Friday, April 29, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, throughout Iraq protesters are surppressed by military forces, the head of the Iraqi Army says they need the US to stay beyond 2011, and more.
TuesdayChen Zhi (Xinhua) noted, "The Iraqi government is preparing to accept the presence of more than 15,000 U.S. servicemen in Iraq to protect the U.S. interests after the deadline of U.S. troops' pullout by the end of 2011, an Iraqi newspaper reported on Tuesday. [. . .] It also said that thousands of employees working for foreign security firms will stay in the country to protect the U.S. embassy staff, American civil contractors, engineers and investors." Nouri went on to hold a press conference that day declaring that he had made no deal "to keep 10,000 or 5,000 or 1,000 or even 100 US troops in Iraq." In addition, Nouri stated that Iraq's forces could protect the country internally (meaning the military can take on the people of Iraq); however, it was not yet ready to defend itself from external threats and would not be for at least two years -- that especially included the Iraqi air force.
Rudaw interviews Babaker Zebari who is the Chief of Staff of Iraqi Joint Forces. Excerpt:
Rudaw: What does the US say about its army presence in Iraq?
Zebari: If we ask them to keep their army in Iraq, I think they will respond positively because they have fears about the region.
Rudaw: How about yourself?
Zebari: Yes, I am personally worried, too.
Rudaw: This means the US army must stay then?
Zebari: We are soldiers and this is a political decision that must be made by the politicians. We can only give our impression to the politicians and they will decide.
Rudaw: What is your impression?
Zebari: We have conveyed our impression to the politicians which is that the Iraqi army will not be ready to control Iraq until 2020.
These remarks are consistent with remarks Zebari has made since 2007. Last August, BCC News reported, "Gen Zebari told a defence conference in Baghdad that the Iraqi army would not be able to ensure the country's security until 2020 and that the US should keep its troops in Iraq until then." Ayas Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reported yesterday that Iraqi observers believe that a narrative will be found to excuse the government extending US forces' stay beyond the end of this year. David Ali (Al Mada) adds that should a withdrawal take place the unresolved Article 140 of the Constitution (calling for a referendum to be held on the status of Kirkuk by 2007) would lead "armed groups" to attempt to game the system.
Over the past few weeks, top U.S. officials have started to publicly press the Iraqi government to decide whether it will allow thousands of American troops to stay in the country after the expiration of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) on December 31st. On recent trips to Iraq, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen appeared to signal that the U.S. government desires a continued American military presence past the end of the year. "Time is short for any negotiations to occur," Admiral Mullen warned last week.
In one sense there is less here than meets the eye. Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen are probably less concerned with whether Iraq wants the troops or not than with simply getting an answer for practical purposes. Complying with the SOFA's requirement that all American troops leave is a massive logistical undertaking, and it would be much better to know whether a residual force will be needed before the final stages of withdrawal begin in earnest this summer. Any extension of the U.S. military presence if troops were to remain past the 2011 withdrawal deadline requires a request by the Iraqi government. U.S. officials hoped that the Iraqi government would share their own assessment of the lack of readiness of the country's security forces and ask for a continued presence sufficiently far in advance of the deadline to enable an orderly transition. Instead, the Iraqi government has been bogged down in its own internal troubles and has made no official moves toward renegotiating.
But the problem is that, while cajoling Iraq into giving an answer, American leaders send a counterproductive, if unintended, signal that the United States wants a longer-term military presence. To be sure, there is some basis for such a position: a residual American force could continue to train Iraqi forces, provide intelligence and other important support capabilities, and, in northern Iraq, help maintain the peace between the forces of Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdish government. Iraq is also incapable of defending its borders and airspace from external threats. Yet however well-intentioned or seemingly obvious these arguments seem in Washington, they are unlikely to sway the Iraqi government because they ignore the domestic imperatives faced by Iraq's political leaders.
He scribbled, "In one sense there is less here than meets the eye. Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen are probably less concerned with whether Iraq wants the troops or not than with simply getting an answer for practical purposes." Yeah and next the White House is sending Regis and Meredith over so they can ask, "Is that your final answer?" Guess they raise them mighty stupid at the Center of a New American Security. Forget what Robert Gates has repeatedly testified to Congress, forget what the US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey has stated, forget what the heads of each division of the military -- Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force -- have repeatedly testified to Congress. Forget? More likely: Don't know. Again, they appear to raise them mighty stupid at the CNAS.
