Friday, April 08, 2011

In Baghdad this morning, the chant is "OUT WITH THE OCCUPIERS!"

Great Iraqi Revolution
It's Friday, protests are taking place in Iraq. Illustration from the Great Iraqi Revolution. The Great Iraqi Revolution notes, "Thousands , [F]riday Prayers - The Imam Shaikh Taha spoke frankly and critically - he was courageous and brave because he covered all the relevant points - he did not leave anything out and then the speeches, chants, slogans and thousands of people - women, old crippled men in wheelchairs and children - are all there now - Turn on Baghdad Satellite Station and you will see it all LIVE." Today is Departure Friday and the chant in Baghdad's Liberation Square is "OUT WITH THE OCCUPIERS!". The Great Iraqi Revolution notes: "All the roads to Tahrir are open at the moment so please all you Young Men and Women - all you Iraqi Brave Revolutionaries - Your God and Your Country demand your presence in Tahrir. Peacefully Peacfully - Dont allow them to force you to react - this is the price we have to pay to get rid of the Occupation and their stooge gang of a government."

Meanwhile Alsumaria TV notes, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki informed US Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the government refuses any US or foreign military presence in Iraq, Cabinet spokesman Ali Al Dabbagh said in a statement to Alsumaria." The US knows Nouri's hold on power is weak and possibly fading and have already agreed not to pressure him publicly. They did the same in the summer of 2006 and 2007 when they came to an agreement each year to extend the UN mandate -- and up until the UN announced the extensions, Nouri was denying them publicly. In other words, take it with a grain of salt. If Nouri were tossing around his (imagined) weight, Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times) wouldn't be reporting, "Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates urged the Iraqi government to show restraint on Friday in the wake of an apparent attack by Iraqi security forces on a group of Iranian dissidents protected by the United States." Gates was referring to an apparent attack on Camp Ashraf. Marc Champion (Wall St. Journal) adds, "Iraq's armed forces moved against a camp holding thousands of members of an Iranian resistance movement that's based in Iraq Friday, killing dozens and wounding hundreds, according to a spokesman for the movement. It wasn't immediately possible to verify the claims of the People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran, or MEK, of 31 dead and 300 wounded. Video clips sent out by the MEK's political wing showed armored personnel carriers and military Humvees breaching the perimeter of Camp Ashraf, apparently in the early hours of Friday morning. Five Iraqi soldiers also were reported injured." Aiden Mahler Levine and Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) note, "The U.S. embassy in Baghdad said it was 'monitoring the situation at Camp Ashraf and are in contact with the government of Iraq,' and urged 'all sides to exercise restraint'."

Camp Ashraf? Since long before the start of the Iraq War, Iranian dissidents have lived in Iraq. Following the US invasion, the US made these MEK residents of Camp Ashraf -- Iranian refuees who had been in Iraq for decades -- surrender weapons and also put them under US protection. They also extracted a 'promise' from Nouri that he would not move against them. July 28, 2009 the world saw what Nouri's word was actually worth. Since that Nouri-ordered assault in which at least 11 residents died, he's continued to bully the residents. Iran's Fars News Agency reported Monday that the Iraqi military is denying allegations that it entered the camp. Specifically, Camp Ashraf residents state, "The forces of Iraq's Fifth Division invaded Camp Ashraf with columns of armored vehicles, occupying areas inside the camp, since midnight on Saturday." Despite the denial by Nouri's government, the International Parliamentary Campaign in Defense of Ashraf issued the following:

The International Parliamentary Campaign in Defence of Ashraf condemns in the strongest manner the occupation of Camp Ashraf on Sunday by Iraqi armed forces at the behest of the Iranian regime.
Camp Ashraf houses 3,400 members of the main democratic opposition group People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI) who are "Protected Persons" under the 4th Geneva Convention. The camp is a civilian zone.
In an extremely hostile act on the orders of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, overnight and during the day, Iraqi armed forces entered the camp with at least 30 BMP armoured personnel carriers and Humvees. They have taken up positions in hostile formation.
The military siege and occupation of parts of the camp by Iraqi forces violates the Geneva Conventions and international law. There is a serious risk of bloodshed.
The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and US forces in Iraq must urgently intervene to ensure that the Iraqi military withdraws from the refugee camp. UNAMI should also establish a formal and lasting presence at the camp, under US army protection, to monitor the situation and thereby restrict the sorts of abuse that is currently taking place.
International Parliamentary Campaign in Defence of Ashraf
3 April 2011
Rt. Hon. Lord Archer of Sandwell QC
Former UK Solicitor General
Rt. Hon. Lord Fraser of Carmyllie QC
Former Lord Advocate for Scotland

Another hotspot is oil-rich Kirkuk. Tim Arango (New York Times) notes a move to ease tensions:

But just recently, to calm tensions in the northern part of the country near Kirkuk, the divided city whose control is disputed by three ethnic groups — Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen— a battalion of American forces has been patrolling and taking up positions on their own. “We went in as U.S., unilateral,” said Maj. Gen. David G. Perkins, commander of United States forces in northern Iraq, in an interview this week. He stressed that everything was done in coordination with the Iraqi Army and the pesh merga, the security forces from the semiautonomous Kurdish area in the north.

All of Iraq is a "hot spot" -- that's what happens during an occupation, all the more so when a puppet government is installed. Nouri's latest power grab is to designate who can speak for the government and who cannot. We'll note that and other Arab media stories (including a resignation, shadow government and Allawi's recent meetings) in the snapshot today. There's not time this morning and the taxi we're in right now is a careening, veering ride. (And I'm on the laptop, not dictating this.)

Reminder: If you served in the US military and you were stop-lossed, you are owed additional money. That money needs to be claimed. DoD announces the date to file for that additional payment has been extended:

The deadline for eligible service members, veterans and their beneficiaries to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP) has been extended to April 8, 2011, allowing personnel more time to apply for the benefits they've earned under the program guidelines.
The deadline extension is included in the continuing resolution signed by President Obama Friday, providing funding for federal government operations through April 8, 2011.
Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay was established to compensate for the hardships military members encountered when their service was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss Authority between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009. Eligible members or their beneficiaries may submit a claim to their respective military service in order to receive the benefit of $500 for each full or partial month served in a Stop Loss status.
When RSLSP began on Oct. 21, 2009, the services estimated 145,000 service members, veterans and beneficiaries were eligible for this benefit. Because the majority of those eligible had separated from the military, the services have engaged in extensive and persistent outreach efforts to reach them and remind them to apply. Outreach efforts including direct mail, engaging military and veteran service organizations, social networks and media outlets, will continue through April 8, 2011.
To apply for more information, or to gather more information on RSLSP, including submission requirements and service-specific links, go to

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