Monday, July 25, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Political Stalemate II continues, Iraq might get a Minister of Defence, Harry Reid wants to pretend with the American people that the US leaves Iraq in 2011, the same old complaints (charges) against Iran by the US military surface again, and more.
Starting with violence, Xinhua reports a Muqdadiya motorcycle bombing today claimed 3 lives and left twelve injured. AP cites police Maj Ghalib al-Karkhi stating it was a remote control bombing. Reuters adds a Hawija car bombing went of inside a suspect's home ("killing him"). Aswat al-Iraq reports, " An explosive charge blew off against a U.S. Army patrol in southern Iraq's City of Basra on Sunday night, but losses were not known, whilst police forces arrested six wanted men, One of them wanted for terrorist acts, a Basra police source reported on Monday." In addition, they note, "An Iraqi soldier has been injured in an explosive charge blast west of Mosul, the center of Ninewa Province, on Monday, a Ninewa security source reported."
AP reports Sidkan Mayor Ahmed Qadir states 2 Iraqis were killed last night with another three left injured from Iran shelling the area in their continued assaults on PJAK (Kurdish group). Over the weekend, AFP quoted the International Committee of the Red Cross, "The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has provided humanitarian assistance to over 800 internally displaced people in northern Iraq, all of whom have been driven from their homes by the recent shelling in the mountains of Qandil. Having left behind all their belongings, the majority of these people are now living under makeshift shelters, tents, or sharing crowded houses with relatives and friends, while a few families could afford renting very basic accomodation." This morning IRIN notes, "Nearly 200 families have been displaced in Iraq's self-ruled northern Kurdish region due to Iranian shelling since mid-July of Iranian Kurdish rebels based inside Iraq, say officials."
Meanwhile the Iranian government is claiming complete support from Baghdad for the assault that's displacing (and killing) Iraqis. The Tehran Times reports:
The Iranian ambassador to Baghdad has said that the Iraqi officials are serious in dealing with the terrorist group PJAK (the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan), emphasizing they regard Iran's action against terrorists as justified. Iraq regards this group as a terrorist one and believes that Iran has the right to take action against the group, Ambassador Hassan Danaiifar told reporters on Sunday.
Though a large number of exiles now in power in Baghad have strong ties to Iran, it's equally true that the Iraqi people as a whole are more likely to remember the Iran-Iraq War -- especially those taught about it in school -- of the eighties. As Iraqis are killed and displaced while Iran violates Iraq's sovereignty in its pursuit of PJAK, don't be surprised if Nouri's image collapses even more. All he really had going for him was the (false) claim that he could provide security. As the last months have demonstrated, he can't provide it internally and he's now allowing Iraq to be invaded by another country.
Still on Iran, Michael R. Gordon partnered with Judith Miller on many of the notorius stories the New York Times published in the lead up to the war. Whereas Judith Miller's 'reporting' just revealed someone who no longer knew how to be skeptical (and was too desperate to fit in with her sources), Gordon's 'reporting' demonstrated a War Lust. So after the Iraq War started, what did Gordo become famous for?
After the 2003 invasion and the failure of the Bush administration to find the unconventional weapons it said was a reason for the war, the subsequent claims by the American military that Iran was supplying weapons and training to Shiite militias to attack American forces were met with abundant skepticism by the American public and other countries.
Nima Shirazi: It seems that every few years if not every few months the news media basically, because of specific orders from government officials, goes on and on and on about how the Iranian government is funneling weapons across the Iran-Iraq border to pro-Iran, pro-Shia militias in Iraq, and that these weapons are responsible for killing US soldiers who are occupying Iraq. So what winds up happening when these reports surface as they have again and again and again for years there's kind of a renewed public sense of this Iranian threat, this Iranian menace, you know, 'They can't even stay in their own country! They have to go into one of the ones we're occupying and then kill us there!' You know, that-that kind of fear mongering. And as is consistently reported after these reports come out -- usually by someone like Gareth Porter who I think you interview a lot -- he consistently debunks all of these myths about these Iranian weapons saying, 'Actually, despite what the US military says, the findings actually show that the majority of the weapons come from China or from Russia or, you know, even if they are in theory from Iran, the Iranian government has no role in this which actually would then be a very important distinction to make if there is a black market weapons trade in that area which undoubtedly there is. Who's "responsible" for it? And when you say Iran is funneling weapons into Iraq to kill US troops, what are you actually saying? So there's a new push with it this summer. It seems like every time the nuclear issue kind of recedes because of new reports or because, you know, the dog days of summer and people want to talk about something new, instead of something new, people just regurgitate something from the past that seems new to kind of get that hype up again.