If you want the Iraq War to continue, I'm not going to call you "stupid" just for that. I'll disagree with you and disagree with you strongly. But "stupid"? Stupid is reserved for the idiots -- grown adults -- who need fairy tales. Right now the US and Iraq are determining what will happen. No one is served by the child-like and stunted fantasies of Brian Burton. He needs to grow the hell up and someone needs to ask CNAS if they're a think tank or a fairy tale tank? Of course, CNAS tells many fairty tales about counter-insurgency which they claim saves lives but which is and has always been seen historically as war on a native people. Brendan McQuade (CounterPunch) provides an overview:
Today the War on Terror involves American military forces and intelligence operatives in at least 75 countries, not just Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan but the Philippines, Colombia, Yemen, Somalia and "elsewhere in Middle East, Africa and Central Asia." The CIA is now on the ground in Libya and questions about the twenty years General Khalifa Hifter spent in suburban Virginia and a possible CIA ties are rising. Leon Panetta, the CIA director Petraeus is set to succeed, just held five days of secret talks in Turkey regarding the rebellion in Syria. As the United States continues to involve itself in conflicts like these, counterinsurgency becomes increasingly important. In places like Pakistan, Libya and Syria, where an overt military presence is political difficult, the CIA leads. Under Petraeus' command, we can expect the CIA to become even more active in this regard.
As Philip Giraldi, a retired CIA counterterrorism expert, told me when I interviewed him in the summer of 2009: "The military's got a huge tail whenever it goes it has an enormous footprint. The CIA operates in smaller units. They're civilians. They can blend in. They can have predator [drone] bases in places that politically sensitive like inside Pakistan. For example, the other predators are operating out of Africa. They operate in Djibouti. There's a French military base where the CIA people are stationed. The French would not let an American military presence but they would accept an intelligence group under civilian auspices."
Political circumstances have not always favored counterinsurgency. In the Vietnam years, the CIA was the leading proponent of counterinsurgency and the military was quite resistant. It needed the backing of President Johnson to force its agenda on a recalcitrant generation of traditional military officers. After the Tet Offensive, the military embraced counterinsurgency but only for a time. After Vietnam, everyone -- including the CIA -- distanced themselves from counterinsurgency.
When I asked Giraldi who was the leading counterinsurgent today in the CIA, he told me: "Nobody comes to mind. When I was teaching at the CIA school back in the early eighties, the counterinsurgency people -- the Special Operations Group is what it was called at the time -- was down to about forty guys and, you know, no leaders, no renowned figures. It wasn't that kind of thing. It was an adjunct of the Special Activities Division, which I was in, and was sent in do training in various places in Asia and Africa."
Funding to train Iraqi forces fluctuated between $3.0 billion and $5.5 billion from FY2004 to FY2008. In 2008, Congress became reluctant to rebuild Iraqi security forces as Iraqi government revenues rose rapidly with the swell in oil prices.
In response to congresional concerns raised in September 2008 House Budget Committee hearing on a GAO report suggesting that there would be an Iraqi budget surplus of from $67 billion to $79 billion in 2008 due to oil prices, members called for "burdensharing" by Iraq in the rebuilding of its security forces.
This push to require Iraq to share the burden of rebuilding its security forces resulted in restrictions prohibiting U.S. funding of security forces as well as other "infrastructure" projects in Iraq, including those to rebuild security forces in the FY2008 Supplemental, as well as various requirements to report the readiness and transfer of responsibility to Iraqi units, and the overall costs to train both Iraqi and Afghan security forces. DOD has not provided estimates of these total costs for either Iraq or Afghanistan.
In FY2008, U.S. funding dropped from $3 billion in FY2008 to $1 billion in FY2009 as Congress halved the ISFF request. In its initial FY2010 request, DOD did not ask for any funds but then modified that to request $1 billion in the FY2010 supplemental for expenses that DOD believed were necessary but the Iraqi government would not cover, an amount Congress approved.
