Friday, May 13, 2011

Iraq snapshot

Friday, May 13, 2011.  Chaos and violence continue, protests continue in Iraq, 'withdrawal' or not-withdrawal continues to be a topic, revelations out of England continue to dominate the British news cycle, the funerals for 2 US soldiers who died in Iraq take place tomorrow, and more.
It's Friday which means protests in Iraq.  The Great Iraqi Revolution has posted video of the Baghdad protest here.  The protests have been going on for months now.  The protesters demands include: an end to government corruption, the restoration of basic services (electricity, potable water, etc.), jobs and freedom from foreign interference (including no foreign troops on Iraqi soil). 
Among the issues addresed at the Baghdad protest today?  The kidnapping of Omniya Al Sammaraie "-- she is a widow and raises her children on her own -- her parents and her husband are martyrs.  She is an engineer and was threatened by the security forces by internet on facebook!The Great Iraqi Revolution notes, "Omniya Al Sammaraie's sister, Dr. Shems, was speaking live a few minutes ago - she said that the people who came to kidnap her were dressed in black - so it is a militia dressed in black - really this gang of hooligans in the Green Zone is all balck in the face and dressed in black!!!!!" And they add, "Dr. Shems, Omniya's sister, speaking live on air stated that she holds Maliki responsible for her safety , in addition we, too , hold Maliki responsible fro her safety. She also told the - them the goervnment and its hooligans - that they will go on fighting for Iraq's liberation as well as getting rid of Haliki and his goons!"  
The Associated Press notes over 500 Iraqis protested in Baghdad. The Great Iraqi Revolution reports a Baghdad chant ("you" is Nouri), "Katthab wu Kahyyif, Menreedek Wallah Menreedek! It means you are a liar and scared and we don't want you By God we don't want you." Among those who turned out were family members of those lost in the Iraqi 'justice' system, "The screams and cries of the mothers and sisters of the detained and disappeared on LOYALTY FRIDAY IN TAHRIR BAGHDAD - ALWAFA'A FRIDAY."
And they note what's going on in Mosul currently, "People are gathering in Bab Jedeed District in Mosul - the army and security forces are surrounding them but they continue to gather." Plus, "‎1000s have come out protesting and demonstrating in Sammara'a - Interior Minsitry's Maghaweer and Army tried suppressing them but it has not worked! They have arrested some young demonstrators. United Prayers for Friday were carried out and the A'immeh from both sects called for this demonstration.And, "Our Correspondent in Ramadi, Anbar - security forces heavily deployed in and around Tahrir and have suppressed protestors as well as people attending Friday Prayers in an attempt to stop them praying! They have also arrested some 12 of our Anbar Youth. 13.5.2011 ALWAFA'A FRIDAY RAMADI"
Justin Raimondo ( observes, "In Iraq, 'Arab Spring' protests continue, as they have across the Middle East, but -- unlike the demonstrations in Egypt, the civil war in Libya, and the violently-repressed upsurge in Syria -- the Western news media has decided not to cover them. When thousands jammed the streets of Suleimaniya, the supposedly pro-occupation, pro-American capital city of the Kurdish autonomous region -- Maliki and his Kurdish equivalents sent the Iraqi army in to crush the incipient rebellion no less violently than Syria's Assad is now doing in Syria. Yet we hear nothing from the White House, nothing from the media, and nothing from the former leaders of the "antiwar" movement -- yes, I'm talking to you, Leslie Kagan, you fraud -- after they folded up their tents and went off to work for Obama's election (and re-election). "
Some more realities took place on TV.  Monday through Friday at 7:00 pm EST,
Adam vs. The Man airs on RT America.  "Adam" is Iraq War veteran Adam KokeshYesterday he spoke with US House Rep Walter Jones.
US House Rep Walter Jones:  The day I walked to the floor -- it was actually a night -- on giving President Bush the authority to go into Iraq, I did not feel good about my vote. I --
Adam Kokesh: But you did vote for it.
US House Rep Walter Jones: Yeah, I did.  And I've apologized many, many times.  In fact, that's the reason, after I went to Sgt Michael Bitz' funeral down at Camp Lejeune, one week after we went in, sat there with his wife Janina, outdoor service and that's when I started questioning myself why didn't I vote my conscious? And that started my journey of a -- of a seeking the truth.