Scott Horton: Right. Well you know it really was amazing back in 2007 and 2008 when it really was just like that. You know, they would switch off back and forth between whether we were supposed to fear the open, declared, above-board, inspected nuclear electricity program or whether we were supposed to fear some secret program that 'must' exist, that we have to bomb even though we have no idea where any of it is because it's so secret and that's how we know it's there and all of that kind of thing. And then all of the sudden, they just drop the nuclear issue and even pretty much -- I would say before the NIE came out that had pretty much gone on the back burner. And they spent most -- certainly 2007 and the dawn of the surge accusing Iran -- Basically, they just wanted to switch from fighting the Sunni based insurgency to fighting Moqtada al-Sadr's guys at the same time that they were really fighting to put him in power, they were preferring the same guys that Iran preferred at the time, the Supreme Islamic Council, the more professional, upper middle class Hakim clan and there was no sensical reason that made any sense whatsoever why the Iranian government would want to arm up Moqtada al-Sadr more than the Badr Brigade, the one that we were fighting for and with and kicking the last of the Sunni Arabs out of Baghdad. And the whole thing was not just a lie, a pile of assertions unproven, but it made no sense on its face. The whole thing was a giant joke and it went on for a year and a half or something. Now here they are again. They never even have to prove it, do they? They just say it five times. "Oh, a bomb went off, it must have been Iran." And then that's it.
Staying with the US-Iraq topic, the Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe Tweets:
Over the weekend, Al Mada noted that the two-week deadline (imposed by Jalal Talabani) has passed. Two weeks ago, the president of Iraq threw his latest house party (a meet-up between various political blocs) and announced that day to the press that in two weeks there would be an answer as to whether or not Iraq wanted to ask the US military to stay. Some argue that there's too much conflict between the political blocs to work it out while the National Alliance's Abdul-Hussein Abtan notes that there are a host of issues that are also postponed such as basic services, apparently arguing that this is one of many decisions that the government needs to be making. Alsumaria TV carried the accusation by Izzat al Shabander (State of Law) that "certain political parties" (he's accusing Iraqiya) are responsible for the failure to reach a decision. Mohammed Tawfeeq and Chelsea J. Carter (CNN) note, "Talabani's office declined a CNN request for comment. Al-Maliki's office referred questions to Talabani."
Staying on Iraq and the US, Sam Stein (Huffington Post) foolishly insists, "In the end, the debt ceiling could come down to a simple accounting question. Should the money saved from drawing down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan count as part of a deficit reduction package?" At least he wasn't stupid enough to say "ending." Lori Montgomery (Washington Post) notes this is seen "as a budget gimmick." But that's what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants to do. John Eggerton (Broadcasting & Cable) explains, "Reid gets $1 trillion of his total savings by winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan." Judson Berger (Fox News) notes that this "might not satisfy ratings agencies" but that it is something "that has been used by both parties." And while he means they've both attempted to include this as a saving, more to the point they've both been stupid. Reality comes via Kristina Peterson (Dow Jones): "One caveat in this case is the unpredictability of war -- new developments in Afghanistan, for instance, could scuttle the intended timetable to withdraw troops." Did that thought really not occur to anyone else? Was Peterson alone at the grown ups table?
How can you count as savings an unknown amount of money? Yesterday, John T. Bennett (The Hill) reports, "Pentagon officials want a new security pact with Iraq worked out as soon as possible, in part so they can extend support contracts to ensure U.S. forces remaining in that country have food and supplied." It's worth noting the Pentagon doesn't consider it an "if" but a "when." In addition, Bennett quotes Gen Ray Odierno on what the "new SOFA" will need. One thing everyone knows it would need is more money from Congress. The money can't be counted as savings. Everyone's talking about a new SOFA or an extension of the existing one and Harry Reid thinks he can play like savings are coming?
John Martin (Courier Press) has one of the most important reports of the week but watch most ignore it. He's writing of the 76th Brigade of the Indiana National Guard and "a Notification of Sourcing" -- what Lt Col Mark Weaver says is "the first step on the road" to official mobilization. And what were they notified of? From the article:
"National Guard members from Evansville and throughout Indiana are preparing for possible deployment next year, four years since returning from Iraq.
[. . .]
"Indiana National Guard officials were told that the next deployment, if it occurs, also would be in Iraq and would be part of Operation New Dawn. "
They're awaiting 2012 orders that, if they come in, would mean deployment to Iraq in 2012. Which would be after -- pay attention -- the media and Barack have said US troops would be out of Iraq -- have said that repeatedly for the last three years.
