Thursday, February 3, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee doesn't appear to think US troops are leaving Iraq (nor do they appear to support the departure), one man steals nearly $250,000 of US tax payer monies while working for the State Dept in Baghdad, the US Ambassador to Iraq touts 'progress' and 'stability' in his testimony today as protesters riot in an Iraqi city over the lack of basic services, and more.
Starting in the US with President Barack Obama who declared, "It's time to stop spending billions of dollars a week trying to put Iraq back together and start spending the money putting America back together." Of course, he said that back in Feburary 2008 when he was campaigning for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination and would tell any lie with a happy smile. But what did War Hawk Samantha Power tell the BBC in March 2008, "You can't make a commitment in whatever month we're in now, in Marach of 2008, about what circumstances are going to be like in January 2009. We can't even tell what Bush is up to in terms of troops pauses and so forth. He will of course not rely on some plan that he's crafted as a presidential candidate or as a US Senator." So yet another lie from the man who's told so many.
The State Department is scheduled to assume full security responsibilities in a still dangerous and unpredictable environment and must strike a difficult balance between maintaining a robust presence and providing sufficient level of security. In almost any scenario, the United States will continue to have military personnel stationed at the American embassy in a non-combat role under the Office of Security Cooperation. As in many countries around the world, these troops will be responsible for enhancing the bilateral defense relationship by facilitating security assistance. But the size, scope, and structure of this presence remain undetermined, even at this late date. Perhaps most significantly, it is unclear what kind of security relationship the incoming Iraqi Government would like with the United States.
In the wake of such uncertainities, a complicated diplomatic plan has emerged that highlights a dilemma that will likely confront the nation for as long as counterinsurgency warfare and state-building are central components of American foreign policy: How can the State Department effectively operate in difficult security environments without the support of the American military?
The U.S. Government should ensure that the scope of the mission in Iraq is compatible with the resources available, including State Department capacity, the financial commitment from Congress, a degree of U.S. military support and the backing of the Iraqi Government.
The report highlights key issues and we'll emphasize the first two:
* First, it is unclear whether the State Department has the capacity to maintain and protect the currently planned diplomatic presence without U.S. military support.
* Second, uncertainty about the nature of the U.S. military presence in Iraq after 2012 is complicating all other aspects of transition planning.
Golly, gee, and here we thought the US military presence in Iraq had already been addressed. Or that's what we've been repeatedly told (lied to). The Senate Foreign Relations Committee runs through four options in their report. 1) All US troops leave at the end of 2011 ("except for a limited Office of Secuirty Cooperation housed within the embassy") which would require the State Dept scale back their current plans. 2) Many US troops leave at the end of 2011 but the Office of Security Cooperation is expanded with "military forces" who will "provide logistical support for the Iraqi army, shore up administrative gaps within the Ministry of Defense, and prove 'behind the wire' capabilities". 3) A new security agreement is negotiated to allow the US military to continue in Iraq. ("This approach should only be considered if it comes at Iraq's request".)
Imagine if, instead of lying and providing cover for Barack, Tom Hayden and so many others had stayed focused on the Iraq War and pressed for an end to it? Back to the report:
But regardless of whether the U.S. military withdraws as scheduled or a small successor force is agreed upon, the State Department will take on the bulk of responsibility for their own security. Therefore, Congress must provide the financial resources necessary to complete the diplomatic mission. Consideration should be given to a multiple-year funding authorization for Iraq programs, including operational costs (differentiated from the State Department's broader operational budget), security assistance, and economic assistance programs. The price tag will not be cheap -- perhaps $25 - 30 billion over 5 years -- but would constitute a small fraction of the $750 billion the war has cost to this point.
$25 to 30 billion is what the Senate Foreign Relations is prepping to spend over the next five year on the Iraq War. Yet two years ago this month, campaigning for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, Barack insisted, "It's time to stop spending billions of dollars a week trying to put Iraq back together and start spending the money putting America back together."