Adam Kokesh:  Do you think a lot of other Republicans who voted in favor of that authorization for Bush to go into Iraq felt the same as you did?
US House Rep Walter Jones: I think some did but maybe a couple of years after I made my public announcement to leave -- to have a time -- a plan to get out of Iraq.  And, uh, from that funeral, I have signed over 10,100 letters to families and extended families in this country because of my weakness to vote my conscious quite frankly.
Adam Kokesh: And what has the reaction of your constitutents been?  Most of them military and military families.
US House Rep Walter Jones: Yeah.  Well I think on Iraq, most are thinking now that maybe I was right but they won't admit it and I don't expect them to, I don't need people to say to me, "Well you were right and I made a mistake." I'm not looking for that.  But, you know, if anybody would look for the truth, you would see that the previous administration manipulated the intelligence to sell the American people.  And, to me, that is just absolutely wrong.
Adam Kokesh:  So you're saying we were lied into war.
US House Rep Walter Jones: Well absolutely.
Adam Kokesh:  Now members of your -- of your district obviously having a unique connection to the military have a different perspective on this.  But most Americans now think that, with Obama's policies, the war in Iraq is over, it's winding down, we're just tying up the loose ends and getting out.  What do you think of Obama's strategy in Iraq getting us out so far?
US House Rep Walter Jones: I think at some point and time as we continue to downsize, I think that Iraq is going to go back into a civil war situation.  I don't think -- I don't really think -- Yes, did we remove an evil dictator?  Probably so. But you cannot go into these Middle East countries and change their history and their culture.  You just cannot do it.
Adam Kokesh: Well what about Obama's policy right now?  We've still --
US House Rep Walter Jones: In Afghanistan?
Adam Kokesh: Well in Iraq.  We've still got 50,000 troops or so.  I don't know the exact current numbers but that's the thing: Most people have just assumed it's gone away and yet Obama's still got at least several ten-thousands troops in Iraq, he's got hundreds-of-thousands of contractors possibly.
US House Rep Walter Jones: Adam, I'm for pulling 'em all back home. I would tell you the truth, I've learned one thing.  You know Ron Paul's one of my dearest friends in Congress and I'm of the firm belief that any country that wants to nation build -- all that try to build, to take their way of life around the world, eventually they collapse.  You cannot go into particularly Muslim countries and make them want to be like America.  You just can't do it.
Adam Kokesh: Does it bother you to see the so-called conservative Republican Party in the United States trying to promote conservative policy at home and then basically  
US House Rep Walter Jones:  Yeah.
Adam Kokesh: -- trying to convert other nations with the most liberal policy possible, liberal nation building?
US House Rep Walter Jones:  It disappoints me.  I'll be honest with you.  I do not understand how a party which -- I am a Republican and I'm a social conservative for sure, I'm probably a centrist when it comes to trying to help people -- But, no, it does surprise me and disappoint me because I don't see the Republican party as -- as the party that believes in war and the party that believes in nation building.  I just don't.
US House Rep Ron Paul was mentioned above and Adam Kokesh supported Ron Paul's run for the 2008 Republican Party presidential nomination.  Jason Notte (The Street) reports that Ron Paul formally announced he's running for the GOP presidential nomination.  The Iraq War hasn't ended, Ron Paul has repeatedly and consistently called for an end to the Iraq War.  Last month, 11 US soldiers died in Iraq. 
One of the eleven is Robert Friese who died in an attack on April 29th. Yesterday the office of Michigan Govenor Rick Snyder released the following statement:
LANSING, Mich. - Gov. Rick Snyder ordered United States flags throughout the state of Michigan to be lowered to half-mast in honor of Army Private First Class Robert Friese on Thursday, May 12. Flags should be returned to full-staff May 13.
Friese, 21, of Harrison, died April 29 in Al Qadisiyah province, Iraq, of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with a rocket propelled grenade. He was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Hood, Texas. Friese's awards and decorations include the Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal with campaign star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medals, Army Service Ribbon and Overseas Service Ribbon.