AP notes the development today. Did Harry Reid register it?
The White House wants to extend the SOFA. Should they be unable to and should no new agreement be reached, they've still got it covered. Miltiary actions then some out of the US Embassy (and consulates) in Baghdad.
Once the U.S. military pulls out of Iraq by next January, the State Department will be left to defend itself and its diplomats against hostile Iraqis. To ensure their safety, officials are assembling a force of 5,500 security contractors—equal in size to an army brigade. But how the State Department intends to handle this large group of armed mercenaries is anyone's guess, because it has refused to share information with the federal watchdog overseeing post-war activities.
For months now Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction (SIGIR), has tried unsuccessfully to audit the State Department's private army. He wants to know how many State contracting personnel will manage the guards, what the force's rules of engagement will be, and how the guards will be directed to handle threats.
When Stuart Bowen can't get answers and when the State Dept's already dummied up before Congress when asked specifics about this program, Harry Reid thinks he can count 'savings'?
And he thinks Americans are so stupid that we won't notice he's failing to note all the reports we're seeing about a continued US presence in Iraq well beyond 2011.
Monday is always an issue in Iraq. Dar Addustour reported Saturday on the way important, high-paying jobs are parceled out in Iraq: Nepotism. So being Moqtada al-Sadr's cousin, for example, translates into a job as an MP (Jaafar Mohammed Baqir al-Sadr has since resigned fromthe Parliament). Tareq al-Hashemi (Iraq's Sunni vice president) ensures that his nephew (Asad al-Hashemi) is employed. Nouri al-Maliki's relatives are sprinkled throughout Iraq's government system including on the Electoral Commission which, you may remember, found additional votes for him when he whined and complained in March of 2010. Ayad Allawi, Chalabi, all the names you recognize have ensured that their relatives are rewarded. Nouri, in fact, put it in writing demanding special treatement, after becoming prime minister in 2006, for his family and tribal members in the armed services. He celebrated becoming prime minister in 2010 by naming Ahmed Nouri al-Maliki (his son) as the head of his office. Those named to head Ministries staffed the ministries with their family.
So follow this if you can, the exiles were put in place by the US government after the start of the Iraq War. Once put in place by the US government, the exiles then ensure that their own relatives have jobs and no one can figure out why the 'government' is so unconcerned with unemployment (officially at 15%, actually far higher with some estimates currently at 32%). Last week, IRIN noted, "A just released national youth survey in Iraq says youth unemployment is running at over 20 percent and many young people are thinking of emigrating. Up to 23 percent of males and 21 percent of females aged 15-24 are unemployed, according to a 2009 National Youth Survey by the government and the UN Population Fund (released on 16 July). Of these, 33 percent intend to go abroad in search of work, it said." Unemployment, corruption, Political Stalemate II, lack of basic services, secret prisons, Iraq is a failed state. Created by occupying forces, the country remains a failed state and continuing the war and occupation will not change that anymore than all the talk of 'turned corner' repeatedly over the last eight years ever resulted in actual progess.
In other no-progress during Political Stalemate II, Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) notes that Parliament intends to explore the ministries. This would include a ne plan whereby any Minister who veers more than 75% from the budget would have to be accountable to the Parliament. That seems a careful way to acknowledge the vast monies disappearing from the ministries (and appearing in officials bank accounts). So the Parliament's laying down the law, apparently: You can embezzle 25% but no more.
Can you float the idea of withdrawing confidence in Nouri's government and holding new elections? Al Rafidayn's article Saturday suggested only if you are prepared for non-stop attacks. State of Law is having a fit over the possibility that their own Nouri al-Maliki might be unseated should Iraqiya (the political slate that actually won in the March 2010 elections) successfully lead a no-confidence vote and call for early elections. Aswat al-Iraq quoted Moqtada al-Sadr's Ameer al-Kinani insisting it would be "a new political crisis" if a vote of no-confidence went forward. No confidence could stem from the fact that violence continues to increase in Iraq and yet Nouri still hasn't named heads to the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of National Security. The security ministries, like all other ministries, were supposed to have been named within 30 days of Nouri al-Maliki being named prime minister-designate. Per the Constitution, failure to name the Cabinet heads (each ministry head is a member of Nouri's Cabinet) would result in someone else being named prime minister-designate and given 30 days to form a Cabinet (which means nominating and getting Parliament to confirm each individual). Aswat al-Iraq reported on Iraqiya's reaction to the still unnamed posts:
"The State of Law Coalition has not agreed on anything, neither the formation of the NCSP, nor the settlement of the Cabinet's security ministries or the balancing of the security dossider," Maysoun Damaloujy told Aswat al-Iraq news agency. She said that according to a previous accord, an agreement had been reached that the security cabinet posts be distributed among a minister by al-Iraqiya Coalition, another by the Kurdistan Coalition and a third by the State of Law Coalition; but the negotiator from the National Coaliltion, Hassan al-Sunaid had said that "the issue is to be decided by the Council of Ministers and that Dr. Ali al-Allaq, was the official in charge of the balancing; hence no agreement had been reached on those issues by the negotiating committees."