You like roses and kisses and pretty men to tell you
All those pretty lies pretty lies
When you gonna realize they're only pretty lies
Only pretty lies just pretty lies
-- "The Last Time I Saw Richard," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her album Blue
Staying with the money issue, we'll again note this exchange from Tuesday's hearing:
Senator Ben Cardin: On that same side, the chairman's talked about a long term committment to Iraq, I think we all understand we're going to be there from the point of view of helping to rebuild the country. What can you tell us is being put in place to make sure that the US funds are being used in the most cost-effective way, that we have protections against US funds being used to help finance corruption -- local corruption -- in the country, how do we avoid that and what are we doing for promoting US values including gender equity issues, making sure that we continue to make progress? Do we have -- Do you have an accountability system in place that gives confidence that we should be considering a more permanent, longterm, committment to Iraq?
US Ambassador James Jeffrey: Yes, sir, on all of those accounts,Senator. First of all, this is an important priority for us and it's an important priority for this administration and the last administration. In fact, a unique institution, uh, the Special uh Inspector General for Iraq, SIGIR, has been set up and they have a very active uh program, they have dozens of uh people stationed or with us TDI either out in the field in Iraq. We also have the State Dept and other IGs but SIGR in particular has been very active in looking into assistance programs and how effective and how efficient they are and, uh, to what extent there is corruption. Uh, I, uh, meet with the head of it, with [Stuart] Bowen, with his deputy and with other members frequently. In addtition, uh, uh, since the time of [former US Ambassador to Iraq] Ryan Crocker, we've organized the embassy in a unique way: where normally we have the ambassador and then a deputy chief of mission But for the economic and assistance elements of it -- we've created essentially a second, uh, deputy chief of mission -- the assistant chief of mission, currently Ambassador Peter Bodde who looks into that and focuses directly on the issues of "Are we getting our bang for the buck?," uh, "Are we looking into corruption?," uh, and these kind of issues. Uh, a good deal of our assistance goes -- and a good deal of our political relationships with Iraqis and our engagement with them goes to issues such as gender equality, minorities, the refugee issue. We have a very, very broad dialogue with them. We played a role behind the scenes on some of the decisions taken in the Iraqi Constitution on -- under equality -- for example, 25% of the Parliament has to be uh, uh female. Uh, now there are problems with this at times. For example, uh Iraqis -- both men and women -- were unhappy with the makeup of the Cabinet. Uh, the prime minister then decided that he would have to hold off on completion of the Cabinet until he could find more female candidates and that process is ongoing.
And as we pointed out Tuesday: "In terms of SIGR, they do strong work. It's also after-the-fact work. Meaning, they are auditing programs that are often completed or the money is all spent. In other words, after the money (or the bulk of it) has been mispent. In addition, how dare an employee of the US State Dept claim responsibility for SIGIR which was created, in 2004, by an act of Congress. 'What are you doing' was the question Jeffrey was asked. The answer is: Not real damn much."
Today AFP reports a US jury found a Jordanian guilty of theft. The US Dept of Justice issued a press release yesterday explaining the man was 36-year-old Osama Esam Saleem Ayesh, "resident of Jordan hired by the Department of State as a shipping and customs supervisor at the embassy in Baghdad". Though DoJ is happy to note he was convicted of "two counts of theft of public money and one count of engaging in acts affecting a personal financial interest," that the first two convictions come with a maximum ten year sentence and the third with a maximum five year sentence and that he stole "nearly $250,000" of US tax payer money, they never note any of it being recovered. They're sketchy on other details as well. Such as when it took place. The Cypress Times reports he wired $243,416 from the US State Dept "to his wife's account in Jordan" and that he conducted his theft from November 2008 through June 2010. So he started stealing in November of 2008 and he wasn't indicted until (according to the DoJ press release) October 15, 2010? The criminal complaint was filed August 16, 2010. One person, two years of theft, of hundreds of thousands of dollars (which no one's rushing to insist were recovered) and we're supposed to believe James Jeffrey's lame remarks about checks to ensure the money is not wasted or misspent?