There will be an open viewing Friday, May 13 from 2 to 9 p.m. and the funeral will be held Saturday, May 14 at 10 a.m. at Stocking Funeral Home in Harrison.
"This young man served his state and country with pride and honor," Snyder said. "My condolences are with his family at this difficult time."
When flown at half-staff or half-mast, the United States flag should be hoisted first to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff or half-mast position. The flag should again be raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day.
Susan Field (Morning Sun) reports he "will be laid to rest following a funeral service at St. Athanasius Catholic Church in Harrison at 10 a.m. Saturday, with Father Noel Rudy officiating."  Kelly Dame (Midland Daily News) adds, "Fries graduated from Harrison High School in 2007, where he participated in the Army ROTC program. He joined the U.S. Army and enlisted as a Tanker in 2010. In January, he deployed to Iraq as part of Operation New Dawn." LaNia Coleman (Bay City Times) reported yesterday, "
Hundreds of people lined the streets of Clare and Harrison today as the Patriot Guard Riders and Forgotten Eagles escorted Friese's remains to Stocking Funeral Home.
Many waved American flags, placed their hands over their hearts and wiped away tears. Veterans, in caps emblazoned with the insignias of their respective branches of the military, saluted the procession."  Kyle Mitchell and Eli Gardiner (9 & 10 News) provide a video report of the procession here.
Another US soldier who died in Iraq last month, Andrew Evan Lara, will also be laid to rest tomorrow.  The office of Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber issued the following statement yesterday:
(SALEM, Ore.) -- Governor Kitzhaber today ordered all flags at public institutions to be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Saturday, May 14, 2011, in honor of Oregon Army National Guard Specialist Andrew Evan Lara.
Specialist Lara, 25, of Albany, Oregon, died April 27, of a noncombat-related incident, in Babil province, Iraq.  He was assigned to F Company, 145th Brigade Support Battalion, attached to the 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment.
"Specialist Lara died while deployed overseas serving both his state and country," said Governor Kitzhaber. "This is a tragic loss and my thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time."
Tom Hallman Jr. (The Oregonian) notes the 25-year-old will be laid to rest at an 11 a.m. service tomorrow at First Assembly of God Church in Albany and notes, "After graduating from high school, Lara got a job building log homes. He enlisted in the Oregon National Guard in June 2009 and drilled out of Woodburn. He was deployed last September. He was a driver for one of the convoy escort teams, driving a mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle meant to ensure that supplies arrive safely at their destination." Pat Caldwell (Argus Observer) reports from US Joint Base Balad that a memorial service was held for Andrew Lara on base May 1st and Caldwell quotes Chaplain Jock Johnson (who performed the services) stating, "It is important for (Lara's) family, his mother, to know we are honoring her son in every possible way."  The Iraq War has not ended.
Corey Dickstein (Savannah Morning News) reports, "Fort Stewart officials announced Thursday that the 3rd Infantry Division's Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion will be deployed to Iraq in late fall to support Operation New Dawn."  The Bryan County News notes the Fort Stewart press release, "It said the mission and location has not been assigned. It was not specific about which commanders will deploy, how long soldiers will be gone and how the mission meshes with a Dec. 31 deadline to have U.S. troops out of Iraq."
How the mission meshes with the deadline?  From Wednesday's snapshot:
The big news today?  Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reports Nouri al-Maliki declared that "he might ask thousands of U.S. troops to remain in the country next year provided that a solid majority of the main political parties back the request at a meeting this month." AGI News quotes Nouri stating, "The decision concerning the USA's withdrawal is an important national issue. For this reason, I am inviting all political leaders to establish a dialogue to clarify whether we want American soldiers to stay or not."  AFP continues the quote: "Aftter that, the government will decide on keeping them, or making them leave."  Xiong Tong (Xinhua) notes, "Iraqi political blocs are sharply divided over whether part of the U.S. troops will have to stay amid continuing violence in the country and the region as well, or to leave to assert independence eagerly wanted by Iraqis." Rebecca Santana and Lara Jakes (AP) add, "Equally important might be the nervousness many Iraqis feel at how the U.S. departure will affect sectarian relations. [. . .]  Many Sunnis and even Shiites worry that Iraq is falling too much into Iran's orbit, something that will only increase when the U.S. military leaves."