Though the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministy of National Security may remain leaderless for many months to come, there may be movement on the Minister of Defense. Today Aswat al-Iraq reports on what may be an attempt to force Nouri's hand. Tareq al-Hashemi is Iraq's Sunni vice president. He is also a member of Iraqiya. And he is stating that if Iraqiya pushes him for Minister of Defense, he will accept the post. State of Law's Sami al-Askary is in a panic:
As regards to the position of Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki and his State of Law Coalition towards the said topic, Askary said that "through previous experiences, it is difficult to reach an understanding between Maliki and Hashimy for clear reasons," adding: "I don't think that this process would succeed." "The motive behind Hashimy's nomination for the Defense Minister's post is to put Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, in an embarrassing position." Askary stated.
On the no-confidence vote, a few things to remember. If Nouri hasn't already made an agreement with the US (some reports exist he has an he's merely waiting to unveil it), a no-confidence vote could cause US troops to leave Iraq. It took nine months for Political Stalemate I to end, nine months after the election. Since the Constitution wasn't followed by Nouri, another prime minister-designate could ignore the 30 day deadline (to name a full Cabinet and have all posts voted on by Parliament). Iraq could even struggle on for several months without a prime minister. (If that happened again, many believe the UN would be forced to do its job and set up a caretaker government. During Political Stalemate I, the UN shirked their responsibilities and allowed to Nouri to remain in office even though his term had expired.) A no-confidence vote could toss the entire stay-or-go up in the air because, for the appearance of legitimacy, a would-be prime minister might not want to go against the Iraqi people (who overwhelmingly favor all US troops out of Iraq now).
Sunday Prashant Rao (AFP) reported US Col Michael Bowers has announced that, on August 1st, the US military will no longer be patrolling in northern Iraq with the Kurdish forces and forces controlled by Baghdad. For those who have forgotten,the two were at each other's throats not all that long ago. I guess that was "trainers" in action, huh? It wasn't combat, right? Patrolling couldn't be combat because Barack Obama declared an end to all combat operations August 31st. They don't do anything in Iraq, they just sit around now, right? The same day Aswat al-Iraq reported:
"The U.S. Air Force had carried out a landing early Saturday in Fudeiliya village, 15 km to the east of Nassirya, the center of Thi-Qar Province. The force detained 7 persons, charged with having carried out attacks against American forces in the area," the security source told Aswat al-Iraq news agency. The security source said that the detainees were "a municipality employee in Fudeiliya village and three of his sons, along with a member of the Province's Emergency Battalion, who were all moved outside the Province."
And in more combat operations that aren't supposed to be happening, Alsumaria TV reported, "US Forces increased military patrols in the regions surrounding its military bases in Babel, Diwaniya and Waset, the US military said. These measures aim to protect US military bases in these regions and around Iraq against attacks by Iran-supported groups, the US military noted." Securing the perimeter? Some might argue that sounds like a combat operation. Still in related news:
Southern Iraq Missan Province's Governor, Ali Dawai, has said on Friday that a special parliamentary committee was formed to "investigate violations by the American troops in Amara, the center of Missan Province last Monday and Tuesday. "A special committee was formed to investigate the U.S. air raids on Amara city by live ammunition," Missan Governor Ali Dawai said, adding that the committee would arrive in Missan in few days to carry out its investigation.
US Senator Patty Murray chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee which will hold a hearing on longterm costs:
The hearing will feature the views of budget experts from the Congressional Budget Office and the Government Accountability Office on the long-term costs associated with providing mental and physical health care, supporting caregivers, maintaining prosthetics, and providing benefits. Crystal Nicely, the wife of Marine Corporal Todd Nicely, a quadruple amputee veteran of the War in Afghanistan, will also testify about the lifetime of support her and her husband will require and about the red tape she has already faced in her daily struggle to provide Todd with the care he needs.
(Washington, D.C.) – Next Wednesday, July 27th, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, will hold a hearing to examine the real human and financial costs of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and how as a nation we need to plan to keep our promise to these veterans for the rest of their lives.