Saturday, August 20, 2011

Nouri's spokesperson confirms Panetta was correct

Independent Catholic News notes the latest Middle East Analysiss podcast from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. James Abbott is the host and attorney Dr. Harry Hagopian was the guest as they discussed the MENA region -- Middle East and North Africa. We'll note the section on Iraq.

James Abbott: Well we have to sadly move on to Iraq. We haven't, in recent times, talked too much about Iraq --

Dr. Harry Hagopian: We haven't indeed.

James Abbott: -- but there have been a few church bombings there, Harry, so clearly targeting the Christian community. So what's going on there?

Dr. Harry Hagopian: Well, two things about Iraq, James, very quickly since we're doing a succinct analysis of the MENA region today. The first one is that if you consider the invasion of Iraq took place a few years ago and in those years $30 trillion have been spent on trying to establish democracy in the country, I would hope that our own leaders in the west -- and I include our own country, the United Kingdom, but also the European Union and America -- to realize and to think a little bit more carefully if we ever are in any economic position to embark on any other adventure. So I look at what is happening there and then I look at the cuts that are happening right, left and center and, somehow in my own simple mind, I do not see a kind of a balance between where we are spending our money and the big business and the big industries we are supporting, [...] and the European Union are suffering. And we, as Christians, should also think of the marginalized, those who are poor, those who are powerless, rather than only think about those who have power and who are in control of things. That is my -- let's say my conceptional theory of where we are in Iraq. But in terms of reality of what's happening on the ground in Iraq, yes, the Christians are suffering. There are bombings, there are explosions in many churches. Recently there were three about two weeks ago. One against a Syrian Catholic Church and then there was one against an Evangelical Protestant church. And only a few days ago, St. Ephraim's Church, an Orthodox Church, was also attacked, blown up and one whole wall crumbled down. Now there are attacks against the Christian communities, in Kirkuk that was and in other parts of the country as well. But let us also take it in two ways. One, in the context of the larger attacks that are taking place in the country which are trying to destabilize the country and that destabilization is not only internal from within Iraq itself but also from its adjacent neighbors, each vying to have its own power play in the country itself in Iraq almost by proxy. So Muslims are suffering as much as Christians are. We, of course, look at the Christians because we, as Christians, have this sense of fellowship across the world with our sisters and brothers elsewhere but also because their numbers are smaller and what happens to them impacts us directly but this is something that everybody Muslims and Christians, all minorities in fact, all smaller communities are feeling the brunt of what's happening. The other thing I would say is that those attacks, if you've noticed when you said we haven't spoken about Iraq they basically go into peaks and troughs. There are times when suddenly it's all quiet. and they're basically trying to get on with a very difficult life. Second largest oil producing country, doesn't have electricity half the time in summer. Can you imagine that? I mean somebody explain to me how this pans out. But the other things is that there are external forces -- be it Iran, be it Syria, be it other countries -- that play a role in the instability in Iraq. And a moot point I make -- and it is a moot point because, as a lawyer, I would remind you that I don't have any evidence except circumstantial ones -- that it is very interesting that at a time when the Syrian regime is trying to use every trick in the book to foment sectarian conflict to try and prove that it alone can exercise order in the country and across the region because Syria is viewed somehow as a regional power rather than just a local one, suddenly we have those explosions, bombs in Iraq. I just wonder what the connection is there? And I leave it to the imagination of the listeners to figure out what might or might not be the case.

James Abbott: Well, we've run out of time, Harry. We've really done our best to cover the bases there.

There were several things different about the above conversation -- different than the other Iraq commentaries -- that you may have caught. First the vanished poor were mentioned. For the White House, there is no poverty. There is only a struggling middle class. The poor are invisible and never mentioned. Equally true, no one ever wants to question the lack of electricity in Iraq. All these years later. One hundred degree plus days and they don't have consistent electricity. You can probably pick out other things as well. It was an interesting conversation (which a friend who's a priest passed on).

Today, NPR writes about Iraq. All by itself. A remarkable achievement since they oh-so-rarely report from there these days. The last audio report filed from Iraq was July 20th. 30 days later, Alan Greenblatt writes about Iraq for NPR. He fails to note Leon Panetta's remarks but does note, "Most analysts predict that the U.S. will leave around 10,000 soldiers in Iraq, alongside a large State Department presence and a sizable contingent of private American security contractors."