Switching over the US House of Representatives for a moment, the House Veterans Affairs Committee held their organizational meeting (their first meeting). I had noted earlier this month that they had no meetings scheduled and an e-mail to the public account reminds me that the now-Republican led Committee held a meeting January 26th. Of course, that's not the type of meeting I was referring to (and other House Committees this session held their organizational meetings earlier). I was noting that under Bob Filner's leadership, the House Veterans Affairs Committee and its Subcommittees held four hearings in the month of January -- not one of those was an organizational one. (You can refer to the January 11th snapshot.) They currently have two hearing scheduled for February and two for March (one in March is a joint-hearing with the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee). Jeff Miller is the new Chair and, in fairness to him (and the Republicans), I will note what the e-mail didn't: the Democrats still haven't filled their seats on the Committee. That's nothing to do with Jeff Miller. The Democrats (minority party) have eleven slots on the Committee, four of which remain empty. Bob Filner is the Ranking Member. The Republicans have fifteen slots on the Committee, two remain absent. That does fall on Chair Jeff Miller. Of the four Subcommittees announced, the one we most often follow is the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs and the Chair of it will be Jon Runyan of New Jersey while Jerry McNerney of California will be the Ranking Member. In a press release which came with the e-mail, Chair Jeff Miller states, "I am honored to be chairing this Committee at such a critical time for our nation and its veterans. It will be the top priority of this Committee to ensure stringent oversight over veterans' programs. We must ensure that taxpayer dollars are being used efficiently to provide the best services and world class health care to nation's warriors and their families. I am also proud of the Committee's bipartisan oversight plan that lays out an aggressive agenda that includes 79 specific items. I consider this plan a basic blueprint for our oversight activities but, it is not exclusive and I expect to expand on it throughout the Congress."
Today the US Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on Iraq and Jeffrey and Austin appeared before them to provide testimony. At the top of the meeting, Chair Carl Levin welcomed new Committee members Senators Jeanne Shaheen, Kirsten Gillibrand, Richard Blumenthal, Rob Portman and Kelly Ayotte. In addition, he welcomed back to the Committee Senator John Cornyn who "previously served on the Committee for six years until 2008." As is so often the case, Chair Levin didn't try to pretty it up in his opening statement, instead laying facts as they were.
Chair Carl Levin: Last December, after eight months of discussions, Iraq's political leaders agreed to form a national unity government. But the agreement was only partial. Iraq still awaits the nominations by Prime Minister al-Maliki to the key cabinet positions of Minister of Defense, Minister of Interior and Minister of National Security as well as the resolution of issues relating to the powers of the National Council on Higher Priorities, to be headed by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. The pressure on the Iraqi government to fill in these large gaps must continue.
Yes, this was in stark contrast to the rosy "a government has been formed" we sat through on Tuesday. Levin noted the realities on violence, the realities on the security forces and offered a fact-based opening statement. Again, in stark contrast to Tuesday. Back to his opening statement (and we're jumping ahead, if there was room, we'd include the entire opening statement).
Chair Carl Levin: One major question is what security relationship the United States and Iraq will have once the 2008 Security Agreement expires in December. It is unclear whether the Maliki government will seek any type of continuing US military presence after December given the terms of the security agreement that all our troops be removed by this December. Iraq needs to engage with the United States sooner rather than later if such a request is going to be forthcoming. The government of Iraq should understand that the days of the American tax payer bearing the costs of developing Iraq's security forces are ending. Iraq has significant oil revenue which will continue to increase. According to the latest quarterly report from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, Iraq's efforts to attract foreign investment continue to 'bear fruit' and development of Iraq's oil fields is making 'better than expected progress.' We should work with the government of Iraq to make available the equipment and training it needs for its long-term security, but Iraq should not expect us to bear the costs of its security needs. Finally, an important issue for the government of Iraq remains the security of Christian and other religious minorities. During our visit we met with leaders of Christian communities, which have suffered from suicide attacks, targeted killings, kidnappings and other intimidation by violent extremist forces. These communities live in fear, and large numbers of Christians have either fled the country or uprooted to safer regions in northern Iraq. The leaders we met explained with pride how Iraq has been home to some of the earliest Christian communities and Iraqi Christians do not want to have to leave their country to feel safe. Iraq has a long tradition of religious tolerance. On our visit we urged the government of Iraq to act with urgency to provide the security necessary to preserve these ancient Christian and other religious minority communities and to protect its religious minorities. Ambassador Jeffrey and General Austin, we know from our conversations in Iraq and here that you will continue to keep the safety of the various religious minority communities in Iraq as one of your top priorities in your discussions with the government of Iraq.