Given the delays in the UN seeking similar mechanisms to bring alleged war crimes by US forces in Iraq or Afghanistan under discussion, is the allegation that the UN exercises double standards fair? The UN levelling allegations of war crimes against Sri Lanka in a report is not unique. It is a common challenge faced by coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, Russian forces in Chechnya and elsewhere in the caucuses, Pakistani forces in FATA and in Swat, Israeli forces in occupied Palestine, and Indian forces in disputed Kashmir and in its northeast. All these theatres have produced civilian suffering, injuries and deaths. As such, instead of singling out Sri Lanka, Colombo should call the UN to launch an investigation into all on-going major conflict zones especially Iraq and Afghanistan where as a proportion more civilians have been killed by US and British forces. Nobel laureate Mohamed Mustafa ElBarade former Director General of the UN body, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), [December 1997 to November 2009] called international criminal investigation of former Bush regime officials for their roles in fomenting the war on Iraq. Over a million civilians have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and the fighting is still continuing. Nonetheless, human rights have become a political instrument used by Western and other nations to pressurize other countries.
The government of Sri Lanka has many problems of its own to deal with (click here for Amnesty International reports on Sri Lanka), but it obviously intends to note the tragedies and crimes that are the US-led wars. They have more traction than usual with the publication of Mohamed ElBaradei's book and his assertion that there should be a War Crimes probe of the Bush administration. (When ElBaradei, former UN nuclear inspector, calls for the same of Barack's administration, we'll take him seriously and not assume he's just trying to generate publicity for a book that's going to be a hard sell.)
Still on the UN, the Himalayan News Service reports, "The Nepali Army is considering sending its troops to restive Iraq to become a part of the 'stationary force' under the United Nations, a highly placed source said.The UN had asked Nepal to commit around 222 personnel -- including 35 personnel for mobile units -- for deployment in Iraq around four months ago."
In related news, Alsumaria TV reports, "The Sadr Front affirmed on Thursday that in case the Mehdi Army has to resume armed opposition, it will include in addition to its Iraqi members other sects and components and non Iraqis as well to fight against the US military if US forces stay in Iraq beyond their scheduled departure late this year." And yesterday, Alsumaria TV reported on US Maj Gen Bernard Champoux "blamed Mahdi Army for some of the latest assassinations in Baghdad. Iraq should establish good relations with the neighbouring countries that are uninvolved in providing armed groups with weapons and missiles, the US Commander stressed."
Assassinations and other violence continues, Reuters reports a Buhriz home invasion (by assailants wearing Iraqi military garb) in which 3 brothers were killed and a fourth was injured and 1 of the assailants was shot dead, 1 Iraqi military officer was shot dead in Baghad and, dropping back to Thursday for both, a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the lives of 1 Iraqi soldier and 1 Iraqi military doctor (and left two more Iraqi soldiers injured) and a Baquba home invasion in which an Iman, his wife and their daughter were killed. AFP identifies the Iman as Basheer Mutlak. Aswat al-Iraq adds that the daughter was 9-years-old and adds, "A police officer was killed late Thursday by gunmen in al-Shurqat district, a police source said on Friday." Reuters also notes 2 Bahgdad roadside bombing which claimed 3 lives and left twenty eight injured, a Kirkuk attack in which 1 person was injured and 1 person shot dead in Mosul.
Al Mada reports Ammar al-Hakim, head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (Shi'ite political body), is calling out the continued inability of the government to function and stating it's harmful to Iraq. Iraq lacks a Minster of the Interior, Defense and one for National Security. Not really sure that bickering is the country's biggest problem.
In January, Arab streets resounded to the slogan that united the masses regardless of class or creed: "Al-Sha'b yurid isquat al-nizam!" – "The people want the downfall of the regime!" The images streaming out from Tunis to Cairo, Saana to Bahrain, are of Arab peoples on their feet once again. On 14 January, as chanting crowds converged on the ministry of interior, Tunisia's President Ben Ali and his family fled to Saudi Arabia. On 11 February the national uprising in Egypt toppled the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak as mass rebellion erupted in Libya and the Yemen.
In occupied Iraq, demonstrators protested against the corruption of the Maliki regime and, more recently, against the presence of US troops and bases. Jordan was shaken by nationwide strikes and tribal rebellion. Protests in Bahrain spiralled into calls for the overthrow of the monarchy, an event that scared the neighbouring Saudi kleptocrats and their western patrons, who can't conceive of an Arabia without sultans. Even as I write, the corrupt and brutal Ba'athist outfit in Syria, under siege by its own people, is struggling for its life.