Aamer Madhani (National Journal) wonders what keeping US troops on Iraqi soil past 2011 might mean for Barack:
With American troops scheduled to leave Iraq this year, President Obama may be forced to consider going back on his word and leaving them there now that Iraq's prime minister said his country might ask the United States to leave boots on the ground.
Obama has stood solidly behind his pledge to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011, as dictated by a U.S.-Iraqi security agreement signed more than three years ago. He's reiterated his intent as recently as six weeks ago, when in announcing his decision to take military action against Libya he noted that the U.S. remained committed to "leaving Iraq to its people."
Meanwhile The Great Iraqi Revolution states, "Secret Agreement between American Embassy and Ministry of Freign Affairs, Iraq for Occupation Troops to remain in 5 Provinces until 2016!Aswat al-Iraq reports, "The U.S. has the desire to extend its military presence in Iraq for another 25 years, until the Islamic rule in Iran is toppled, an Ahrar MP declared today. Amir Al-Kinani of Ahrar bloc, affiliate with  the Sadrist Trend, told Aswat al-Iraq that the majority in the Iraqi Cabinet and Parliament support the extension of U.S. military presence."  The Scripps Howard News Service editorial board -- noting the foot dragging that's become a hallmark of the Nouri-led government -- argues that, if US forces are to stay, time can't be wasted:  "Starting in August and accelerating through the fall, the U.S. is to send home 50,000 troops and 63,000 contractors, close 100 bases and do something with about 1 million pieces of equipment and unused supplies. Al-Maliki seems confident his government can engineer a compromise -- but in its own time. Perhaps by the start of August."   Throughout 2008, Congress would touch on the status of US troops in Iraq after it was learned that Nouri would not go to the United Nations mandate way again.  (The UN mandate gave legal authorization for the occupation of Iraq.  There was no UN authorization for the illegal war. The UN mandate was a yearly measure.)  Not only was it touched on but a few hearings actually focused entirely on the issue. 
 April 10, 2008, the US Senate's Committee on Foreign Relations, then chaired by Joe Biden, held such a hearing.  In it, now-US Vice President Joe Biden declared that if an agreement was not agreed to by both parties, US forces would retreat to their bases and either be pulled home or stay on base while more work went into coming to an agreement. The Status Of Forces Agreement expiring (not being extended or replaced) would mean something similar would happen January 1, 2012 with an exception.  The exception is the Strategic Framework Agreement between Iraq and the US which would be used for the US State Dept to supervise US soldiers.  It's a shame there's no concern in Congress over this issue.  There was real concern in the Senate in 2008.  Most Democrats and many Republicans were concerned (among the Republicans, Norm Coleman was frequently the most vocal).  But a Democratic Party candidate wins the presidency and suddenly Democratic Congress members no longer seem to care about accountability or ending the Iraq War.  As Justin Raimondo ( points out:
That Republican congressman who yelled out "You lie!" to the President -- and was excoriated by our enforcers of political etiquette (Rule Number One: never tell the truth) -- is vindicated. Yes, yes, I know: this solon wasn't yelling because of our policy in Iraq, but still -- the President is indeed a proven liar, and the way our Iraq non-withdrawal is playing out underscores this irrefutable fact.
Will this be the final straw for the "progressive" left as far as their Hero is concerned? Will the Obama cult implode, will Leslie Kagan's head explode -- will Arianna Huffington add Iraq to her endless round of tiresome complaints about how the Glorious Leader has failed to enact every dot-and-tittle of her political agenda? Don't bet the farm on it.
Politics is very much like religion: a faith that brooks no doubt and punishes heretics. In authoritarian countries, the party line is enforced at gunpoint: in America, there is no need to point a gun at elite opinion-makers and other Washington sycophants of power -- the code of political correctness is self-enforcing. For these people have built their careers on certain assumptions, appealing for their pelf to very specific constituencies: to violate the prejudices and knee-jerk emotionalism behind those assumptions is to court professional disaster.