After opening statements from Ranking Member John McCain, Austin and Jeffrey.
Chair Carl Levin: You talked about stability and security and self-reliance of an Iraqi state and an Iraqi government and that surely has been the goal. One of the threats to that success and that achievement of that goal and to the stability and security of Iraq is the failure of the political leaders of Iraq to reach conclusions on some critical issues. This has always been a problem, we've always expressed the importance of the political leaders coming together. Now some of the current political issues that are unresolved include the following: an agreement to create a National Council for Higher Policies with real executive power, headed by former Prime Minister Allawi. There's an agreement that the Council be created but there's no agreement on what their powers are. I think I mispoke. There's an agreement that such a Council be created, there's no agreement yet on what the powers of that Council will be. The positions of Minister of Defense, Interior and National Security are still unfilled. There is no agreement yet on oil policies, the division of oil revenues. These are huge issues that remain unresolved and I believe threaten the goals and objectives that we have and hopefully that the Iraqis have for themselves. Can you comment on this matter? Is it important that the leaders of Iraq get on with the decisions in those areas, Ambassador?
Ambassador James Jeffrey: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chair Carl Levin: And we're going to have a seven minute round, by the way. I usually announce how long the round of questions will be.
Ambassador James Jeffrey: It is vitally important that they finish the job of forming the government. Uh, they have taken most of the steps necessary but, uh, you have outlined several of the remaining issues that we've been pressing them on but more importantly they've been pressing themselves on. We have seen some progress in the last several weeks on the National Council and the two sides have basically agreed to everything but the modality of how to select Dr. Ayad Allawi. Everybody agrees that he should be selected. We think that this should be resolved in the next few days. I was in contact with President [Masoud] Barzani of the, uh, Kurdistan Regional Government, uh, this morning and the embassy with other people, uh, to take the temperature of where we are on these steps. There are also some names that are floating on compromise candidates for both of those ministries that you mentioned. And, again, we are encouraged by what we've heard over the past several days but the proof is in the pudding and we have to see uh, uh, if they will finish the job. It is very important that they finish the job and get on with the business of, uh, government. On the oil account -- two positive developments. Uh, as with everything else in Iraq, it moves forward in relatively small steps, Senator, but it does move forward. The, uh, Kurds and the other coalition parties agreed on a 19-point plan or on most of a 19-point plan that includes giving priority to a hydrocarbons law and a revenue sharing law. This vital. But meanwhile the central government, Prime Minister Maliki personally and the Kurdistan Regional Government have agreed on an interum step of allowing up to 150,000 barrels of oil in the Kurdistan Regional Government to flow out into the pipeline. This is a very significant development and it gives us hope that they will continue down this path, sir.
Chair Carl Levin: Thank you. General Austin, is the withdrawal of our forces by the end of this year as agreed to by President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki on track?
Gen Lloyd Austin: Thank you, Senator. It is indeed on track. Uh, we just recently completed our planning process that will, uh, will govern the rest of -- the remainder activities from now until the end of December. And we've issued Operations Order 1101 which again prescribes, uh, the major activities that we will be conducting focused on strengthening the Iraqi Security Forces, uh, reposturing our forces, uh, and also transitioning responsibilities, uh, to, uh, the Embassy, the government of Iraq and Central Command. We continue to synchronize that plan and we're also synchronizing the activities of the Embassy along with our activities as we -- as we go about executing the plan.
Chair Carl Levin: Thank you. Is there any indication -- and I'll ask this of both of you -- that Iraq is going to request that any elements of our military forces remain beyond December?