How do you do that? How do you fail to note Leon Panetta's remarks?

He was, until mere weeks ago, the head of the CIA. He's now Secretary of the Defense. Do you think he's unstable? Do you think he's a liar?

Panetta said, in an interview, this wasn't 'overheard,' that troops in Iraq beyond 2011 was a done deal. Do you really think Panetta didn't know what he was talking about?

Isn't it far more likely that Nouri hadn't had time to break the news to the political blocs and that Barack didn't want to deal with questions about this on his vacation?

Yes, it is far more likely.

Al Mada reports on Panetta's remarks and on Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh denying an agreement has already been made. But while denying it, Ali al-Dabbagh also stated that when "the polical blocs met, they approved the need to train security forces and the Iraqi military" which would be Panetta's point that it was now a done deal. So despite his denial, Ali al-Dabbagh's actual remarks back up what Panetta said. Dar Addustour also offers Ali al-Dabbagh's quote and, in addition, they report that the only perplexing issue in the negotiations is how many US troops remain.

Press TV speaks (link has text and video) with Michael Maloof (who used to be with the Pentagon's Technology Security Operations).

Press TV: You've touched upon this a bit, but I'd like you to expand on this - Obama has never really stood by the reasons the US went to war against Iraq - Why is he so motivated to stay in Iraq now?

Michael Maloof: I think it's because of the changing circumstances; and you're only talking 10,000 troops; it's supposed to be a token amount, or they might agree to the extension of the 40,000 that are there. But it's not going to really matter in terms of what effectiveness they can accomplish. I think the US is also under increasing pressure from the Saudis. It's my understanding that the Saudis have decided to go on their own - they no longer trust the US - to basically create their own army; a rapid reaction force if you will and they're very much concerned about the plight of the Sunnis in Iraq. And so they're going to put pressure on the US to at least maintain some kind of presence there in order to in effect try to disrupt the forward motion of Iranian influence in what is an Arab world in that region and also because of the concern the Saudis have over the plight of the Sunnis there. Iraq has gone relatively unnoticed in the press in recent months. The war in Afghanistan and the killing of Osama bin Laden had replaced the focus on Iraq. But while the fighting and bloodletting in Iraq may have dissipated in recent months, it never ended.

Dar Addustour notes that things are currently moving forward on the creation of the national council (agreed to in November's Erbil Agreement) and that Ayad Allawi is expected to head the council and Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc is publicly supporting the creation of the council and Allawi as head of it.

Meanwhile the editorial board of the Missiourain observes, "The painful reality is that after eight years of war and nearly a year after President Obama declared the official end of combat missions, American soldiers are still deeply engaged in fighting both Sunni and Shiite insurgents. About 47,000 U.S. troops remain in this very unstable and dangerous country. Forty-four American soldiers have been killed so far this year and scores of others have been wounded -- many by roadside bombs."

Late Friday there was an assassination attempt on the Commander of Iraq's Kirkuk Supporting Battalion. Aswat al-Iraq, quoting the region's police director, reports "Hamad Ali Hussein" survived the sticky bombing, however, two of his bodyguards were injured. Meanwhile, the Holy Quaran Radio station in Kirkuk was set on fire today and an Anbar Province bombing left two people injured. We'll note this from the Kurdistan Regional Government:

krg's barzani and us' jeffery

Salahaddin, Kurdistan Region of Iraq ( – President Barzani met with US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffery and General Lloyd Austin, the Commanding General of the United States Forces in Iraq, on Thursday to discuss bilateral relations and recent security and political developments in Iraq.

Today's meeting focused on the relations between Iraq and the United States, in particular in the lead up to the withdrawal of the US forces by the end of this year, as well as the issue of filling the posts of the Iraqi ministers of defense, interior, and the council for strategic policies.

The President and the US delegation also exchanged views on the security arrangements in the disputed areas, particularly in light of recent spike in violence in some of those areas.

Ambassador Jeffery paid tribute to President Barzani’s role in the Iraqi government formation process, adding that his intervention is once again needed to push the process forward and thus, with other Iraqi leaders, to complete the formation of the government.

And on Turkey's continued bombing of northern Iraq, the KRG issued the following statement:

All parties should consider the sensitivity of the situation in Kurdistan, and therefore not use Kurdish territories to attack neighbors because they will oppose the higher interests of the Kurdish people, investment process and public service.

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