country in five different conflicts and wars, and more importantly a soldier who suffers from mental illness and has been given a position of high responsibility, armed with high calibre weaponry, in probably the most hostile and emotionally stressful location on the planet. Because I am not a psychologist, I cannot comment accurately on some of the stressful and horrific situations Daniel has faced countless times as both a soldier in the army and as a private security worker. However, it is truthful to say that what he has endured as a soldier far exceeds that the average human could. Danny joined the army at the age of sixteen. By eighteen he had been shot at and had had to kill enemy soldiers. At this time he also witnessed gruesome and vile acts of murder and torture of fellow human beings. In one instance Danny came home on leave boasting to myself and the rest of our family of how he had befriended and child and how he had given the child chocolates and helped better his life in a war ravaged city. Later on in the tour Danny discovered the same child, cut into pieces and stuffed in transparent plastic bags in an industrial freezer. To this day Danny suffers with insomnia, alcoholism, and re-occurring nightmares as a result of the trauma he has faced. He has lost countless numbers of friends and frequently has had to perform clean up missions; collecting his friends body parts from incident areas under heavy fire. It is my opinion that there are not adequate policies and procedures in place to assist soldier who have faced traumatic and horrific experiences, and this trend of ex soldiers finding it difficult to conform to civilian life will continue. The statistics are alarming. Prior to going to Iraq, Daniel served time in prison and was truly remorseful for his conviction throughout his sentence and as he has since left. Prison life agreed with Danny. It gave him structure and clear goals. I was in court the day Danny's sentence came to an end and he displayed a positive attitude towards life after prison. It would be reasonable to say that he had a truly different outlook on life and was quick to listen and converse with all around him about his plans for the future. There were signs that Danny would turn things around and would be able to control some of the anguish and pain that he felt. At that point my opinion would have been that Danny could have made a very positive contribution towards society and would continue to make steps towards building a future characterised by honesty and integrity. As with many former heroes of the armed forces; Danny progress was limited and slipped back into his 'darker side' prior to and whilst in Iraq. This is a side unimaginable to you and me. A side that involves regular episodes of crying at the despair of fallen comrades, and self harm linked to the guilt felt for the child chopped to pieces and stuffed in a freezer. Danny suffers with paranoia and is convinced people are sneaking up on him in public. I cannot believe that Danny was contracted to work out in Iraq, given these clear and very observable remarks on his character. I do not believe in war, and I certainly do not believe in the death sentence. Danny's solicitor from the UK has travelled out to Iraq already and assures me that the justice system is a far cry from our own. It is likely that Danny will hang in Iraq. It is also possible that Danny will face a sentence in Iraqi jail -- a sentence I am told is as good as the death sentence given the danger posed to him being a British private security worker, by fellow inmates. We are campaigning to bring Danny back home to face a public trial here in the UK. The Iraqi system will not take Danny's mental health into consideration, a factor which is crucial to the outcome of his case. I believe Danny should take responsibility for his actions and would not question any sentence imposed by our system, but I cannot sit back and watch my brother hang in Iraq given the circumstances of the offence. Danny is not well, and should never have been in Iraq in the first place". Please show your support by 'clicking' yes to our campaign. We are a normal, caring family and are desperately seeking funds to take our campaign forwards. We need money for advertising, educational resources for Danny in Iraq and our legal team. Any donations will be greatly appreciated. In order to make a donation please follow the 'PayPal' link. Many thanks