Ambassador James Jeffrey: We have received, uh, no such request, Senator. We are working with the Iraqis, as the general said, on the security elements of our post 2011 presence which will include a large OSCI element for our security cooperation and the police training which will be a major program both of these are under the framework of the Security -- uh, the Strategic Framework Agreement which was the second agreement signed in 2008. It does not have a deadline and calls for a broad cooperation across the spectrum of bilateral relations including specifically security. So we're working with the Iraqis now on just what exactly the components of that would be, sir.
Chair Carl Levin: Do you expect a request beyond that from the Iraqi government?
Ambassador James Jeffrey: We haven't yet, sir, and I-I can't say what they'll do in the future.
Chair Car Levin: We don't have any indication that such a request is going to be forthcoming? As of this time?
Ambassador James Jeffrey: As of this time there's no specific request on the table. They will want to see how we will meet their training and equipping needs uh with the program that we set up.
Gen Lloyd Austin: Senator, I echo the Ambassador's comments. We haven't had any requests. And, again, I think he covered the entire gamut there so I would not add anything to that.
On the National Council, Jeffrey was Happy Talking. Haider Roa (Iraqhurr.org) reported yesterday that Iraqiya is very bothered by the delay and quoted Iraqiya member Saleh al-Mutlaq (second only to Allawi in terms of power in the Iraqiya bloc) stating he would be stepping down if there is not movement on the National Council while others express their dismay and Andan al-Sarraj (State Of Law -- Nouri's slate) insists that implementing is taking place.
In his questions, Ranking Member John McCain noted one obvious problem with the claim that US forces leave at the end of December.
Ranking Member John McCain: Are they [Iraq] going to be able to build an air force without US presence there?
Gen Lloyd Austin: They-they do have a number of options to both aquire equipment from-from or training from other nations. Certainly --
Ranking Member John McCain: So they would have to aquire equipment and trainers from other nations?
Gen Lloyd Austin: They-they would.
It's been known for years now that the US Air Force will have to be in Iraq beyond 2011 in order to train the Iraqi Air Force. How far back. From the June 14, 2007 snapshot:
The Pentagon report has many sections and one of interest considering one of the 2007 developments may be this: "There are currently more than 900 personnel in the Iraqi Air Force. . . . The fielding of rotary-wing aircraft continued with the delivery to Taji of five modified UH II (Iroquois) helicopters, bringing the total delivered to ten. The final six are scheduled to arrive in June. Aircrews are currently conducting initial qualifications and tactics training. The Iroquois fleet is expected to reach initial operation capability by the end of June 2007." By the end of June 2007? One of the developments of 2007 was the (admission of) helicopter crashes. US helicopters. British helicopters. Some may find comfort in the fact that evacuations and mobility will be handled by Iraqis . . . whenever they are fully staffed and trained. Four years plus to deliver the equipment, training should be done in ten or twenty years, right?
They note the claims by puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki made over the weekend that can only be described as 'get tough' and how "Additional Iraqi tanks and aircraft arrived in Mosul" and I'll assume they think we're flat out stupid since there's no Iraqi "aircraft" to speak of and the Iraqi air force does not conduct missions and is begging for money to upgrade their air 'power.'
There's no rush to leave Iraq or even a desire. That needs to be grasped. Iraqi General Nasier Abadi made that pretty clear during Sunday's press conference in the Green Zone. Questioned by the Washington Post's Mary Beth Sheridan as to when the Iraqis would be able to handle "their own internal security . . . how many years are you away from reaching that goal," Abadi tried to distract by listing duties before declaring, "We have no duties or missions to protect the air on the borders of the country. But in case we have this responsibility, there is a brief that -- to the minister of defense, if he ask us to -- task us with that, a reportw ent also to the Prime Minister, what are the capabilities and the army's specifics to do those duties?" Asked how many years again, he responded, "Building an aerial force, building an Army is not easy, but it's still easier than building naval and air force. The naval force, as I said before, that the first ship will come in 2009 and the fourth will arrive in . . . at the end of 2011. In regard to 200- . . . Air Force, the first aircraft we will receive in 2011 until 2015. And that depends on the support and the help that the coalition forces can secure to Iraq so we can be able to maintain and defend our airspace and territories. Without that, there will be also agreements with the neighboring countries on the security of Iraq. But it's possible that we will go with those missions without having an air force or naval force because this is a common battle, it's not just an army's duty." Setting aside the naval force and focusing only on the air, if the period they'll be taking possession of aircraft will last from 2011 through 2015, how likely is it that they will be prepared to handle their own airspaceby the end of 2011?