The dual determinants of the uprisings were both economic – with mass unemployment, rising prices, scarcity of essential commodities – and political: cronyism, corruption, repression, torture. Egypt and Saudi Arabia were the crucial pillars of US strategy in the region, as confirmed recently by US vice-president Jo Biden, who stated that he was more concerned about Egypt than Libya. The worry here is Israel; the fear that an out-of-control democratic government might renege on the peace treaty. And Washington has, for the time being, succeeded in rerouting the political process into a carefully orchestrated change, led by Mubarak's defence minister and chief of staff, the latter being particularly close to the Americans.
In his column, Tariq wonders who will reshape the MidEast? In Iraq, at least, it may very well be US-backed and supported thugs. It's Friday, the day of protest and yet it's been transformed to the day of oppression. Namo Abdulla (Reuters) shows up in the KRG at Sulaimaniya, site of "the largest and most sustained of rallies across of Iraq" only to find that "heavily armed troops" have put down the legal demonstrations: "This week, Sulaimaniya's Liberation Square, where protesters had camped out for weeks chanting 'freedom, freedom, freedom,' was a military zone watched over by hundreds of armed forces. The ruling parties have said the demise of the protests represented a success over 'trouble-makers' staging 'politically motivated' demonstrations."
And don't expect to hear a peep out of the US government over the latest assault on freedom of speech and the right to assembly. "Democracy" is just a word tossed around when you're caught on camera.
Call it the coalition of the baffled -- a diverse group of prominent public figures who challenge the U.S. government's logic of keeping on its terrorist blacklist an Iranian exile organization that publicly renounced violence a decade ago and has fed details on Iran's nuclear programme to American intelligence.
On the U.S. Department of State's list of 47 foreign terrorist organizations, the Mujahedin-e-Khalq is the only group that has been taken off similar lists by the European Union and Britain, after court decisions that found no evidence of terrorist activity in recent years. In the U.S., a court last July ordered the State Department to review the designation. Nine months later, that review is still in progress and supporters of the MEK wonder why it is taking so long.
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. April 4th, Iran's Fars News Agency reported that the Iraqi military denied allegations that it entered the camp and assaulted residents. 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." Friday April 8th saw another attack which the Iraqi government again denied. Thursday April 14th, the United Nations confirmed that 34 people were killed in the April 8th assault on Camp Ashraf. Barbara Grady (San Jose Mercury News) reported that the dead included journalist Asieh Rakhshani who has family in California.
Toby Vogel (European Voice) reports, "The Iraqi government has denied a group of MEPs access to Camp Ashraft, where Iraqi security forces killed scored of Iranian opposition supporters earlier this month." Camelia Entekhabifard (Alarabia) observes, "Thousands of MEK members, most of them middle-aged, were residing in the Ashraf camp when it was taken over by the Americans in 2003. Iran wondered what their fate might be. Eight years later, still nothing has happened to them. Iran won't have them back and they're struggling to stay in Iraq. Who's going to offer a safe haven to 3,500 MEK members, all on the US terrorist list?" And in other Iraq-Iran news, Alsumaria TV adds, "On Thursday, a Shiite cleric called the Iraqi government to file a lawsuit against MP Haidar Al Mulla for offending Imam Khomeini. Insulting Imam Khomeini is an offense against the entire Shiites, he said and warned that 'Shiite resistance' will take strict measures against Al Mulla. 'When two people are fighting they cannot both be wrong. One should be right and the other mistaken,' said Watheq Al Batat Spokesman of the Shiite Authority in Najaf, Mohammad Ali Al Alawi Al Jarajani.'"No comparison can be made between Imam Khomeini and Saddam', he added."
A US commander is leaving Iraq. Matthew Hansen (Omaha World-Herald) reports Nebraska National Guard's Col Philip Stemple has been dismissed of his command according to the US Army and "Stemple's dismissal comes just six weeks before the brigade is expected to return home. Army spokesperson Col Barry Johnson states "there was an environment in the command not conducive to the standards and expectations of leadership."
Commemorating 6,000 servicemembers killed in Iraq & Afghanistan
Today we mark a tragic milestone: 6,000 U.S. service members have been killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We mourn for these lost lives, as well as those who've taken their own lives as a result of their experiences. We extend our deepest condolences to all Gold Star families, and honor those who have chosen to speak out and channel their grief into ensuring that no other family goes through what they have gone through.
What you can do:
Volunteer to send condolence cards to Gold Star families who are MFSO members. To volunteer, write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Let other families know about the resource page we provide to help families cope.