The increasingly marginalized Moqtada al-Sadr (hard to hold so many seats in the Cabinet and also pretend to be an 'outsider') is in the news today.  Aaron C. Davis (Washington Post) reports that Moqtada responded to Nouri's statements earlier this week that if 70% of the politicians agree on the US military remaining in Iraq past the end of 2011, Moqtada would have to go along, "For the first time since returning to Iraq after nearly four years of self-imposed exile in Iran, Sadr took to the pulpit and delivered an unannounced sermon at Friday prayers in his southern stronghold of Najaf.  In a forceful political message that prefaced his religious sermon, Sadr employed some of his strongest language yet against a U.S. troop extension." His strongest words yet?  We should be quoting that, right?  No.  And not just because we've established that Moqtada's pattern is strong words and threats followed by caving (as he did twice with the UN mandate and, in 2008, with the SOFA).  We don't have to wait for the cave.  Aaron C. Davis reports the cave took place as soon as his followers filed out at which point Moqtada admitted that he might not lift the ban on his militia and allow them to take to the streets.  That admission may surprise some.  If so, they haven't been paying attention to the way he operates.
The Iraq War hasn't ended for Iraqis either.  Not only do they have a puppet government forced off on them, they continue to face violence every day.  And they face the violence while knowing that there are no heads to the country's three security ministries.  Aswat al-Iraq reports:
Al-Iraqiya Bloc MP member said that the question of security and defense nominees will remain unsolved even once the 100-day period elapses, due to political sharing, calling for "a feeling of responsibility to solve this crisis."
Mohammed Al-Da'mi, in a press statement attended by Aswat al-Iraq, added "the insistence of Premier Nouri Al-Maliki to nominate unqualified and unprofessional figures is the main reason, as well as the insistence of his bloc to hold the post of ministry of defense."

Alsumaria TV speaks with Iraqiya's Wehda Al Jumaili, "Al Maliki is capable of dissolving the Parliament, Al Jumaili said. Iraqiya member called to create a state of political balance, otherwise, Iraq will remain in a political chaos, a source told Alsumaria. Al Jumaili argued that it is not acceptable for the Parliament to be manipulated by Iraqiya leader Iyad Allawi and Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki." And they add, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki complained of media's corrupt role calling on religious institutions to raise religious awareness through the media in a call that is regarded to be as the most radical stand taken by Al Maliki. "
An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers blogs  at Inside Iraq in "Facing Death:"
I don't know how to start this blog. I am still under the effect of the shock that happened to me only less than an hour ago. I was about to lose my life and my lovely son because of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. 
    I used to bring sweets to my family every Thursday from a close bakery on the main street. Today I did the same thing but I went only about half an hour ago. My son Haider insisted to join me so I took him. In my way back home and Just less than ten steps from the sweets bakery, I hear sound of shooting and I thought that some kids are playing with fireworks. I was shocked to know the issue is bigger than my simple mind. I saw by my own eyes two young boys covering their faces with black scarves holding two pistols and shooting a broker inside his office in a very cool blood and walked away.

In today's reported violence, Aswat al-Iraq notes a Baquba bombing which injured 3.
As big a lie that the war is over is the one that claims both that the Iraq War was legal and that it had nothing to do with oil.  From yesterday's snapshot:
Moving over to England where new revelations emerged from the Iraq Inquiry.  The John Chilcot led inquiry hasn't heard testimony in months but they've released evidence that is in leading the news cycle in England.  Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) calls the release "devestating" and explains, "A top military intelligence official has said the discredited dossier on Iraq's weapons programme was drawn up "to make the case for war", flatly contradicting persistent claims to the contrary by the Blair government, and in particular by Alastair Campbell, the former prime minister's chief spin doctor.  In hitherto secret evidence to the Chilcot inquiry, Major General Michael Laurie said: 'We knew at the time that the purpose of the dossier was precisely to make a case for war, rather than setting out the available intelligence, and that to make the best out of sparse and inconclusive intelligence the wording was developed with care'."  In his [PDF format warning] evidence released today, Laurie wrote:
Alistair Campbell said to the Inquiry that the purpose of the Dossier was not "to make a case for war". I had no doubt at that time this was exactly its purpose and these very words were used.  The previous paper, drafted in February and March, known to us then also as the Dossier, was rejected because it did not make a strong enough case.  From then until September we were under pressure to find intelligence that could reinforce the case.  [Redacted passage.]  I recall Joe French frequently enquiring whether we were missing something; he was under pressure. We could find no evidence of planes, missiles or equipment that related to WMD, generally concluding that they must have been dismantled, buried or taken abroad.  There has probably never  been a greater detailed scrutiny of every piece of ground in any country. 