At today's hearing, McCain stated he was "very concerned about Sadr, his activities, his followers and his close ties with Iran as well as Talabani and others. I mean, I'll just be very -- And I'm deeply concerned about that." Talabani does have diplomatic ties to Iran and a bit more than that but I believe John McCain meant "Maliki." If that section had been clear, we'd be highlighting it but the Talabani aspect mucked it all up (especially when al-Maliki is close to Iran and wasn't included in the statement). It was also interesting to watch Jeffrey downplay "king maker" Moqtada al-Sadr. We agree with his comments and have made them here but in light of the press orgasm over Moqtada's (brief) return to Iraq, it was interesting to hear Jeffrey say of al-Sadr's bloc, "But at the end of the day, Senator, they received 660,000 votes out of more than 12 million cast. They have only 39 seats in the coalition which has roughly 300 seats and, uh, their role -- which is relatively minor in the government -- reflects their voting power."
We'll wind down noting Senator Jack Reed's foolishness.
Senator Reed: As the mission migrates from the Dept of Defense and from DoD to the civilian side, the State Dept, as it looks more like foreign aid than supporting troops in the field, the reality, which Senator McCain pointed out, in this environment, is going to be very difficult to sustain and he's also pointed out perceptively if we don't sustain this effort than we have invested a lot of blood and a lot of material in an effort that could be frustrated. That would be a tragedy.
In Iraq, Ali Abdel Gentlemen (Al Mada) reports, many Iraqis see not the progress Jeffreys spoke of but "a paralysis of government" and more and more and more are taking to the streets to protest "the deterioration of living conditions" which is why leather and textile workers protested in Baghad and Hilla this week and activist Mohammed Salami is quoted stating, "There is daily frustration over the fact that successive political changes have not brought a new [better] level of service." That was earlier this week. Today things were not so peaceful. Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) reports that the police began shooting at protesters in Diwaniya today (at least three were injured). Approximatley one thousand were out in the streets calling attention to the "shortages of power, water and other services" and they "set tires ablaze, hurled stones and tried to storm the local police station, witnesses said." But Jeffrey wanted to ride yet another wave of Operation Happy Talk while appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee today.
Today Iraq was rocked with violence. Reuters reports 3 Ramabid bombs claimed 6 lives with twelve injured (police's toll is 8 dead and 22 injured), a Ramadi roadside bombing left 4 children and 5 police officers injured, 2 Baghdad roadside bombings claimed 2 lives and left twelve people injured, a third Baghdad roadside bombing injured two police officers, a fourth claimed 2 lives and left four more people wounded, a fifth Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 2 lives and lef three people injured, a Samarra suicide bomber took his own life and wounded three people, in Tuz Khurmato a police man driving with his family was attacked by gunmen who shot dead 1 of his children and injured "him and two of his other children" and 1 "employee of a government bank" in Baghdad was shot dead. On the suicide bombing, Fang Yang (Xinhua) reports that police in Salahudin Province are claiming credit for 'foiling' a suicide attack by "forcing a suicide bomber to blew up his explosive vest, wounding two people" -- no, that does not sound like foiling to me either. Alsumaria TV drops back to Tuesday today to note, "Two members of Iraqi Intelligence Forces were killed in two separate incidents in Baghdad on Tuesday night. Unknown gunmen opened fire on Tuesday night on the car of Razzaq Qasem Ali, a division chief at Iraqi Intelligence Department, as he was passing near Baghdad gate in Taji District, a police source told Alsumaria News. Qassem Ali was killed on the spot. Another intelligence officer was killed in the same way and in the same region few hours following the first incident."
