Thursday, January 06, 2011

State Dept finds Iraq War to be laughing matter

AP notes the Illinois National Guard is preparing to send 75 service members to Iraq. Brian Stanley (Herald News) reports on some of the deployed:

Dennis McWherter has been married for 23 years, his youngest child is 17 and he’s got enough experience in law enforcement to head the narcotics unit as a lieutenant with the Joliet Police Department.
Rigoberto Garcia is still in college, he and his girlfriend of two years have considered getting married in the next few years and he wants to work for a local fire department when he completes his paramedic training.

In Iraq, they will be assinged to preserve the rule of the likes of Moqtada al-Sadr who returned to Iraq yesterday. Alsumaria TV reports, "Head of Al Sadr Front cleric Moqtada Al Sadr returned to Iraq on Wednesday. Al Sadr returned to Najaf after spending three years outside the country in Qumm, Iran. Al Sadr’s visit coincides two weeks after the formation of Iraq’s new government." Iraq is nothing but a laughing matter to the US State Dept as evidenced by yesterday's briefing. When spokesperson Philip J. Crowley was asked about al-Sadr's return, he declared, "Well it's not for us to be for or against any particular leader or party in Iraq." A response that was met with disbelief and led to shocked remarks and bringing up Saddam Hussein (whom the US government started an illegal war to topple). Crowley thought he was being amusing by declaring, "In the new Iraq." It wasn't funny. It's an ongoing war and possibly the next time any State Dept spokesperson sees a war as a laughing matter, they can sign up for forty hours a week of community service at Walter Reed. Might seeing the wounded make them take war a little more seriously next time?

In other Iraq news, the PKK is a rebel group which supports a Kurdish homeland. Turkey, the US and others label the PKK a terrorist organization. (Recent WikiLeaks revelations on the PKK suggest that the US government also backs them from time to time.) The Turkish military regularly bombs the mountains of northern Iraq where the PKK has set up bases. Stephen Farrell, Shiho Fukada and Steven Lee Myers (New York Times -- text, numerous photos and video) report from the mountains:

It is not easy to visit the mountainous borderlands of northern Iraq where the Kurdistan Workers’ Party operates, but it is not impossible either.
Such is the peculiar position of a group of committed insurgents against Turkish rule in Kurdish lands — even as Turkey and Iraq seek deeper and deeper ties, through diplomacy and trade, especially with Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdish region.

A few years back when Oliver August and Deborah Haynes (Times of London) -- among others -- were reporting from the PKK bases in Iraq, Nouri had a meltdown and started threatening to expel any foreign reporters who visited the PKK bases. It's interesting that the New York Times has decided to file this report. This comes as Anthony Shadid files a report on Turkey and its influence in Iraq:

Turkey's influence is greater in northern Iraq and broader, although not deeper, than that of Iran, with its ties to the Shiite leadership, in the rest of the country. While the United States invaded and occupied Iraq, losing more than 4,400 troops there, Turkey now exerts what may prove a more lasting legacy — so-called soft power, the assertion of influence through culture, education and business.
"This is the trick — we are very much welcome here," said Ali Riza Ozcoskun, who heads Turkey's consulate in Basra, one of four diplomatic posts it has in Iraq.
Turkey's newfound influence here has played out along an axis that runs roughly from Zakho in the north to Basra, by way of the capital, Baghdad. For a country that once saw the Kurdish region in northern Iraq as a threat, Turkey has embarked on the beginning of what might be called a beautiful friendship.

Shadid's article and other things lead Judah Grunstein to wonder "Did Turkey Win the Iraq War?" (World Politics Review):

The same can't be said for Turkey, which has also benefitted from the dramatic changes in the region's geostrategic landscape wrought by the Iraq War. This N.Y. Times article detailing Turkey's enormous and growing trade ties in the Kurdish north, as well as its political influence in Baghdad, is only part of the story. Ankara's opposition to the war, and the Bush administration's obstinacy in pursuing it, in some ways prepared the way for Turkey's rebalancing of its foreign policy approach from a Western-focused alignment to a Turkey-centric strategic hub. And the power vacuum created by the fall of Saddam Hussein, though initially as destabilizing as Ankara had feared and warned, subsequently helped create the space for Turkey to assume the regional role it aspired to.

And we'll close with this from World Can't Wait's "Judge Dismisses Cases Against Military Veterans and Anti-war Activists Following December 16th Washington, D.C. Arrests:"

Anti-war military veterans and other activists celebrated a breakthrough victory today in DC Superior Court, when charges were dropped, following arrests in front of the White House, on December 16, 2010. Over 131 people were arrested in a major veteran-led protest while participating in non-violent civil resistance in a driving snowstorm. US Park Police charged all 131 protesters with “Failure to Obey a Lawful Order,” when they refused to move. All remained fixed to the White House fence demanding an end to the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and further US aggression in the region.

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