During the drafting of the final Dossier, every fact was managed to make it as strong as possible, the final statements reaching beyond the conclusions intelligence assessments would normally draw from such facts.  It was clear to me that there was direction and pressure being applied on the JIC and its drafters.
In summary, we knew at the time that the purpose of the Dossier was precisely to make a case for war, rather than setting out the available intelligence, and that to make the best out of sparse and inconclusive intelligence the wording was developed with care. 
The JIC is a collegiate body and has not, in any significant way, broken ranks over events.
But now, in the form of Michael Laurie, someone serving just below the top tier has expressed his displeasure about the way events have been characterised and particularly the extent to which those collecting intelligence were blamed for getting things wrong.
He is adamant the purpose of the dossier was, indeed, to make a case for war.
His assertion that there was direction and pressure on those drafting the dossier will be deeply uncomfortable for those associated with it.
Gordon Rayner (Telegraph of London) adds, "The Iraq Inquiry will not produce its final report until September at the earliest, almost a year after it was originally due, the Inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot has disclosed. "
The statements from Laurie continue to receive press attention but there's a new element in the mix as well. Duncan Gardham (Telegraph of London) reports:
The briefing note from the Chief of MI6's private secretary to Sir David Manning, Tony Blair's foreign policy adviser three months after the September 11 attacks, said there was "no convincing intelligence (or common sense) case" that Iraq supported Islamic extremists.
But it said the "removal of Saddam remains a prize because it could give new security to oil supplies" as well as "engage a powerful and secular state in the fight against Sunni extremist terror."
The briefing note further contradicts the story Tony Blair told the Iraq Inquiry by demonstrating that the desire for and decision to go to war took place long before what he publicly admits.  If you need to jog your memory on the official timeline, check out the one provided by the Telegraph of LondonOliver Wright (Independent of London) notes, "Oil was a key motivating factor behind the efforts to remove Saddam. 'The removal of Saddam remains a prize because it could give new security to oil supplies,' the officer writes."  Noting the oil revelations, Ian Drury (Daily Mail) observes:
The intelligence service also made clear in newly declassified papers that the 'prize' for removing the Iraqi dictator was 'new security to oil supplies'.
The documents will add weight to critics' claims that this was the real reason the U.S. and Britain went to war, and not because they feared Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction.
The Iraq Inquiry has heard that Tony Blair had signalled that he would be willing to back 'regime change' in Iraq when he met President George W Bush in Texas in 2002.
But the latest papers highlight how the prospect of removing Saddam had been discussed by the then Prime Minister's inner circle months earlier.
Amanda Platell (Daily Mail) observes, "Now, however, the mendacious former red-top tabloid political editor has been exposed. Devastating secret evidence has been declassified which proves that Campbell and Blair lied about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. There was none."  The Evening Standard notes calls for Campbell to face new questions from the Iraq Inquiry.  And Ian Burrell (Independent of London) reports:

The editor of the BBC's Today programme at the time of its controversial 2003 report which claimed the Government had "sexed up" an Iraqi weapons dossier said last night that evidence provided to the Iraq Inquiry by the former intelligence official Michael Laurie proved that his team had been right all along.

Kevin Marsh described Maj-Gen Laurie's evidence as "devastating for [Alastair] Campbell", the former Downing Street communications chief, whose furious response to the Today report led to the Hutton Inquiry and ultimately to the resignations of the BBC's director general and chairman. "The thing that rankles with me a little bit is that I thought at the time when [the Today reporter] Andrew Gilligan came with the story was that it wasn't just broadly correct, it was 100 per cent correct," Mr Marsh said.

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