Yesterday Alsumaria TV broke news. (Again we ask, where are the US outlets?) Despite Nouri and a so-called legal expert insisting that the power-grab (Nouri got the Supreme Court to put independent bodies under his control) was Constitutional, "Alsumaria News got a copy of a document released by Iraq's Supreme Court in 2006 in clarification to the inquiries of the former Parliament's Integrity Commission over the exact meaning of independence mentioned in Constitution Article 102 and the difference in content between Articles 102 and 103. The court's clarification came contradictory with its last ruling on January 18 stipulating to have independent institutions supervised by the Cabinet and not the Parliament." We've pointed out this week that the Electoral Commission has specifically asked the United Nations to step in and the embarrassing nonsense the UN's top person in Iraq, Ad Melkert, offered (boiled down: Ignore this issue, let's focus on the economy!). Yaser Ali (AK News) reports:
Al-Iraqiya deputy Hani Ashour told AKnews that Melkert's comments contravene the mission of the UN in Iraq which is to support the country in its democratic foundations and help the Iraqi people without interfering in constitutional and legal details. [. . .] "The natural role of the Council of Representatives is to consider the implications of such decisions through dialogue between parliament and the government to agree on the definition of independence," he told reporters in Baghdad. Ashour said that the UN must promote the convergence of views between the political parties, and not to offer its support to any one faction. What is at stake here, said the al-Iraqiya deputy, is the "independence of the Iraqi institutions according to the constitution".
In other Parliament news, Ayas Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports that the members of Parliament are being prevented from visiting Iraqi prisons unannounced and an unnamed official in Nineveh states this is due to the fact that a number of prisoners are missing and that these people are being held in secret prisons. Acommok notes the news comes after Human Rights Watch revealed Nouri and his forces are running secret prisons. Iraqhurr.org reports that the Minister of Justice Hassan Shammari met yesterday with the International Committee of the Red Cross Iraq Chief Magne Barth and promised the the ICRC would be able to visit Camp Honor which has been identifed by Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) and by Human Rights Watch as one of the secret prisons. AFP quotes ICRC spokesperson Layal Horanieh stating, "We did talk about access to places of detention, including the place in question in the Green Zone. It is a strong dialogue, a good dialogue and it's a beginning we hope to help us gain access to the places we want to gain access to." AFP also notes that despite the ministry's Deputy Minister Busho Ibrahim claiming last month that the ICRC had inspected Camp Honor, the ICRC "has never inspected the facility."
Meanwhile Ali Abdel Gentlemen (Al Mada) reports that the Cabinet is checking their offices for listening devices, are constructing new office walls out of fear of listening devices and that trust is in short supply with the behavior indicated a state of high anxiety among politicians and an unnamed insider (who plyas "a leading role in a political bloc) declares that "Maliki himself does not trust anyone."
This report back will be to answer questions from media and the peace movement about the recent trip back to Iraq by members of Iraq Veterans Against the War. The war is not over but it is not the same as it was in years past. What is the humanitarian situation in Iraq?
How can we do reparations and reconciliation work?
Speakers are all returning from this delegation and include:
March 19 is the 8th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Iraq today remains occupied by 50,000 U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of foreign mercenaries.
The war in Afghanistan is raging. The U.S. is invading and bombing Pakistan. The U.S. is financing endless atrocities against the people of Palestine, relentlessly threatening Iran and bringing Korea to the brink of a new war.
While the United States will spend $1 trillion for war, occupation and weapons in 2011, 30 million people in the United States remain unemployed or severely underemployed, and cuts in education, housing and healthcare are imposing a huge toll on the people.
Actions of civil resistance are spreading.
On Dec. 16, 2010, a veterans-led civil resistance at the White House played an important role in bringing the anti-war movement from protest to resistance. Enduring hours of heavy snow, 131 veterans and other anti-war activists lined the White House fence and were arrested. Some of those arrested will be going to trial, which will be scheduled soon in Washington, D.C.
Saturday, March 19, 2011, the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, will be an international day of action against the war machine.
Protest and resistance actions will take place in cities and towns across the United States. Scores of organizations are coming together. Demonstrations are scheduled for San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and more.